[Wikimedia-l] WMF Policy and Political Affiliations Guideline

Andreas Kolbe jayen466 at gmail.com
Fri Aug 3 15:20:48 UTC 2012

I am not sure that needed to be that prolix. :) But yes, let's tease out
some things:

1. Wikimedia projects have quite strongly worded policies against copyright
violations. Many volunteer editors make good-faith efforts to uphold them.
Many other editors, knowingly or unknowingly, break them, and the
Wikiproject that deals with infringing contributors has a very large
backlog. In Commons, assertions that materials are "free" are not
infrequently unreliable.

2. I am concerned that the dangers of SOPA to Wikipedia were apparently
overstated for psychological effect.

3. I am concerned that users were told to stop marking single-purpose
accounts and IP editors in the – rather rushed – SOPA poll.

4. I am concerned at the whole timeline that began with a successful and
spontaneous Italian blackout protesting proposed legislation there, then
moved, via a large Wikimedia donation from Sergey Brin and his wife, to
official Wikimedia endorsements of Google's (and other large corporations')
anti-SOPA initiative, and the equally successful English Wikipedia blackout.

Let's remember that this was an unprecedented, very public departure from a
policy of neutrality that had served Wikimedia well for many years. I don't
think that paste will ever go back in the tube.

5. I am convinced that, as you say, many Wikipedians supported the blackout
in good faith, because they thought SOPA would "hurt Wikipedia". That's
what they were told, after all. And if they believed it was necessary for
Wikipedia's survival, why wouldn't they?

6. As for "supporting theft", I am certain that there are a fair number of
Wikipedians who do support what is presently "theft", or, to put it
differently, who support copyright reform and decriminalisation of various
types of copyright infringement that are illegal today. For God's sake,
Jimbo himself has been campaigning for a dude who put "fuck the police" on
his new website when his old one was shut down by law enforcement, and
generously said that same dude reminds him "of many great Internet
entrepreneurs". Wonderful.

7. When I joined this project, political neutrality was one of its main
pillars. Internet regulation is a party-political issue today, at least in
Europe, where the Pirate Party is burgeoning. I don't see blackouts to
protest Internet legislation as any different from blackouts to support or
oppose any other type of legislation along party-political lines. In my
view, Wikimedians who want to campaign should do so in their own names, and
take pains to disassociate Wikimedia (or Wikipedia) from their stance if
their association with Wikimedia is well known.

8. We've had this talk in the past about how Wikipedia is a "temple for the
mind", unsullied by political and commercial interests. It doesn't look
that way any more, if it ever did.

You see, I *liked* some of those ideals (if not necessarily the practice).

On Fri, Aug 3, 2012 at 1:47 PM, FT2 <ft2.wiki at gmail.com> wrote:

