[WikiEN-l] Fair use issues; we need serious help

David Goodman dgoodmanny at gmail.com
Thu Jul 12 06:33:44 UTC 2007

the wording I prefer for 2/ .. if it serves to identify and
characterize a given thing, such as  an album, book, person, etc. No
critical commentary on the image
 in question is needed; just that it serves to identify.
(we're not a guide to identifying albums, but the image makes it clear
--often clearer  than the text-- what the nature of the work is. This
is the rationale for magazine covers, among other things. )

On 7/10/07, WikipediaEditor Durin <wikidurin at gmail.com> wrote:
> Greetings...
> On en.wikipedia, fair use images are allowed so long as they comply with
> the fair use criteria as stipulated at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:NFCC.
> Recently, and especially subsequent to the Foundation's resolution
> on licensing, significant efforts have been made to bring en.wikipedia
> in compliance. A large number of users have engaged in activities
> intended to bring images in compliance with our policies or be deleted.
> There's been several key debates/events in this process:
> * Images/screenshots in episode lists have been removed. This
>   was reported in Signpost
>   (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2007-05-07/Fair_use)
> * User:Betacommand created a bot (BetacommandBot) to tag images missing fair
>   use rationales (a requirement under the fair use criteria) as
> missing them, placing
>   them for deletion. This was debated in a number of places, most notably at
>   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Administrators%27_noticeboard/FURG
> * Images in music discographies are being removed
> * Based on dumps from May, a list of articles where fair use images were used
>   in large numbers was created and is now being worked on by several users. See:
>   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Durin/Fair_Use_Overuse
> These are not the only efforts underway, but should serve to demonstrate
> what is happening.
> Some of the problems that are happening, using a broad paintbrush:
> *  Some users are insisting that if the Foundation hasn't taken a position
>    specifically against fair use images being used in say discographies, that
>    it is therefore acceptable use.
> *  Some users have insisted that the bot tagging images missing fair use
>    rationales be permanently blocked. Further, that the deletion policy for
>    such images (WP:CSD I6) be suspended.
> *  Some users have been debating, at great length, that boiler plate fair
>    use rationales can be used to bring these images in compliance. This is
>    in large part due to the idea that fair use criteria is sufficiently met if
>    the fair use image serves to __identify__ the thing in question. Under
>    this argument, it is not necessary to have any critical commentary
>    regarding the product being displayed, or the cover art/logo being
>    displayed.
> *  Debates that have previously occurred, even recently, are being disputed
>    as not achieving consensus. Yet, those attempting to act to bring our fair
>    use images in compliance are acting under policy and the Foundation's
>    resolution. It is frequently noted that consensus does not always trump
>    policy, or indeed our very mission to develop free content. These debates
>    are becoming endless, with no way to seemingly satisfy all parties.
> I am summarizing in short as much as I can. Please understand that these
> debates have been heavily rancorous at times, almost always long winded,
> repetitive, and unending. Just about every negative word you could think
> of a debate would apply to the sum of all that has happened on this overarching
> debate in the last three months since the Foundation's resolution.
> I am not looking for people from this mailing list to jump into the debates
> and speak their minds in support of one camp or another. That will do
> nothing to end this terrible situation.
> --- What I think needs to be done ---
> A clearer stance from the Foundation needs to be made with specific
> regard to fair use on the English language Wikipedia. In particular, this
> stance needs to clearly indicate one of several possible stances:
> 1) Fair use may be liberally used wherever it is legal within the confines
>     of fair use law in the United States.
>    - This is a stance that one side of this issue insists is acceptable.
> 2) Fair use may be used if it serves to identify a given thing, such as
>  an album, book, person, etc. No critical commentary on the image
>  in question is needed; just that it serves to identify.
>   - This is one interpretation of the current policy. Many people feel
>   this interpretation is correct. Many people feel it is not.
> 3) Fair use may be used only if it discussed within the context of
>  critical commentary inline with the article, thus the image is necessary
>  to the text of the article itself.
>   - This would greatly diminish fair use usage as it would remove logos,
>   book covers, album covers, and quite a number of other possible
>   types of images. It would retain images that are significant to the text
>   of an article, including unusual book covers, album covers, logos, etc.
>   where critical commentary on the design was present.
>   - Note there is a further division of this stance as there will be some
>   that will argue that if you are discussing a book, displaying the book
>   under this stance would be ok. Which is it? Commentary on the contents
>   of the book or the cover of the book?
> 4) Fair use works may not be used at all.
>   - This would bring en.wikipedia in line with other language Wikipedias,
>   but has the drawback of eliminating highly significant photographs
>   relevant to articles about the things depicted in those photographs.
>   It could be modified to have an exclusion for historically significant
>   images, but this reduces the bright line effect of this stance.
> I know that Jimbo has stated a personal stance of limiting fair use
> to highly historical photos. Stance (3) above supports that, but is
> more broad. Stance (4), if modified, could support that. Stances (1)
> and (2) can not.
> Our current situation is very murky. The debates are endless and
> are getting nowhere. People are acting to support perceived policy
> and resolution, but are being called vandals often enough and
> reverted numerous times. There is no clear line, and nothing
> in policy that provides us with a clear delineation of what is
> acceptable and what is not.
> While fair use law is deliberately vague and does not provide
> a bright line, I feel we must provide one in policy for en.wikipedia if
> we are to have any chance of achieving the targets laid out in the
> Foundation's licensing policy
> (http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Resolution:Licensing_policy).
> Personally, I have been attempting to support our fair use policies
> for a year and a half now. I have been attacked for it more times
> than I care to account. I've been called an extremist, disruptive,
> fair use nazi, revisionist, and all manner of assorted attacks. I am
> growing tired of endlessly trying to explain to users that we are
> a free content project, and our fair use policy is a superset of
> law. I'm about ready to throw in the fair use towel because of my
> perception that at a fundamental level, this issue doesn't matter
> enough to the Foundation for the real power of this project to
> step in and clearly support our mission. The licensing resolution
> helps, but has suffered multiple interpretations locally.
> On en.wikipedia, there are approximately 200 thousand fair
> use, copyrighted images of ~750 thousand images total.
> This is a major, major undertaking to bring ourselves into
> compliance. Yet, in three months we've barely made a dent
> affecting only a few thousand images, and fixing a similar
> number of articles. At the rate we are progressing, the nearest
> date we could come into compliance would be ~5 years from
> now. Further, we'd have a huge amount of effort wasted in the
> process debating endlessly over this subject.
> Please help us.
> Respectfully,
> -Durin
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David Goodman, Ph.D, M.L.S.

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