Requests for comment/Fair Use on Commons

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The following request for comments is closed. Closed by proposer, as lacking any consensus for action (I had actually forgotten this was still open). Colin's comment at the end describes the situation aptly... I did not state the problem well, most people seemed to misunderstand it, and the status quo (basically, that people will occasionally break the rules) will continue. Revent (talk) 16:19, 16 May 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The Wikimedia Foundation licensing policy, as passed by resolution of the Board on 23 March 2007[1], specifically prohibits Wikimedia Commons from establishing an 'Exemption Doctrine Policy' to allow Fair Use content.

This has occasionally been problematic on Commons, as preventing the quotation of legal texts in the context of project discussion pages, in cases where the national laws in question are copyrighted. (Such quotation would be legal under fair use, but we are not allowed to permit fair use in such cases.)

Suggested Solution[edit]

Therefore, I would request that the WMF Board amend the Licensing Policy, to allow Commons to create an EDP permitting fair use content on, only, project discussion pages, policy pages, and in licensing templates. The prohibition of fair use content in hosted media should of course stand. (Such fair use claims, on a project that does not actually use media in a 'context', would be invalid anyhow).

Later clarification by proposer: This has nothing, at all, to do with changing the scope of Commons itself. The proposal is not to allow fair use 'files'. The question is, specifically, if we should ask the WMF Board to allow us to accept fair use content (quoted, attributed text) in our 'internal' discussion and policy pages, or, alternatively (by an oppose) sanction the deletion of such material as a violation of the WMF licensing policy.



@Colin: The proposal is can't be, since it's about a Board resolution. It actually changes nothing, if accepted, it just asks the Board to 'let us do so' (or do so themselves, I would be fine with that)... that is why I tried to aim at clarity of the 'point' instead of trying to be verbose and explicit. Anything that actually went 'into effect' from this would not be the exact words I wrote, obviously, even if I did try to write an exhaustive rule myself. The 'principle' is all that really matters, in this specific venue, since it's just a request that they 'allow us' to write an actual rule. Revent (talk) 23:09, 23 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Revent, Well, as it stands, your proposal has been misunderstood by most of the opposes, who think you are trying to change the rules for the "content" we host. Arguably, the text on discussions/forums is "meta" to that "content". Do you have the link/text that allows this on en:wp discussions? I think it would help to provide examples. I reckon every one of us has at some point posted text quoted from another that fails the "Definition of Free Cultural Works". In addition to relying on "fair use", we also may have the case where someone is given permission to quote/repeat the text of an email they have been sent. The author has not released that text into public domain nor given it a free licence -- only given their permission to aid a discussion on Commons, say. That is technically against the rules, and is also a good example of "source material" that cannot be linked to instead. -- Colin (talk) 07:55, 24 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Colin: Unfortunately, I think that you are right about it being misunderstood... I've tried to clarify, without it becoming 'me against the world'...I could have indeed probably have done a better job of explaining it, but I don't really feel comfortable with the idea of actually trying to rewrite more than I already did now that people have 'voted'.
