New Terms of use

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Following an historic community editing and comment process, Wikimedia’s Terms of Use has been updated. The newly revised version will become effective on May 25, 2012.

The updated Terms of Use is the result of a unique collaborative process that incorporated over 200 edits and 4500 lines of discussion. For more than 140 days, the Wikimedia community reviewed, drafted, and redrafted proposed updates to the Terms of Use, resolving over 120 issues. Never before has a major website’s terms been drafted through such an interactive, collaborative effort.

The community comment and revision process for the updated terms ended on December 31, 2011. The Board of Trustees formally approved the finalized draft of the updated terms on March 6, 2012. Among other things, those terms provide for:

  • Better understanding: The updated agreement includes an easy-to-read template summary to help facilitate understanding of the terms.
  • Stronger security: The updated terms prohibit a number of actions – such as installing malware – that could compromise Wikimedia systems. Though these restrictions do not represent a change in policy, they provide clarity as to what is unacceptable behavior.
  • Clearer roles: In response to requests for guidance, the updated agreement clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the community, including editors and contributors. These terms also seek to provide guidelines to help users avoid trouble.
  • More community feedback: The updated agreement ensures that future updates will be accompanied by a collaborative discussion process. The update gives users at least a 30-day comment period before a major revision goes into effect (with Board approval). There is a three-day exception for urgent legal and administrative changes.
  • Clearer free licensing: According to some, the previous ToU was sometimes confusing in regards to free licensing requirements. The updated agreement attempts to explain more clearly those requirements for editors and contributors (without changing existing practices).
  • More tools against harassment, threats, stalking, vandalism, and other long-term issues: The terms make clear that such acts are prohibited. Novel for Wikimedia, the updated agreement raises the possibility of a global ban for extreme cross-wiki violations, a need that has been expressed from a number of community members. While the global ban is authorized by the terms of use, it will be implemented by community policy.
  • Better legal protection: The updated terms incorporate legal sections that are commonly used to help safeguard a site like ours, such as better explanation of our hosting status as well as disclaimers and limitations on liability for the Foundation.

Suffice to say, we are consistent with other like-minded organizations, which have incorporated similar agreements, including the Internet Archive, Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Open Source Initiative, Project Gutenberg, Linux Foundation, Stack Exchange, WikiSpaces, and WordPress.com.

Without the hard work and expertise of our community, this project would have been impossible. We applaud the community's participation in this innovative initiative, which resulted in the most collaboratively-drafted terms of use for any major website.