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Wikipedia in Domain Name Spat

Online encyclopedia makes an ironic legal claim.

Wikipedia and its parent organization Wikimedia Foundation are trying to get their hands on the domain name WikipediaArt.org. The catch is Wikipedia Art is a non-commercial web site critical of Wikipedia.

A number of influential organizations are coming to the aid of WikipediaArt.org, including Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Ironically, EFF has come to the defense of Wikipedia in the past.

In a commentary on its web site, EFF asks:

Can a noncommercial critical website use the trademark of the entity it critiques in its domain name? Surprisingly, it appears that the usually open-minded folks at Wikipedia think not.

EFF thinks so.

Wikipedia should know better. There is no trademark or cybersquatting issue here. First, the site is entirely noncommercial, which puts it beyond the reach of U.S. trademark law.

The commentary on its web site also blasts the UDRP process, which does not always take into consideration fair use:

Of course, Wikipedia can bring an action under the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), an international arbitration agreement to which all domain names registrars (and their customers) must agree. UDRP arbitrators aren’t bound by such niceties as fair use and the First Amendment (in fact, they’re not even bound to follow their own precedents), and UDRP decisions tend to favor established trademark holders like Wikipedia. But even if Wikipedia wins at arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision is subject to review by a U.S. court, which is bound to respect fair use and free speech principles.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Domainer says

    It would be a good idea for WikipediaArt.org to put a “legal defense” donation button on the site.

    I’ll let the lawyers argue over the legal principles but I believe Wikipedia.org is the bad guy in this fight.

  2. John says

    Off Topic Comment…

    Andrew love the new look, I havent been here in a few weeks. I clicked on my icon for your site and WOW… my eyes fell in love with the new site revamp. Keep Up The Great Work.

  3. Dave Zan says

    That’s a lot of ironies there. A non-profit org suing another for TM infringement over a non-profit site.

  4. ananymous coward says

    agreed with above. Godwin’s only referencing the original letter, too. the later correspondence with Levy on the wikipedia art site calls their “bluff” and points to the fact that it’s either a threat or not – they can’t ask for the domain out of the kindness of these dudes hearts then say oh and we would win a case if it came to that.

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