Wikimedia Argentina/Open letter regarding URAA

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Dear movement fellows,

Wikimedia Argentina would like to express its support for the letter by Wikimedia Israel regarding URAA-motivated massive content deletions in Wikimedia Commons. Yet, we would like to express our view not only to the Foundation BoT but also to all Wikimedia editors, and especially to those working in Wikimedia Commons.

Volunteers from Argentina have been among the most affected by the policy adopted by Wikimedia Commons administrators regarding images that could fall under URAA copyright provisions. Argentine copyright law provides that images enter the public domain “only” 25 years after their production and 20 after their first documented publication. This relatively generous criterion has enabled unaffiliated volunteers and we as Wikimedia Argentina to enrich Commons with hundreds of thousands of historical images that are absolutely free under Argentine law: images of the political and every day life of the country, of its culture, of its popular idols, of its joyful and dark days, of its customs and architecture.

However, over the last months certain Wikimedia Commons administrators have conducted massive deletions of these contents, in many cases involving entire categories. The burden of proof has been inverted: instead of having to justify the deletion of a certain file, things go that volunteers have to devote their time trying to justify the validity of their efforts. This has caused great damage, not only by way of our readers losing access to free educational contents, but also de-motivating many editors and volunteers by making them feel that their efforts are ultimately vain and that our goal of free knowledge for everyone is being replaced by a certain legal fetishism whose reason gets lost in processes and misses the outcome.

We acknowledge that the Wikimedia Foundation BoT and its Legal team have repeatedly stated, as has been reinforced in recent communications, that images shouldn’t be deleted unless we receive a takedown notice, and that it has not received a single URAA-motivated notice to date. Certain Wikimedia Commons administrators have dismissed the Foundation’s statement as a mere opinion vis-à-vis the SCOTUS ruling. Yet, it is an opinion by the organization that is legally responsible for the contents being hosted in Wikimedia Commons.

We respectfully call the Wikimedia Commons community to reflect on the practical consequences of its current policy on URAA’s implementation. Those files generating potential conflict could be even identified as such without the need for a pre-emptive deletion. And we would like the Commons community to reflect not only on the preventive loss of free contents we are generating, but also on the harmful disconnection between Wikimedia Commons and all of the other Wikimedia projects it serves as media repository, mostly Wikipedia.

Many years ago, the editors of the Spanish Wikipedia decided to close the possibility to directly host images, choosing instead to use Wikimedia Commons. If we miss the opportunity to find a workaround that saves hundreds of thousands of images from an unrequested deletion that hurts our very mission, Wikipedia editors could ultimately evaluate reversing that decision, reopening “project-hosted” uploads just to avoid the restrictive and exclusionary URAA interpretation that Wikimedia Commons has been sustaining against the Foundation’s political and legal advice. That would be far from being an optimal outcome.

We are sure that we as the broader community of Wikimedia volunteers can find a common ground that permits to adapt to all legal conditions and challenges while putting in the first place the fulfillment of our goal towards free knowledge.

Approved by the Board of Wikimedia Argentina on February 22, 2014