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Wikivoyage emerges from legal cloud as the travel site grows

A legal cloud that's been hovering over the Wikimedia Foundation's travel site, Wikivoyage, has lifted.

The Foundation and Internet Brands announced Friday that a lawsuit between the two has been settled. Under the agreement, Internet Brands will not pursue any legal claims it sought against the Foundation and the site. In turn, the Foundation is dismissing a lawsuit it filed against Internet Brands in federal court.

The legal wrangle developed when the Foundation decided to launch a travel site, which Internet Brands saw as a potential competitor to its Wikitravel site.

Internet Brands acquired Wikitravel in 2006 [PDF]. Details of the deal weren't disclosed, although Internet Brands said it would invest technology and other resources into the site.

"Thanks to our active community, Wikitravel has had tremendous success and this partnership is the best way to make the investments needed to take the site to the next level," Evan Prodromou, Wikitravel co-founder, said at the time of the acquisition.

"Internet Brands has extensive experience with content-rich sites and is attuned to the unique needs of a community-driven site," he added.

Programmers switched sites

Last year, two workers on Wikitravel who were dissatisfied with for-profit Internet Brands' management of the site began working on the nonprofit Foundation's travel project.

The defections poked Internet Brands into filing suit against the workers. The company called the proposed new Web destination an infringing website and accused the workers, who were volunteers for the Foundation site, of acting for the benefit of the nonprofit to siphon users from the Internet Brands site.

Internet Brands also asserted that the pair deliberately aired misleading statements about the site and had violated IB's trademark and intellectual property rights.

In addition, Internet Brands alleged the Foundation, the members of its board, and its other members were co-conspirators of the workers.

Eventually, all claims against the workers were either abandoned by Internet Brands or were dismissed in federal court.

Meanwhile, the Foundation filed its own lawsuit against Internet Brands seeking a declaration in federal court that Internet Brands had no basis to block the Foundation's travel project.

Thousands of articles added

Despite the legal entanglements over Wikivoyage, the site launched on January 15. In the first official month of operation, 9000 articles were added to the site, according to the Foundation.

"The Wikimedia Foundation believes there is enough room for multiple travel sites to coexist, and for community members to contribute to multiple sites in this area," the nonprofit's general counsel Geoff Brigham wrote in the Wikimedia blog.

"It’s now possible for the Wikivoyage community to continue their efforts to build a global free-knowledge travel site unhindered," he added.

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