An idea to help solve Commons copyright woes

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An idea to help solve Commons copyright woes

Brianna Laugher
Hello,

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:Deletion_requests
frequently sees recurring copyright debates, which I believe is
basically because we are a bunch of amateurs trying to make decisions
on complex international copyright law.

This is no slight on the people who take part in these debates (I am
one of them), but it simply seems to me quite silly. No one can be
sure who is right, we argue in circles and it's really inefficient. I
really feel out of my depth trying to argue on copyright cases, but I
do it because *someone* has to - there just isn't enough attention
given to these cases.

And yet Wikimedia has a legal department:
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Legal_department . Villy
(Jean-Christophe Chazalette), who is part of it, used to be quite
active on Commons but hasn't been for some time.

Therefore I propose that we (Commons community) ask the Legal
department to create and fill a permanent position known as something
like "Commons liaison officer" (CLO). Their job will be to mediate
requests for copyright advice between Commons and the juriwiki mailing
list/Legal department. Hopefully we could have a turn-around of about
two weeks on any given issue.

I hope this would be considered appropriate for the Legal department,
because Commons is handling the vast bulk of media copyright issues,
unlike text copyright issues which are spread almost everywhere else.

Of course they should not be bothered with every little issue. Only
things that cannot be resolved on [[COM:DEL]] should be taken to the
CLO (presumably by admins). (For example we would not ask them to try
and find the source of an item. The onus is on the uploader to provide
the source. If they cannot, we have to delete.) The advice they offer
should be recorded, interpreted as a precedent and binding.

I hope to draw some attention to this issue here (and the Village
pump) and if there is more or less unanimity, I will post a request to
juriwiki and the foundation-l mailing list.

Here are some recent issues that I would like resolved:
* To what extent are we bound by local laws and to what extent are we
bound by Florida's laws (as the home of our servers). Country
copyrights vary considerably with regards to duration of copyright,
"freedom of panorama" (Panoramafreiheit) /whether public objects such
as statues and even buildings can be freely photographed and there is
a lot of confusion about this. Should we respect local law always or
interpret in terms of US law?
(Big discussion at the moment about a photo of the interior of a
German railway station:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:Deletion_requests#Image:Berlin_Hauptbahnhof_pano_06.jpg
)

* There was recently a discussion about the "Against DRM" license (
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:ADRM ).

* Logos. This has still not been sufficiently resolved, in that there
is not a clear enough solution that everyone is aware of. Do we
consider copyright independently of trademark status? Is that even
possible? ( http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:Deletion_requests#Image:CSU-Logo_1998.jpg
)

* "Agencia Brasil" license  (
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:Ag%C3%AAncia_Brasil ) also
has been debated several times. Related to the wider issue of, "if a
website says "these images can be used freely, can we interpret that
as allowing commercial use and derivative works, and thus
Commons-compliant? Or do we need to check each time whether they
intend to allow these specific rights?"

* Photographs of commercial products such as: Pokemon/Star
Wars/Simpsons toys, box of Pringles, also people in dress-up outfits
of characters such as Lara Croft/Chewbacca. Eloquence has raised this
before ( http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:Deletion_requests#May_21
) but I doubt even he would think this has been satisfactorily
resolved.

* US presidential portraits (
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:Deletion_requests#Official_paintings_held_by_the_U.S._Government
).

* Photographs of art - if the artwork itself is old enough to be PD,
is it true that any photograph of the art itself is also PD, but any
photograph of the art in its frame or on a wall  is not? (Because it
is 3-D, not 2-D anymore)

* Personality rights. What permission is required of people
photographed, if any? (eg "Can I take your picture"/"Can I publish
your picture on a public database that allows commercial use?") Is
this a copyright concern or a "other law" concern that we don't need
to worry about? What if the people aren't recognisable (and how can
you decide that anyway?)? (
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:Deletion_requests#All_pictures_of_little_girls_uploaded_by_User:Belginusanl
 , also some of the "visible thong" pictures on
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/G-string have been nominated before)

* Stock xchange images (current:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/COM:SXC villy also wrote
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Aurevilly/sxc.hu_%282%29 but it
seems to have stalled). What should be done with the existing images
(which are intentionally not categorised in any way as such, so they
might be hard to find), what do we have to do (if anything) in order
to use current images?

I don't really want to discuss any of these issues right now. I want
to discuss whether or not other people think it would be appropriate
to seek professional legal advice on issues like these and whether or
not they think my idea of asking for the appointment of a CLO is a
good idea or not.

Thanks,
Brianna /user:pfctdayelise
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Re: An idea to help solve Commons copyright woes

James Forrester-5
Brianna Laugher wrote:

> Therefore I propose that we (Commons community) ask the Legal
> department to create and fill a permanent position known as something
> like "Commons liaison officer" (CLO). Their job will be to mediate
> requests for copyright advice between Commons and the juriwiki mailing
> list/Legal department. Hopefully we could have a turn-around of about
> two weeks on any given issue.
>
> I hope this would be considered appropriate for the Legal department,
> because Commons is handling the vast bulk of media copyright issues,
> unlike text copyright issues which are spread almost everywhere else.

This would significantly blur the line between the Foundation and the
community, and (for the obvious reasons) almost certainly make the
Foundation legally liable for copyright violations without anything like
the elasticity that we currently enjoy. I would strongly counsel against
it, but then I'm sure the legal group is aware of the issues anyway.

