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

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sat Jan 20 02:17:42 UTC 2007

Delphine Ménard wrote:

>On 1/14/07, David Strauss <david at fourkitchens.com> wrote:
>>I don't think you understand my position. I'm not arguing for an
>>elimination of policy catering to non-U.S. countries. I'm arguing for a
>>separation between languages and legalistic policy. We would have guides
>>for editors from Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. Such a guide would
>>not be specific to the German Wikipedia.
>The guide, I think, is a good starting point. However, we should not
>be imposing any kind of "licence" or "legal trick" or whatever you
>want to call it to wikipedias in one specific language which have
>chosen not to use these licences or tricks. This has to be a two-way
>street. That the Foundation issues a clear policy about what is
>acceptable and what is not is one thing, and yes, I believe it is
I think that it's even more important to have policies that establish 
protocols for dealing with these issues.  The actual policies should be 
consistent with the Foundation's role as a specialized ISP that edits 
content itself only within very narrow parameters, and these could 
likely be defined.  The Board should avoid putting itself in the 
position where it must be the one making a factual determination.  It 
cannot begin to review 6,000,000 articles in 200 languages, and 
confidently declare on the spot that this one is legal and that one 
not.  Still some editors will want to push it into taking positions that 
should be studied at a lower level.

>That some language based Wikipedias agree to make these rules narrower
>to comply with the laws of the country in which the Wikipedia is most
>likely to be read/used etc. is, imho, the problem of the community of
>those wikipedias and their call.
Absolutely.  Stricter policy on the copyrights of Commons contents seems 
sensible.  The refusal of Commons to allow PD-Italy material is within 
its rights. If the IT:WP community then chooses to not have local images 
it has the right to do so.  If it wants to include PD-Italy material 
resolving that problem means acknowledging that it can accept images 
that are not acceptable to Commons.  It is their problem, and has 
nothing to do with whether EN:WP allows or disallows fair-use images.

>>Plenty of people in Germany edit the English Wikipedia. The current
>>language-country ties don't account for those scenarios.
>I have said it many times on this list, and I say it again. Any user
>who thinks he is above the laws of his own country is doing so at his
>own risk.
It is not just about being above the law.  A reasonable claim to a 
different interpretation of the law is not putting oneself above the 
law.  I think it would be better faith to presume that a person has an 
honest difference of opinion.  Still, it's also important to distinguish 
between a difference of opinion and blind ignorance; how they respond to 
inquiries will usually sort that one out quickly.

>Let me try to give an example.
>Imagine that German law declares that stroopwafels are illegal.
>Talking about them, praising them, showing them, is illegal. Of
>course, US law thinks stroopwafels are just great.
>As a result, we could assume anything related to stroopwafels would be
>banned from the German wikipedia and allowed on the English one.
>If a contributor lives in Germany, he is subject to German law. Of
>course, technically, the contributor *could* (in the sense they have
>the possibility of) upload pro-stroopwafel material in the English
>Wikipedia and say "but it's allowed in that wikipedia".
>However, making such a document public is illegal in Germany.  The
>contributor is responsible for making it public, against the laws of
>the country he/she lives in. Hence also "suable" under the law of the
>country he lives in.
Yes, and his liability will be there even when he uploads to the English 
Wikipedia.  Navigating through these situations is like wandering 
through a minefield.  If the underlying reason for banning stroopwefels 
related to predatory commercial behaviour along the Austrian border the 
Austrians may have a completely contrary law on the matter. The law that 
applies depends on such a complex set of parameters that it needs to be 
decided on a case-by-case basis.  We need to avoid sweeping generalizations

>To summarize, people should always:
>- forget the idea that internet is a lawless zone
>- observe the laws of the country they live in
>- observe the laws of the US, where the servers are.
>That's for the user.

>Now, for the projects.
>We could argue that since the German Wikipedia is hosted on American
>soil, it could display tons of stuff about stroopwafels. However,
>whatever you will say, the German Wikipedia does have a public that is
>primarily located on German soil. So there's a big chance that the
>people who are going to reuse the content are Germany-based. Promoting
>stroopwafels heavily in the German Wikipedia could be a liability,
>even for an American based web-site, for users reusing, but also for
>the website itself, at least on German soil.
>In the past, legality of content has been measured against the primary
>audience of a website. See the Yahoo! lawsuit in France about nazi
>material on Yahoo! Auctions.
>I therefore believe that allowing communities to voice their concerns
>and apply restrictions in their own Wikipedia according to a
>country-language relationship is only fair.
>However, I also believe that we have a responsibility to make people
>aware of the risks they are taking by uploading material that is
>"illegal" in their countries, even on a website where those are
>"legal". Without going all the way to nazi stuff, this could apply for
>things not so dramatic, such as Fair use material.
This may work better in languages where that language is normally spoken 
in only one country, or in a group of geographically close countries.  
German is like that.  French, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic 
are official in a wide range of countries on more than one continent.  
In some countries there can be a deep resentment to imposing the 
imperialist values of the old colonizing power.

>It's a difficult balance to find, but one we should be able to find by
>educating our users as to how they can reuse our content, as you
>suggest, and responsibilizing our contributors ("you are responsible
>for the stuff you upload/write on Wikipedia, man!").
That's fine


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