[Foundation-l] svwikis evil twin, Metapedia

David Strauss david at fourkitchens.com
Wed Feb 7 21:45:09 UTC 2007

The famous Apple Computer v. Microsoft established that "look and feel" 
is not copyrightable.

Robert Scott Horning wrote:
> Lennart Guldbrandsson wrote:
>> Hello,
>> (I´m new to this emaillist so please forgive any mistakes I make.)
>> I´m the press contact for the Swedish Wikipedia (
>> http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anv%C3%A4ndare:Hannibal). 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. 
> <*snip*>
>> 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"). Does
>> 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.
>> Best regards,
>> 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.

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