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This is a wiki version of the Wikimedia public policy site. You can discuss and translate the text from that site here.
- Public policy affects free knowledge on Wikimedia and beyond
Policies on access, censorship, copyright, intermediary liability, and privacy directly affect the vibrancy of Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects. The Wikimedia community is in a unique position to shape these policies to allow people around the world to access, create, share, and remix free knowledge.
Explore how public policy supports Wikipedia
Access to reliable sources is critical to documenting and sharing knowledge. When researching for a Wikipedia article, Wikipedians need access to books, articles, and other resources. They also need uncensored and reliable information to write a neutral Wikipedia article. If researching online, Wikipedians' reading habits need to be private, so that they can research without the fear that their browsing history will later be misinterpreted or used against them.
To write and edit a Wikipedia article, Wikipedians need privacy and anonymity to speak their mind so that they can feel safe writing about possibly controversial topics and telling the facts. They need to find public domain or freely licensed media to illustrate articles without the fear of violating copyright. They need fast and affordable access to Wikipedia so that they can spend time improving articles. They need assurance that their Wikipedia community of editors will have full editorial control without interference from the Wikimedia Foundation. To accomplish that, they need the Wikimedia Foundation to remain a neutral host that governments and other third parties cannot force to delete or alter what people write.
For an article to be freely shared all over the world, Wikipedia readers need to have fast and reliable access to all of Wikipedia. This means that Wikipedia articles should never be censored by internet service providers. The Wikimedia Foundation should also be able to challenge takedown requests by third parties. And Wikipedia readers need to have privacy when reading Wikipedia articles, so that they can feel safe to feed their intellectual curiosity.
Once a Wikipedia article becomes available online, it can be made richer by others' contributions and reuses. Free licenses allow others to build on existing articles where copyright law would not normally allow it. For example, free content like Wikipedia articles can be translated into new languages, shared, and reused by anyone far beyond the Wikimedia projects, without restrictive limitations.
Wikipedia is never finished. To reach our goal of collecting the sum of all knowledge, Wikipedians must be an inclusive and diverse community. Diversity in this community requires unfettered access to Wikipedia, in all countries around the globe. Although many people have access to the Wikimedia projects, there are many more who are still not able to join our projects today. We need to break down barriers to accessing and creating knowledge.
Knowledge should be freely accessible by everyone, across every country, language, and device.
Why You Should Care
- Access to free knowledge is not a privilege for few. It is a right for all.
- Cost and accessibility are barriers to creativity and sharing.
- Open access policies make research available to more people.
We believe in a world in which every single person can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. In practice, this means that knowledge should be available to all and free to access. Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to free knowledge around the world. Technological, financial, and legal restrictions limit the ability of billions of people to share and learn freely.
Today, more than 60% of the world does not have open access to the internet. Without it, their access to free knowledge is severely restricted. For many, this is an infrastructure problem; for others, the problem is affordability. Despite tremendous growth in access to devices such as mobile phones, most people simply can’t afford the luxury of mobile data.
Through projects that offer offline and no-charge access to Wikipedia, we can alleviate the barrier of connectivity and data costs. All of this work provides millions of people with free access to the largest collaborative free knowledge resource in the world. This allows more people to share in Wikimedia’s vast repository of knowledge, through both reading and making their own contributions.
Reliable sources are critical to ensuring that articles on Wikipedia are accurate and reflect our ever-evolving understanding of the world. However, important information is too often behind paywalls and copyright restrictions. We strongly support open access policies, like ours, which help eliminate restrictive paywalls that limit access to valuable research. As more institutions empower researchers to release their findings in freely available venues, more knowledge will be available to everyone to learn, share, and most importantly, expand.
The Wikimedia Foundation has signed the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development. Signing the declaration, we joined the many other organizations working to break down the barriers to access to knowledge through open education and information. We believe that policymakers must make these issues a priority, in service of the best interests of their constituents.
Working in coordination with advocacy groups around the world, we can identify the largest barriers to accessing free knowledge, and collaborate to break down these barriers. We can take concrete actions, such as educating and influencing governments and policymakers, implementing open access policies, and supporting improved infrastructure in underserved areas. It isn't enough to grow our shared repositories of free knowledge. We must clear the path for everyone to access knowledge.
Everyone should have the right to share and access knowledge free of government censorship.
Why You Should Care
- The freedom to share and access knowledge is a fundamental value of the Wikimedia movement.
- Governments and others often try to censor the Wikimedia projects to limit people's access to unbiased information.
- Censorship of the Wikimedia projects prevents people from reading and creating free knowledge.
