Talk:Terms of use

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As we close this comment period, thanks to you for a job well done.

Congratulations to you, the community, for participating in the most collaborative drafting of a Terms of Use for any major website! With 4500 lines of text, resolution of more than 120 different issues, and over 120 days of discussion, we are bringing this stage of the collaboration to an end today, December 31, 2011. All comments after this date unfortunately may not be reviewed.

We will take this near final version of the proposed terms of agreement and review it internally at WMF. We don't anticipate any changes other than small non-substantive edits. If there are any substantive recommendations, we will return to the community and open the discussion for another week on those recommendations. In January 2012 or shortly afterwards, the legal department then expects to recommend the final version to the Board of Wikimedia Foundation for review and approval. We expect the Board will take some time to review before reaching a final decision.

Thank you again for all your ideas, creativity, thoughtfulness, research, and expertise. Collaboration worked, and that's because of you.

You can read more about your efforts on the Wikimedia blog.

Reasons for the New Terms of Use[edit]

Some folks have asked me to explain in more detail, beyond my email, why we need a user agreement, which, of course, I’m happy to do. To start, I want to underscore a couple of points. First, a user agreement should serve as a guide to new editors and readers (as well as the rest of the Community). It should help newbies understand the basic rules of the game and their responsibilities. It is only fair notice, and it reflects our commitment to transparency. When people understand the rules, when they understand their responsibilities, the experience is likely to be a better one for the reader and user as well as the Community. To be sure, not everyone reads the user agreement, but many do. And, when there are questions, it is always there as a reference to guide and advise.

Second, a lot of this falls into the category of “an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.” There is a reason that every other website of our size has a (much more extensive and shockingly one-sided) terms of use: a little bit of legal language can go a long way in keeping an organization out of court. Indeed, we see more extensive terms of use than our present one on websites that share values of openness and community. See, as examples, the Mozilla Terms of Use ( and Creative Commons Terms of Use ( .

These terms of use are useful in preventing the frivolous lawsuits that could otherwise hit hard an organization’s budget; an issue that is especially relevant for a non-profit. Just because a lawsuit lacks basis doesn’t mean we don’t still have to hire a lawyer to go to court to defend us, and, if there’s one thing lawyers are known for, it’s that their costs add up fast.

Wikipedia and our other sites are really big now. This is something to rejoice and be proud of – you, as well as everyone who has contributed over the years, have done a great job building this amazing site while promoting an incredible mission! But being large means you have to protect yourself, your infrastructure, and your Community.

That said, let me take a stab at explaining some of the more specific reasons for the proposed terms of use:

  1. A good description of our services (Sec. 1) reinforces to third parties, potential litigants, and courts what is a known and important fact about our operation: Wikimedia is a hosting site, entitled to legal immunity under U.S. and some foreign law. We constantly receive threats of lawsuits, but, after we explain our hosting site immunity, most of those threats go away. If we do go to litigation, and we sometimes do, courts are receptive to our hosting status position. The proposed language in the user agreement is not essential, but it can help persuade a foreign court that we are hosting content where the local law is unclear. In short, it reduces costs: We operate on a small budget, and every time we can persuade a lawyer not to sue us or a court to support us, that means more money to support the Community mission.
  2. The user agreement helps new users see comprehensively the most important policies governing our site, like the Privacy Policy (Sec. 2), Board resolutions (Sec. 11), and Community policies (Sec. 11). It becomes more difficult for a user to claim ignorance about these essential guidelines when they are referenced in a user agreement.
  3. A user agreement provides helpful notice to new users on issues that govern their very first edit. For example, a new user should know upfront that he or she is responsible for his or her edits (Sec. 1b). That is only fair. A new user should understand what basic behavior is not acceptable on the site (something that we are working to define right now through this discussion process)(Sec. 4). That helps both the user and the Community.
  4. The prohibitions also are intended to assist the Community when it enforces its rules against unacceptable conduct (Sec. 4, 10). Indeed, for some of these prohibitions, such as long term abuse, senior members of the Community requested that we address this behavior as aggressively as possible; this user agreement is in partial response to that. Unacceptable conduct that is expressly called out in the user agreement provides backup for all the projects to enforce against violating users. And, if we were challenged in court, clearer rules in the user agreement would render these community actions even easier to defend.
  5. The user agreement seeks to put in one place the essential parts of other legal or important documents on our site, many of which would be particularly hard to locate for newer or less familiar editors and readers. For example, the user agreement addresses potentially offensive material (Sec. 3a), non-professional advice (Sec. 3b), use of our trademarks (Sec. 6), and third party websites and resources (Sec. 9). See, e.g., ; ; .
  6. With respect to technical situations like malware attacks on the site, we need to be ready to litigate if necessary. We facilitate that legal option by underscoring our boundaries in the user agreement for purposes of common law trespass and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (Sec. 4). We want to be in the best position to protect our infrastructure and pursue all legal avenues, and the user agreement advances those goals.
  7. A user agreement should provide helpful information to ensure the experience is a positive one. We do that in the new proposed agreement. See Sec. 5 (telling users to keep their password secure); Sec. 8 (providing advice on how to handle DMCA takedown notices).
  8. Like the present user agreement, we need to provide clear guidance on the licensing requirements (Sec. 7). With a new reiteration, we hope we employ even easier-to-understand language (though we could probably do better, and as with everything else, welcome your suggestions to improve it).
  9. A user agreement allows us to gather in one place required legal notices and processes which help limit our legal liability, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)(Sec. 8).
  10. The crown jewels for the Community and the Foundation are the Wikimedia trademarks. We need to be vigilant in this area, and the agreement puts all users on further notice that the trademarks may be used for only limited purposes that advance our mission (Sec. 6). Part of our ongoing legal responsibility as an organization is to safeguard our marks, and it is surprisingly easy for these trademarks to be lost due to obscure legal pitfalls. Our trademarks are there to protect users, the community, and the general populace by providing a clear method of identifying our services and goods so people are not misled by fraudulent impostors. The proposed user agreement furthers that aim.
  11. There are good reasons to limit WMF liability in other ways (Sec. 13-16). WMF works off a limited budget consisting of valued donor money. $30 million sounds like a lot, but it really isn't for a website our size. As noted above, any wording that can persuade a lawyer not to file a lawsuit, saves donors' money - money that can be reinvested to assist the Community in forwarding the Wikimedia movement. I don't want to waste it on outside lawyers.

