I think you're stretching things a bit here about the facts in
relation to the TIME magazine issue:
1. An admin decided to start speedying properly tagged images, as
copyvios. There are no CSD provisions for speedying copyvio images.
2. In accounting for his actions, when asked by a number of people,
the admin said that his personal interpretation of the fair use law
(and note that he pointed people to the page about the law, not our
fair use policy) was that these were copyvios and put Wikipedia at
risk. (Sound grounds and good intentions for discussing policy change,
but not throwing it to the wind.)
3. After some more people started wondering where he was getting the
authority to skip out on our copyvio procedures, he tells them to take
it up with Jimbo or the WMF. (Note that a board member of the WMF soon
said that they were indeed NOT the place to take it up with.) He then
alludes to a secret e-mail from Jimbo where he was given authority for
deleting any TIME magazine images he wanted without question.
4. Finally, the admin produces the "backchannel" e-mail. And guess
what? It said that the images should probably be AfDed, and that if it
didn't pass AfD then *Jimbo* might speedy them himself. So it didn't
quite give the admin the authority to speedy them himself in the
slightest. Nevertheless, the admin told everyone else to eat their
words in suggesting he was acting out of policy, and claims that this
validates everything he had done.
And in the meantime lots of admins pat him on the back, say "Good job,
old sport, for ignoring the system!" and all sorts of other things
which miss more points than I dare express.
I'm involved with this, I won't claim neutrality. If the admin in
question had at least tried to go through normal channels first, at
least tried to suggest policy changes, I'd have been more sympathetic.
It makes a mockery of efforts to come up with sound policy if one
admin can decide, without consulting anyone publicly, to go on an
anti-policy crusade, flagrantly violating our deletion policy and
telling anyone who questions him to shove off, and then get
congratulatory pats on the back.
And, as I stated about a million times (and got the same curt replies
from everyone despite this), all of my truck with this has been about
the *way* it was done. If we want to decide that magazine covers from
TIME are not acceptable under a proper fair use policy at Wikipedia,
that's fine by me, I'd have helped tag and bag them. But being told to
shove off, implicitly and explicitly, because I questioned the actions
of this "bold" admin -- that's a bit much. We could have had a nice
discussion about this out in the open, and if Jimbo had wanted them
gone, he knows as well as anyone else how to get that sort of thing
accomplished. Backchannel conversation should NEVER be the primary
source of justifying an action -- it should be moved into the public
realm before it affects the public realm.
Frankly, I think I might be done trying to work on fair use policy on
Wikipedia. Whether people think that's a good thing or a bad thing, I
don't think anyone can say that I didn't at least try and keep every
discussion, every rationale, and every change as open and publicly
available and transparent as possible. My goal was to come up with an
intelligent, legally thoughtful, and frankly workable approach to fair
use on Wikipedia (and, long-time list readers will recall, that I
originally started out by thinking that all fair use should be removed
from Wikipedia; once it was clear that this was the path to go, I
devoted my efforts to figuring out how to make our policy a sane one),
and think some good steps towards that were accomplished. But if
people can be so supportive of efforts to circumvent such policy,
without so much as discussions of changing it, then apparently my
efforts are better spent elsewhere.
Vigilantism masquerading as boldness is, I think, ultimately
destructive to the goal of producing strong social networks of
dedicated and interested contributors. But I don't claim to be an
expert at this (I'm a historian, not a sociologist).
On 2/28/06, Tony Sidaway <f.crdfa(a)gmail.com> wrote:
On 2/28/06, The Cunctator <cunctator(a)gmail.com>
Defenses of backchannel discussions seem to me to
always be rather
weak, especially considering the gross potential for abuse and the
lessons of history.
There is far too much unjustified suspicion about this. One
administrator recently started deleting copyright infringing copies of
Time magazine covers, an action for which he received the full
authorization of Jimbo Wales. He was RfC'd! When finally he obtained
from Jimbo permission to reproduce the email (which I also received)
the response was to openly question his honesty, and demand that he
prove that the email (which carried Jimbo's email address, that of the
recipient, and my own name, and was posted openly on the wiki with
Jimbo's permission) came from Jimbo.
That kind of corrosive supiciousness is the problem. For the most
part our administrators, those who are involved in backchannel
operations, are the best and the most trustworthy we have.
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