[Wikimedia-l] [Wikimedia Announcements] Post about Wikipedia and the public domain as part of EFF's Copyright Week

Jay Walsh jwalsh at wikimedia.org
Wed Jan 15 03:58:22 UTC 2014

The Wikimedia Foundation's legal team recently authored a guest blog post
for EFF's Copyright Week [1] about how Wikipedia relies on the public
domain (post is also copied below):

The legal team invited the advocacy advisers list (
advocacy_advisors at lists.wikimedia.org) [2] to comment on a draft [3] that
posted on meta and got lots of helpful input from community members.

We're happy to share this with colleagues throughout the Wikimedia movement.

[1] https://www.eff.org/copyrightweek
[2] https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/advocacy_advisors



*Wikipedia Shows the Value of a Vibrant Public Domain*

 <https://www.eff.org/copyrightweek>*In the week leading up the two-year
anniversary of the SOPA blackout protests, EFF and others are talking about
key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day, we'll take on
a different piece, exploring what’s at stake and and what we need to do to
make sure the law promotes creativity and innovation. We've put together a
page where you can read and endorse the principles yourself
<https://www.eff.org/copyrightweek>. Let's send a message to DC, Hollywood,
Silicon Valley, Brussels, and wherever else folks are making new copyright
rules: We're from the Internet, and we're here to help.*

*This is a guest post from Yana Welinder
<https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/User:YWelinder_(WMF)> and Stephen
LaPorte <https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/User:Slaporte_(WMF)>, Legal
Counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation. If you have comments on this post, you
can contact Yana <https://twitter.com/yanatweets> and Stephen
<https://twitter.com/sklaporte> on Twitter.*

While more commonly known as New Year’s Day, January 1 was also
International Public Domain
It’s the day when some creative works enter the public domain, which is the
collective wealth of works that are not covered by copyright. Public domain
works can be freely published, performed, remixed, translated and otherwise
shared with the world. They can also be used to write and illustrate the
largest online encyclopedia—Wikipedia <http://www.wikipedia.org/>. In
relying on the public domain to provide free knowledge to millions of
people around the world, Wikipedia illustrates the need for a growing body
of freely-reusable works. Today, there is concern that ever fewer works
will enter the public domain because of
 and international
copyright terms across the world. While January 1, 2014 saw many new works
enter the public
countries with shorter copyright terms, those works are still under
copyright in the United States as a result of the Copyright Term Extension
Act of 1998 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act>,
which increased the term from life of the author plus 50 years to life plus
70 years.

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shakespeare.jpg>Whether they realize it
or not, people rely on the public domain everyday. Millions of
people<http://reportcard.wmflabs.org/> use
Wikipedia every day to research, check facts, browse aimlessly and evenplay
games <http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Wiki%20Golf>.
Wikipedia is a collaborative project with hundreds of thousands of authors,
and it relies upon a rich public domain to draw from. Some Wikipedia
articles are built on text from older public domain
Other articles may be illustrated by public domain
For example, when “The Great
hit theatres last year, many people turned to Wikipedia to read about the
original novel. There <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby>,
through public domain photographs, they could discover the New York
mansions that inspired the story, such as Beacon
house that has since been demolished. Similarly, when Wikipedia readers are
researching Shakespeare <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare>,
they are able to view a public domain image of his
portrait<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shakespeare.jpg> from
1610 (pictured). Because both of these images are in the public domain,
readers can download and reuse them in other works, like Wikipedia articles.

Most images featured in Wikipedia articles are hosted on Wikimedia
which is a repository of free media that is also used by newspapers,
magazines and other
Wikimedia Commons catalogs a wealth of historical works that have entered
the public domain. But it also hosts works that have not had their
copyright expire. All material created in past 70 years, which includes
most in-color photographs, have been uploaded by creators who proactively
give up some of their exclusive rights in order to contribute to this
collection of reusable media. Their contributions rely on free
licenses<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_licensing> developed
by the free culture movement to establish a landscape of public domain-like
material. One example is Creative Commons
a sort of copyright waiver that content creators can affix to their works
to disclaim all copyright protection attached to them, effectively
contributing the works to the public domain. Another example is Creative
Commons Attribution-ShareAlike
which requires re-users to re-license their derivatives under the same free
license as the original work and attribute the original creator, but
otherwise allows free use of the work as if it were in the public domain.
Most material on Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia is licensed under CC BY-SA.

We must defend a vibrant public domain <http://publicdomainreview.org/> if
we want collaborative projects like Wikipedia to continue to thrive. When
material is removed from the public domain, it damages projects like
Wikipedia and impacts Wikipedia readers and reusers at large. We are
disappointed in the decision in Golan v.
which removed content in the public domain by upholding the theUruguay
Round Agreements Act of
Given the impact of the URAA on Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation joined
EFF <http://blog.wikimedia.org/2011/06/22/fighting-for-the-public-domain/> in
an amicus <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amicus_curiae> brief challenging
the URAA <https://www.eff.org/cases/golan-v-holder> a few years ago. When
copyright is restored in a work, the public domain suffers. The immediate
result is that Wikipedia is not as rich, because removing material from the
public domain means that work previously available on Wikipedia may need to
be removed.

The Wikipedia community does not take harmful copyright laws lightly. This
week also marks the two-year anniversary of the historic moment when
decided <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Action>
to black
English Wikipedia site, joining many other sites
 the SOPA <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act> and
Wikipedia is a living project that has developed over the past 13 years
into a massive collaborative resource used by people around the world. It
may be difficult for most of us to imagine a time before so much
information was freely available on the internet. The annual celebration of
Public Domain Day and the anniversary of SOPA is an opportunity to reflect
on how projects like Wikipedia thrive when there is a vibrant public domain
and remember that we can stand up to protect the public domain when laws
put it in peril.

*Many thanks to the Wikimedia Legal and Community Advocacy team
<https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Staff_and_contractors#Legal> for
their help in preparing this post and, in particular, Michelle Paulson
<https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/User:Mpaulson_(WMF)>, Dashiell Renaud
<https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/User:DRenaud_(WMF)>, Manprit Brar
<https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/User:MBrar_(WMF)>, and Anna Koval
<https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/User:AKoval_(WMF)>. We would also
like to thank the Wikimedia community for their helpful comments.*

   - 1.<https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/01/wikipedia-shows-value-vibrant-public-domain#footnoteref1_w5rpchk>URAA
   restored copyright in the works of foreign authors that had previously been
   in the public domain in the U.S. (typically, for failure to meet the former
   registration and notification formalities in the U.S.).
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