[Foundation-l] Resolution:Licensing policy and the projects' autonomy

Kat Walsh kat at wikimedia.org
Sun Apr 15 20:37:06 UTC 2007

On 4/15/07, Kjetil Ree <kjetil_r at yahoo.com> wrote:
> In a discussion at the Norwegian (bokmål) Village
> Pump, a nowiki bureaucrat and meta admin claims that
> Resolution:Licensing policy is not binding. The reason
> is that we are supposed to reach consensus through
> discussions at Wikipedia. He further says that when it
> comes to images, a small group is forcing through its
> will without reaching consensus, and that the
> licensing policy is "totally not settled." He is also
> saying that the Foundation can not dictate our
> editorial policy. I personally find such arguments
> puzzling, as it seems pretty clear to me that the
> resolution is binding, and that the board indeed can
> decide that we aren't allowed to use NC- and ND
> licenses. Is he right?

No, he isn't; you're correct. For most community matters individual
projects have autonomy. However, the licensing of text and media is
part of the mission of the Foundation, and so this policy is binding
on all projects; all Board-level decisions are.

> A somewhat related discussion: nowiki has a couple of
> hundred images uploaded back in 2004 and early 2005
> without proper sources or attribution of the author.
> We take such matters very seriously now, but back
> then, nowiki's image use policy wasn't especially
> strict on such matters. I have suggested a cleanup
> project, where every user should check his uploads
> from 2004-05 during the next couple of months, and
> give them proper source information. The same user is
> opposing this proposal, claiming that our current
> image use policy and rules about sources do not apply
> retroactively, and that starting to mass-delete images
> without a source will be disrespectful to the users
> active back then, who were following the rules at the
> time (well, actually the lack of rules). I claim that
> it is the uploaders' responsibility to make sure that
> their uploads are ok, but he claims that it is the
> users who want to delete (or points out that a image
> is unsourced) who need to prove that the image is a
> likely copyvio. Who is right?

You're still correct. A similar thing happened on English Wikipedia
when Jimbo issued a statement tightening up policies on what images
would be accepted. The policies do apply retroactively, because the
purpose is to be certain that we know all the media uploaded as free
really is free. If you can't check the information, you can't be

A cleanup project where you search for authors and source information
first and then delete the ones where you can't find it is a good idea;
there are plenty of people who run bots to notify users of deletions
on other projects so they have a chance to provide missing
information, which might be something you'd want to do. However, it is
the uploader's responsibility to provide source information; it is the
people who want to keep an image who need to show that it really is

Unfortunately this may mean that a lot of images that would actually
have been OK get deleted in the short term. That's not something that
anyone really likes to see happen! But if we don't have the
information, we can't know; certainly plenty of people have made
good-faith mistakes about images. Better to clean it up in one large
effort than have to deal with the problem for the rest of the life of
the project.

This might also be a good time for no: users to start putting free
images on Commons as you check them, search for Commons images to fill
in articles missing images, and help translate messages and policies
that haven't been translated yet. :-)

Hope this is of help.


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