The famous Apple Computer v. Microsoft established that "look and feel"
is not copyrightable.
Robert Scott Horning wrote:
Lennart Guldbrandsson wrote:
(I´m new to this emaillist so please forgive any mistakes I make.)
I´m the press contact for the Swedish Wikipedia (
). Recently I was
contacted by a journalist who pointed out a fairly new wiki called
Metapedia, at http://www.metapedia.se
, which was founded by a known racist
and leader of a small nationalistic (and antidemocratic) party in Sweden (I
can give several newspaper articles to back up that claim.). I checked it
out and discovered several things:
1. It used MediaWiki and thus look *very* similiar to Wikipedia. Even their
logo is in the same colour range. One could easily mistake one for the
other. This is one spinoff effect of the free MediaWiki, and probably one we
will see again. But the site uses the same phrases as svwiki, such as
Läsvärd artikel (featured article) and so on.
Such phrases are not trademarked, nor as I'm aware something you could
trademark, which would be the only reason to consider them protected
anyway. The "look and feel" might be copyrighted by somebody, but I'm
not sure exactly who would hold out here, especially if most of this is
part of the standard install of MediaWiki software. That interface
would be GPL'd because of the software. The "main page" might be
copyrighted by specific Swedish Wikipedia contributors, but that is even
debatable here and not something to worry to hard about.
2. It has around 1300 articles, but the majority
is about either a) people
connected to nazism, holocaust denial or critics of the Jewish conspiracy
(and their works)
While not something I would do personally, there is nothing here illegal.
3. Their articles are often copied and edited
versions of the svwiki
counterparts, with apparent POV-slant in their favour.
Since Wikipedia is GFDL they could easily have
borrowed that article. (But I
guess it didn´t suit their purposes.)
This is where they might get into a bit of trouble. This is not a
violation of the terms of the GFDL to have copied these articles and
altered them in such a fashion, but they must also pass on the same
licensing terms onto others who come and visit their website. If you or
somebody you know (with a note on the Swedish Wikipedia's village pump,
for instance) want to enforce your copyright on content you have
written, you might want to let this website owner know that you would
like the full terms of the GFDL to be enforced. Who knows, you might
even be able to move some of these articles back to sv.wikipedia if they
are of any better quality, of course correcting for POV issues.
4. They have given the licence *both* as GFDL
*and* have what in Swedish is
called "ansvarig utgivare" (roughly "legally responsible publisher").
this makes sense? Also, they have not given the full text of the
GFDL-licence. Don´t you have to do that?
Even Wikimedia projects have had some problems with this in the past, so
I wouldn't throw stones too far on this one. The full text must be
linked somehow and "on the network", however you want to define that. A
"local copy" on the website itself would be a good idea, but I'm not
sure how necessary that is from a legal standpoint. A copy is required
to be in the same medium, such as a paper copy of the license if you
have a printed version, or it must be a file on a CD-ROM, etc.
My question is how to handle this. Can we do
anything else beside complain
and try to outdo Metapedia by being sooo much better? Unfortunally, I
suspect that this may be the price of free software and free content, but
shouldn't Wikipedia be able to protect its reputation somehow? The
journalist who called me seemed to hold Wikipedia in high esteem and seemed
also to want to know what would be our reaction to this "evil twin"-version
of Wikipedia. I hope you can help me with your opinion.
I await your answers.
Lennart, aka Hannibal
If there are copyright violations, you can try and enforce the
copyright. That would mean enforcing the GFDL. I'm not familiar with
Swedish copyright and publishing law, but there may be some libel issues
if the POV goes a little to far for somebody who is currently living,
such as en.wikipedia had with John Siegenthaler. In that case it would
be the person who is "featured" that would have to start legal action if
they didn't like what was being said about them.
There may be something like the German law that restricts the usage of
symbols of the Nazi party and name, but I hope you know what would apply
in Sweden in that situation. All you could do there anyway is to
contact the appropriate law enforcement agency if it is illegal.
Otherwise, don't give them too much attention. Groups like this love
and seek attention, and if you deprive them of that attention they soon
fold up and disappear. Because this group obviously has an axe to grind
and political message, I wouldn't worry about trying to compete and out
do them. se.wikipedia is in a strong enough position that the best
response you can give to a reporter is "Yeah, I've heard about them.
They have nothing to do with Wikipedia." Don't comment any more, and
if you are pressed for more from a reporter, note that the content of
se.wikipedia is available under the GFDL, and that anybody can copy this
content, even if you don't necessarily agree with their political
idologies. It might end up being a rather interesting conversation
about free content licenses and what even the reporter and their
newspaper could do with Wikipedia articles.