As far as English Wikipedia, the EDP (the en:Wikipedia:Non-free content criteria 'is' the EDP there), allows that "Articles and other Wikipedia pages may, in accordance with the guideline, use brief verbatim textual excerpts from copyrighted media, properly attributed or cited to its original source or author (as described by the citation guideline), and specifically indicated as direct quotations via quotation marks, <blockquote>, or a similar method." The 'guideline' linked is at en:Wikipedia:Non-free_content#Text, which states that "Brief quotations of copyrighted text may be used to illustrate a point, establish context, or attribute a point of view or idea."
What actually 'happens', not infrequently, on enwiki article talk pages is when a content dispute involves a offline or paywalled source, or one that would be difficult to directly link, editors will quote the source in the discussion on the talk page to support their description of what it actually says. The policy does not actually 'say', explicitly, that such use on talk pages is allowed, but says, essentially, that in specific cases the spirit of the policy, and not the exact wording, should be applied. Though I rarely edit enwiki anymore, I have never been aware of such quotation, where it served to advance a discussion, being considered at all controversial unless it was extensive enough to not be fair use. Revent (talk) 16:54, 24 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Support Support Seems to be a common sense proposal. Quoting legal text (in appropriate contexts) is often needed in discussions. Kaldari (talk) 20:09, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Support Support Even without including this kind of text necessarily on template namespace, I agree that we have a place on Commons for these laws texts. --Christian Ferrer (talk) 09:22, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Support Support Per Kaldari, and we should make possible to add Fair Use files into Wikidata, which can resolve many reference issues in the statements. --Liuxinyu970226 (talk) 01:44, 13 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Support Support Louis GP gouter (talk) 06:49, 13 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Support Support I think I have misunderstood it... I am okay if text will be fair use content. Well, if this proposal will not be successful, then IRC logs must be removed on Commons, as IRC logs are fair use content. --Pokéfan95 (talk) 01:51, 19 March 2016 (UTC) Strong oppose No, please. Commons is intended to be a repository for free media, not non-free media. We can make a solution that is much better, such as asking permission from the copyright holder. Non-free is non-free, and free is free. Period. --Pokéfan95 (talk) 11:24, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Pokéfan95: I think you misunderstood the point here... this has nothing to do with 'files' hosted on Commons, at all. Even we were allowed to host files under 'fair use' claims, those claims would not be legally valid, since we don't use works 'in a context' when hosting them. This is just asking that we be actually allowed to use such content (quoted, cited text) for our own internal purposes, such as discussing the law of a nation where it's under copyright (India is not the only one), or in licensing templates. As it now stands, people do it anyhow, occasionally, either assuming that it's 'obviously' okay, or under a somewhat tortured rationale that the 'content' in the WMF licensing policy only refers to ... how to put it, 'user-facing content' (articles and files, not project pages). That's not what it says. Revent (talk) 22:52, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Support Support Freedom is an important value to Wikimedia, and free speech is substantially inhibited when one cannot quote significant things under discussion. This is a good, carefully targeted proposal; kudos, Revent. -Pete F (talk) 16:44, 12 April 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Support Support ElCreatorDelPhoto (talk) 11:06, 13 April 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Support Support with caution.--Jusjih (talk) 01:55, 2 August 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]


