Ex-Wikimedia counsel takes libertarian think tank GC job
Mike Godwin, a former top lawyer for Wikipedia operator Wikimedia Foundation Inc., will serve as the first general counsel and innovation policy director for the libertarian think tank R Street Institute, the Washington, D.C.-based group announced Thursday.
Godwin will start work Monday. He most recently was a senior policy adviser at media training organization Internews.
He said he has deep respect for R Street’s work, noting the group’s interest in protecting the Internet and its users. Last year, for example, R Street pushed Congress to approve legislation that would rein in the surveillance power of the National Security Agency.
“I think we [share] some obvious chemistry and creative energy,” Godwin said.
Godwin said he expects to spend a “great majority” of his time working on innovation policy, focusing on privacy, intellectual property and free speech, among other issues. But he said he agreed to take the GC role to help ensure that R Street’s legal needs are met.
“That seemed like an immediate, value-added position,” he said.
At Wikimedia, where he served as general counsel from 2007 to 2010, Godwin worked on a variety of issues, including privacy and IP matters. In July 2010, three months before he left the job, Godwin made news for a snarky letter he sent to the FBI in response to the agency’s demand to remove an image of the FBI’s seal from Wikipedia.
At the time, it wasn’t clear if Godwin’s parting was related to his letter. But Godwin said Friday the letter wasn’t connected.
“That letter is loved by everyone … outside of the [J. Edgar] Hoover Building,” Godwin said, referring to the FBI’s headquarters.
Godwin said he finished what he wanted to complete as Wikimedia’s GC, and noted that he worked as a Wikimedia consultant for two years after he stepped down as the organization’s top lawyer. He also said he received the “sweetest” recommendations from Wikimedia when he sought to join R Street.
In addition to Wikimedia and Internews, Godwin has worked as a staff counsel for Internet-rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation and as a columnist for ALM Media, the parent company of CorpCounsel.com and The National Law Journal.
“I’ve admired Mike from afar for years and I’m delighted that he’s joining the team at R Street,” R Street President Eli Lehrer said in a statement. “He’s the absolute best person we could possibly imagine for this job, and we are eager for him to bring his knowledge on board.”