Christopher Mahan wrote:
--- Neil Harris <usenet(a)tonal.clara.co.uk>
I agree: there can be many partners, and
there's no reason not to
be partners with many people and organizations. But with the Wikipedia
brand becoming more and more valuable, and official trademark
recognition in the offing, there needs to be an official process
for registration of Wikipedia/Wikimedia partners. In particular, I
believe that the Foundation will have a legal requirement to defend
its trademarks Real Soon Now, and not doing so risks losing the
rights over that trademark and becoming a [[genericized trademark]].
Any value the wikipedia brand has comes from the content of the
wikipedia. The content itself does not "belong" to the Wikimedia
Foundation. The brand, well, I could not care less. Be careful that
you recognize value where it really is.
The content belongs to its original copyright owners, and
increasingly, the Wikimedia Foundation is their official copyright
agent. The community is deeply tied up with the Wikipedia name and
reputation; if there's no community, there will be no encyclopedia.
The name (and logo) are a banner for everyone to unite around.
Trust me, the brand is worth a great deal, in both moral and monetary
terms: people want to contribute to "the" Wikipedia, not a fork, for
example, and donors want to fund the "real" Wikipedia project, not one
of the hundreds of knockoffs. The brand symbolically holds the
community and initiative together, and symbols have great power. Even
the strongest Free Software advocates like Richard Stallman and Linus
Torvalds jealously protect the GNU and Linux brands; and for good reason.
If things were to fall apart, the community _could_ realign around a
different organization, with a different name: consider x.org vs.
xfree86 -- however, that would be an option of last resort, after some
assumed failure of the current Wikimedia initiative, which is what the
Foundation exists to prevent. Hence the important of good branding and
Foundation urgently needs an official policy before anything
damaging occurs to the Wikipedia/Wikimedia brand. An official
partner list page would be a good idea: so the Foundation can say "if
you're not on this page, you're not an official partner, and here's
apply to be a Wikimedia partner, dear Bill/Melinda [delete as
Do we? Is it so important that we "recognize" our "partners"?
Yes it is. Partnership implies two-way consent. On the other hand, the
GFDL makes all the content available to anyone, without any need for
recognition or permission save that explicitly given in the GFDL. And
letting self-designated "partners" use the trademarks without explicit
permission leads down the slippery path to genericization, which has
the potential to severely damage the project.
I say the opposite is true. We should have a
policy that says: "It
does not matter how much money, content, or goodwill you send our
way, we are not putting your logo or anything else in the wikipedia.
Our NPOV policy would prohibit that, now that I think about it.
It would be kind of like saying "This unbiased beverage report
brought to you by our Partner: Pepsi"
I agree with you on this. Partner recognition should be kept well
clear of the content. Which is why I recommend having partnership info
on the Wikimedia Foundation site, not in the project content.
There are some very important points here in the matter of intellectual
property law. I have long believed that in terms of copyrights the big
argument will not come over the inclusion of copyvio material in some
Wikipedia article, but over the willingness of Wikimedia to defend the
collective rights of its multitude of licensors. The collective has a
history of removing copyvio material when it is found, often to an
extent that far exceeds what may be required by law. We only need to be
aware of the copyvio material before we act.
So far, I believe that those who have used the Wikipedia material have
been reasonably willing to be compliant when advised of the GFDL. What
happens if someone bluntly and stubbornly refuses? What tools do we
have that we are willing to use to enforce compliance? Who has the
personal responsibility to take the necessary legal steps? Prosecuting
cases can be more difficult than defending them. The fact that our
collective rights are primarily not fiscal ones makes protecting them
more difficult in a judicial system that reduces all disputes to dollar
values as the lowest common denominator. A lawyer working on
contingency fees knows how to calculate 30% of nothing.
I remember well the first "24" who was chased away when I arrived three
years ago. (He should not be confused with the more recent and now more
familiar one who really was a PIA.) Anyways, the first 24 was concerned
with a set of ideas in economic theory based on different kinds of
capital. He considered such things as social capital, educational
capital and environmental capital, all of which should appear on some
kind of balance sheet. IIRC he was mostly criticized for presenting
original research, but some of which I had heard already heard about in
other sources. The point in raising this is that we need to look at
capital in other than monetary terms, because that may be the one common
idea that underpins all movements for the free distribution of knowledge.
In the matter of partnerships being big has certain advantages; it
allows us to be in the driver's seat. We can, for example, charge a fee
for the right to call oneself a Wikipedia partner while doing very
little else in return. A single page which shows the logos of all our
partners would be enough. That would only be there as verification that
someone that calls himself a partner really is.
Picture this: We have, by volunteer effort alone, created a
half-billion dollar gorilla that can't be sold (though not for a lack of
willing buyers). Its physical assets are a tiny depreciating server
farm, and a little pocket change in the bank. Enron could only wish to
have done so much with so little? That's the ultimate futures trade by
the libertarian capitalist king of a socialist monarchy.