> (warning, tl;dr!)
> **
> *@Andreas - *I understand your sentiment, but in a reasoning way, I find I
> don't agree with that assessment.  For what it's worth, I edit a lot on law
> - one of my GAs is a Supreme Court case, numerous others worked on, it's an
> area I like, and I tend to read full rulings like some read science fiction
> or fanbooks.  It doesn't mean in any way I'm expert but I read draft
> legislation. So I'm not dependent on any WMF writer to assist on that.
> NPOV works well in articles with divided views, and suggests a good
> approach is to characterise the issue and the divisions. In that spirit, my
> attempt to fairly bridge the gap and explain where I see things diverging:
>    1. Some bring stolen goods to the party, we can agree. In this case that
>    means that some people breach copyright in a severe way online, which
> can
>    fairly be characterised as theft if one ignores technicalities such as
> the
>    minority of countries that don't make it a crime. In the vast majority
> we
>    can agree it's theft in all jurisdictions. So yes, theft takes place. We
>    can agree it's significant, though in the context of global trade and
>    dubious "facts"there's a big dispute about the impact.
>    2. *(Evidence: The UK govt review of copyright theft online, Hargreaves
>    or something, I may have edited it, certainly read it, said of the
> various
>    studies into online piracy that most were figures based on unproven
>    assumptions, or plucked from the air, or something of that kind, and
> that
>    not one study could be found that was actually reliable in the sense of
>    unbiased fair and methodically rigourous conclusions)*.
>    3. Theft in general web-wide was never the reason or issue for the
>    protests by Wikimedians, or the WMF's involvement. It was not at any
> time a
>    purported reason why *_Wikimedians_ *objected through *_this_
> *site.There
>    was never a plausible claim that Wikimedian protest was even slightly
>    motivated by a wish to retain the ability of other sites to continue
> crime.
>    4. As regards Wikimedia itself and its community, as far as I can tell,
>    both have very strong views that theft (ie copyvio) should not be
> allowed
>    on this site. I see no evidence that parts of the
>    regular/established/core/active community have an agenda to improve our
>    project's use, or ability to use, copyvio material,  see no evidence
> anyone
>    here tries to turn a blind eye to it. We already have community policies
>    that set standards far higher than the law requires.
>    5. Is it therefore fair to characterize the objections to SOPA/PIPA as
>    "we want to do illegal things, someone wants to stop us, and we don't
> want
>    that"? I can't see how that's sustainable.
>    6. I have the impression your complaint is that Wikimedians may have
>    protested on grounds that were (a) not well founded in that in your
> view,
>    the suggested risks were inaccurate, and (b) in protesting they chose to
>    overlook harm elsewhere which these laws could have improved.
>    7. I think it's fair to characterize the objections of individual users
>    en masse and how they felt as, "We don't want to do illegal things, but
>    illegal things may be done or claimed wrongly to be done, or actions
>    threatened on the assertion of illegality. If this law passes, that
> could
>    cause some things to be shut down for bad faith reasons or mistake
> without
>    recompense, or legal concerns to have a chilling effect, and we don't
> want
>    that"?
>    8. They could be correct or incorrect to have that concern. I'm looking
>    here at what individual Wikimedians like me, supporting the protest, may
>    have believed and felt. In other words, were Wikimedian community
>    protesters acting from a good faith belief there was a real concern, or
> in
>    bad faith to  gain by pretence a means to allow crime to occur? I think
> the
>    former.
>    9. As supporting evidence I also note that the objections were not to
>    the basic princviple of cutting off piracy. They were to matters that
> would
>    allow harm without good cause. It targeted DNS issues where the markup
>    committee had admitted they didn't know what technical issues would
> arise.
>    It targeted shut down without fair hearing, and immunity for bad faith
> or
>    mistake, no matter the harm done. Those could have been fixed. In the
>    alternative OPEN bill, they generally were. One can judge the protests'
>    intent by the points protested about. Whether or not that concern was
>    well-founded, it was a good faith concern by individual members of the
>    community expressing concerns.
> From your complaints and descriptions, it's *not* that the projects offer
> things "without consideration" as you suggested first. We do expect and
> require consideration, such as attribution and license compliance in return
> (see above). It's *not* that we give on the basis of "No strings" and later
> make demands - see above, giving does not imply indifference and doesn't
> exclude the right to say "we see a problem here, please don't let that
> problem happen".  It *isn't* that we are hosting a giant volunteer party
> and noticing some goods brought to be given away are stolen and we want to
> ensure that can continue - we have rigorous standards and there's no
> evidence people want to have looser ones or turn a blind eye to breaches.
> Your stated issues so far - that something was given and later had
> conditions added, or stolen material is covertly desired to be usable -
> really dont stack up. What I *_think_* your *real** *issue is, is that you
> feel the impact of SOPA/PIPA was exaggerated and it would not have had the
> stated effects, and you feel the natural and rightful concern of community
> members to protect freedoms and free speech and user-created sites, was
> manipulated or given "spin" to motivate action which protected rights that
> (in your view) werent at risk in the ways suggested.  In the worst case
> scenario, you suggest such manipulation, or spin, was driven by large
> internet businesses and their links to WMF.
> So maybe your *real *question is, were the legal analysis and the proposed
> fears, significant/realistic, or were they manipulated, spun, and "sold" to
> community members. That's a fair question.  *If the analysis was
