Talk:Terms of use/Archives/2011-12-06

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Warning! Please do not post any new comments on this page. This is a discussion archive first created on 06 December 2011, although the comments contained were likely posted before and after this date. See current discussion or the archives index.

Chat about this[edit]

Online chat "office hour" scheduled:

Day Date Time Location With Topic(s)
Friday --December 2nd 2nd&month=&year= : UTC until 2nd&month=&year= : UTC Geoff Brigham (WMF General Counsel) Introducing Geoff (it's his first office hours) and his work, focusing on his broad legal strategy for 2011-12.

Just a heads up that we've scheduled an IRC office hours on November 10 to discuss this and to introduce Geoff (it'll be his first office hours). Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 20:18, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

Just wanted to add that even if you don't want to discuss this, you might want to come anyway. Geoff is planning to talk about the Wikimedia Legal Strategy 2011-12. The "terms of use" are only a part of that overall strategy. --Mdennis (WMF) 15:56, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
FYI, I find IRC really chaotic and difficult to use for substantial questions. This is particularly applicable to legal issues, where a good query might require several sentences for context. And it may not be fair to have a lawyer trying to answer such a question off the top of his or her head. I don't have a good solution, but I thought I should mention the problem. -- Seth Finkelstein 12:26, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
Seth, I think each communication medium has pros and cons. The benefit of IRC is that it will be possible to interactively discuss the Terms of Use rewrite in the context of its broader goals ad the broader strategy. There are many community members who are comfortable with this medium, in addition to those who are not. There have already been mailing list announcements and blog posts, as well as the extensive on-wiki discussion here; I don't get the sense that IRC chat is intended to substitute for any of that, so much as supplement it. -Pete F 15:46, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
I agree that IRC office hours can be chaotic and difficult at the best of times, though the least unsatisfactory one I've attended so far was a legal one. But it would be a fairly weak way to introduce any document longer than a text message. Assuming that the legal strategy will be long, and it might wind up covering forking, relations with chapters, volunteers representing the movement in real life, bans and persistent vandals, wouldn't it be better to publish a draft on Wiki so that it can be read first and then discussed on IRC? WereSpielChequers 10:02, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Note: I'm changing the dates and times above to "TBA", per Steven's edit to IRC Office Hours indicating that this will need to be rescheduled. -Pete F 00:29, 2 November 2011 (UTC)

My apologies for this rescheduling. It turns out that I will be traveling during this time and there are some conflicts that make this time difficult. I unfortunately may be on the road until the end of November. I therefore hope to do the office hours during the first week of December with my legal team in San Francisco. We will keep this discussion going until then. I appreciate your understanding. Geoffbrigham 01:14, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
Updated with the new time. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 18:28, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

Major problem with the new terms of use[edit]

Yes check.svg Resolved.

tl;dr - too much text, no one will really read it except the diehard EULA readers. AzaToth 00:41, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

True. But I don't think that the main purpose of these terms of use is to be read. More important seems to be the possibility to tell potential complainants: "We told you so from the beginning in the ToS, but you didn't read them/follow them!". --Tinz 10:24, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Then perhaps it should be stated clearly that the text isn't meant to be read and understood by normal folks but only to make legal department happy. AzaToth 20:44, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Actually a couple of folks expressed the same concern about the length. These proposed TOS are shorter than most terms of service for other websites. And, since this feedback, we have shortened in some places and clarified the language in others. I actually believe that many people will read the terms of use. (OK, maybe I'm an overly optimistic lawyer.) And the terms of use will serve as a reference point in the future to help a user or community understand the scope of appropriate behavior (Sec. 4), for example. You may wish to read my explanations in support of a TOS at the beginning of this discussion: That said, I acknowledge that ideally I should shorten the terms more, and I will look for opportunities to do so. Geoffbrigham 21:33, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
That is what I was trying to address with my suggestion that the TOU be reorganised with sections devoted to articles related to readers, editors, republishers etc. so you can find the bit relevant to you more easily. See Terms of Use/Remixed. No one else seemed interested so I guess that's not happening.--Filceolaire 23:58, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
I think the issue with trying to carve up a terms of use into sections for readers, editors, etc. is that it's difficult to define who falls in each group. If I'm an editor who also reads Wikipedia and who donates $25 once a year, what sections apply to me? If it's all of them, then what's the point of remixing the terms in a form that most sites don't use? In any case, the remix doesn't seem significantly shorter... in fact a rough word count says it's currently a few hundred words longer. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 00:11, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

Let me share a real-life example use. A vandal valdalises, that's her job, and we go and complain at the ISP. ISP says "okay but on what basis should we kick his sorry ass?". They usually have a provision for "violating the terms of service of the website (service)" as a forbidden act. So we point at the ToS, section N sub M, and they nod and start kicking butts. --grin 09:29, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

Yes. It includes eery word from the other TOU rearranged, with some extra introductory text for each section.
The advantage of having different sections is you can find the bit that applies to what you are doing today more easily and skip the sections that don't apply.Filceolaire 12:51, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
My advice: let's take the Creative Commons strategy and post an informal summary of the Terms of Use, clearly marked as being non-binding and linking to the full terms. CC whimsically calls these the "human-readable summary." These summaries will be posted on local projects and owned and maintained by the community on those projects. By making the document community-editable, local communities can develop it over time and emphasize the portions they consider most pertinent (certainly, some portions will matter more on some projects than on others). The "terms of use" link on local projects would link directly to their informal summary, which links to the full document for further information. (Come to think of it, there's nothing the WMF can do to stop local communities from doing just this if they'd like to, but far better to actively encourage it). I would be happy to help draft such a summary myself for enwiki and for Commons, and watchlist it and participate in discussions regarding it. Dcoetzee 02:54, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
+1 These TOS are too long to be read by almost anyone, and maybe too short to do good job from legal viewpoint. Making them just for the possibility to tell potential complainants: "We told you so from the beginning in the ToS, but you didn't read them/follow them!" is essentially cheating the editor, and this is maybe the worst idea around. An informal summary nicely solves this problem. -- Григор Гачев 01:07, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
This indeed may be a nice solution. The "Overview" section was intended to provide a summary of the TOS, and I think it still serves an important purpose. That said, a micro-summary that is more visual and integrated as part of the agreement (like the Creative Commons license) could work well from a legal perspective. The links that we provide to the TOS however would have to be to a fully integrated agreement with the micro-summary at top and incorporated as part of the agreement (as opposed to a link first to the micro-summary and then to the TOS). For that reason, like the Creative Commons license, I would prefer that we work on a single, uniform summary that is micro-short and integrated as part of the TOS. If there is agreement and someone would like to try a draft, we could integrate it in the proposed TOS. This is an excellent sugestion. Many thanks. Geoffbrigham 12:13, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
How about separate micro summary sections for Readers, Editors/contributors, Reusers? Filceolaire 07:33, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

tl;dr -- Jtneill - Talk 11:33, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