Yours sincerely,
--
James D. Forrester
Wikimedia : [[W:en:User:Jdforrester|James F.]]
E-Mail    : [hidden email]
IM (MSN)  : [hidden email]
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Re: An idea to help solve Commons copyright woes

Anthony DiPierro
In reply to this post by Brianna Laugher
On 6/11/06, Brianna Laugher <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Hello,
>
> http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:Deletion_requests
> frequently sees recurring copyright debates, which I believe is
> basically because we are a bunch of amateurs trying to make decisions
> on complex international copyright law.
>
> This is no slight on the people who take part in these debates (I am
> one of them), but it simply seems to me quite silly. No one can be
> sure who is right, we argue in circles and it's really inefficient. I
> really feel out of my depth trying to argue on copyright cases, but I
> do it because *someone* has to - there just isn't enough attention
> given to these cases.
>
I agree that this tends to be a problem.  I think the only solution
though is to come to a rough consensus on the major issues and then
write them down so that the same work isn't being done over and over
again.

> And yet Wikimedia has a legal department:
> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Legal_department . Villy
> (Jean-Christophe Chazalette), who is part of it, used to be quite
> active on Commons but hasn't been for some time.
>
> Therefore I propose that we (Commons community) ask the Legal
> department to create and fill a permanent position known as something
> like "Commons liaison officer" (CLO). Their job will be to mediate
> requests for copyright advice between Commons and the juriwiki mailing
> list/Legal department. Hopefully we could have a turn-around of about
> two weeks on any given issue.
>
> I hope this would be considered appropriate for the Legal department,
> because Commons is handling the vast bulk of media copyright issues,
> unlike text copyright issues which are spread almost everywhere else.
>
The main job of the Foundation's legal department is to protect the
Foundation from copyright infringement.  This is a *much* different
task from deciding whether or not content is free enough to exist in
Commons.  Further, the task does not lend itself to an open process,
while the task of deciding what to allow in Commons should be an
extremely open process.

It'd be nice to get some real legal help on the important legal
issues, but the Foundation's legal team is almost surely not the best
way to do it.  Something like having a separate but overlapping group
like the folks over at freedomdefined.org provide this type of help
would be more appropriate.  Of course that group is currently still in
the early stages of development,  so I wouldn't expect a whole lot of
in depth help from them right away.

> Here are some recent issues that I would like resolved:
> * To what extent are we bound by local laws and to what extent are we
> bound by Florida's laws (as the home of our servers). Country
> copyrights vary considerably with regards to duration of copyright,
> "freedom of panorama" (Panoramafreiheit) /whether public objects such
> as statues and even buildings can be freely photographed and there is
> a lot of confusion about this. Should we respect local law always or
> interpret in terms of US law?

Sure, images on commons shouldn't be illegal for the Foundation to
distribute.  And when they are, the Foundation should step in and
delete them.  But being legal for the Foundation to distribute is only
a very basic baseline to whether or not content is free.  It's
necessary, but by no means sufficient.

Anthony
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Re: An idea to help solve Commons copyright woes

Alphax (Wikipedia email)
Anthony DiPierro wrote:

> On 6/11/06, Brianna Laugher <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> Hello,
>>
>> http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:Deletion_requests
>> frequently sees recurring copyright debates, which I believe is
>> basically because we are a bunch of amateurs trying to make decisions
>> on complex international copyright law.
>>
>> This is no slight on the people who take part in these debates (I am
>> one of them), but it simply seems to me quite silly. No one can be
>> sure who is right, we argue in circles and it's really inefficient. I
>> really feel out of my depth trying to argue on copyright cases, but I
>> do it because *someone* has to - there just isn't enough attention
>> given to these cases.
>>
> I agree that this tends to be a problem.  I think the only solution
> though is to come to a rough consensus on the major issues and then
> write them down so that the same work isn't being done over and over
> again.
>
<snip>

I agree. Several times I've looked at debates about whether certain
things are acceptable or not (eg. trademarks, sculptures, buildings,
physical objects) and thought "haven't we had this discussion before?
Hasn't this been asked of juriwiki-l and they've answered?" We need to
stick it somewhere *prominant* and permanantly protect it so that people
aren't tempted to alter it to suit their own purposes.



--
Alphax - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Alphax
Contributor to Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
"We make the internet not suck" - Jimbo Wales
Public key: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Alphax/OpenPGP


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Re: An idea to help solve Commons copyright woes

Brianna Laugher
In reply to this post by James Forrester-5
On 11/06/06, James D. Forrester <[hidden email]> wrote:
> This would significantly blur the line between the Foundation and the
> community, and (for the obvious reasons) almost certainly make the
> Foundation legally liable for copyright violations without anything like
> the elasticity that we currently enjoy. I would strongly counsel against
> it, but then I'm sure the legal group is aware of the issues anyway.

I really hope you're wrong about this. Are we only going to treat
copyright issues seriously when they're raised by outsiders
threatening to sue? Do I have to ask some copyright holders to
complain to the Board before any action is taken or help offered? I
should hope not... I don't think the line is blurred. We already have
WP:OFFICE on en.wp and the fr.wq project was closed down. Oh wait they
are both due to threats of legal action... this really smacks of a
"don't ask, don't tell, we don't want to know" kind of attitude, which
hardly seems like a good way to run anything. I hope it is not
accurate.

Maybe my idea of a CLO is a bad idea. OK fine. But if there is
community consensus that we need some help dealing with these
copyright issues, and we go to foundation-l and say, "As a community
and a project, we are explicitly asking for your help," I would be
very disappointed if WMF was to say, "Actually, we would prefer to let
you struggle along, it makes it easier for us to feign ignorance, you
see." Maybe someone can come up with some other idea that is more
palatable to the Legal folk.

I will just repeat that my intention with this topic is to establish
whether or not there is community consensus that we need some help, at
the moment I'm only speaking for myself.

Brianna
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