[Foundation-l] Wikimedia Foundation's help to the projects

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sun Dec 24 01:52:04 UTC 2006

Michael Snow wrote:

>Erik Moeller wrote:
>>On 12/14/06, Birgitte SB <birgitte_sb at yahoo.com> wrote:
>>>I don't believe you understand how useful it would be
>>>to just have some one say "That particular case is
>>>unknown.  The most similar case to this is Foobar."
>>>Even if there were a table of questions that people
>>>have asked in the past with yes/no/unknown and no
>>>futher advice would be extremely helpful.  I think it
>>>a false expectation of yours that we are expecting
>>>clearcut answers.  Really we have been mucking through
>>>copyright questions as best we can for some time; we
>>>are all well aware there are often not answers only
>>>arguments.  Just being able to eliminate some
>>>arguments as invalid would be very helpful.
>>Aside from the potential issues with the WMF "officially" giving such
>>advice to the communities, Brad (our GC and ED) simply doesn't have
>>the time to do this. Let's brainstorm about how we can get juriwiki-l
>>going, i.e. a functioning, community-driven group of advisors with
>>demonstrable legal expertise.
>>At the moment juriwiki-l is configured so that postings from the
>>outside are moderated and replied to by a group of insiders. Is there
>>any real issue, from a legal point of view, with making it a public
>>mailing list? This is perhaps something Brad can answer.
>In the context of rethinking the various internal, private mailing 
>lists, I'm not sure whether it will be considered appropriate to 
>continue juriwiki-l in its present form. As Anthere noted, the list is 
>not all that active at present. However, it has had sporadic use and a 
>variety of sensitive subjects were discussed there with an expectation 
>of confidentiality. So I would strongly oppose simply converting it to a 
>public list and making the accompanying archives public.
>If a public list dedicated to legal issues is thought desirable, it 
>should be launched separately. We had wikilegal-l before, but that too 
>dwindled into oblivion.
I agree with Michael that sorting out the confidentialities of the past 
juriwiki list would require a delicacy that may exceed the value of the 
results.  Even if an investigation showed that making the information 
public would do no harm, I don't think that I for one would gain very 
much by ploughing throw an old archive.  If a mailing list is the 
appropriate forum for pursuing these matters, it should likely be a new 

It remains to be seen whether there should be two such lists, one to 
deal with copyright law, and one for other legal questions.  No-one will 
dispute the complexity of copyright law and its importance to attaining 
wiki goals and objectives.  This branch of the law receives likely as 
much attention here as all the rest put together.

I believe that we should be attentive to the law, but I also believe 
that nothing is accomplished without pushing the boundaries of the law.  
I believe that the law, and especially copyright law, is seldom a matter 
of black and white, and that there is a huge mushy middle of unsettled 
issues where actions could as easily be judged legal as illegal.

The Foundation should absolutely not put itself in the position where it 
will be liable for the misbehaviour of members.  This includes liability 
for copyright infringement.  In conflict with this is the goal of not 
only using free material, but of making material free.  Under a strict 
reading of the law orphan works are not free, but they may nevertheless 
be free if there is nobody there to own the copyrights.  Copyright law 
was developed by and for those who believed they had rights to protect.  
Those who published with no concern for these rights, or who saw only 
short term benefits in them view them at most with benign indifference.  
Most would be delighted than anyone would be at all interested to 
reproduce their early work of that of their ancestors.  Even more of the 
work is not worth republishing.  The risk and responsibility for dealing 
with this must be assumed at an individual level.

There are at least two reasons for maintaining a restricted mailing 
list.  Confidentiality is clearly one that needs no further 
explanation.  Another would be to encourage getting things done.  We 
can't all do everything.  Too often on mailing lists we hear gripes 
about some proposal, but asking the complainer for better alternatives 
produces only silence.  Anthere has occasionally and rightly expressed 
her frustrations about this.  People want to participate in decisions, 
but they can't.  This is not because there are others to prevent their 
participation, but because the daily pressures in their own lives act as 
a restricting force.  When their personal time table only allows them to 
participate in one of two decisions they must choose, and leave others 
to deal with the unchosen one. This can be a very difficult choice for 
some, and the rest of us cannot be kept waiting while they cling to the 
vain hope that someday they will have the time.  It's a serious dilemma 
in democratic institutions that want to make the maximum effort to have 
everyone represented.  There are others who are very happy to take 
advantage of such a loophole.

Can we have a semi-restricted mailing list?  The purpose of the list 
would be to find solutions to copyright dilemmas.  (That we are here 
discussing it in relation to copyright law would not prevent this 
technique from being applied for other lists with different purposes.)  
Full membership in the list would be limited in number.  Read-only 
membership would be much larger.  If the list reaches its arbitrarily 
established membership limit, a new "list2" could be started with 
similar restrictions.  List2 members could then move to list1 when there 
is a vacancy.  Preset criteria, including prolonged absence, could be 
established for dropping people from the list.


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