Freedom of expression is a foundation of free knowledge. Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects provide valuable information about history, public figures, culture, and every other corner of society. Local language communities independently create free knowledge on the Wikimedia projects in over 200 languages around the world. For many people, Wikipedia is the most accessible source of neutral information in their language. It may contain content that some readers consider objectionable or offensive, but offensiveness alone should never be grounds for the removal of truthful information. We believe that everyone in the world has a fundamental right to freely share and access knowledge. And we strongly oppose censorship, including blocking, filtering, and any other efforts to remove legitimate information.
Governments and internet service providers have censored Wikipedia in several countries both in the context of widespread internet censorship as well as targeted censorship of certain information. For example, the Wikipedia domain or select Wikipedia articles have been blocked in the United Kingdom, Iran, Syria, and Tunisia in recent years for content that authorities deemed politically sensitive. In order to combat targeted censorship, Wikimedia Foundation secured access to Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects with HTTPS and Strict Transport Security. HTTPS makes it more difficult for internet service providers or others to monitor browsing and selectively censor articles or other content.
The Wikimedia Foundation also actively resists censorship in the form of requests to change or delete content. Every year, we receive requests from governments, individuals, and companies. We grant few to none of these requests, complying only when legally required. We also receive Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices asserting copyright infringement. We thoroughly analyze each notice to ensure that it is valid and that the DMCA process is not being abused to censor the Wikimedia projects. We assess the copyright eligibility of the work being infringed, the likelihood of actual infringement, and the possibility of fair use. When we must remove content based on a DMCA request, we record the takedown in our bi-annual Transparency Report and post the request online, which allows others to do the same analysis.
We actively opposed legislative policies that could lead to more online censorship. In 2011, Italian Wikipedia protested an Italian law that would limit free speech. In January 2012, English Wikipedia went dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), which would have seriously undermined free speech on the internet. Later in 2012, Russian Wikipedia protested a Russian law that would enable internet censorship. More recently, the Russian Wikipedia responded to threats of censorship with a steadfast commitment to delivering neutral, reliable information. It is not enough to fight censorship only when it threatens Wikimedia. Information is an ecosystem, and censorship anywhere is harmful to free knowledge everywhere.
People don’t just read; they create, share, and remix. Copyright law should evolve to reflect this new reality.
Why You Should Care
- The internet is not a read-only medium. You should have the right to create, share, and remix.
- Copyright laws should be reformed to increase everyone’s access to free knowledge.
- Works created with public funds should be in the public domain.
Everyone should have the right to access, create, share, and remix knowledge. Remixable knowledge can be used for textbooks, websites, art, and other creations. These reuses make free knowledge more widely available. As a result, more people are reading and improving it every day. Together, they create knowledge that belongs to everyone. Reforming copyright laws will help make this a reality for people across the globe.
Expanding access to knowledge means addressing limitations on access to original as well as secondary sources. Wikimedia’s GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) initiative works to make cultural assets available on the Wikimedia projects. If the assets are not already in the public domain, they are posted under a free license such as a Creative Commons license. This way, they don't only enrich the projects, but can be reused in a wide variety of contexts. Free licenses, like Creative Commons licenses, can help people share beyond the Wikimedia projects, including on social media sites. This will allow everyone to share and reuse knowledge more broadly, on and offline.
Within the next few years, the United States’ copyright laws will likely be reformed. This process is already underway in the European Union. As copyright law is modernized for the digital age, legislators should consider the wide variety of new content creators on the web.
Works funded by the public should belong to the public. Works created by governments should therefore always enter the public domain. In the United States, works of the federal government are automatically in the public domain, while many works of European governments usually are not. Laws need to be reformed to ensure that public works are actually public, in the European Union and around the world. As more and different types of works enter the public domain, they can be made widely available. This will give everyone the freedom to find and use sources of important information. It will also expand the knowledge base upon which community members can draw to create content on the Wikimedia projects.
While advocating for broad availability of works in the public domain or under fair use, we also push for more specific reforms. For example, the Wikimedia community has recently taken a strong position on freedom of panorama in the European Union to protect the right to publish photos of buildings. We believe this right should extend to all photos of buildings in public spaces, for commercial and non-commercial reuse. We encourage all countries, across the European Union and around the world, to institute freedom of panorama rights.
Wikipedia's users are authors, creators, and artists who choose to freely share their works with others. The internet empowers people to share, remix, and reinterpret works in ways previously not thought possible. Copyright law needs to protect these rights. To that end, we call for shorter copyright terms and stronger, more comprehensive fair use exceptions, widespread freedom of panorama, and more support for free licenses. People should be free to comment on or remix a work without the fear that they will accidentally violate copyright law.