  • Oppose Oppose In all my years on Commons I have never heard about this problem. I do not recall needing to quote copyrighted material and I do not recall anybody that did but could not. I do not think it is a problem. Moreover Resolution:Licensing policy seems to talk about Exemption Doctrine Policy (EDP) only in context of upload of copyrighted materials and the examples links are all about uploading fair-use files. Commons do not have any EDP, but I do not see anything in this policy about not being allowed to quote sources in discussions. Also wouldn't this be also a problem at all the project that did not have EDP and do not allow Fair use images (like polish wikipedia)? Commons is in exactly the same situation they are. --Jarekt (talk) 04:30, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Jarekt: My impression has been that, largely, most people either end up using links (that end up broken, eventually), or are unaware of the issue and just 'do it anyway'. "Media", or "Hosted content", includes text... the relevant enwiki policy explicitly discusses the use of non-free text, for example. As the resolution is written, we can't quote any material under fair use, anywhere, not even in a discussion.... any material on the wiki is 'content', in a literal sense, it's just not the 'subset' of the wiki's content that is our purpose. This means that, for example, commons:Template:PD-EdictGov can use a quote from the Copyright Compendium (which is itself PD), but commons:template:PD-India (where the law is copyrighted) uses a (rather poor, imo) rewriting of what the law says, and we can't even quote excerpts from the exact text that would be legal in the US under fair use. Any literal quote would violate the WMF licensing policy, as written. Revent (talk) 06:15, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Neutral NeutralOppose Oppose per Jarekt this looks like a solution to a problem we can easily work around (by linking to a reliable source) just as we currently can do for undeletion discussions, copyright case books, etc. Further, if convincing use cases can be presented, I would like to know exactly how "EDP" fair use media files on Commons would not appear as file pages, could not be browsed by reusers in galleries of images (where they would assume all were free reuse) and would not be listed in all the related SQL based reports that support Commons through bot maintenance. Perhaps the intention here is to not allow fair use for uploaded files, but that is not stated in the proposal. -- (talk) 04:54, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Fae: The proposal is intended to, as stated, only allow fair use content (quoted text, with citation) in discussion pages, policy pages, and licensing templates..... it is not, explicitly, meant to allow us to host fair use 'files'. The problem with only linking is that the links end up broken, and in licensing templates it's more clear to actually quote the law itself. Revent (talk) 05:56, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Oh, okay, this is not clear from the current proposal. I suggest that if you feel there is a real need for this, that you make a proposal on Commons first, taking care to assemble and describe a case book of examples to support its need. As far as I am aware neither WMF legal, nor the community of Commons administrators would act to require that quotes from non-free text sources would have to be removed from Commons. Nor has any legal justification for doing so been put forward, even in the case of Indian legal texts you mention in the discussion, so long as an complete text is linked to (which need not be uploaded to any Wikimedia project). As a positive suggestion, you may wish to email WMF legal for a clarification first, as an opinion from WMF legal might put your mind at ease without needing to go through another !vote for anything. You should get a meaningful reply as this commitment is clear: The Foundation resolves to assist all project communities who wish to develop an EDP with their process of developing it. Thanks -- (talk) 16:20, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Fae: I'm sorry you thought it was not clear, I did not write a 'long involved analysis', or start a debate on Commons itself first, because I though it was pretty simple, and because Commons can't 'do it' anyhow... a vote there, followed by a vote here, followed by the Board making their own decision, would be bureaucratic.
I'm not saying WMF legal would require the removal of such quotes, as they would be fair use.... they almost certainly would not. We would probably not redact or delete them on Commons, the community would consider it silly, I think. It's purely that the actual policy itself, as written, says we can't.. we aren't allowed to have any fair use material at all, even if we do anyhow. Any result of this would either be a short amendment by the Board, clarifying, or a long debate on Commons to write a EDP... having that debate multiple times wouldn't be helpful. If we are not going to actually delete such quotations, however, the policy shouldn't prohibit them. As written, we are not allowed to have any fair use material, at all, anywhere on the wiki, unless you use a somewhat convoluted rationale that nothing but actual 'files' are content... which is what has effectively been done, but the policy doesn't actually say that. I would be just as satisfied if the WMF simply made it clear that fair use, where it would actually 'be' fair use on Commons (discussions and documentation) was not prohibited. Revent (talk) 23:24, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Swapping to neutral now I'm clearer on the proposal. I'm still neutral as the evidence so far is that this is a hypothetical legal problem which might be resolved by a clarifying statement from WMF legal saying that a reasonable interpretation of fair dealing applies to Commons discussions, avoiding either an amendment to the WMF resolution or a new policy on Commons. -- (talk) 09:41, 23 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't think legal