> valid*then the community acted in good faith and with good reason.
> *If the analysis was invalid* then the community acted in good faith but
> was "sold" the idea on false or exaggerated grounds, perhaps to benefit
> others' business (in your suggestion).  It comes down to the validity of
> legal analysis.
> What is *not *fair is suggesting *the protests by mass Wikimedians* was
> somehow intended either to support theft, or to impose demands related to
> material understood to ave been freely gifted with no strings.
> If that's close, then can you comment so far and we'll carry on.
>  FT2
> On Fri, Aug 3, 2012 at 12:42 PM, Andreas Kolbe <jayen466 at gmail.com> wrote:
> > I am afraid that is not how it feels at all. It's more like organising a
> > giant volunteer effort to provide a market stall handing out free sweets
> > and cakes for anyone who wants some. The stall is very popular, and many
> > people chip in, bringing in cakes they've baked and candy they've made.
> And
> > some bring in stuff they've stolen from factories and supermarkets.
> >
> > Then someone suggests there should be a law against handing out stolen
> > goods, like apple pies that still have "Mr. Kipling's Exceedingly Good
> > Apple Pies" written on the wrapper. At that point, the popular market
> stall
> > says, "We couldn't possibly continue to hand out free sweets if you pass
> a
> > law like that. We'd have to shut down, because some of our sweets are
> > stolen. And just so you know what that would feel like, we're not opening
> > the stall today."
> >
> > So now you assume that everyone who baked their own cakes and brought
> them
> > in is against laws that forbid stealing. And you're leveraging the
> goodwill
> > these people have created to enable theft. And you're misrepresenting
> what
> > the law would mean to the operation of the market stall: because all that
> > would be required is that if you see a Mr. Kipling label on a wrapper,
> you
> > don't hand that over to a visitor. And later it transpires that your
> market
> > stall has come to be funded by a very large organisation that stands to
> > profit from lax laws against theft, to the tune of tens of billions of
> > dollars ...
> >
> > One clincher for me was Tim Starling's e-mail the other day, about how
> the
> > community were ... let's say "misinformed", to put it politely, about
> what
> > SOPA would have meant for Wikipedia:
> >
> > http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2012-July/121092.html
> >
> > Man, I wish this organisation had an annual budget of $2 million rather
> > than $20 million again, like it did five or six years ago. It had ethical
> > problems then, what with Essjay and Carolyn and so forth, but there was
> at
> > least a *plausible* semblance of innocence about the effort. That has
> well
> > and truly been lost.
> >
> >
> >
> > On Fri, Aug 3, 2012 at 3:00 AM, FT2 <ft2.wiki at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > There's a fallacy going on here - ie a term with two subtly different
> > > meanings.
> > >
> > > The community - who are the ones ultimately "making the gift" do so
> > > altruistically, in the sense of not seeking *compensation*, but that's
> > not
> > > the same as not expecting *consideration*. We do expect consideration.
> > > Attribution (CC-by-SA/GFDL) is one form of consideration. The offer of
> > this
> > > knowledge by editors has quite specific terms that we expect to be met
> in
> > > return by the world at large, which is the meaning of consideration.
> > >
> > > The offer of that knowledge, and its gifting, also doesn't imply *
> > > indifference*. This is more subtle, and arises because we aren't
> donating
> > > our time and effort into a void. We are donating as a result of, and
> > often
> > > to benefit, things we believe in, such as helping others or free
> > > knowledge.  There is an implied expectation (by some, perhaps not by
> > > others) that it will be treated with respect and used to further
> > humanity.
> > >
> > > This kind of expectation isn't contractual, but it's there anyway. It's
> > the
> > > same kind of expectation that says you would probably be upset , if you
> > > spend a week trying to find something as a special gift for me, and I
> > > respond by flushing it down the toilet and saying "well you gave it to
> me
> > > so why are you upset what I do with my property?" It might be legally
> > true,
> > > perhaps technically true, but it's certainly not socially and perhaps
> not
> > > morally true.
> > >
> > > We donate time, effort and sometimes money, and we are not indifferent
> to
> > > whether those are supporting things we believe in. We donate for free
> > > knowledge and humanity, and do so because we care about free knowledge
> > and
> > > humanity. Sometimes we say *"Look, we care about these things enough
> that
> > > we put this effort in, you care enough to support and appreciate us
> > putting
> > > this effort in, so please listen when we say that something is harming
> > the
> > > ecosystem within which that effort is placed"*. That is completely
> > ethical
> > > and appropriate; no less than a wildlife volunteer who cares for
> dolphins
> > > pointing out things that harm dolphins or any other ecosystem that one
> > > might care for and try to support by nurturing it over time. Very few
> > > people throw sustained effort or money into a vacuum without any care
> > > whether it grows or dies.
> > >
> > >
> > > FT2
> > >
> > >
> > > On Fri, Aug 3, 2012 at 2:28 AM, Andreas Kolbe <jayen466 at gmail.com>
> > wrote:
> > >
> > > > For the record, I did not endorse the SOPA blackout, and I deeply
> > resent
> > > my
> > > > work in Wikipedia being leveraged to that political end.
> > > >
> > > > And I deeply resent Jimbo's statements to the BBC today*, about how
> "We
> > > > gave you Wikipedia and we didn't have to, and so you might want to
> > listen
> > > > to what we have to tell you".
> > > >
> > > > A gift is either made altruistically, without strings attached, or it
> > > > isn't. To claim selfless, altruistic purpose and then demand
> > > consideration
> > > > in return for what has been given is disgusting.
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > * http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-19104494
> > > >
> > > >
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