[Foundation-l] Re: GFDL compatibility (was: Copyright complaints)

Erik Moeller eloquence at gmail.com
Fri Feb 10 05:29:45 UTC 2006

On 2/10/06, Patrick, Brad <bpatrick at fowlerwhite.com> wrote:
> My recollection from earlier discussions was that the biggest problem
> with copyright was the anonymous images which are found by the bushel on
> Commons.  Anonymous is an awful place to be in terms of protection.  But
> there is very little to be done with that, I surmise.

No Wikimedia project currently allows uploads by unregistered users,
so all uploads are at least associated with a user-chosen pseudonym
(and often with an e-mail address, which many users set when creating
an account). Images which were created by other people than the
uploader must include source informaion, and this is generally
enforced nowadays. Commons is neither special in this regard, nor do I
see the situation as being substantially different from that with
text, which is also most commonly contributed pseudonymously, or even
under an IP address.

Perhaps you're referring to a particular problem Commons had earlier
in its history with images that were copied over from the local
language Wikipedias, where the uploaders often forgot to add the
correct source information (other than a brief text like "from
en.wikipedia"), sometimes implicitly taking credit for the work of
others. This problem is less serious today because many more uploads
go directly to Commons.  It's true we still have some legacy uploads
to sort through. Fortunately, most of them are probably not genuine

The problem will become even less serious thanks to Brion, who is
working on the single login transition this month. We can then add
neat features like the ability to move files, including their correct
history, to Commons with the click of a button, or to upload directly
to Commons from a local project..Both should result in cleaner

We do not often have the problem that users maliciously upload the
works of others and claim to have created them on their own. What is
much more common is careless uploading of files from the web, with a
license either not given, or one randomly selected. The Commons
community is very diligent in weeding out these uploads, and there are
some good indicators to identify them. For example, because new users
generally don't immediately create user pages, we can identify them as
newbies (their username will be red) and treat them accordingly.

In general, I'm fairly confident that the Commons collection is
reasonably clean of clear copyright violations. There might be some
glaring exceptions hidden deeply in our archives, but that's no
different from Flickr, Ourmedia or any other media sharing service. In
fact, due to our very watchful community, we might even do better than
them already. With FlickrLickr, I've certainly come across some
blatant copyright violations which have not been removed in over a
year, labeled as Creative Commons no less.

The more difficult cases for us are those where users try to be
clever. For instance, the German Wikipedia allows no fair use, which
is quite a PITA when you want to illustrate an article about, say,
"The Simpsons". So what happens is that the users take a photo of some
plastic doll^W^Waction figure and put it under the GFDL. Of course,
the character design is no less copyrighted than before, but people
tend not to grasp the (truthfully rather bizarre) notion of
copyrighting three-dimensional objects. The same happens with photos
of buildings, statues etc. - there's a lack of awareness of the
international standards, and a lack of willingness to enforce them.

This is where Commons needs to find a way to strike a middle ground
between trying to comply with every single national law, and only
following US law and US precedents. Something like "national
applicable law or the internationally prevalent legal standard,
whichever is more permissive" might do the trick.

On the positive side, look at this:

(Note the resolution!)

Kind of makes up for the copyright issues, doesn't it? ;-)


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