really can (or would) give an opinion on anything but the actual legal situation (and I think we all accept that the types of use I'm talking about are 'legal'). They might opine that hosting 'files' under a fair use claim would not be legitimate.. I don't think they would be, am not asking for that, and would strongly oppose it... I doubt that Commons truly 'could' make a legitimate fair use claim for a media file. It's just that the actual policy, as written, says we can't use fair use 'at all', even where it would clearly be legal (when discussing and commenting on the law as a matter of public interest). The WMF cannot 'allow us' to claim fair use when it's not actually fair use, they just can (and do) not allow us to claim it when it actually is. Revent (talk) 17:09, 23 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Oppose Oppose --Herby talk thyme 08:21, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Snowball close please. We and our users have better things to do than spending thousands of person-hours and building elephantiac software in order to parse the infinite combinations of possibilities in the impossible copyright maze of the world. To those who seriously want to help making it possible to disseminate unfree knowledge as well: please go help and File metadata cleanup drive, we are still very far from the goal off even understanding the current situation. For now, I prefer a situation where we, and everyone else, is safe while distributing Wikimedia content with projects like Kiwix. Nemo 08:35, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Strong oppose keep it free. Matanya (talk) 23:36, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Matanya: This is not a proposal that we change the scope of Commons to allow non-free files. It's about asking the WMF to not 'prohibit' us using fair use text in discussion and documentation. Revent (talk) 00:48, 23 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I understand that, and my position stands. Matanya (talk) 01:03, 23 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Matanya: Fair enough (some of the comments here indicated it was not clear what was meant). I'm actually 'fine' with not allowing it (though I think it would be sensible to do so) but the existing situation (as I think the discussion shows) is that some people are assuming that such material, outside of files, is actually allowed... it should be one way, or the other, and explicit, not 'tacitly accepted' even though against the literal policy. Revent (talk) 01:24, 23 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Very good point, Revent. Matanya, I would suggest it's not as simple as a principle like "keep it free" -- that principle cuts both ways. Speech is not free when certain things cannot be said. -Pete F (talk) 16:48, 12 April 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Oppose Oppose From a legal perspective, this proposal makes little to no sense. It appears to be of no practical importance, and its sole objective seems to be to get the Board to clarify that which is already clear as day to reasonable people. Woodcutterty (talk) 00:11, 5 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Strong oppose, please lets keep Commons free.--ԱշոտՏՆՂ (talk) 16:03, 12 April 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Strong oppose, lets keep Commons a free place. Luke081515 23:13, 20 April 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Oppose Oppose --Morten Haan (talk) 23:16, 20 April 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Oppose Oppose We do not need to meddle with Common's scope of all-free. Local wikis, any for that matter, can host non-free content under fair use for say limited period or indefinitely too. From the proposal I understand that this would facilitate in various discussions and hence I think the discussion hosting wiki itself can keep such fair use content. Dharmadhyaksha (talk) 05:01, 2 March 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Oppose Oppose - I already voted "support" for "NonFreeWiki", a proposed project to use non-free media content and other content not qualified for Commons. If "NonFreeWiki" becomes the actual project, the proposal to extend the scope of Commons would be unnecessary. Regardless of the outcome of the "NonFreeWiki" proposal, I'm against extending the scope of Commons for now as the Commons project is unprepared to handle non-free content. --George Ho (talk) 10:03, 18 March 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Further comment: Even after seeing more !oppose votes on NonFreeWiki in recent months, I still won't change my vote about allowing Fair Use content to Commons. The encouragement of free content would be affected, and the purpose and goals of Commons would be affected as well. As said before, Commons is still unprepared to handle NFC. Worse is that Commons is severely understaffed and backlogged, and the workload on images, including non-free ones, would tremendously increase a lot, putting a lot of burden on the limited community of Commons. --George Ho (talk) 20:03, 15 May 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Strong oppose, files on Commons have to be available anywhere, even in countries where fair use is not accepted. Using fair use material, even on single pages, is not a necessity and can confuse the users. Using tags and enforcing different policies on fair use files will only complicate an already difficult management. Besides, laws are not copyrighted material in most countries, as there are not "creative content". --Ruthven (talk) 06:25, 11 May 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    @Ruthven: This RFC is not proposing files to be fair used, it's proposing the text-only pages (e.g. a page that contains ASDFGHJKL...) --Liuxinyu970226 (talk) 11:34, 11 May 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    @Liuxinyu970226: I know, no need to shout. I wrote (if you read carefully): "Using fair use material, even on single pages..." --Ruthven (talk) 11:49, 11 May 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]


