George Herbert wrote:
Todd, fundamentally, here's the
Fair use is free, too.
That is absolutely -not- the policy nor the case, else we'd use
"Wikipedia only", "educational uses only" or "noncommercial
anywhere we liked, since for us such use is perfectly legal. The policy
is knowingly and deliberately more restrictive than the law, and always
has been. Any image we must use under fair-use is by definition nonfree,
so your statement in effect says "Nonfree is free".
Ah, but it is. The law specifically says so, as do court cases.
Copyrights have exceptions, and always have.
Wikipedia has two good reasons to be more restrictive than "take
everything we can get away with under Fair Use" -
A. We have downstream mirrors that, while they're also an
encyclopedia, are commercially oriented in some sense, and are likely
disadvantaged in making Fair Use claims compared to Wikipedia.
B. While Fair Use is nice, we all do (honest) want to encourage more
free content in the world.
However, and I can't stress this enough, Fair Use is not just
something we invented, it's a fundamental part of US copyright law,
and many other nations. Fair Use means that "the people" get to have
exceptions to the exclusivity that Copyrights and Trademarks bring.
This has been an important part of Copyright law since its modern
"Free content" is not just about getting everyone to CC or GFDL their
art and writings. It's also about letting people have and use those
exceptions that the law grants for Copyrights and Trademarks. Those
uses are also important. To most end-users, they're of more practical
importance than GFDL/CC content will be. People's fair use rights,
and the restrictions on how exclusive and total Copyrights are, are
key parts of the entire Public Intellectual Property debate and policy
Fair Use is Freedom. It's not as free as Public Domain, or as
(differently) free as GFDL or CC-SA or other Copyleft. But it's
Narrowminded interpretation of public intellectual property interests
to exclude Fair Use is folly. It's there. It's real. It's
If you run screaming from Fair Use, you're the enemy, even though you
claim to be on our side.
Fair Use is Free, Too.
Wikipedia has to be a little careful about how we exercise our Fair
Use, given A and B above, but that doesn't change the fundamental
I would go on, but I have to go back to accident reconstruction (
[[Scaled Composites#Rocket Test Accident]] ) and waiting to hear when
the memorial service is. Pardon me if I sound grumpy today; three
fatalities in a 250-person industry hurts.
To your reasons, I would add:
C. Most Wikipedians are not copyright attorneys, and even in law the
exact boundaries of fair use are often fuzzy and vaguely defined.
Pushing too close to the limits presents a very real risk of
inadvertently stepping over them.
I think you also may be making a common error (but still an error) of
conflating "free as in free beer" with "free as in free speech".
Unfortunately, the English word, as with many English words, is used to
represent both concepts. Spanish draws a clearer distinction, with
"gratis" indicating the first and "libre" indicating the second, so I
like to use those instead.
We are entitled to use many images gratis (without payment to the
copyright holder), either under fair use, under permission for Wikipedia
only, or under various licenses which permit noncommercial use,
educational use, or copying but not modification. However, those images
are not libre images.
Here's the difference. If someone wants to modify the image and copy it
to their website, which makes ad revenue, that may not be legal. If a
textbook publisher wants to print it in their next edition, that may not
be legal. Same for a newspaper or commercial mirror, or even someone who
just wants to put a copy on their own website. On the other hand, for
libre images, all of those things are -guaranteed to be- perfectly legal
(perhaps subject to a requirement for attribution to the author, unless
the image is public domain).
"We're legally free to use it" is not the same as "it's free
Libre content means that -anyone- is free to use it. By generally
refusing nonfree content, we also place ourselves in a better position
to say "Ah, you want your band's article to feature covers of all your
albums? You want the article on your book to feature a nice picture of
the cover? You'd like us to put that movie poster in the article on your
movie? You'd like a picture of your pretty face in the article about
you? Sure, we can do that. Did you want to release under GFDL, CC-BY-SA,
or public domain? Nope, sorry, we can't accept permission for just us to
use it, we use only free content in almost all cases, and there's simply
not an overriding enough reason for us to use it if you won't make that
Indeed, since we've stopped accepting nonfree images of living people,
the number of free images of living people has skyrocketed. If we do the
same in other areas, and make people actually go to the trouble of
requesting a free-license release instead of just slapping some canned
rationale when they upload an image, the same will happen there. So, the
question is, then, do you want to increase the amount of free content
out there, as you said? The best way to do that is by refusing nonfree
alternatives. We have the pull to do that, and get an image released
under a free license, in a lot of cases.
(As to the rest, didn't know you worked there, but sorry to hear about
it! I hope the ones that were injured recover alright.)