[Foundation-l] Foundation's position on non-free images

Robert Scott Horning robert_horning at netzero.net
Wed Aug 16 20:50:21 UTC 2006

Tisza Gergo" wrote:

>There is an ongoing debate in the Hungarian Wikipedia community about 
>image license policies. I didn't find anything about the Foundation's 
>position on the issue (except for the rather vague [[m:Foundation 
>issues]]), so I'll try to ask here:
>1) Which copyright law should be followed? The Hungarian law, the law of 
>the United States or both? (And what about France and the Netherlands, 
>where IIRC some of the Wikimedia servers are hosted?) This is an 
>important question, as Hungarian copyright law is a lot more restrictive 
>(there is no fair use, and works made by the government remain 
This is an issue that has been debated on the Wikimedia Commons for some 
time now. And the prevailing concensus: None.

We just sort of muddle through this, although Commons does try very hard 
to make sure that all of the content is cross compatable to all of the 
Wikimedia projects and in as many places as it can be useful. This is 
why fair-use is not allowed on Commons, for example. See below.

>2) What are the rules, if any, for non-free images? Should we follow 
>[[Wikipedia:Fair_use#Policy]], or is every community free to create its 
>own policies about non-copyleft media content?
Fair use policies are something that has been decided on a case by case 
basis. en.wikipedia seems to have some good discussions about the issue, 
although (since I wrote it) I like the policies on 
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks%3AFair_use_policy and they have 
stood up to some considerable review. This policy was actually based off 
of the Italian Wikipedia's fair-use guidelines rather than en.wikipedia. 
Some Wikimedia projects including some language version of Wikipedia 
don't allow fair-use precisely because of the issues involved.

See also http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aiuto%3ACopyright_immagini

I would recommend against allowing fair-use unless there are specific 
requirements and needs oriented toward such images, such as perhaps 
logos and similar items.

>3) Is it acceptable to use, in a way similar to fair use, images which 
>are illegal in the strict sense, but safe to use? (Eg. under the 
>Hungarian law, logos or book covers probably cannot be used without 
>proper permission, which is often impossible to obtain - the copyright 
>holder cannot be contacted, or doesn't understand a problem, or just 
>doesn't care. On the other hand, it's obvious that no one will sue 
>Wikipedia for advertising him or his product, especially when that 
>advertising would be legal in most countries.)
I wouldn't necessarily count out a lawsuit just because it seems as 
though it is free advertising. It is important to try and stay within 
the bounds of the law and not presume that nobody will care. Besides, 
there is so much free content available now through Commons that it 
generally isn't an issue. As for worrying about Hungarian law affecting 
you, if you are a Hungarian citizen you can still be a target for a 
lawsuit under Hungarian law just for making the edits and creating the 
content. In that case worrying about how local laws will affect you can 
still be a concern and something for you to consider. And just because 
the Foundation has an official privacy policy, an official legal request 
can be used to try and find out who edited an article and try to find 
their identity through ISPs and others. You are libel for the content 
you contribute, including copyright infringements.

Robert Scott Horning

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