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

Samuel Klein meta.sj at gmail.com
Fri Feb 9 02:25:32 UTC 2007

I love all of this consolidated discussion and writing on the subject. 
There are still a host of uncertainties... my two cents on clarity:

Core statements - about freedom, accessibility, collaboration, and so
on - benefit from being clear, bold, and without qualification.

Erik: your statement earlier today was powerful -- except for the sections 
defending fair use.  This is not because the writing was poor, nor the 
logic faulty, but because defending a complicated exemption weakens any 
argument.  For instance:

> Fair use is somewhat different in that many third party uses,
> especially educational ones, will be permissible as well.

One can make a parallel argument to defend -NC.

> These two spheres are very different. Files under fair use exemption
> are essentially on constant parole. They cannot be put in Commons.
> They will be wiped out when orphaned. They require an article context.
> They may not be put in galleries. They can and should be replaced
> whenever possible with freely licensed ones. They need a rationale.

This is complicated and distracting.  It leaves the door open for 
confusion, both on the part of content owners who complain and uploaders 
who don't understand these subtleties.  The fact that we cannot benefit 
from the obvious advantages of Commons -- and must duplicate such images 
on every wiki -- highlights how unfree this is.  [The logical extension of 
the Commons prohibition is to have special tags to explicitly and directly 
include such images without providing Image: pages for them...]

Greg: your comments likewise make what could be a crystal clear goal and 
title a bit ambiguous, but you suggest a solution.

On Thu, 8 Feb 2007, Gregory Maxwell wrote:

> It would only take a trivial script to make a computer instantly
> convert "Wikipedia, The Free* Encyclopedia. *includes some non-free
> parts"  into  "Wikipedia, The Free (and we really mean it)
> Encyclopedia".

I like this script idea... let's invert it. "Wikipedia, The Free 
Encyclopedia" is a good name.  Keep it, and ditch the caveats.

For fair use enthusiasts: develop a simple script and tags to convert 
Wikipedia into "Wikipedia, The Free* Encyclopedia. *includes some non-free 
parts". Wikipedia wouldn't host those non-free parts. It would of course 
include explicit links to non-free materials, just as it does today.

WP could even host freely-licensed markup that says "there's a cool 
non-free part you should insert HERE", which would be invisible to those 
who didn't want to see it.  This might be an interesting project.

> However, for it to be true, we need to be really good at figuring out 
> what we can and can not expect to become free ... and we need to exert 
> constant pressure to move in the direction of freedom. We are certainly 
> not there yet... our tagging isn't even really machine readable...

By stating simply that our projects are free, without denigrating the work 
of those who want to include more license-encumbered materials, we can at 
once clarify our own goals, push part of the burden of clever tagging onto 
the less-free efforts, and implicitly exert stronger pressure to find free 
representations, images, and recordings of important subjects.

> I hope that those of us who don't think any concession to the non-free
> world is acceptable, even temporally, can still stand along side those
> of us who are more favor getting there through successive
> approximation.

For me this is not a matter of philosophical absolutes, or of what is 
acceptable.  It is a question of clarity and focus.  It is a question
of pragmatism, though not in the way Erik suggested.

Even those of us who dream of the best possible "Fair Use + NC + ND 
Wikipedia", including the best materials available at every level of 
freeness, should support a core project focused on building a Free 
Encyclopedia without restriction.


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