The Wikimedia Foundation, the not-for-profit responsible for Wikipedia and a number of other wiki-based projects, has gained a small but notable victory in its fight to stamp paid-editing on its flagship online encyclopedia.
To recap, the Foundation recently changed the terms of Wikipedia editing, requiring anyone who has been paid to edit articles to disclose this. Editors must make this clear through a statement on their profile page, as part of the edit summary, or on the talk page alongside the relevant edits. The reason? Well, it seems that many companies have been paying to have information about their services and products whitewashed, with Wikipedia previously shuttering accounts suspected of being guilty of this practice, and has threatened PR firms with court.
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Moreover, a number of online properties have sought to make money specifically from the practice, such as wikipediapagecreators.com, getawikipedia.com, getonwikipedia.com and onwikipedia.com. As you can see here, Wikipedia Page Creators charge $799 to build a Wikipedia page for a business.
While the Wikimedia Foundation would struggle to legally enforce any rules it has in place for paid edits, it has been chasing down sites that use its trademarked properties to advertise paid-for services. This includes having ‘Wikipedia’ in the URL, use of the famous ‘puzzle’ globe logo, and the giant ‘W’ icon. The Wikimedia Foundation said although it contacted those sites to ask that they cease using the ‘Wikipedia’ trademark, but the requests fell on deaf ears.
“After months without change to the websites, and no response to our messages, we filed UDRP (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy) complaints with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO),” explains Yana Welinder, who heads up legal and policy work for Wikimedia. “The complaints explained that the registrant of the domain names was violating Wikimedia’s trademark rights.”
This week WIPO ruled in Wikipedia’s favor, saying that the domain names were “confusingly similar to the Wikipedia trademark,” and they were being used in bad faith. Now, all disputed domain names must be handed over to the Wikimedia Foundation, meaning GoDaddy (the domain registrar) will have little choice but to play ball.
In short, the Wikimedia Foundation has used cybersquatting legislation to combat four paid-for services here. However, it’s a small victory in the grand scheme of things – it faces a mighty uphill battle to curb the practice altogether.
You can read a summary of the WIPO ruling here.
Related read: Welcome to the world of cybersquatting