[Wikimedia-l] Fwd: Fwd: Re: [Wikimediaindia-l] Wikimedia Servers and Copyright Issues

Achal Prabhala aprabhala at gmail.com
Sun May 12 09:27:51 UTC 2013

Of relevance here: 

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	Re: [Wikimediaindia-l] Wikimedia Servers and Copyright Issues
Date: 	Sun, 12 May 2013 14:51:27 +0530
From: 	Achal Prabhala <aprabhala at gmail.com>
To: 	Wikimedia India Community list <wikimediaindia-l at lists.wikimedia.org>

Hi Balasankar,

The question you raise is a very important one. The solution, however, 
is not likely to be to host content in India (I don't speak for the 
Wikimedia Foundation, but there are sound legal reasons why all 
Wikimedia content is hosted in the US; mostly liability risk and freedom 
of expression and this is unlikely to change).

The default across Commons and Wikisource, the two projects that host 
the bulk of public domain content (images, videos, sounds, books) in 
Wikimedia, is the US copyright term - it's the only yardstick that 
matters for what qualifies as public domain by virtue of being out of 
copyright. You are absolutely right, however, in that there's a big 
difference btw US copyright terms and those of other countries, for 

For photographs, while the binding limit (Berne/TRIPs) is 25 years from 
the making of the work, India is life of photographer + 60 years after 
death, and in the US it is life + 70.

For literary works, the binding limit (Berne/ TRIPs) is life + 50 years, 
whereas in India it is life + 60, whereas in the US it is life + 70 or 
120/95 if made on work for hire.

(The binding limit is the WTO mandated term that country members - US 
and India and 150 others - have to follow. As you can see, typically, 
most countries exceed the limit for reasons of their own, which they are 
allowed to do, with the US exceeding in far greater amount than India.)

In short, there can be a difference of between 10 and 40 years between 
the time a work goes into the public domain in a country with shorter 
terms than the US (any number of countries in the non-Anglo-European 
world) and the US. This seriously affects even 'Indian' works (where 
India is the first country of publication) because of the copyright 
protection granted to such works in the US, thus effectively placing 
them under copyright for our purposes within Wikimedia long after 
they've gone in to the public domain in their source country.

The case to consider here is Golan: 

A summary of the US Supreme Court decision in this case is - US law 
trumps international agreements, so the US copyright term holds within 
US territory, and restores copyright protection to any works that have 
gone into the public domain by virtue of a shorter copyright term in 
another country. Because Wikimedia servers are based in the US, Golan 
applies to us.

But your question is an extremely pertinent one, and if we were to find 
unusual solutions to it, they would seem to lie in:

1) Whether hosting on US servers for a global audience makes any 
difference, since we do not serve readers only bound by US law 
(Wikimedia reader numbers bear this out, ie US readership = minority 
percentage of whole) and whether we specifically have anything special 
on the basis of which to mount some kind of strategic litigation on the 
issue of allowing us to exploit the shortest possible route to public 
domain anywhere in the world for all or some of our readers.

2) Whether hosting on US servers but using publicly audited geolocation 
to switch off for readers from IP addresses where the material in 
question is still under copyright is a legally and operationally 
feasible workaround (connected to whether Wikimedia Tech thinks this is 
both doable and worth our while to do)

3) Whether, if all fails and there is no getting around this in any way, 
Commons and Wikisource (if there is sufficient interest in those 
communities) should be interested in looking at a way of allowing 
external links to chapter-managed local sites from the US-served base to 
see the material in question; and if this is something, say, the India 
chapter wants and is willing to do, whether this route poses any legal 

In any case, I passed around your question to a few friends for comments 
and suggestions - as well as to Geoff Brigham at the Wikimedia 
Foundation, who is not too hopeful for a solution but is very receptive 
to looking into it and getting back to us - and I'll tell you when I 
know something.

Meanwhile, if you have other ways of looking into creative solutions 
around this problem (not at all easy to crack, but the benefits are 
significant) - or if anyone else on this list does - you should.