Just want people to know that I'm working on this. It will be real simple summary based on the CC deed, with single lines that address readers, editors/contributors, and reusers. Hope to post it in the next couple of days for comments. Geoffbrigham 09:59, 18 November 2011 (UTC)
Try the wiki process. Put up your draft and let people edit it. Filceolaire 10:39, 18 November 2011 (UTC)

This section has been reviewed. If there are new issues or outstanding concerns related to this, please start a new conversation. Mdennis (WMF) 17:40, 28 November 2011 (UTC)


The use of bold in the first half of the document helps to highlight key points and facilitates skim reading. The second half doesn't contain bolded phrases. I'm not sure if this is because these points are less critical - otherwise, perhaps some bold could be useful. Sincerely, James -- Jtneill - Talk 20:41, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

@Jtneill: I did put in bold the subtitles in Section 4. I have read through the last parts of the TOS a couple of times with the idea of trying to find themes to put in bold, but, to be honest, it seems a bit difficult. I think the reason is that most of the final provisions touch on legal issues that do not easily fall into subgroups. I would suggest the numbered titles for those provisions are sufficient to give the reader some high-level guidance. Unless you think otherwise, I plan to leave it as is (with the bolding in Section 4). Feel free to let me know if I have it wrong. Thanks. Geoffbrigham 09:39, 18 November 2011 (UTC)
The latter clauses are all about how the TOU can or may be enforced; who can go to law and when. Theses may be integral parts of the TOU as far as a lawyer is concerned and for anyone looking for a way to sneak past the requirements. For people who just want to know what is required they are pretty much irrelevant. If you comply with the TOU then you aren't much interested in what happens to people who don't. Filceolaire 10:36, 18 November 2011 (UTC)

This section has been reviewed. If there are new issues or outstanding concerns related to this, please start a new conversation. Mdennis (WMF) 17:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

educational and informational[edit]

The TOS currently has one reference to our remit being "educational" and one to "educational and informational services" and two to "informational". This is an inconsistency and possibly more than a semantic difference; some of us have a much broader understanding of the word educational than others. However for some there is an important distinction, and this has at times been contentious. Commons I believe resolves it quite neatly by defining educational according to its broad meaning of “providing knowledge; instructional or informative. May I suggest something similar? WereSpielChequers 18:01, 7 November 2011 (UTC)

I support consistency on this. WMF bylaws state: The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. WMF articles of incorporation, as amended, make reference to religious, charitable, literary, scientific and educational purposes as recognized under the U.S. tax code for tax-exempt status (Art. III), but then says that its specific purpose is to "create and freely distribute freely licensed encyclopedias, textbooks, reference works, and other literary, scientific, and educational information in all the languages of the world" (Art. III).
I like the Commons definition but, in my opinion, it is too long. In light of the above, can we agree to consistently say: "educational and informative"? If not, I'm open to suggestions for a shorthand method of referring to our services/purpose that are consistent with our articles of incorporation and bylaws as well as the tax-exempt purposes under the U.S. tax code for tax-exempt status. Geoffbrigham 15:32, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
Ok provided it is clear that we offer both not things that are both. Otherwise we will have people trying to delete things as informative but not educational WereSpielChequers 00:23, 15 November 2011 (UTC)
@WereSpielChequers. OK I think I made all the relevant changes, per your request. I kept only the word "informational" in Section 3, because there the context is different (providing a disclaimer on the quality of the information). Otherwise I found 2-3 places where the change was appropriate. Many thanks. Geoffbrigham 09:56, 18 November 2011 (UTC)


I appreciate this is written in American English, and I gather that terminate is a nonloaded term there for ending things which is widely used for employment contracts and other agreements. But it is in my view a rather more loaded term when used in the UK, and not entirely accurate vis a vis what we do in practice. Would you be OK using phrases such as "close your account", "suspend your account" or better still "Stop your account from editing". One thing we sometimes forget is that there are account features such as the watchlist, skin, language preferences, link display and other display options that may be of use to readers even if they never edit (and yes if in future there is an image filter we are very unlikely to ever ban anyone from using it); There is an important and easily forgotten philosophical difference here; Whilst we have blocked millions from editing our sites I'm not aware of any occasion other than the recent Italian Wikipedia incident when we have deliberately restricted readership of a WMF external wiki. WereSpielChequers 18:29, 7 November 2011 (UTC)

WereSpielChequers, thanks for the comment. A number of folks have made this comment to me, and, until now, I have resisted it. Under the DMCA (Sec. 512(i)(1)(A)), we are required to provide for "termination in appropriate circumstances of subscribers and account holders of the service provider's system or network who are repeat infringers." However, a number of people have felt the language as too strong: it sounds like we are executing repeat infringers when we are actually only terminating the services. So today, thanks to you, I am experiencing a reformation. I have replaced the word "termination" in Sections 10 and 12 with new phraseology, with the understanding that this language captures the meaning of "termination" for purposes of Section 512(i)(1)(A). In the section on the DMCA, Section 8, I stuck with the original language of the statute to avoid any legal confusion. I hope this adequately addresses your point. Geoffbrigham 14:43, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
Don't we occasionally block users from reading, at least when the 'reader' is an automated process that's sucking up far more than its fair share of resources? I remember hearing someone say a while ago that Amazon (the bookseller) got blocked this way while it was trying to fork WhatamIdoing 17:08, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
It certainly has been discussed, and I raised the point previously that there is no need to have a ToS clause for that. It's an operational decision, we have not undertaken to make the pages available to such connections, therefore we do not need an escape clause. Rich Farmbrough 01:05 17 November 2011 (GMT).

This section has been reviewed. If there are new issues or outstanding concerns related to this, please start a new conversation. Mdennis (WMF) 17:44, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Meaning of 'community' and 'service'[edit]

Note This is a continuation of Talk:Terms of use/Archives/2011-10-11#Meaning of 'community' and 'service'; please see that conversation for full context.

I don't see that the problem with speaking of a so-called "Wikimedia community" has been addressed so far. The wording of the last sentence from the introductory "Our Terms of Use"-section is the same as quoted in the now archived threat linked above. But the point is, there is no such thing as a "Wikimedia community". For example, the proposed Global bans policy is using the term "community" in a very different way, where is says:

"Global bans are exclusively applied where multiple independent communities have previously elected to ban a user for a pattern of abuse."

So according to the Global bans draft, each Wikimedia project is run by a local community, and these local communities are independent from each other. Of course this is what you would expect from any publication, say an encyclopaedia: that those who create the content, and write it and edit it are those who create policys for their publication, and control their own project.

