On 6/13/05, Delirium <delirium(a)hackish.org>
Jimmy Wales wrote:
This is a huge grey area, but for example the
German Wikipedia policy of "no fair use" seems sensible to me.
This one I find particularly bizarre, because languages are hardly
confined within countries---there are plenty of German editors on en:,
which permits fair use, and plenty of non-German editors on de:, which
I don't care much about fair use, though for some things there is no
other way. But I don't like this either because if you take it to the
extreme and obey the law of every country, there's going to be little
that is allowed. What if some country prohibits the GFDL itself?
Unless the prohibition is against specifically the Free Software
Foundation licenses in general, or a very specific anti-American
licensing law (both are possible and weird), the GFDL is simply a
contractural agreement on how you can reuse copyrighted material. If
you fail to follow the proscribed method to legally reuse the content,
you are then subject to copyright violations that in many places,
notably the USA and Europe, can be quite harsh with multi-year jail
terms and fines in hundreds of thousands of dollars.... per violation.
Outlawing the GFDL or GPL is going to be a pandora's box that will
essentially make copyright laws useless, and make it impossible to
license somebody to legally copy any copyrightable content.
Fair-use, on the other hand, is something that the courts are very vague
about, and even in the USA I would not stake my reputation on complying
with copyright law if it is just "fair-use" as a justification to copy
the material. There were plenty of professors that got burned when
Kinko's (a photocopy center business chain) was prohibited by a judicial
decree resulting from a lawsuit from publishing compilations of
copyrighted material for university classes. This was a widespread
practice until the mid 1990's at most American universities, to have
students "go down to Kinko's" and grab lecture notes and supplimentary
material not in a textbook.
It is important also to simply be as "reasonable" as possible, and in
the case of Wikipedia or all Wikimedia projects to try and err on the
side of caution. I just bumped into the anti-fair-use issue with
WikiCommons, but I agree with the decision that no fair-use material
should be on that server. It makes life a little harder for those of us
who want to write spashy and spectacular articles, but when all is said
and done with what is on fair-use restricted sites, the legal questions
about what can be published are much easier to deal with. The problems
seem to be particularly rough with photographic images and audio
recordings, as most textual information on the Wikimedia projects is
original material where fair-use questions are not even a problem.
Robert Scott Horning
218 Sunstone Circle
Logan, UT 84321