Yesterday, I presented an Ideas Lunch talk hosted by the Information Society Project at Yale Law School (Yale ISP). The Yale ISP was formed in 1997 to study how law and society are affected by new technologies and the Internet. The project is “guided by the values of democracy, development, and civil liberties.” I spoke about my work at the Wikimedia Foundation to promote the free knowledge movement to a group of students, faculty, and fellows at Yale ISP.
The talk focused on some of the unique challenges that our legal team faces in protecting the decentralized Wikimedia projects. In my work managing the Wikimedia trademark portfolio, I constantly think about creative solutions to reconcile the requirements of trademark law with the open and collaborative nature of our movement. We are currently developing a trademark policy together with our community through a series of community consultations. The purpose of the trademark policy is to allow community members to easily use the Wikimedia marks to promote our mission while protecting the marks from abuse by others. This is no easy feat as trademark policies are usually written to broadly restrict use of marks. Attorneys typically only consider the input of a few key staff when formulating policies of this sort. In stark contrast, we are collaborating with many different community members in an open process to develop a policy that is intended to serve the needs of the entire community. We also write the policy to be particularly user-friendly, applying readability indices to make sure that we avoid legalese and express ourselves clearly. This weekend, we also held two workshops at Stanford Institute of Design and the Embassy Network with legal design researchers to think about how we can better visualize the policy to make it more intuitive.
The Ideas Lunch participants posed many interesting questions about the trademark policy update and our trademark practices more generally. What instigated the development of our initial trademark policy? How do we reconcile our trademark rights with our software and creative commons licenses? Where do we draw the line when people set up wikis that resemble Wikipedia? It is clear that the folks at Yale ISP spend a lot of time thinking about many of the issues we think about in our daily work.
I also spoke about my work on the Wikipedia Zero project. In this project, the Wikimedia Foundation is partnering with mobile carriers, primarily in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Latin America to offer free data to users who access Wikipedia on their phones. It leverages the broad penetration of mobile phones in these regions and the realization that, although people there sometimes forego basic needs to own a mobile phone, they can often not afford data to browse the Internet. Wikipedia Zero seeks to make Wikipedia not only free as in speech, but also free as in beer. To date, we have partnered with several carriers, who have committed to offer free access to Wikipedia to almost half a billion people worldwide. I discussed my work in negotiating the Wikipedia Zero partnerships. I also talked about our vision for this project going forward. The first step is to bridge the technology gap and expand the reach of free knowledge to people who couldn’t otherwise afford to take advantage of free knowledge. The next step is to empower them to contribute to Wikipedia to expand its scope to new languages and perspectives. The Ideas Lunch participants were curious to learn about our value proposition to potential partners to allow them to show their commitment to free knowledge and introduce new users to the benefits of the mobile web. Big thanks to Yale ISP for hosting me!
Legal Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation
*Many thanks to Manprit Brar, WMF Legal Intern, for helping me prepare this blog post and Lukas Mezger, WMF Legal Intern, for creating beautiful slides for the Ideas talk.
 We will describe these workshops in a separate blog post. Stay tuned! 🙂
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