So my impression is, that this non-existing "Wikimedia community" would only be invented through this terms of use in the first place, Greetings --Rosenkohl 23:12, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

You're addressing a general concern regarding the use of the word "community" in English. It's quite a vague word that is thrown around very often (just like the "international community", who's that?). I'd rather it be taken out entirely. Seb az86556 00:19, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
This document wouldn't be inventing the "Wikimedia community"; the Wikimedia Foundation has a whole department dedicated to it: wmf:Staff_and_contractors#Community. :) It is a very flexible word. Each project has its own community, and there are communities within those projects: the community of administrators, checkusers, etc. OTRS is its own community, with members who simultaneously hold membership in one or more other communities. All communities come together to form one: "the network of users who are constantly building and using the various sites or Projects" (per the TOU). Can you think of a better word to express that concept in a way that can be easily understood by both established users, cross-project users and newcomers? --Mdennis (WMF) 20:35, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

Sorry but Wikimedia does not exist for the sake of doing administration, checkusers, OTRS etc., but first of all it exists because of the content. The content is created and published not by a Wikimedia community, but by the single projects. Each project is to a large degree independent from the other projects as far as the content ist concerned, and has ist own rules and principles. The same applys for a reading user: I can't read in "the Wikimedia", because Wikimedia itself is not a publication, but I'm able to read say in "en.wikipedia" or in any other of the projects. Of course, users can participate in several projects at the same time. But what they do in one project usually has no impact on what they do on another project.

Basically, Wikimedia is organized in a federal way. If we want to make sense of the term "Wikimedia community", then it can't be the group of all individual Wikimedia users, but the Wikimedia community is first of all formed by the single projects.

So instead of:

"The community - the network of users who are constantly building and using the various sites or Projects - are the principal means through which the goals of the mission are achieved"

we could say:

"The community - the network of projects which are constantly building and using the various sites - is the principal means through which the goals of the mission are achieved."

--Rosenkohl 16:56, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

"The Projects" are neither people nor formal organizations, so they can't actually publish anything. Who exactly publishes the content is something of a mystery to me. However, the options are only two: either I personally and individually publish my comments, or the WMF does. "Meta" is an inanimate website and therefore cannot publish my comments here. WhatamIdoing 19:48, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

So maybe we could say:

"The communities - the networks of users who are constantly building and using the various sites or Projects - are the principal means through which the goals of the mission are achieved" Filceolaire 21:47, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

This section has been reviewed. If there are new issues or outstanding concerns related to this, please start a new conversation. Mdennis (WMF) 17:44, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Translation in french language - harassment[edit]

I think that the translation of the word « harassment » in french is bad. Actually, it's written « harassement » in the french version. The word « harcèlement » would be best. We have the same question with « harasser » which should be replaced by « harceler ». - Bzh-99 14:39, 19 November 2011 (UTC)

OK I fix it, just something forgotten... verdy_p 14:15, 20 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done verdy_p 14:17, 20 November 2011 (UTC)

This section has been reviewed. If there are new issues or outstanding concerns related to this, please start a new conversation. Mdennis (WMF) 17:41, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Translation of Wikimedia Foundation[edit]

Is it acceptable to translate the name "Wikimedia Foundation" into something like "Wikimedia Xxxxx", where X is the counterpart of the word foundation in the target language, or do you prefer to keep the name intact? Or can the problem be solved in the beginning of the translated TOS by adding the X to the definition: "Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. ("we", "us", "Wikimedia Xxxxx") is..." --Pxos 19:29, 20 November 2011 (UTC)

@Pxox. Good question. I like your last suggestion: the problem be solved in the beginning of the translated TOS by adding the X to the definition: "Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. ("we", "us", "Wikimedia Xxxxx") is..." Thanks for raising this. Geoffbrigham 19:47, 20 November 2011 (UTC)

This section has been reviewed. If there are new issues or outstanding concerns related to this, please start a new conversation. Mdennis (WMF) 17:41, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Right to Fork[edit]

The TOU talks a lot about what the WMF can, will or may do. The main response open to the editors, if they disagree with the WMF, is the right to fork, i.e. the right to take the content and set up a rival version of a project. WMF devotes some resources to creating database dumps of projects to facilitate and if there ever were a change in policy to stop doing this I believe it should get serious consultation first. I think I firmal mention here is justified.

The software publishing efforts of the WMF are not mentioned either. They should at least get a sentence and a link to a page with more info. --Filceolaire 13:05, 15 October 2011 (UTC)

I would like a commitment from the WMF that they will continue to provide and improve the data necessary to fork. Maybe it already exists? Is there a resolution from the Board of Trustees about this? The WMF have definitely done a good job of providing dumps, however currently the media files are not easily copied. John Vandenberg 23:05, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
I agree this is an important aspect of fulfilling the Wikimedia mission; but is the Terms of Use document an appropriate place to make the commitment? Is there precedent for mission-driven non-profit org making such a commitment via its Terms of Use? -Pete F 23:30, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
The "terms of use" typically cover "no warranties" for readers and "we reserve the right to terminate your account" for contributors. In our case, Wikimedia provides one right to readers and contributors: a complete dump of the content and the right to fork, which is IMO an underlying principle in many of our policies. I think this document is less interested in information for "readers"/"reusers", but it would not hurt to mention the right to fork, if that right has been provided by a board of trustees resolution. John Vandenberg 23:47, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps the WMF and its projects should have charters filled with user rights similar to the one Citizendium has. --Michaeldsuarez 02:48, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Citizendium does have an interesting agreement, and thank you Michaeldsuarez for bringing it to my attention. I saw the user rights in Article 3 (non-discrimination) and Article 7 (equality), but did not see other significant "user rights" that would make sense for our TOS. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.) I could see borrowing some language from Article 3; not sure if the language in Article 7 is how we express the same idea on the Wikimedia projects. I'm open to some positive rights expressed, but those rights need to be universal and well recognized by the community before I would suggest including them into the TOS. Otherwise, I think it should be left to the individual Projects to develop these ideas over time. Geoffbrigham 18:19, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
@John Vandenberg: Images are probably not included in data dumps in order to avoid having non-free, fair use images included in those dumps. I'm not sure if a dump of free images exists. Since there's a chance that copyrighted, non-free image may be labeled incorrectly as free, creating such a dump may be problematic. Fortunately, you could configure any MediaWiki installation to use the shared image repository at Commons – see mw:Manual:$wgUseInstantCommons. --Michaeldsuarez 23:36, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
A dump of Commons media is what is missing. All free media on the Wikipedia projects should be migrated to Commons in due course. InstantCommons does not help the right to fork (enwp). John Vandenberg 23:50, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
To any WMF employee considering creating those dumps: Be sure to includes upload logs, file histories, page histories, licensing information, and anything else needed for attribution and reuse. --Michaeldsuarez 00:52, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
I have been working on such a dump independently myself, but it is a daunting task due to the sheer size of the dump, measuring in terabytes. Media is large and is already compressed. Even just the thumbnails of the images on enwiki I estimated at being roughly 50 GB. To make such dumps useful, useful subsets will have to be defined and made available, such as thumbnail sets, all works used by a single project, and all works in certain category trees. In all likelihood, the assistance of the developers will be needed to set up suitable dump servers, and dumps will have to be constructed and downloaded using a custom client/server model in order to share space between them (one good way to do this is with symlinks and rsync). As for the argument that Commons may contain mislabelled images - the same is true of the many textual copyright violations that have not yet been discovered. We should be clear that we don't provide any guarantees, but nevertheless be diligent. As a side note, I do believe it is legal for us to make fair use media available if it is distributed alongside the articles it is intended to illustrate, and this is relatively easy because they are all low-resolution and so small in filesize. Dcoetzee 02:46, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