The above is only a partial list on the reasons for the proposed terms of use, but I hope you find it useful. As I have said below, in the end, this is intended to be a Community document, reflecting its values while reasonably protecting the Foundation. I encourage your feedback and suggestions and thank everyone who has participated so far.

Geoffbrigham 01:49, 30 September 2011 (UTC)

Preserved from automated archival. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 14:05, 21 March 2012 (UTC).

The terms of use are now before the WMF Board of Trustees for consideration[edit]

After an internal review, WMF staff will be proposing no additional changes or amendments to the proposed terms of use. I therefore recommended that the Board replace the present terms of use with the proposed terms of use. That recommendation was forwarded to the Board today for consideration. Many thanks again for everyone's hard work on this project. Geoffbrigham 23:50, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

Preserved from automated archival. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 14:05, 21 March 2012 (UTC).

Disclaimer for §7 (g) and (h)[edit]

If and when these Terms are again updated, I think it would be worthwhile to consider adding a statement to the section on reuse indicating the following:

  • As a movement, we make our best effort to ensure that content hosted on our projects is reusable under a free license; but that it is the responsibility of the reuser to make sure that is the case. Because:
    1. A great deal of copyright-violating content is uploaded (both text and media) to our projects, and we can never perfectly ensure that we catch all of it; and
    2. Some contributors (minors) may not be legally qualified to adopt the license required for participation, and we often have no idea who is how old. (cf this discussion: Talk:Legal and Community Advocacy#Minors on Wikimedia projects)

-Pete F (talk)

Disabling auto-archiving bot for the time being[edit]

MiszaBot, a script that automatically archives talk pages, was activated here to support the active editing and deliberation around the new TOU ultimately adopted in spring 2012. This was a needed and appropriate tool at the time; now that there is no daily ongoing discussion, though, I think it is better to have the page not auto-archive. I believe that for the foreseeable future, people will bring observations and ideas to this page on a time scale of months, as opposed to minutes; so I've turned the auto-archiving off (by commenting out the relevant code above), and I think we should consider turning it back on only if and when people start adding new ideas here much more frequently. (And if so, I would like to see some mechanism for capturing and summarizing these discussions if they have not yet been acted upon.) -Pete F (talk) 20:04, 7 October 2013 (UTC)


Moved to Talk:Terms_of_use/Paid_contributions_amendment#Opposed

What services are covered by the terms of use[edit]

The introduction says "we provide the essential infrastructure and organizational framework for the development of multilingual wiki Projects and their editions", but then it continues to refer to "Our projects" (linking to wmf:Our projects and has a section "Our Services" which are very wiki-centric, and indicates project content is generally under a free license or is public domain (I cant see where adding non-free content is allowed..?). Every wiki page has a link to the terms of use.

WMF hosts other infrastructure, using software other than wiki, such as mailman, bugzilla, gerrit, etc, etc. and the userbase is largely the same sets of people. Does the new Terms of use cover content in these other parts of the WMF infrastructure that used by the public?

It would seem like an oversight to have written in the TOU that "Transmitting chain mail, junk mail, or spam to other users" is not permitted, but the definitions dont clearly include mailing lists.

Bugzilla footer includes a link to mw:Bug_management/Bugzilla_etiquette which has a different intention to the Terms of use, and the mailman footer doesnt include anything at all. Some mailing lists have included some useful notes, such as this note about privacy implications of posting on a public list. John Vandenberg (talk) 04:55, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

I think it's simple, only the services which link the ToU use them. However, WMF expressed a wish to change the ToU, see Talk:Privacy_policy/Archives/2013#“the Wikimedia Foundation” / “the Foundation” / “WMF” / “we” / “us” / “our” and especially Talk:Privacy_policy/Archives/2013#"Wikimedia Sites". --Nemo 06:34, 25 March 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for pointing that out. I do hope there will be consistency in terminology between the Privacy policy and the Terms of use, and I agree with you that there should be less terms for the same thing. The overview section of the Terms of use says "These Terms of Use tell you about our public services at the Wikimedia Foundation, our relationship to you as a user, and the rights and responsibilities that guide us both." (emphasis added) That seems to imply all public services, or at least all that a user may have an interactive relationship with. John Vandenberg (talk) 07:16, 25 March 2014 (UTC)