[Wikipedia-l] i hate copyright laws

Jimmy Wales jwales at bomis.com
Wed Aug 20 12:43:50 UTC 2003

Björn Lindqvist wrote:
> I guess this will ignite a large debate but um... Is "fair use"
> material allowed on WP? (Answer yes or no plz :-).

I know you're looking for a simple "yes" or "no" answer, but
unfortunately, there isn't one.

Legally, the answer to whether or not we can use such materials is
'yes'.  But the use does actually have to *be* fair use, which is a
different legal concept from abiding by the license of the copyright
owner.  And whether or not a particular use of something is fair use
can be a sticky matter.

Ethically, I think that fair use presents something of a dilemma for
us.  It's implausible to think that we could get by without ANY fair
use.  Every quote from a copyrighted source, even a short quote, is
done under the doctrine of fair use.  If an article about Steinbeck's
East of Eden quotes from the book for the purpose of comment, that's
fair use.  There's no rational reason to disallow such use.

On the other hand, some uses that would be "fair" for us would likely
*not* be for people who would like to relicense and repurpose our
content.  So we ought to be respectful of the spirit of GNU freedom
and tend to refrain from using such materials when they might pose a
significant barrier to re-use.

> Then, can images from this site 
> http://www.pics4learning.com/index.php?view=image_use be used in WP? 
> Once again, yes or no.

Some of the same principles outlined above apply to use 'by
permission'.  If we get permission from someone to put a particular
image on our website -- as would be the case with these folks, because
our use does meet the spirit (I think) and the letter (with some
stretching, since we aren't technically teachers or students, but we
are arguably an educational setting) of their conditions of use -- if
we get permission, we can certainly use the images on our site, but we
may cause trouble for those wishing to re-use the content, those who
don't *have* permission.

> I love to add pictures to articles. But it is very frustrating when
> you realise that the time was wasted and that the pictures cannot be
> used on WP.

Yes, that's a big frustration to be sure.

In this particular case, I wonder if you'd be willing to contact the
pics4learning.com people and ask them how hard it would be for them to
go back to their photographers and ask for them to license their
content under a free license such as Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike?


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