- Taking a stand for free knowledge in the European Union
- Using licenses in an easy (and legal) way
- Wikipedia shows the value of a vibrant public domain
- "Passport control at the supermarket checkout", from InternetNZ
The law should allow internet platforms to stay out of editorial decisions so that people can share and speak freely.
Why You Should Care
- The Wikimedia projects are neutral platforms where you should be able to speak and share freely.
- People can speak freely only when the law protects neutral publishers and hosting providers.
- Websites should not be required to police user-generated content.
The Wikimedia projects are built and maintained by extraordinary people around the world. They contribute text and images, develop and support editorial policies, and resolve disputes when they occur. The Wikimedia Foundation hosts and supports the Wikimedia projects, but it does not control what people write and contribute to the projects. The Wikimedia projects are neutral, open platforms where people are free to learn and share knowledge.
Neutral online platforms and publishers are critical to the free exchange of knowledge, on Wikipedia and elsewhere. Wikimedia projects receive hundreds of edits per minute, totaling billions of edits since the projects were founded. As a nonprofit, the Wikimedia Foundation is only able to host this much rapidly evolving content because of protection from intermediary liability. This protection provides a safe harbor, or legal exemption from liability, for hosting user generated content in many circumstances.
In the US and Europe, laws such as Section 512 of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Section 23 of the US Communications Decency Act (CDA Section 230), and the EU E-Commerce Directive are essential to ensuring this neutrality. They provide crucial immunity from intermediary liability that allow the Wikimedia Foundation to host Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects as a neutral platform. If the law did not provide a safe harbor, many sites, including the Wikimedia projects, would not be able to host contributions from users.
It is relatively rare that the Wikimedia Foundation is required to remove illegal content. Wikimedia community members work diligently to prevent copyright infringement or other illegal content on the Wikimedia projects and quickly resolve any other content issues. When the Wikimedia Foundation does respond to the handful of valid takedown notices we receive, we document them in our bi-annual Transparency Report.
Increasing a platform's responsibility to monitor and proactively remove user generated content will make it impossible for free culture and open source groups to grow as an online community. We need to track new developments in this area of the law, explain how they affect neutral platforms like Wikipedia, and defend safe harbors when they come under attack.
- CDA § 230 Success Case: Wikipedia
- Another Win for Wikimedia in Italy (and Europe)
- Stanford intermediary liability map
- Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability
Everyone should be free to read and write without governments looking over their shoulders.
Why You Should Care
- Privacy is essential for our intellectual freedom: reading, writing, and researching.
- People should be free to read and write without fear of governments or advertisers looking over their shoulder.
- Privacy can be an important personal preference even for those that have nothing to hide.
Privacy is the bedrock of free knowledge. It sustains freedom of expression and association, which in turn enable inquiry, dialogue, and creation. Privacy is essential to Wikimedia’s vision of empowering everyone to share in the sum of all human knowledge. People should not have to look over their shoulders before searching, pause before contributing to controversial articles, or refrain from sharing verifiable but unpopular information.
The Wikimedia projects serve as a platform for people from all over the world to share and study knowledge. Sometimes, people may need to remain anonymous for personal or political reasons when contributing to the Wikimedia projects. Wikimedia allows people to edit under a pseudonym, without providing any personal information, or without even creating an account. Anonymity and pseudonymity can protect people from retaliation for contributing to the Wikimedia projects.
People also need to feel comfortable that they can read Wikipedia without the fear that the government or other third parties are tracking or watching them. In June 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation implemented the HTTPS protocol to encrypt all traffic to and from the Wikimedia projects. We also use HTTP Strict Transport Security, which instructs web browsers to only interact with Wikimedia projects over an encrypted connection, protecting against efforts to break HTTPS and intercept traffic.
Wikimedia projects are not built in isolation. The privacy practices of other sites with reliable sources impact the Wikimedia mission to collect and share knowledge. For our free knowledge projects to work, we need security and privacy across the internet so editors and readers can freely research the sources needed to build Wikipedia.
In particular, internet users cannot be subjected to mass surveillance, which chills intellectual curiosity and creativity. Privacy is a fundamental right recognised under international law like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 17) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 12). Indiscriminate mass surveillance violates this fundamental right. We strongly oppose mass surveillance by any government or entity. To that end, we signed the Necessary and Proportionate Principles on the application of human rights to surveillance that demand that governments respect basic principles such as:
- Proportionality: The need for surveillance should be carefully weighed against the implications for privacy rights and freedom of expression.
- User Notification: Individuals who will be the subject of surveillance must have enough time and information to appeal the decision.
- Transparency: Governments must be transparent about the extent of surveillance and the techniques they employ.
- Integrity of communication and systems: Governments should not compel internet service providers of hardware and software vendors to build monitoring capability into their systems.