Jimmy Wales is an American Internet entrepreneur known for his role in the creation of Wikipedia, a free, open-content encyclopedia launched in 2001. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, holding the board-appointed "community founder" seat. In 2004, he co-founded Wikia, a privately owned, free Web-hosting service, along with Angela Beesley.
Together with Larry Sanger and others, Wales helped lay the foundation for Wikipedia, which subsequently enjoyed rapid growth and popularity. As Wikipedia expanded and its public profile grew, Wales took on the role of the project's spokesman and promoter through speaking engagements and media appearances. Wales has been historically cited as the co-founder of Wikipedia but he disputes the "co-" designation, asserting that he is the sole founder of Wikipedia. Wales' work developing Wikipedia, which has become the world's largest encyclopedia, prompted Time magazine to name him in its 2006 list of the world's most influential people.
Born in Huntsville, Alabama, Wales attended a small private school, then a university preparation school, eventually attaining a bachelor's degree and master's degree in finance. During his graduate studies he taught at two universities.
Question: How do we manage intellectual property online?
Jimmy Wales: I think that a lot of people are beginning to realize that there are sustainable business models that can be built around freely licensed content – around user-generated content that’s placed under a creative commons type of license, for example. And that begins to help resolve some of the classic issues that we’ve had.
For a long time, the whole copyright debate was really bogged down in a very polarized situation with some very alarmist ideas that the music industry is going to collapse because everybody is stealing their content online. Or the content creators are going to take control of the Internet and people won’t be able to post whatever because of the copyright issues.
But now we’re starting to see, well actually, there’s a more balanced approach – the idea of seeing some rights reserved; that people can share things under various licenses. We’re starting to see a lot more maturity around those issues. So I’m reasonably optimistic that it’s really not that big of a problem.
Recorded on: Aug 10, 2007