Yesterday, Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit parent of Wikipedia, announced that it had filed a lawsuit to seek declaratory relief in response to legal threats of individual users from Internet Brands, the company that has run the collaboratively edited destination database Wikitravel since 2006.
The migration of the contributors from one user-generated wiki to a fresh, not yet named wiki-platform, has upset Internet Brands, according to a statement from Wikimedia Foundation:
On August 29, Internet Brands sued two volunteer administrators, one based in Los Angeles and one in Canada, asserting a variety of claims.
UPDATE: 7 September, 8amBST: Internet Brands has published its lawsuit.
The intent of the action is clear â€“ intimidate other community volunteers from exercising their rights to freely discuss the establishment of a new community focused on the creation of a new, not-for-profit travel guide under the Creative Commons licenses.
The legal wrangling move might bury Wikitravel in paralysis for at least a year, according to some analysts.
During that time, it might still get traffic thanks to its years of search engine optimization.
But if the platforms have an ugly divorce, duplicate content problems will plague the sites, affecting how Google and other engines handle the duplicate content in their search results.
Wikitravel’s value proposition is in permitting deep-coverage of locations that often arenâ€™t profitable for publishers to cover thoroughly in guidebooks.
Says Wikimedia Foundation in its statement:
We do not feel it is appropriate for Internet Brands, a large corporation with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, to seek to intimidate two individuals.
This new, proposed project would allow all travel content to be freely used and disseminated by anyone for any purpose as long as the content is given proper attribution and is offered with the same free-to-use license.
Internet Brands appears to be attempting to thwart the creation of a new, non-commercial travel wiki in a misguided effort to protect its for-profit Wikitravel site.
Jani Patokallio, publishing platform rchitect at Lonely Planet and former managing editor at Wikitravel Press (which made guides out of Wikitravel content), has written on his blog about the matter, in-depth.
He says the end goal for Wikimedia Foundation is that the content from Wikitravel and Wikivoyage, a parallel project that has agreed to move to the new Wikimedia Foundation effort, will be brought under one umbrella and be supported by a host that has the funding and ethos to allow the user-generated efforts to thrive.