FYI, it's an open question as to whether forking of Wikipedia is really possible in a practical sense. If Google kills any fork immediately in search rankings for being "duplicate content", then it's a hollow right. I used to think that Google-death would be a certainty for any fork, but these days I'm not so sure. The real threat is not so much forking, but abandonment. -- Seth Finkelstein 01:40, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

John, I'm concerned about the unintended consequences. You are, for example, asking the WMF to commit to always existing (because non-existent entities cannot provide anything to anyone) and to always having the resources to provide copies of everything (even if they're going bankrupt or dramatically change their approach).
I do not believe that the right to fork was ever approved by any Board resolution. It is (as I understand it) only the natural consequence of the licensing agreement. WhatamIdoing 02:43, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
You have a serious logic problem. If the WMF resolves to always provide dumps that allow the projects to survive it, its last acts should be to ensure those dumps are available, up to date and handed over to an organisation which survives it. It is common for organisations to have very specific rules about winding up. John Vandenberg 08:35, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't think you have thought through the request you made: "a commitment from the WMF that they will continue to provide and improve the data necessary to fork."
Imagine that the WMF goes away. How can the WMF "continue to provide and improve the data necessary to fork" if they do not exist? You have not requested that "the WMF do their best to ensure that the data necessary to fork is available somehow"; you have requested that the WMF do it themselves. WhatamIdoing 15:37, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
The data necessary to fork should be maintained while the WMF exists. The WMF is already undertaking this, which is good management, however it would be nice to point to a winding down clause which makes it mandatory. If the data to fork is not complete when the WMF is heading towards "going away" status, their Board of Trustees would be required to undertake whatever measures are necessary to ensure it is brought up to date and handed to an organisation which will survive them. If, heaven forbid, the WMF does turn off the lights, their role in maintaining it would stop once they had handed the data to someone else. Winding down clauses are thought about and written into charters in advance, to prevent an organisation running itself into the ground or selling off its assets in order to 'survive'. Boards overseeing a dying organisation usually make shithouse decisions if they are not constrained. Anything can be 'justified' in order to save the organisation. John Vandenberg 12:32, 18 October 2011 (UTC)
I think this is a very interesting and useful suggestion. It doesn't have to be expressed in terms of things the WMF must do, however. The point is, the WMF should agree not to refuse to make CC-licensed data in its databases available, provided it is technically possible to do so, and any actual costs are paid -- in other words, a FOIA for WMF. Wnt 23:49, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Except that gives people the right to demand stuff. I'd rather leave it up to the WMF to decide how to fulfill this requirement.Filceolaire 12:53, 18 October 2011 (UTC)

Interesting and informative discussion. Of course, the TOS (sec. 7) requires free licensing, which would help ensure that the content may be used for a fork or new project. As pointed out above, WMF does a pretty good job in practice with consistent data dumps. I think people have the natural right to fork today, and nobody contests it. I hesistate however putting it into the TOS for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it is hard to predict legally how hypothetical future events could play out. I realize this is only my opinion. My suggestion is that, if there is a strong consensus in the community and a belief that this needs to be considered at the highest level, the community petition the Board to address this individually by resolution. Put another way, I believe this issue requires a larger community and WMF discussion before acknowledging a formal "right" to data dumps in the context of unknown future events, if any. Under the TOS (sec. 11), a properly worded Board resolution would be mandatory and so recognized by the TOS. A separate Board resolution also would be more effective to ensure that proper resources and planning take this community concern into account. I know it sounds like I'm punting a bit, but I think this issue should stand on its own in a resolution proposal if indeed that is the community consensus. Geoffbrigham 18:19, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