On Friday 10 May 2013 10:20 PM, Balasankar Chelamattath wrote:
> Hi Srikanth,
> I didnt quite understand what you meant by example.
> An example for a work which is in public domain in India and not in US 
> - Works by Changampuzha Krishnapillai ( 
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Changampuzha_Krishna_Pillai ).
> He passed away in 1948, and hence it is 65 years after the author's 
> death. So the books are copyright-free in India as of now (in pubic 
> domain).
> But they
>  1. were not published before 1923
>  2. were not in the public domain in India as of 1 January 1996 (
>     because criteria of "60 years after author's death" not satisfied
>     on 1996)
> Hence they are not in public domain according to US Laws. So we cannot 
> store them in US servers.
> The main problem is India considers copyright based on date of 
> author's death and US does it based on date of publication.
> Regards,
> Balasankar C
> 2013/5/10 Srikanth Ramakrishnan <srik.ramk at wikimedia.in 
> <mailto:srik.ramk at wikimedia.in>>
>     Hi Balasankar,
>     Can you point out specific instances and show when and where the
>     book or publication was first published? If the works are still
>     copyrighted in India, then they should be copyrighted in the US as
>     well, generally speaking. The term India awards to creators is
>     lesser than the one provided in the US under copyright laws.
>     Regards,
>     On Thu, May 9, 2013 at 10:31 PM, Balasankar Chelamattath
>     <c.balasankar at gmail.com <mailto:c.balasankar at gmail.com>> wrote:
>         Hi all,
>         As most of you know, the Indian copyright law says that a book
>         gets relieved of copyright after 60 years from the author's
>         death. But this is not the case with US Law. As given here
>         <https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9b/Copyrightterm.pdf>
>         , of all the works published outside US, only those published
>         before 1923 are directly in the public domain. The ones
>         published between 1923 and 1977 without compliance to the US
>         formalities will be in the public domain only if they are in
>         the public domain in their source country as of 1 January
>         1996. Almost all the other categories of published works will
>         not be in the public domain until 95 years after publishing.
>         This induces a confusion and when looked in a legal
>         perspective, most of the books in Indian Wikisources, are
>         still not in public domain and hence must be removed. This
>         makes a huge negative impact on the hard work done by
>         contributors. Their contributions are wasted which may cause
>         them to stop contributing. In short, this may be a negative
>         impact on Wikimedia's image in the society.
>         The only solution to this problem is to *host the servers of
>         Indian Wikimedia services in India*, so that the data we
>         upload is stored under Indian Laws. Can Wikimedia India
>         Chapter do anything on this? We can plan and conduct a
>         fundraiser in India to raise money for the hosting expenses.
>         Please consider this issue with maximum priority as it
>         involves legal procedures and related headaches.
>         Regards,
>         Balasankar C
>         https://ml.wikisource.org/wiki/User:Balasankarc
>         Regards,
>         Balasankar C
>         _______________________________________________
>         Wikimediaindia-l mailing list
>         Wikimediaindia-l at lists.wikimedia.org
>         <mailto:Wikimediaindia-l at lists.wikimedia.org>
>         To unsubscribe from the list / change mailing preferences
>         visit
>         https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimediaindia-l
>     -- 
>     Srikanth Ramakrishnan
>     Treasurer,
>     Wikimedia Chapter [India]
>     Donate to the Wikimedia India Chapter today
>     <http://wiki.wikimedia.in/Donations>
>     _______________________________________________
>     Wikimediaindia-l mailing list
>     Wikimediaindia-l at lists.wikimedia.org
>     <mailto:Wikimediaindia-l at lists.wikimedia.org>
>     To unsubscribe from the list / change mailing preferences visit
>     https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimediaindia-l
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimediaindia-l mailing list
> Wikimediaindia-l at lists.wikimedia.org
> To unsubscribe from the list / change mailing preferences visithttps://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimediaindia-l

More information about the Wikimedia-l mailing list