Hi folks, I want to thank everyone in advance for coming to my office hours.
I’m happy that my Deputy General Counsel, Kelly Kay, and my Legal Counsel, Michelle Paulson, will be attending with me. Let me introduce them first...
Kelly joined us in October with significant international and cyber-law experience, and, as many of you know, Michelle has been a foundation stone for the legal department for the last few years. Together we have about 42 years’ experience practicing law, of which about 21 years have been engaged in international legal practice. Together we have spent approximately 18 years practicing law while living abroad in Europe and Asia.
Before I start, I want to thank everyone in the community for their work which significantly supports us in the Legal Department. We could not do it without you. I often tell people that there are two ways of looking at it. Either I have a legal team of 3, or, when you count our community members who provide a dedicated and sophisticated oversight, our legal team is probably at least 100,003.
Here is what I mean ...
You are responsible for some of the most informed conversations about intellectual property issues, and daily you take actions in potentially problematic areas, such as copyright violations, ensuring that we adhere to our principles of truly free information while respecting the law. Because of you, our policies on articles about living persons are implemented with care and concern for accuracy and proper sourcing. I could cite many more examples. But for now let me simply thank you for your vigilance with respect to the hard work, discussions, and decisions that you undertake to guarantee we are operating according to our values.
What I want to do today is share with you the 2011-2012 legal plan for WMF. That plan includes these 10 initiatives:
- 1 Greater transparency
- 2 Defense of our values
- 3 Proactive trademark program
- 4 Support of global expansion
- 5 Proactive litigation strategy
- 6 Support of fundraising and grant-making
- 7 Enhancement of contract process
- 8 Good governance
- 9 Great legal advice in support of the projects
- 10 A strong legal team
We are seeking greater transparency with the community, ensuring people understand applicable policies, practices, rights, and responsibilities.
- We established legal policies for the Office of the General Counsel, publishing them to the community for your review, feedback, and input.
- We have instituted a more transparent DMCA take down process while reporting all take downs to Chilling Effects to help ensure against rights owners’ abuse.
Defense of our values
We are defending the Wikimedia Projects in the office and other venues. For example:
- Daily, from all over the world, we receive legal and other notices for the removal of content on our projects. Our estimated count since March 2011 is well over 100 such demands, yet we authorized only about 6 DMCA takedowns since then (less than 6%). Indeed, in the vast majority of the cases, we address these demands through effective persuasion or legal argument. Michelle is incredibly good at this. In my opinion, this is a major and important service that Legal provides the community, and we are committed to this priority in 2011-2012.
- Working closely with Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), as part of our strategy, we worked on an amicus brief in the Golan case filed before the Supreme Court, which raised important issues about the authority of Congress to take back works from the public domain. See blog posts about this. (We are expecting a decision before July 2012.)
Proactive trademark program
Our trademarks represent the Wikimedia Projects that our community has worked tirelessly to create in a revolutionary way. Protecting those trademarks is one of the core reasons the Foundation was created. Through our trademarks, readers identify the quality and uniqueness of Wikipedia and its sister projects. If we are not vigilant about our trademarks, others will misuse the reputation that the community has built so successfully. For this reason:
- We are retrieving aggressively our domain names from cyber-squatters through proactive actions before the World Intellectual Property Organization (with a priority on phishing or other fraudulent sites). To date, we have won all cases with favorable decisions that will help us in the future. See, e.g., , , ,
- We are buying various domain names (at lower prices) to help prevent cyber-squatting.
- We recently hired Mark Monitor to survey the web for abuse involving our trademarks.
- We have hired a new specialist law firm to help oversee our trademark portfolio.
- We are creating template licensing agreements to ensure proper use authorization of our trademarks.
- We have established a multi-discipline team (Legal, Global Development, PR) to help ensure consistent trademark approvals. We are averaging about 200+ trademark reviews a year, many of which require written legal trademark licenses.
Support of global expansion
Legal plays an instrumental role in global development, ensuring WMF addresses critical legal issues arising from a Wikimedian global presence, including support of our catalyst teams focusing on India, Brazil, and the Arab-speaking world. See the Strategic Plan Summary.
We are playing a critical role in the global mobile initiative, negotiating and drafting low cost deals with major telecommunications carriers worldwide.
Proactive litigation strategy
Legal oversees all litigation against WMF. We are becoming more proactive by choosing and investing in cases where our direct involvement will help establish good legal precedents. Our goal is to help create excellent case law for the future that advances our goals in building a worldwide repository of free information and to support local teams in the process.
Support of fundraising and grant-making
We advise extensively on fundraising and grant-making to help further our mission, and, as part of the process, we work with multiple law firms worldwide in ensuring compliance. We help draft the fundraising and grant agreements and support the grant process, including best-in-class governance. We negotiate with payment processors to bring local payment methods worldwide. We also routinely maintain and renew our numerous state charity registrations in the U.S.
Enhancement of contract process
Most people do not know this, but WMF will probably enter into about 170 contracts this year. These contracts can relate to technology & data centers, events, maintenance, mobile projects, leases, service needs, consultants, surveys, etc. The responsibility of the Legal Department is to review those contracts, negotiate them, approve them, and catalog them for future reference. In this respect:
- We are putting together multiple contract templates, so we can do the work faster and better.
- We are improving our contract review process to ensure the best governance of our commitments.
- Within the next few months, we plan to put into place an electronic tracking system that allows us to review and store all our contracts and provide us important search functions and notices that allow to track, for example, renewal dates for agreements.
- We hired an experienced international transactional specialist (Kelly) to ensure the best representation of WMF in these negotiations.
Good governance of WMF ensures that we are using donor money and community support wisely, efficiently and legally. This requires ongoing periodic checks, such as compliance review relating to our charity status and privacy reviews to ensure adherence to our policies and other laws.
Great legal advice in support of the projects
Our legal department is called upon daily to provide top legal advice worldwide on the many projects undertaken by the WMF, including editor retention initiatives (a high priority), intellectual property questions, DMCA requests, OTRS support, free licensing issues, surveys, contests, notices, policies, threats, etc. This takes up a good portion of our time, but our investment of resources up front militates against future problems.
A strong legal team
As you can imagine, the above represents lots of sophisticated legal work, and for that reason we need to maintain a strong legal team. We are the fifth largest website in the world, but we only have 3 lawyers, compared to the legal departments of other websites that have more than a hundred. But frankly, with the community support and oversight, I would put our team up against any other any day. :)
- In October, we hired Kelly as our Deputy General Counsel (with strong background and hands-on experience in transactional, international, and privacy law)
- We promoted Michelle to Legal Counsel (with strong background and experience in trademark, website, IP, and litigation).
- We have established a legal intern program where qualified law students or recent graduates may volunteer with our legal team.
So that is a summary of our strategic initiatives in 2011-2012. Again, without you, our job would be impossible. Thank you for your service, your dedication to getting it right, and your commitment to the highest level of compliance while ensuring our underlying values of free expression and free licenses.