Wikilegal

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Many Wikimedia contributors grapple with legal issues in their work on various projects. Wikilegal is a site for the community to engage in a discourse on these matters. These posts are not intended as legal advice (see below disclaimer), but they are an opportunity for inquiry and discussion. Topics in nearly all areas of the law are relevant to our projects – ranging from copyright and privacy law to organization governance and new legislation. Wikilegal currently includes specific legal inquiries into developments that could affect Wikimedia projects and users. These posts may highlight some interesting, and even obscure, legal issues. For example, the possible copyright status of screenshots containing copyrighted images, like many legal questions, is ambiguous and calls for community input.

Through user contributions and continual peer-editing – the wiki way – we hope that Wikilegal will become a tool born of the same collaborative process as Wikimedia’s other projects. As shown by the many well-researched responses and questions we have received on posts in the past, we are confident the community is a rich source for a deeper understanding of these topics.

If you would like to suggest a topic for Wikilegal research, please contact legal at wikimedia.org.

Information icon.svg Note - This Is Not Legal Advice:
  • The pages listed below may not be accurate, and may fall out of date over time.
  • These pages are not legal advice or a representation of the viewpoints of the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • The legal team can only represent the Wikimedia Foundation on legal matters, so these pages are not official advice to the community.
  • The legal team cannot provide consultations, and contacting the legal team does not create any confidential relationship.
  • This page is not intended to address a specific factual situation.

For more information on this disclaimer, see here.

International[edit]

Name of Post Date Posted Summary
Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement ("ACTA") 01/27/12 A summary of the recent multinational intellectual property treaty.
SABAM v. Netlog 05/02/12 European Court of Justice holds that websites cannot be required to actively monitor copyright-infringing activities on their sites.
Background on the moral right of integrity 05/02/12 Presents the history, meaning, and operation of the moral rights afforded to authors in the United States, France, and Germany.
Copyright of Images in German Postage Stamps 07/30/12 Reflects upon the ruling in the Loriot Decision, a lawsuit between the Wikimedia Foundation and the daughter of Vicco von Bulow over the use of von Bulow’s works on Wikipedia and Commons, and its potential impact on future German cases interpreting the copyright status of graphical works displayed on or contained in government publications.
Turkish Wikipedia and Non-Free Content 10/29/13 Addresses the extent to which fair use is permitted under Turkish copyright law.
Database Rights 11/08/13 Discusses the protection afforded to databases and their contents under United States and European law.
Wikimedia Server Location and Free Knowledge 2/28/14 Explains the Wikimedia Foundation's reasons for maintaining its servers in the United States.
Uploading UK Banknotes to Wikipdia 05/16/14 Discusses the procedures and the risks involved in uploading copies of UK banknotes to Wikipedia.

Copyright Protection[edit]