I agree that this needs a BoT level decision for allocation of resources. However I have just re-read the GFDL and it requires that publishers provide a machine-readable Transparent copy if they distribute more than 100 Opaque copies. The HTML pages of Wikimedia projects are machine generated, so a machine readable dump is required. Further to this, where it gets interesting is that the license requires that someone can download a complete Transparent copy for one year after the last Opaque copy is distributed. As a result, I believe the BoT needs to ensure that the dumps are available and that they can be available for one year after WMF turns of the lights on the core servers (it allows 'agents' to provide this service). As Wikipedia contains images, the images are required to be included. This is similar to the GPL language for “Corresponding Source”, which requires that everything required to rebuild identical object code must be made available (which meant UNIX vendors needed to republish their optimisations to w:Makefiles, any prettier bitmaps they wanted end-users to see, etc.) In order to comply with this, I think there needs to be a way to reconstruct the GFDL component of the projects from dumps. I think the currently provided dumps fail this because there isnt an easy way to obtain the images needed. John Vandenberg 02:46, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
The GFDL was originally make for free software documentation, and Wikipedia was created before the Creative Commons licenses existed. This was a part of the reason for the license change. When Wikipedia was using the UseMod software, it used a simple filesystem instead of MySQL. Wikipedia basically outgrew the GFDL. Perhaps the WMF should've switched to using solely the CC-BY-SA license instead of encumbering itself with complex duel-licensing. Since the window the GNU allotted for switching licenses has passed a long time ago, it's too late to fix any of that now. I hope that copyrighted images may be excluded from such a dump. Otherwise, I recommend that the English Wikipedia follows the example of other Wikipedia's and use only free images. --Michaeldsuarez 15:39, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
John, if it's already "required", then there's no need to mention it here. The TOS isn't meant to be a summary of every single thing associated with the WMF projects. WhatamIdoing 17:41, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
In light of the above discussion, I do not plan to include explicitly the right to fork in the TOS with the understanding that the community can seek an independent resolution from the Board on the subject. I will forward exerpts of the above discussion to the folks at WMF charged with the data dumps. Thanks. Geoffbrigham 22:22, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't see how you can justify to not include the right to fork in the TOS. You have stated yourself "I think people have the natural right to fork today, and nobody contests it." The only reason you give for not including this are "unknown future events". This is not a valid reason, all of the TOS is written for unknown future events! This amounts to a disfranchisement of the users. This view is shared in the german Wikipedia community: de:Wikipedia_Diskussion:Wikipedia-Fork#Angesichts.... I request that you explain what you mean with "unknown future events". In what context is the right to fork no longer upheld? --Atlasowa 21:52, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
I'll give you an "unknown future event" as an example: The WMF has accumulated staff and contractors at a considerable pace of growth (2005 - 2 employees; October 2006 - 5 paid employees; August 2007 - 12 staff&contractors; August 2008 - 20 staff; August 2009 - 30 staff; August 2010 - 49 staff; April 2011 - 63 staff; Oktober 2011 - 96 staff&contractors). They may grow more staff than can be supported by donations in the future. Jimbo Wales has said this year that in case of need he would consider both cost-cutting measures and advertisement on Wikipedia. He also alluded to advertisement in the 2010 donation campaign, "To do this without resorting to advertising, we need you." The community does not have a right to decide against advertisement, the WMF decides. Many wikipedians would want to fork in this hypothetical case (advertisement on Wikipedia). The WMF would probably not prioritize to provide data dumps for a fork in this situation, so we clearly need this TOS provision now, before unknown future events. This is a question of checks and balances. --Atlasowa 22:25, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
+1 --Angel54 5 23:25, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
+1 It's not so much up to the letter of a license, GFDL or other, as up to the spirit of the free content idea. If Wikipedia cannot be forked, it is not (anymore) free content, and almost all of its editors are cheated. Guess the result.
Also, the right to fork is moot without a readily available way to have all the latest content. The typical months-old dumps you can get now don't qualify; schemes like "send us a kind request, and we will service it when we like" - too. Such a technical opportunity is a must, its lack is a call for trouble. (I've seen charitable organizations being "privatized" from inside or outside, often in strikingly inventive ways. A readily available way for a quick complete-content fork is a good defense against such attempts.) Providing it is going to be hard: info volumes are huge (and I'd love to help thinking of a way). But this must be written as a commitment in the TOS, I think: TOS is the "contract" between WMF and the editors / readers, and if the obligations of the editors / readers should be there, then the obligations of WMF should also be there. -- Григор Гачев 00:51, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
+1. Seen in the light of the recent controversy about the image filter and the discussions in de:wp, resulting in plans of a German fork, the decision to exclude a right to fork shows again no sign of empathy on the side of the Foundation. The right to fork is one of the most needed basic principles on which people here are participating. It's the only security they have, that their work after "unknown future events" still can be used in the spirit of this project. In denying this, you have (again) gone far far away from your editors. Greetings --Magiers 08:13, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
+1. Remember that the right to Fork is something like an insurance, it protects WMF from people who want to influence Wikipedia and the Foundation. -- Andreas Werle 09:04, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
+1. By the way, the rigt to fork is not a "every single thing associated with the WMF projects", but a profound problem. -jkb- 09:47, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
Here's another "+1"... Certainly "unknown future events" can and do take place, and I think anyone would show sympathy for a failure to provide data dumps in the event of a nuclear apocalypse over Florida or the summary execution of all WMF employees by some despot... or whathaveyou. Other than that, "unknown future events" cannot be an excuse. Seb az86556 11:27, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for these comments. I think you have convincingly pointed out that a TOS is written for future events (and my language there could have been cleaner). So, if I have it right, what we are talking about is not the right to fork (which the community has always had as defined by the free licenses), but the obligations on WMF in the future to allow for a fork. That said, I'm honestly not so sure there is consensus about such obligations. We could agree that WMF should "seek" to maintain accessible copies "within technological, financial, and resource constraints," but the above discussion suggests that something more is wanted. Of course, some obligations might be already covered in the agreement: there probably would be a requirement that WMF seek to host freely licensed content, and that is included in the TOS. But there could be other requrements imposed, such as implementing a system of daily, up-to-date, easily accessible, and complete data dumps for years to come, which, as I understand, is presently not the case. There would be a need to invest in personnel and technology resources to make this happen (which would require a reallocation of donor funds).
For these reasons, from my viewpoint, if the community sees this as a priority, it should seek a board resolution. A board resolution - which has binding force with WMF and the community - would validate the employment of the resources, taking into account competing values and demands on resources. A resolution could also set out in more detail the requirements, obligations, and limitations. And, before such a resolution, there could be a healthy community discussion focused on whether this is an appropriate use of resources. As noted above, a mandatory Board resolution becomes binding under the TOS. Sec. 11. Geoffbrigham 14:26, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
I notice that you did not elaborate on what would be the "unknown future events" that keep you from including the right to fork in the TOS. Nor did you comment on my example, what would be the impact of the TOS on this situation. So, please explain what you mean with "unknown future events". In what context is the right to fork no longer upheld?
I believe reasonable minds can disagree on this, and I'm definitely listening on this issue, but I see the right to fork as defined by the free licenses. The above discussion however suggests that, for a fork to be effective, the WMF needs to take on other obligations (for which, in my mind, the details need stronger community consensus). I don't see the above hypothetical as realistic, but a real future event may be that WMF donations take a dip and we don't have the resources to meet those obligations. There may be ways to ensure against that, but we need a bigger discussion on that through the board resolution process. Geoffbrigham
As far as I know, a resolution of the WMF Board of Trustees binds the WMF until the Board decides otherwise (another resolution) (WMF Bylaws Section 11. Reserved Powers: "The Board of Trustees shall be empowered to make any and all regulations, rules, policies, user agreements, terms of use, and other such decisions as may be necessary for the continued functioning of the Foundation not inconsistent with these bylaws."). And the Board resolution becomes binding to the users under the TOS. Sec. 11, without the user's further consent. The only time that a user really has to consent, is to the TOS, so this is an appropriate place for both obligations and rights of users and WMF.
Fair (and well thought out) point. But the Board resolution could involve an amendment to the TOS (with a reference to the details in the resolution). This ensures that priorities and resources are set and spent per the resolution after time for an appropriate community discussion. Geoffbrigham 01:35, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
You said you were not so sure there is consensus about such obligations on WMF in the future to allow for a fork. Erik Moeller recently wrote on foundation-l: "I think it's good that people are seriously discussing what it would mean to fork and how it would be done. Forking the project if WMF policies or decisions are considered unacceptable is one of the fundamental ways in which Wikimedia projects are different from most of the web; it's a key freedom, one which should be exercised judiciously but which should be preserved and protected nonetheless." I agree. --Atlasowa
I hear you, but, frankly, I don't see the contradition. We are not talking about the ability to fork. We are talking about whether WMF has specific contractual obligations in that respect. I don't feel there is consensus on this issue, and, for that reason, a board resolution with community input makes sense to me (which could result in an amendment to the TOS). Geoffbrigham 01:35, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
Not having consensus in WMF and/or the Board about the right to fork, including the up-to-date, easily accessible and complete content access, is a HUGE red light for me - and probably for other editors, too. I couldn't think of a better argument on how desperately and urgently this access is needed. Very much hope I've misunderstood you.
Some ways to provide really useful data dumps will indeed require a lot of WMF resources. Others, however, may even save resources/expenses to WMF. To date, often WMF has saved resources at the price of limiting content backup availability, instead of trying (incl. calling for a community discussion) to save resources while/by preserving and improving the backup availability. This approach, however, essentially limits the freedom of the Wikipedia content, which is the centerpiece of the editors motivation. Unless the approach is changed quickly and radically, and organizational measures are taken to never repeat this mistake, we will see a gradual but irreversible decline of the editors motivation, and an increase of the forking calls. Guess where this leads eventually. -- Григор Гачев 01:47, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Let me see if I can simplify what Geoff is telling you all. Where the right to fork is concerned, we can have two possible results:

  1. A really strong right to fork, with teeth in it and resources behind it, that actually results in these data dumps being created.
  2. A sentence in the TOS saying that there's a right to fork, which will give you the pleasant illusion of a promise, but zero action to make it happen in practice.

If you want the first result, we need a much bigger, much stronger, separate process: we need a full discussion with the Board that produces a solid, specialized, and detailed Board resolution, plus directions to employees to do this and a budget for achieving it. A sentence in the TOS cannot achieve this.

If you want the second result, then that is very easy to achieve. The only required action is for Geoff to type one sentence into the TOS. Nothing else will happen after that sentence is typed, except that a few very inexperienced people will say "See! I have the right to fork, right there in black and white!" (The WMF can claim that your "right" is automatically fulfilled by the current system, because you are capable of individually loading and copying every single page that you want to fork.)

Now: Which of these two results do you want? And if you actually want the first result—a practicable, workable, robust system for forking—are you going to listen to what Geoff is telling you about how you can actually get that result, or are you going to persist in the belief that taking Action #2 will magically produce Results #1? WhatamIdoing 02:34, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

So let me get what you are saying - The second point is a hollow statement in TOS to appease now and the first, is actually abiding by it. You are saying to get #1 we need the board but #2 can be added as just a hollow line, and I was under the assumption that licensing terms and the ideals of the mission meant that a hollow statement in TOS would be backed without a resolution. This is veering into an interesting legal territory where it might go down to the moral and ethical obligation to respect certain founding principles of open-source and free software. And here I thought we could just AGF, which incidentally, was a legal term (Implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing) before it was used in the community. Theo10011 03:05, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
WhatAmIDoing is constructing a false dichotomy. It's not either #1 or #2. There should be both a strong commitment to provide data dumps for forking in the TOS (#2) and Board resolutions that provide specific directions to employees to do this and a budget for achieving "a practicable, workable, robust system for forking" (#1). Regarding hollow sentences in the TOS: There are detailed provisions under section 15 for limiting liability of WMF ("In no event shall our liability exceed one thousand U.S. dollars (USD 1000.00) in aggregate.") Interesting. --Atlasowa 11:06, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
@Goeff and Whatamidoing: Thanks for your answers and excuse my bad english. I hope that I am not living with an illusion. But I always thought that wikipedia is something similar to linux: free software, free content. I think, it should be so, and therefore I want to have two things: information and access. I want to have information about procedures and access to sources in order to build a fork. Let me assure you that I do not want to fork. I want to have the realisitic possibility to easily clone wikipedia, because this means that I have control about content and software of wikipedia. And if this is true to me, it is true to everybody. For me this is the difference between Linux and wikipedia on the one hand and Microsoft and Elsevier/Springer etc on the other hand. Now Geoff, please tell me: do we as community have this control? Greetings -- Andreas Werle 19:50, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
Andreas, I believe you do. I added some comments below, but Wikimedia projects are freely licensed, and you are free to copy anything within the terms of those licenses. That can be done today without WMF assistance. The question is how much more material assistance is WMF required to give to make the process easier. I don't think we have resolved that question, though I proposed some language and asked some questions below. Cheers. Geoffbrigham 15:09, 11 November 2011 (UTC)

Sue-ability or whatever[edit]