  • Comment Comment the proposal is harmless but I think a draft/final text should had be written before starting the rfc. --Vituzzu (talk) 19:26, 3 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]


It's incredibly problematic to cite specific examples of this issue, as they would all be cases where an editor 'did not do' something that would have simplified a discussion. However, a specific example would be India, where 'government works' are copyrighted for a term of sixty years. We cannot quote them (or court decisions) on Commons under fair use, even where where such a quotation would help a discussion, and would be legal under fair use. Revent (talk) 19:58, 21 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Comment Comment Mentioned this at the Commons Village Pump. Revent (talk) 03:38, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Indian law is underpinned (historically) by the same foundations as UK law. I struggle to believe that an equivalent form of Crown Copyright could ever stop us from quoting court decisions or relevant small sections of government legislative texts. As 'fair use' is a bit different in UK law to what the WMF means in the USA, I would expect a standard interpretation to be that as discussing how we comply with a copyright requirement (or legal requirement) on Commons will always be permitted under the normal interpretation of public interest; as such there is no need to have a Fair Use style copyright release, because public discussion is fair dealing by default, and can always be inferred under actual Indian/UK law. Is there an existing Commons discussion that unambiguously laid out this case?
tldr; we don't need a fair use release if the law allows fair dealing to be inferred for discussion of a public interest. -- (talk) 05:45, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Fae: Oddly, Indian copyright law actually does so. Section 28 (which I cannot quote) gives a 60 year copyright term in government works, and section 52 mandates that a 'legal' reproduction meet terms that are unworkable for our purposes (it essentially requires any law be duplicated in full, along with any commentary or other 'original matter'). Even if those terms 'were' workable, we still can't do it, because it's not 'free' content.
You are correct that our discussions would be 'legal' as being in the public interest under fair dealing, but the WMF resolution prohibits us from using that rationale, exactly as we cannot use 'fair use'. Material under 'fair use' or 'fair dealing' is not 'free'. Revent (talk) 06:12, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No. The EDP is about uploads. Nothing else. -- (talk) 07:52, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Umm, what? Commons has no EDP, we are not allowed to have one. The WMF licensing policy, on the other hand... if it is explicitly about files, it should say so clearly, as one of the linked examples of an EDP (enwiki) clearly discusses text. Revent (talk) 08:06, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have double checked. The WMF EDP is explicitly about uploads, nothing else.
Note that the English Wikipedia document is a guideline, not policy. Though that project guideline discusses how quoted copyright texts should be limited, the use of text this way is literally lawful on any project. The WMF resolution gives a definition of an EDP as a community published policy that "permits the upload of copyrighted materials" and the resolution itself does not read as if it was intended to apply in a way that would make the lawful use of limited quotations against enforceable policy. With regard to enforcement it states "newly uploaded files under an unacceptable license shall be deleted", but not quotes from texts. -- (talk) 16:17, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The type of quotation I am talking about is not unlawful, it's fair use (or, fair dealing, to you common law people). I honestly don't think that the Board really 'intended' to disallow such use, either... the actual resolution, however, as passed, does not allow us to have fair use material on Commons, at all. I'm not asking for any change in the 'effect' of the rule, just that it actually reflect what actually happens in a lot of cases, and not literally require convoluted workarounds (rewriting the text of Indian law) in others. Revent (talk) 23:34, 22 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • If you allow a text on a template, then you allow it on a file page as the template can be transcluded on the file page. --Christian Ferrer (talk) 20:16, 23 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Christian Ferrer: The eventual result of this (if any) could easily specify that fair use 'claims' were only allowed on templates, while such claims were not allowed on file pages, and they could only transclude such templates. Not the intent to allow fair use 'files', or fair use text in descriptions, but merely to let use us fair use text for discussion and 'documentation'. I would, personally, consider a licensing template to be 'documenting' why the file itself is acceptable under the licensing policy. Revent (talk) 19:37, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This question was raised before here and the response from Luis Villa was unhelpful, though did appear to confirm that fair-use text on discussion pages may be prohibited by the lack of an EDP for Commons, which "only the board" can fix. I'm not sure when a quoted text grows from being "de minis" to requiring "fair use" in order to be used. Clearly nobody wants to turn Commons into a repository for fair-use text whether on File: or Talk: space. I do believe that in practice users take advantage of fair-use to quote each other and external sources for the purpose of discussion, and it would be very helpful if this was explicitly permitted as long as the use was absolutely for the purpose of discussion for Commons business or policy descriptions, rather than just generally talking (e.g. politics) or as a subversive means of hosting the text.

