[Foundation-l] Clearing up Wikimedia's media licensing policies (some important points)

David Strauss david at fourkitchens.com
Fri Feb 9 00:32:38 UTC 2007

I do not see fair use as evil. True, fair use and fair dealing do not 
exist in many jurisdictions, but the legal statutes of a country have 
never alone been justification for labeling something "good" or "evil."

On the contrary, I see fair use is an essential component of free 
speech. It is the right to contextualize commentary and criticism. 
Without context, such forms of speech wane in relevance.

The justification for copyright is to create incentives for people to 
produce works of merit. Whether fair use is ethical should hinge on its 
effect on those incentives. Fair use is specifically designed to avoid 
undermining these incentives, and I believe it succeeds in that goal.

With that settled, what could still make fair use "evil"? Is it evil 
because some people cannot use it? By that standard, we would have to 
limit many topics on Wikimedia projects, but we readily allow material 
that would be banned for viewing -- let alone republishing -- in many 

If we're willing to stand for the right to fairly cover the Falun Gong, 
we should be willing to stand for the right to fairly cover a 
world-famous Beatles album, including a discussion of the album art.

Instead of charging ahead to eliminate fair use everywhere, we should 
celebrate our ability to use it *when necessary*.

Our goal is to liberate knowledge, and fair use is an important part of 
that goal. Our goal is also to provide more than facts; it's to provide 
facts with context. Fair use is part of that, too.

This is not to say that we should seek out fair-use media. Of course, we 
should use free alternatives at every opportunity. But we should never 
be ashamed of invoking fair use when it allows us to improve Wikipedia.

Delphine Ménard wrote:
> Tell me anything but don't tell me that fair-use can be used for this
> that and the rest and that it's not so bad, after all. (at least, this
> is what I repreatedly hear, this manichean speech that says ND/NC and
> permission are EVIL, fair use is LESS EVIL). Don't even hint at it. I
> said it earlier, I believe fair-use is evil. ;-) And it seems I am not
> the only one.
> If anything, I think it very sad that the biggest Wikipedia is
> condemning itself to be distributed "as such" only in countries where
> the fair use doctrine exists, and bars itself from being distributed
> in the rest of the world.
> I have, however, faith that the other wikipedias will show the light.
> Slowly, but surely...
> Cheers,
> Delphine

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