Name of Post Date Posted Summary
Copyright status of a screenshot that contains copyrighted images 02/09/12 Explains that screenshots are treated as derivative works under United States copyright law.
Summary of restored copyright under the URAA 02/14/12 Addresses the multi-step analysis used for determining whether copyright has been restored to a previously public domain work under the Uruguay Rounds Agreement Act.
Copyright status of works originating from countries without copyright relations with the U.S. 02/14/12 Explains that works originating in San Marino, Iraq, Iran, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Afghanistan are not afforded copyright protection in the United States for lack of reciprocity under an international agreement.
Copyright and Pictorial Representations of Architectural Works 03/23/12 Explains that pictorial representations of architectural works created after 1990 are exempt from copyright protection under United States law.
Copyright status of flags and logos from international organizations 05/02/12 Explains that international organizations’ extraterritorial status does not automatically place their works in the public domain and addresses special protections afforded to the works and symbols of international organizations.
Copyright status of utility items 05/03/12 Explains that copyright protection does not extend to useful articles and that only the extrinsic features of useful articles are eligible for copyright protection.
MIDI Files and Derivative Works on Wikimedia Commons 05/24/12 Explains that Musical Instrument Digital Interface files are eligible for copyright protection.
Copyright Status Of Images Hosted On U.S. Government Websites 07/11/12 Discusses the criteria for evaluating the copyright status of images hosted on United States government websites.
Copyright for Google Translations 07/19/12 Considers and rejects the proposition that Google gains copyright ownership of texts translated using Google’s software.
Sweat of the Brow 07/26/12 Details the evolution of the relationship between a creator’s labor and receipt of copyright-protection under United States copyright law.
Copyright of Images of Memorials in the US 08/07/12 Evaluates the copyright status of pictures of public memorials and monuments in the United States.
The 9th Circuit and Works Published Without Formalities 08/20/12 Discusses two cases concerning the copyright status of works first published overseas without formalities under the 1909 US Copyright Act.
Copyright threshold of originality for logos 09/27/13 Explains that the threshold for the copyrightability of images is very low in the United States, but not everywhere (identifying Germany as a counter-example).
The Interplay Between Federal Copyright Protection & New Jersey's Open Access Laws 03/04/14 Explains that New Jersey state works may not be in the public domain despite the state's Open Public Records Act.
Copyright Status of Sound Recordings Fixed Prior to February 15, 1972 03/18/14 Explains that sound recordings fixed prior to February 15, 1972 are protected by state copyright laws, rather than federal copyright law.
Authorship and Copyright Ownership 05/01/14 Explains who is considered the author and copyright owner when someone takes your photo.
Copyright Status of Wikipedia Page Histories 05/16/14 Discusses potential copyright infringement liability in retaining copyrighted content in Wikipedia page histories and the possibility of invoking the fair use defense in response.
Copyright of X-ray Images 09/25/14 Explains recent developments likely make X-ray images uncopyrightable.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Online Copyright Infringement[edit]

Name of Post Date Posted Summary
Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act ("OPEN") 01/27/12 A summary of the draft United States Internet piracy law proposed as an alternative to SOPA and PIPA.
UMG v. Veoh 03/30/12 Ninth Circuit finds video-sharing website to be shielded by DMCA safe-harbor provision.
Linking: Some Legal Considerations 07/11/12 Addresses the potential civil and criminal liability one may face under United States law for providing links to websites that host copyright-infringing content.
Flava Works, Inc. v. Gunter 01/31/13 Seventh Circuit finds website neither vicariously nor contributorily liable for users’ posting of hyperlinks to sites featuring infringing videos.

Internet Safety and Security[edit]

Name of Post Date Posted Summary
Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act ("CISPA") 04/24/12 A summary of the proposed United States law to aid government investigations into Internet security and cyber threats.
Section 2257 Record-keeping Requirements 06/06/12 Interprets the record-keeping requirements imposed upon producers of sexually-explicit materials under 18 U.S.C. § 2257 to prevent the distribution of child pornography.

Use of Copyright-Protected Content[edit]

Name of Post Date Posted Summary
Copyright and close paraphrasing 03/13/12 Explains that close paraphrasing of a copyrighted work can amount to copyright infringement.
CC BY-SA on Facebook 03/26/12 Explains whether content that is first published on Facebook can be used or licensed under a Creative Commons free license.
Removal of Photos of Minors on Wikimedia Commons 06/04/12 Explains that minors may grant licenses for the use of their copyrighted works to the same extent as adults, but that the Foundation has adopted a policy of being respectful of requests for the removal of photos of themselves.
URAA Statement 02/06/13 Explains the Wikimedia projects' relationship with United States copyright laws.
Use of Foreign Works Restored under the URAA on Commons 12/20/13 Explains the circumstances under which a foreign work may or may not be uploaded to Commons in light of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.
Primer on U.S. Fair Use/Copyright Law for Website 07/07/14 Provides general information regarding the use on Wikipedia and similar sites of photographs and other content that may be subject to copyright law protections.
Removal of watermarks from Commons images 09/04/14 Explains the legal risks of cropping out watermarks from media uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

Other Documents[edit]