The proposal unhelpfully talks of "content" which would include images (e.g. -is it reasonable to upload a fair-use image solely so I can include it on a talk page for discussion- no). So I think the proposal should be changed to "text".

The licensing policy resolution talks of "upload of copyrighted materials". I believe that entering text into a box and pressing "Save page" is "upload of .. material" just the same as clicking the Browse... button on the Upload wizard and following the steps. Both legally involve me uploading (copyright) material to WMF servers. We often confuse Commons policy pages that govern hosted content with the rules that apply elsewhere, such as talk pages and discussion forums. That isn't helpful. The Commons:Fair use policy only applies to media files, not to the other parts of Commons. So we do need clarification or change to the WMF resolution that explicitly permits what happens anyway.

One could argue that this applies not just to externally sourced text but internal quote too. After all, the text I write is (c)User:Colin 2016 and remains so till many years after my death! You can only use my text subject to the terms of CC BY-SA or GFDL, which requires you to link to the original (i.e. you absolutely must provide a diff/url), attribute me (you can't just say "someone said...."), note the licence terms ("text re-used under CC BY SA 3.0") and provide a link to the licence. We certainly don't always do that.

In conclusion. I think the purpose of the lack of EDP for Commons is to prevent us becoming a host for fair use material. Fine. But for the purpose of community discussion or documentation of our guidelines/policies it is very handy to be able to repeat/quote copyright text under fair use, and I see no reason to prevent it. But I also don't see that issue as unique to Commons. Surely all Wikipedias have the same issue on their talk and forum pages. So this is perhaps a bigger issue than just Commons. -- Colin (talk) 22:01, 23 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Colin: "is it reasonable to upload a fair-use image solely so I can include it on a talk page for discussion- no" - indeed, it's not, that would change the 'scope' of Commons. (you cannot control how a hosted file is later used) Not the intent, at all.
I used the term 'content', somewhat knowing it was a bit imprecise, because of the issue of if 'content' under the WMF resolution is just 'the content we are meant to curate (hosted files)' or 'all content on the webserver'... I suspect the former was meant, but the latter is what is actually 'said'.... the interpretation of this has been argued in the past. 'Content', in a legalistic sense, is anything on a webpage that we serve to the public... I was attempting to use the term from the resolution itself, and then specify (and apparently I could have done so better) a subset of content that was intended to be addressed by this (NOT the content we are meant to curate, but 'content' that we use to do so). Revent (talk) 20:07, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I know what you meant by the proposal, but I think using an ambiguous term has caused problems just as it does in the resolution. It wouldn't surprise me if, in drafting the resolution, nobody considered that people on Commons might like to discuss and quote things -- too busy uploading amateur porn is probably what they think we all do :-). I think WMF and our own policies should do more to separate the rules on published/hosted content (File on Commons space, Article space on Wikipedia, etc) from the meta content (talk pages, discussion forums). This applies not just to copyright but also to policies on censorship and neutrality, etc. -- Colin (talk) 11:01, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I suggest that text that is fair use content will be allowed also on user talk pages and talk pages. It will still be problematic if we don't allow fair use content on user talk and talk pages. For example, Jkadavoor posted IRC logs on INC's talk page when INC resigned as an admin on Commons... Pokéfan95 (talk) 01:55, 19 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Question about whether it's necessary for excerpts of laws[edit]

