[Foundation-l] Copyright issue with external links

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sat Jan 13 07:52:24 UTC 2007

John Barberio wrote:

>Over on Wikipedia, there's a significant group of editors who've decided 
>that current copyright policy doesn't go far enought, and are rewriting 
>the external linking guidelines to require 'copyright verification' and 
>'due care to verify copyright' on external links. This is because they 
>feel we are risking threat of suit due to linking to the likes of YouTube.
>No, I'm not suggesting we should allow links to copyvio, it's clear that 
>we shouldn't. But it's my understanding that the proposed changes would 
>be poor ones to make for various reasons.
>Primarily because we don't have the resources to take 'due care' and 
>'verify copyright'. True copyright verification needing lawyers time and 
>money, it's not something that's in our grasp at all.
That's the whole thing there.  They are requiring the impossible.  
Except for the occasional obvious link there is no way to tell whether 
something is a copyvio.  In the absence of that one is not "knowingly" 
committing a contributory infringement.  Policy should not be based on a 
presumption of guilt, rather it should be up to those claiming a 
violation to make a reasonable case for it, not an air-tight one just a 
reasonable one.  That would begin the discussion about that allegation.  
It seems, however, that this gang is exhibiting the usual traits of 
paranoia and laziness that we have encountered in many other situations 
where deletion was demanded.

>At the moment, copyright policy says not to 'knowingly and 
>intentionally' link to violations of copyright. And I believe this is 
>pretty much the best standard we can claim without introducing 
>unattainable burdens.
>Additionally, my lay understanding of the legal implications is that 
>claiming we can and do verify copyright status of external links may 
>well open us up to liability rather than reduce it.
This is possible.  Saying that you just don't know is far more honest 
than any claim either way about the copyrights of of someone else's 
site.  The simple fact that the other site has attached some sort of 
copyright notice cannot be taken as evidence of anything.  The material 
may be partially copyright, and the rest not copyrightable in the first 
place.  When we say that we definitely know we are likely to be 
intentionally misleading our readers.

>I've tried to explain this in discussion, but the discussion has gotten 
>a bit overheated. It appears no one is going to calm down over this 
>until there's a clarification of copyright policy by the foundation.
>I hope this can be clarified by the foundation.
Unfortunately such a determination should not come from the Foundation.  
It is up to the community of editors on a project to sort it out.  The 
Foundation can adopt general policy against copyright infringement on 
all Projects.  It can demand reasonable care from all Projects and 
editors.  This is consistent with its mission. 

As an ISP it cannot monitor and respond on every detail in every 
Project; it cannot draft meticulous rules to define what is and isn't a 
copyright violation.  It should not be micromanaging in this way.  By 
accepting such a greater degree of responsibility in the matter it 
exposes itself more, not less.

To be legal the Foundation absolutely needs to respond to formal 
complaints by specific people with a specific interest.  Legal cases 
depend on there being an affected person whose own rights are being 
violated.  None will depend solely on the claims of third parties who 
love to stick their noses into other people's business, and who have 
taken upon themselves the role of a white knight with a mission to 
purify the internet of copyright violation.

It's up to the en:wp community to find its own consensus on this, and 
that won't happen unless others actively resist this attempt to enforce 
idiosyncratic misinterpretations of law.


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