Could Wikipedia sue Neri Oxman?

Bill Ackman is rattling the sabres of his legal team in a 77-page “legal demand.” Bizarrely, he has doubled down on the claims that his wife’s verbatim copying of Wikipedia content was appropriate. I previously debunked this in an interview which was reported in Slate. Neri Oxman plagiarized from and violated Wikipedia’s copyright. (Oxman’s infractions, like Claudine Gay’s, look to be the result of sloppy and lazy scholarship rather than the wholesale theft of novel ideas.)

However, Ackman’s latest threat prompted me to wonder if the Wikimedia Foundation, on its own behalf or that of its contributors, has ever sued someone for violating its copyright?

Wikipedia is licensed under terms that requires attribution and that the resulting work be licensed similarly. Wikipedia adopted this “copyleft” principle from the software world. And in that domain we’ve seen The Software Freedom Law Center successfully prompt companies to comply with the GPL. In 2022, the Software Freedom Conservancy’s (SFC) went even further; they sued Vizio for failing to abide by GPL’s requirements on behalf of all licensees/users of that software, not just its developers. The case is to begin next month, in March 2024, but some of the early pre-trial rulings were taken as positives for the SFC.

In the Wikipedia case, users retain their copyright, rather than assigning or transferring it to the Wikimedia Foundation. Therefore, those individual Wikipedians could sue Oxman. Might the success by the SFC against Vizio mean that the Wikimedia Foundation, or any user of Wikipedia, could sue Oxman for infringement?

2024-03-01 update

In response to this question on Wikipedia’s Village Pump, User:WhatamIdoing referred to the Wikipedia:Standard license violation letter and Wikipedia:Standard CC BY-SA violation letter. From the letters’ existence, I presume there have been cases of users being notified they were infringing, but the cases were of low visibility and little has gone before a court – unlike some of the free software cases.

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