I'll make this a subsection. While I am all for the "right to fork" to be in the TOU, I'd like to ask those who absolutely insist on it what exactly they think they'll be able to do with it when "push comes to y'know" — sue WMF? And who's gonna sue? You, personally? And for what? Money? And who's gonna get the money? You? Some other foundation you just founded?
I guess what I want to get smarter on is some scenario — Geoff says "unforeseen future events". Give me your "foreseen future events".
Seb az86556 05:12, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Let me be clear on that: I don't want to fork, I certainly don't want to sue the WMF and I don't want to be rude/uncivil/unpolite to Geoff Brigham (and since I am not a native english speaker, I do worry about this last point). I gave a scenario about advertisement on Wikipedia, I think other "red lines" for the community would be disregard of WP:notcensored and WP:NPOV (see image filter discussion). The WMF Board can decide resolutions on anything it wants, with or without community "consultation" and anytime it wants (hiring or cutting back on staff, advertisement, moving its headquarter, developing and implementing new tools on Wikipedia, ban tools, ban users, ...). If the Board wants to modify the TOS, it has to abide to sec 15 TOS "we will provide this Agreement, as well as any substantial future revisions of this Agreement, to the community for comment at least thirty (30) days before it goes into effect. If future revisions are substantial, we will provide an additional 30 days to allow for translations. For changes for legal or administrative reasons, to correct an inaccurate statement, or changes in response to community comments, we will provide at least three (3) days' notice." --Atlasowa 11:06, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
That's all good and nice, but not quite what I meant. Let's take your first scenario: advertisement. Somebody doesn't like that and decides to fork. The person asks WMF for the data dumps. WMF says "no." Then what? Seb az86556 11:36, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
Then it is clear that the freedom of the WMF content does not exist, and all editors have been lied to. After this, some editors will probably sue WMF for all the data (and, since WMF has many times stated that this content is free as in freedom, will probably win). Most editors, even those that would accept ads, will probably refuse to work anymore for the WMF projects, and will either stop contributing to the free content, or will go supporting a fork. Eventually, we will have most projects up and running again, under a different organization, but at the cost of nasty disturbances and a huge public image damage.
The point, however, is not what to do if WMF says "this is not really free". The point is how to never come to such a situation. Geoff wrote above that there is no consensus in WMF whether they have an obligation to support the right to fork (if I have understood him correctly - if not, please accept my apologies). However, the right to fork is the fundament of the freedom of any information project. If it is not present, the freedom of this content is a lie. It could still be free as in free beer, but not as in freedom. And if the Board indeed has no consensus, essentially, whether the WMF projects content is free as in freedom, then this must be clarified ASAP.
The new TOS should best be approved by the Board anyway, to avoid doubts about their validity. So, it is the perfect moment to have a confirmation (again, if I have understood Geoff correctly - if not, please Geoff and all others, accept my apologies) that the Board has a consensus that the WMF content is free as in freedom. And this cannot be without an easily available fork ability. If the Board declines to declare this, then I'd suggest to expect soon forks and maybe even lawsuits. I'd go to great lengths to avoid this development; actually, this is what I'm trying to do right now.
As for the resources needed: some ways to provide fork ability might indeed be resource-consuming, but some might be resource-saving. And all we know how much WMF needs resources. This is a wonderful win-win opportunity, it is unwise to miss it. Also, WMF denying the content freedom is probably the only thing ever that can make a fork call succeed - there is no reason to be afraid of disruptive fork calls once the technical ability is in place. -- Григор Гачев 21:53, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
I think I see what the problem/crux is:
Question 1 is "Do users have the right to fork, to use content freely, and redistribute it?". Answer is "yes".
Question 2 is "Does WMF have the obligation to help users fork, to use content freely, and redistribute it?" Answer is...?
Seb az86556 22:05, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
I think the WMF have a moral obligation to help users fork and I think that they should acknowledge this moral obligation in the TOU. I think, however, that making this a legal obligation would be a mistake and the TOU should be worded so as to make it clear that the courts are not the appropriate route to enforcing this. Григор Гачев above explains how the editors can enforce this policy - by withdrawing their free labour without which there would be no projects.
Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons are among the largest free culture projects; let us set a high standard for how free culture projects should operate. Other organisations will be influenced for years to come by what we do here today.Filceolaire 00:59, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
Not exactly. Editors may enforce some freedom by an abrupt withdrawing because of a drastic Board decision, but such a decision is not likely. (Unless the Board indeed has no consensus over the right of fork, ie. the content freedom.) More likely is, however, that the Board will have to take measures for keeping expenses under control, gradually sacrificing (unwillingly) the content freedom. The editors will feel the freedom limitation and will start withdrawing and giving more support to fork proposals. However, the process will be very gradual, and will probably not get enough attention until it's too late, and a lot of damage is done. This scenario seems to me plausible.
Otherwise, I agree that the fork help should be moral, but not legal obligation of WMF, and that they should acknowledge it in the TOU, or in a document linked there. -- Григор Гачев 20:15, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

I think some users are confusing a "terms of use" argument with a contract / charter / constitution. WMF obligations to its users would belong in a contract / charter / constitution, not the terms of use. A terms of use concerns user obligations, not WMF ones. @Geoff: I think that want users in this thread actually want is a charter / constitution; they need more assurance than what a unwritten social contract and licensing agreements can provide. --Michaeldsuarez 14:57, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

