Internet Brands (IB), the company that controls user-generated guide website Wikitravel, has been challenged in court by Ryan Holliday – one of two contributors the company is suing.
Holliday maintains that IB has started a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP).
Last week, Ryan Holliday filed an anti-SLAPP motion seeking to dismiss Internet Brand’s lawsuit against him and other unpaid contributors of content to the Wikitravel site.
The motion, posted online, claims that the IB lawsuit is:
"a meritless action brought not to win, but to intimidate, threaten, and ultimately silence persons engaged in speech that IB dislikes but the US Constitution protects."
The hearing is scheduled for November 5 in L.A. at the US District Court for the Central District of California.
If the court rules in Holliday's favor, IB may be on the hook for paying all related legal fees incurred by the defendants.
Such a ruling might also create a legal precedent about the rights of voluntary and unpaid contributors to a wiki.
As you may recall, IB is suing Holliday and another volunteer administrator, James Heilman, for using the brand name "Wikitravel" in the phrase "Wikitravel community" when posting online a callout for other volunteers to switch to a new platform being created by the Wikimedia Foundation. (Read the IB lawsuit.)
The Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit, and the defendants have enlisted the law firm Cooley as counsel.
Heilman may be a particular target of anger for IB. According to the New York Times:
"In February, [Heilman] posted a note to Wikitravel proposing that Wikitravel be integrated within Wikimedia:
his reasons included the absence of advertising at the Wikimedia project, and the potential for better performance because of Wikimedia’s robust infrastructure."
In its defense, IB feels it is having its business robbed from beneath it:
"The foundation covets Internet Brands’ Wikitravel Web site, which we have spent seven years and millions of dollars building, supporting and growing,” the company said. “In March, the foundation began supporting efforts to recreate the Web site in its exact form.
More recently, in the wake of a six-month campaign to galvanize a migration, the foundation escalated its plans by asking us to transfer this site to the foundation in exchange for nothing."
Meanwhile, a German site, Wikivoyage, is ready to port its content into the new Wikimedia platform, and Wikisherpa intends to point its site to the new platform, too.