Given that the use case provided is about quoting excerpts of copyrighted laws: Does it matter that en:Template:PD-laws and commons:Template:PD-EdictGov say that the US copyright office does not accept copyright claims on edicts of government including laws? Source, while the statements of the copyright office do not per se have the force of law they tend to be followed by courts and authorities. And Commons does not thoroughly apply the "free in the US and the country of origin" standard, as can be seen on commons:Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag#Why do we allow the PD-Art tag to be used for photographs from any country?. Perhaps one does not need to claim fair use on such excerpts at all, and Commons would only have to stipulate an additional exception from the "and the country of origin" standard. Of course, I am not a copyright lawyer or expert and will need a second opinion here.Jo-Jo Eumerus (talk, contributions) 11:14, 24 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Jo-Jo Eumerus: The 'authority' for the USCO to not accept such copyright registrations is 17 U.S. Code § 105 (see here), which states that "works of the United States Government" are not able to obtain copyright protection (the 'under this act' portion is because, separately, a 1968 law allows for NIST to secure copyright in standard reference data they create under title 15). The Copyright Act 'itself' is silent about states and local authorities copyrighting their own laws and codes (and some states have attempted to do so over time), but the federal courts have historically not upheld those claims. See for details.
This does not apply to the laws of countries other than the US, however. If those countries claim copyright protection of their own laws, codes, legal rulings, etc., then a US court would almost certainly enforce those copyrights in the United States. Specific examples..
  • India (where the law is copyrighted, and can only be legally reproduced under terms that would be onerous for our purposes) - basically, you have to reproduce the whole thing intact, with any commentary
  • Australia (where is law is copyrighted, but is allowed to be copied for personal use, or if the only charge is for reproduction) - essentially, a non-commercial license
  • the UK (where is the law is under Parliamentary Copyright, but released under the Open Government License) - a 'free license' that we can use.
A valid 'fair use' claim could be made for any of those under US law, however. Revent (talk) 18:02, 24 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Huh? Why would the copyright office consider a law about works by the US government a reason to not accept copyright for all legal statutes?Jo-Jo Eumerus (talk, contributions) 19:05, 24 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Anyhow, I just went through the Commons discussions on EdictGov and it does not seem that folks differentiate between foreign and domestic laws when using that template and I don't see anybody questioning that either. That is consistent with what the copyright office says, but with how courts have interpreted the statutes? Seems like all case law is about domestic laws, not foreign ones. I found some interesting discussion in what looks like a mailing list of the Washington College of Law (one entry is here and here) though.Jo-Jo Eumerus (talk, contributions) 19:31, 24 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
See this discussion for extensive quoting from "Nimmer on Copyright" which is I assume a book that is itself copyright. The "Village Pump/Copyright" is full of such examples, though usually less extensive. -- Colin (talk) 20:53, 24 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Colin: Nimmer is not only under copyright (it was originally published in 1963, and has been through many later editions), but a copy of the complete thing (it's 10 volumes or so) costs well over a thousand dollars. Revent (talk) 21:36, 24 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
(later addition to my comment) Such use is indeed not uncommon on the VPC, in substantative discussions, which is rather why I assumed people would know what I was talking about without me hunting down a pile of examples... doing so would have involved pointing at specific people as 'technically' violating the policy, which I would rather avoid. Revent (talk) 19:41, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Jo-Jo Eumerus: If you read the USCO Compendium itself, the refusal to register a copyright on a US Government work (which includes federal laws) is based on US federal law, while the refusal to register government edicts is based on "longstanding public policy" and court cases going back to the 1800s, not actual 'statute law'. While it also says they will not 'register' foreign laws, I suspect that a copyright in a foreign 'publication' of their own law would be respected by a US court. IANAL, however, and I'm not aware of the specific point ever being decided. Revent (talk) 21:31, 24 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I can add that in Italy (and possibly all European countries - to be checked) laws do not fall under copyright law, and are usable by anyone, even by layers at Court! They are not a "work" or an "artwork", and must be quotable by anyone to enforce... the laws.
The same is for the US, so the discussion on copyright doesn't really hold here. Check U.S. Code § 102 - Subject matter of copyright: a law (or the Constitution) does not fall under the scope of copyright law. --Ruthven (talk) 06:33, 11 May 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Revent, I suggest you close this proposal. Lesson learned is that all such proposals will be read carelessly, so need to be written with that in mind. Our dire practice of rushing to vote rather than engaging in discussion until all parties actually appreciate the issues, is clearly demonstrated here. It would be possible, I have no doubt, to find examples where those voting oppose have in fact broken the rules this proposal would permit. Usually nobody notices and nobody minds, except if they have some other agenda. The "rules" were clearly written with "content" in mind rather than with "meta discussion" in mind, and the status-quo, where most discussions are written and quote in complete ignorance of the rules, is likely to continue. -- Colin (talk) 07:07, 16 May 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]