[Wikimedia-l] Why is not free?

Tobias Oelgarte tobias.oelgarte at googlemail.com
Wed Jul 4 07:36:41 UTC 2012

 From my experience the re-users barely read any of the licenses and 
already expect every of our images to be "free beer". Sometimes i looked 
where my images and articles are used and i noticed quite a lot of 
copyright violations. I took my time to mail the re-users and informed 
them what they have to do to comply with the licenses. As the result i 
saw two general pattern. The small private pages were users expected 
that our images would be "free beer" and the bigger (typical copyright 
violation) pages that didn't respond at all. The first group was usually 
very surprised and immediately corrected the content of the pages after 
i informed them about their mistake.

 From this experience i learned that not many are really aware of the 
copyright issues or license requirements. So i can't expect that the 
logos are seen or used any different, despite the missing free license.

If i would apply your logic on trademarks to the many other logos we 
host, then we could upload them without any licensing condition or not 
at all, since you deny that this images would be useful outside of 

But there are cases in which this missing license information is an 
actual problem. Every of our mirrors by now is a copyright violation and 
could be sued by the WMF (unlikely, but possible), since they can't 
comply with the licensing, given the fact that this images have no valid 

Overall i see no real harm to release this images under a free license, 
because it would not change much. People either read the license text 
and understand or they ignore it because of the two basic reasons I 
explained above. The advantage would be that we now could use the logos 
in collections which are freely licensed itself. Up till now it is 
impossible to release a collection under CC-BY-SA which contains one of 
the logos and i also can't incorporate them into other images, just 
because i can't mix "no license" with "free license".

This example is an actual copyright violation: 

The used press logo is under the LGPL. The Wikipedia ball has no 
license. Not mentioning the LGPL would be a copyright violation, but 
putting it on the image is also a copyright violation regarding the 
logo. So what to do? The logical consequence would be to delete the 
image, despite its many uses...

Am 04.07.2012 05:46, schrieb Birgitte_sb at yahoo.com:
> That reasoning seems to be begging the question a bit. That we should not make an exception so that there will be no exceptions. I suggested some pragmatic reasons why making an exception for these trademarks more successfully communicates the message for reuse than not doing so. And also how an unsuccessful communication on this point could be harmful. You do not seem to argue that any of my reasoning is inaccurate. Do you really find these practical difficulties to be less important than a perfect record of having no exceptions? What purpose do you see in refusing to make an exception where it seems to make practical sense?
> Something that can't be used in any context can have no possible purpose for a copyright release. So far as I imagine it, such a release would lead to unnecessary confusion (debatable only to what degree) while offering no practical benefit. I am not at all bothered by the fact that maintaining copyrights on trademarks is inconsistent with the copyrights maintained on non-trademarks. I believe consistency to only be a worthwhile goal so long as it tends to promote clarity, which, in this particular case, it does not. I do not find that consistency is inherently desirable.
> Birgitte SB
> On Jul 3, 2012, at 8:03 PM, Tobias Oelgarte<tobias.oelgarte at googlemail.com>  wrote:
>> We have special templates for this case which prominently inform the user that the image is free due to reason XYZ but can't be used in any context due to additional trademark restrictions.
>> This concept does not only apply to logos or trademarks, but also for public domain cases. Commons hosts images which are public domain in some countries (needs to include US) but not in other countries due to different copyright laws. The same way some language Wikis host content that is free after local law but not after US law. Another case are personal rights. For example the German "Recht am eigenen Bild" is very restrictive and does not allow any usage of a free image from any person.
>> What i mean is: We already have such restrictions for various images in our collection and the re-user has to be careful to comply with all laws aside the copyright law. Releasing the Logos under a free license and including a template which mentions the restrictions would be common practice. Hosting images with no free license is actual exception.
>> Am 04.07.2012 02:16, schrieb Birgitte_sb at yahoo.com:
>>> I can't disagree with your understanding  of the different IP laws, however this not a very commonly understood nuance.  Many people, when seeing the logo listed as "free" regarding copyright, will assume they can use it the same as any other copyleft or PD image.  They will not necessarily understand that trademark protections will interfere with their actually being able to use the symbol as an image. People who mistakenly use the symbol, and receive the required lawyerly letter to stop this, will feel betrayed by the fact it was listed as "free" of copyright.  However strictly accurate the plan to treat the two areas of IP law separately might be, it cannot be executed very well. Those people, misled by their poor understanding of how these separate areas of laws achieve very similar results, will feel burned. Their goodwill will be lost. They may even become convinced they had been intentionally tricked with mixed messages.
>>> It much more pragmatic to simply reserve the copyright on trademarks. To maintain a consistent message of "Do not use."
>>> Birgitte SB
>>> On Jul 3, 2012, at 6:06 PM, Tobias Oelgarte<tobias.oelgarte at googlemail.com>   wrote:
>>>> You will have to split between trademark laws and copyright laws. Both concepts exist separately from each other. There are a lot of logos that are not copyright protected. For example very simple text logos, depending on country even more complex logos that don't reach the needed threshold of originality or even works that are by now in public domain. Still this logos and it's use is restricted due to trademark laws. So i don't see a true reason why the Wikipedia logos should not be licensed freely, while trademark laws still apply and we promote free content at the same time.
>>>> Am 04.07.2012 00:06, schrieb Ilario Valdelli:
>>>>> Again, the logo is a symbol, it's not an image.
>>>>> I don't agree with your concept because you can move the Commons content in another website also commercial.
>>>>> So you should split content and repository. The content may be free, the repository may be not free.
>>>>> Following your concept if a newspaper would use the Commons content, it should release under free license his website, his logo, his content.
>>>>> On 03.07.2012 23:47, Tobias Oelgarte wrote:
>>>>>> I don't know how it is handled after US law, but if i consider German law then logos and trademarks are often even in the public domain, but protected as a trademark itself. But i also think that our logo is something to protect while being free at the same time. If we go strictly after the policies the logos aren't free and should be deleted (especially with Commons in mind, because it is violation of the policies ;-) ). This is somehow contradictory to the mission itself. So i can understand the point that Rodrigo put up as well.
>>>>>> Am 03.07.2012 23:37, schrieb Ilario Valdelli:
>>>>>>> A mark is not a simple image.
>>>>>>> A mark it's a symbol.
>>>>>>> On 03.07.2012 23:32, Rodrigo Tetsuo Argenton wrote:
>>>>>>>> So in your view, free images can be harmful? So why would I release a
>>>>>>>> picture?
>>>>>>>> And you're telling me is more important to believe in the logo, instead of
>>>>>>>> checking the validity of what you are consuming? But we do not talk to our
>>>>>>>> volunteers always check the sources and not to believe blindly in a single
>>>>>>>> source?
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