[Foundation-l] Projects without >FDL1.2 migration clause

Thomas Dalton thomas.dalton at gmail.com
Mon Apr 7 18:30:40 UTC 2008

On 07/04/2008, Anthony <wikimail at inbox.org> wrote:
> >  >  In the end, all that really matters is that the people who own the
>  >  >  copyright to Wikipedia aren't interested in going through the hassle
>  >  >  and expense of suing the WMF.
>  >
>  >  Wikipedia has made plenty of enemies over the years, some of them
>  >  fairly wealthy. I think there is a good chance of someone deciding to
>  >  cause trouble if they think they can win. It only takes one.
>  >
> It only takes one to do what?

To require us to go to court and spend God knows how much in legal fees.

>  If one of Wikipedia's enemies wants to
>  spend lots of money causing trouble, there are plenty of issues they
>  could raise right now, and, as I noted before, there's a good chance
>  they could win (though the monetary award in any case would probably
>  be negligible).

There's a chance they could win now with some serious effort. If we
start openly violating people's copyright on the grounds that they
didn't explicitly say we couldn't, I'm not sure it would take much
effort at all (Mike says it would, but I'd like a second opinion, or
at least some references).

> In order to enter into a copyright lawsuit in the United States, you
>  first have to register your copyrighted work.

By my understanding, not registering just limits how much you can sue
for (actual damages as opposed to statutory, or something like that -
actual damages would be minimal, though).

>  So anyone serious about
>  starting such a lawsuit has to first figure out what it is s/he claims
>  copyright over, and moreover who the copyright holders are.  If they
>  claim copyright over the entire article of which they are only one
>  contributor, then they'll have to also note all the other joint
>  authors on that application.

Could they just claim copyright over the appropriate diffs?

> And doing that opens up the defense that
>  any joint author can independently grant a license on the work.

I think there is a difference between a joint author and an author of
a modified work by someone else. If you work together on something,
either of you can license it. If one person produces something and
licenses you to modify it, you are restricted to what that license
says you can do, and GFDL says you have to release it under "precisely
this license" (quoted from memory, I read the appropriate section a
couple of hours ago). My interpretation of that is that you have to
release it under the same version of GFDL.

>  If,
>  on the other hand, they decide to take the position that they are a
>  sole author of a particular sentence or paragraph, then that is the
>  sentence or paragraph which can be removed.

Not if it's since been modified, move to a different page of the
article, moved to a different article altogether, split into lots of
little pieces, etc.

> Multiply by all the
>  sentences or paragraphs they authored, and it will be a lot of work,
>  but considering the fact that "it can be argued pretty strongly that
>  Wikipedia is not currently complying with GFDL fully" it's work that
>  has to eventually be done if someone decides to sue, *regardless* of
>  whether or not the license is changed.

"It can be argued" doesn't mean "you can win the argument", so it's
far from certain that it's a problem. It's something we need to think
about, though.

>  And, of course, in the case of the WMF, there's that other step of
>  issuing a DMCA takedown notice.  A successful lawsuit would be
>  difficult.  Possible, in my opinion, but difficult.

By my understanding of the US legal system, we would still have to pay
stupid amounts of money even if we win.

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