Yesterday I described a legal threat to Wikipedia.
The comments helped lead me to a story of how open source projects can protect themselves, using the same asset they already have, transparency.
The comment in our thread included a link to Risingsun.com, which described the questionable origins of the anti-Wikipedia suit's sponsors. There was also a link to a blog entry from a Wall Street Journal reporter, Jeremy Wagstaff, and (best of all) a Wikipedia entry on QuakeAID, which happens to have the same mailing address (a post office box) as the folks claiming class action damages.
The Wikipedia entry on QuakeAID indicates that the man behind all this is named Greg Lloyd Smith, whose first Internet start-up was an outfit named Frugal Escrow, which Smith says was the victim of fraud. Since then, the entry continues, Smith himself has been engaged in many activities which are, to say the least, questionable.
I won't comment on the truth of those charges. With Wikipedia, it's important to give new data time to settle, to wait for responses. Admittedly this is not a problem in a real encyclopedia, where nothing at all is revealed until the investigative process plays itself out. But I really doubt now that this particular site will be the source of whatever legal hassles bother Wikipedia in the future.
The lesson here remains the same. Transparency rocks.