[Wikimedia Announcements] Draft Terms of Use for Review

Geoff Brigham gbrigham at wikimedia.org
Thu Sep 8 21:13:59 UTC 2011


In the legal department at the Wikimedia Foundation, we have been examining
for some time whether, as the 5th largest website in the world, we need a
new terms of use agreement.  Given our size and the need to ensure good
communication with our users, I think we do, so we’ve put ourselves to
drafting a new version with the hopes that we could get your review,
comments, and ideas.

   - You can find the current version of our terms of use here:
   http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Terms_of_use .
   - You can view the new draft here:

As I see it, right now our present terms of use is not much more than a
licensing agreement.  It does not address a number of other subjects that
are normally found in terms of use of other community-driven websites and
that are often relevant for both legal and community reasons.  See, as
examples, the Mozilla Terms of Use (
http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Terms%20of%20Service) and Creative
Commons Terms of Use (https://creativecommons.org/terms) .

What we would like to do is to invite you to read the draft, reflect on it,
and leave your comments and feedback on the discussion page. We plan to
leave this version up for at least 30 days; indeed, a 30-day comment period
for changes is built into the new draft.

Our plan is to review the comments and feedback, make appropriate changes
and edits, return with a revised version, and, if appropriate, propose that
draft to the Board of Trustees for adoption and translation.

Generally, we sought to craft a document that is more even-handed, shorter,
and easier-to-read than most user agreements.  Although we encourage you to
read the entire draft, here are some key provisions to give you some flavor:

   - Security: The proposed agreement prohibits a number of actions - like
   malware - that could compromise our systems.   We thought we should be clear
   as to what is unacceptable in this area, though most of these restrictions
   will not be surprising.
   - Roles and responsibilities:  We feel we need to be honest with the
   community on a number of issues, including user liability.  We have heard a
   number of community members asking for guidance on this topic.  The proposed
   agreement also seeks to provide guidelines to help users avoid trouble.
   - Community feedback:  With this version, and with each major revision
   afterwards, we want the community to be involved … obviously.  So the
   proposed agreement gives users a 30-day comment period before a major
   revision goes into effect (with Board approval).  There is a 3-day exception
   for urgent legal and administrative changes.
   - Free Licensing:  We felt our present agreement is somewhat confusing on
   the free licensing requirements.  The proposed agreement attempts to explain
   more clearly those requirements for editors.
   - Harassment, threats, stalking, vandalism, and other long-term
issues: The proposed agreement would make clear that such acts are
    Novel for us, the agreement also raises the possibility of a global ban for
   extreme cross-wiki violations, a need that we have heard expressed from a
   number of community members. We will share that policy with the community in
   draft form shortly.  Dealing with such matters is a process that we hope
   volunteers will continue to lead on a day-to-day basis.
   - Other Legal Provisions:  We do have other legal provisions...we are
   lawyers after all.  Most notably, the proposed agreement incorporates legal
   sections that are commonly used to help safeguard a site like ours, such as
   disclaimers and limitations on liability.

Thank you in advance for your review and comments.  Your input will be


Geoff Brigham
General Counsel
Wikimedia Foundation
149 New Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
+1 (415) 839-6885 ext. 6750
gbrigham at wikimedia.org

*California Registered In-House Counsel*

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the
sum of all knowledge.  That's our commitment.  www.wikimediafoundation.org
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