[Foundation-l] Board meeting in Rotterdam later this week

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Fri Jan 19 18:47:35 UTC 2007

Gerard Meijssen wrote:

>When it is painful that things are not available in Wikipedia because we 
>do not allow for fair use, it will stimulate the debate about the way 
>copyright is an offence to bringing information and science to the 
>people. By using fair use pictures you allow the status quo to maintain 
>it self. The dearth of material about certain subjects makes them even 
>less relevant. For the parties like the RIAA it is important to realise 
>that without the availability of material like this, many of their 
>artists will only be forgotten that much quicker. Not that they are 
>likely to care because there is always the next boy band or girlie group 
>to hype.
This is an interesting perspective.  There is still a need to 
differentiate between how existing copyright law relates to Wikimedia 
projects, and what, if anything, we should be doing to promote changes 
to copyright law.  Both are important, and both require a high degree of 
individual acceptance of responsibility.

In regards to the former highly compliant policies that attempt to avoid 
the slightest hint of a lawsuit keep the likes of RIAA very happy, and 
do nothing to advance the projects.  Overly aggressive policies can be 
just as harmful because they will drain the Foundation in unwinnable 
lawsuits.  Ironically, if no one so much as takes the first steps in a 
legal proceeding that is probably a sign that we are being too timid.  
Such proceedings can be an incentive to review the issues involved in 
the light of real circumstances, and in most cases we can take the 
opportunity to concede before the matter gets out of hand, and to push 
forward conservatively in only those cases where vital issues are at 
stake.  For the most part the burden of taking these matters further 
along the legal paths should rest with the person who has the belief 
that some particular text or image is indispensible to the relevant 
Wikimedia project.

I think that our mission is more than simply regurgitating material that 
is already free.  To me it also involves freeing that which is not yet 
free.  With material that is clearly protected this may involve simply 
getting permissions which the owner is easily willing to give.  
Sometimes the owner is simply not findable, and the material is 
orphaned; at other times the person claiming the copyright is making an 
invalid claim for any of a number of reasons.  While I strongly support 
the continued inclusion of properly defined fair use material, I also 
make special note of the fact that there are numerous other provisions 
in the law that would succeed as well if not better to substantiate the 
free nature of specified texts and images.

Securing change in copyright law is a separate problem.  It requires 
caution to insure that our status as a tax-exempt corporation will not 
be jeapordized by excessive participation in lobbying or other political 
activities.  It does not stop any individual from relating his 
experiences as a Wikimedia editor.  It does not stop us from discussing 
the directions that we would like legislators around the world to take 
in this direction, and arriving at a realistic synthesis that would 
balance interests on both sides of the copyright divide.  After all one 
of the purposes of such law is to balance divergent interests.  In the 
light of our broader mission what is worth more to us: limiting fair use 
in places that already have it, or seeking an expansion of fair dealing 
in places that apply it too restrictively?


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