The idea of TOU is similar to the typical proprietary "all rights reserved by us, you have only obligations" license. That is why TOU is expected by most users to be "a kind of license". And since TOU is most often the only usage-related stuff the users see, a lot may assume that Wikipedia is as closed and proprietary as most sites. This can be partially solved by providing in TOU a link to the license, and possibly to a social contract. (It would be a good idea to have one written.) -- Григор Гачев 20:15, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
Seb's got the questions right, and the answer to #2 is "no". The WMF does not have a legal obligation to help you fork the content. Their only legal obligation is to not actively take steps to prevent you from forking all by yourself.
If we want the WMF to undertake such a commitment, then we can advocate for that—but the TOU isn't going to achieve that. A sentence claiming something like that in the TOU is unenforceable in practice. If we want this, then we need staff time and a budget for making it happen. A sentence in the TOU does not produce action from the devs. An order from the Board, and a budget allocation by the Board, does produce action.
It's my guess that the Board would be willing to issue such an order—assuming that someone here decided that he wanted concrete action instead of empty words, and therefore went to the trouble to ask them to make those actions happen. WhatamIdoing 17:47, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
+1 to WhatamIdoing -- very well said. -Pete F 18:04, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
Eg, if WMF decides to block overuse, by API or browser (of course, just to keep the traffic within budget), this is not an active step to prevent a fork, but makes it impossible in practice. So, if Seb's #2 is 'no', then WMF content is NOT free, editors have been and are being lied to, and the rock is already rolling downhill towards suing and forks. And, as I already said above, providing fork help might be done in ways that save more staff time and budget than they require. Want examples (in a more appropriate place)?
A written fork help obligation in TOU, or a document linked in it, will show the new users what "content freedom" really means, and will help prevent inadvertent sliding towards denying the content freedom in practice. (If bound to provide it, WMF will quickly find ways that decrease its expenses instead of increasing them.) And the lack of such an obligation may ease this sliding. Bad things rarely happen by the order of bad people - far more often they happen when good people underestimate the side effects from doing other good things. That's why I consider such a mention in TOU or a linked document important. -- Григор Гачев 20:56, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
I think they should have some freedom as to how they make the project forkable. Having a massive data dump file and a copy of the server software available to download is the way they seem to have been going till now. If that is available then I have no problem with them blocking people from trying to download the whole site page by page.Filceolaire 23:19, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
Definitely yes; that is why I believe this should be defined as moral rather than as a legal obligation. However, the dump must be recent enough to allow for a real fork: months old dumps are non-starter. Other technologies, eg. rsync, should be available to supplement what one can get on some media (exports will be old anyway, and transferring the entire Commons over the Net will indeed burden the WMF resources). To decrease the burden further, WMF can limit the rsync right to eg. ten mirrorers who take the obligation to allow everyone to mirror them (or each to allow 10 more and to pass the obligation down). Some mirrorers will be willing to webserve files for WMF pages, thus relieving WMF from between 50 and 80% of the browsing traffic. And the amount of backups made by WMF may decrease (eg. if they have now 2 full backups, after getting 10 full mirrors they can cut down to 1 full backup, and still be better backed up than now). Giving mirroring help is essentially giving fork help, and may save a lot of expenses instead of making new ones. I can't find plausible argument for refusing this... Hence, taking moral obligation to support forking actually saves a lot of expenses to WMF instead of creating expenses. -- Григор Гачев 11:37, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps we have different definitions of "free". I've got a cassette tape somewhere that is a GFDL "free" recording of a local musician (CC didn't exist then). Is it your belief that if you want a copy of the music, that the artist must pay to make the copy and deliver it to you? Or is it your job to buy the blank media, to obtain the equipment necessary to copy it, to find a mutually convenient time to borrow a master, and to punch the 'copy' button on the equipment? WhatamIdoing 17:11, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
Is this cassette tape GFDL free, and is actually created by you under the promise that it will be free for everybody, but the musician keeps it in his house, plays it from there in a non-recordable way and does not feel obliged to allow you copy it? If yes, and you still insist it is free, then we perhaps indeed have different definitions of "free".
All the discussion shows very clearly that the topic is not who will provide the cost - it was said twice that providing mirror / fork help will actually save expenses to WMF. It is about whether WMF should be morally obliged to provide fork help. I am at loss why you are trying to beat this strawman. -- Григор Гачев 00:22, 5 November 2011 (UTC)
It isn't hidden; you are insisting that you must have the right to go into the musician's house and get the original tape. Seb az86556 00:33, 5 November 2011 (UTC)
WhatamIdoing: the WMF isn't the musician. It doesn't create the content. We create the content and we allow the WMF to put this content on it's web site subject to certain conditions that limit what the WMF can do with the our content.
A musician who announces that his works are GFDL or CC free but then never gets around to doing anything is within his rights because he created the stuff, he owns it and he can do what he wants with it.
A recording studio that takes his works and puts out a CD doesn't own the works so their use of the content must be in accordance with the license - If they don't comply with the license then they don't have the right to do anything with the work.
Wiki editors are like the musician. We promise to make all this cool stuff and sometimes it take us a while to get round to it. The WMF is like the record company. They can cajole and encourage us but they aren't paying so they can't come round our house and take it. Once we do send them the music they can put it on the web but only so long as they do it the way they promised when we gave them our words. Filceolaire 09:07, 5 November 2011 (UTC)
So? I'm not the musician on the tape, either. My role with respect to this tape is exactly the same as the WMF's: I have a copy of GFDL-licensed material that I did not create myself. In fact, at the time I was given a copy, the musician was dead. Does me possession of one copy of GFDL-licensed music recording, made by someone else, mean that Григор Гачев can barge into my home whenever he wants and demand that I buy a blank cassette and a machine that can copy it, so he can have his own copy?
And if GFDL doesn't compel me to supply Григор Гачев with a copy of this content entirely at my expense, then why should it compel the WMF to supply Григор Гачев with a copy of the other content entirely at the WMF's expense? WhatamIdoing 15:48, 7 November 2011 (UTC)
It can be understood (hopefully incorrectly) that some of the statements here come to say that WMF is not really committed to its freedom promise under which the editors contribute their work. For example, by not having consensus over whether it will allow a real fork of this work, or by not having a moral (if not legal) commitment to provide fork help (once again: not the fork expenses). To avoid more people misunderstanding that this is possible, a strong statement to the opposite is needed. I believe that TOU is an appropriate place for a short form of this statement, or for a link to this statement, because it provides an appropriate visibility for it. (The already present misunderstanding is to a large part due to the lack of visibility for such a statement.) -- Григор Гачев 01:05, 7 November 2011 (UTC)
There is no material difference between "fork help" and "fork expense". The WMF cannot reliably do anything except through ordering its paid staff to do it, and the paid staff cannot do anything—not even walk from one office to the other—without the WMF paying for their time. "Fork help" is never going to be gratuit ("free as in beer"), and it is very likely that "fork help" is not even going to be cheap. It is likely to be expensive, as in, producing the very nice system proposed by John earlier is likely to cost the WMF somewhere between tens and hundreds of thousands of US dollars in staff time, hardware, and communications resources. WhatamIdoing 15:55, 7 November 2011 (UTC)
There is a huge material difference between "fork help" and "fork expense", because whoever goes with a fork will be prepared to pay the expenses. Let's be specific. What WMF staff has to do to provide fork help is to allow the contents to be copied. For example, to have an employee tell the forkers how they can connect a storage to the WMF servers, and what to copy. From my experience with copying large data, the WMF cost for this help is going to be between several dozens and several hundreds of US dollars. Any reasonable fork will be glad to pay it. Since when zero cost to WMF became expensive?
Moreover, I explicitly stated twice that a way to give fork help is to allow mirrors, which is going to save WMF millions, maybe tens of millions of US dollars in staff time, hardware and communications resources, as through the system proposed by me (see above). Please do hear already. And please do feel invited to reply. I'm curious - are there reasons for which the cash-strapped and expense-conscious WMF will refuse to save millions?
And more. I also explicitly stated 4 times that this fork help is not expected to cover fork expenses; other editors explained it, too. Despite that, you continue to insist that the expenses are an unsurmountable obstacle, because of which WMF should not be bound to provide fork help. Pardon me, but I start to ask myself questions that until recently would consider unbelievable. And I start seeing the need to write a WMF obligation to help forks in the TOU (or a linked document) as an absolute must. -- Григор Гачев 21:23, 7 November 2011 (UTC)
You're not getting it: The content to be copied does not currently exist in any form that can be copied. It's not a matter of saying "connect your storage to the WMF servers and copy 'this'", because there is no 'this' to copy. The current forms of the projects cannot be copied completely. Did you not pay any attention at all to John V's description of the large gap between what we have today and what would be needed for someone to be able to conveniently download all 10 million images at Commons in practice? WhatamIdoing 16:56, 8 November 2011 (UTC)

I want to thank everyone for this informative and helpful conversation. I have read it through a couple of times, and I'm still thinking about it. I just don't want people to think I'm ignoring the issue. (Also, in response to an above comment, let me say that nobody should worry about offending me, especially folks who are communicating in English as a second language. To the contrary, I'm grateful that you are expressing yourself.) Geoffbrigham 02:05, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

This all reminds me of the copyright law debate as to whether "fair use" is a mere rather technical legal defense, or whether it has a deep First Amendment status with overall implications. Anyway, maybe there could be a compromise here by including a sentence that blocks/bans/terminations etc will not affect any "right to fork". Before anyone jumps and rushes to say the obvious, the point is that it's a compromise which is not onerous for the Wikimedia Foundation but does mention the topic in a reasonable way in the terms-of-use. -- Seth Finkelstein 03:20, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
We blocked Amazon in the very act of them attempting to fork the English Wikipedia, because their method of forking was slamming the servers. We do take actions that very directly "affect any 'right to fork'", because occasionally we must choose between blocking someone and having a non-functional system for the rest of the world. WhatamIdoing 16:01, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
commons:Commons:Village_pump/Archive/2011/01#Backing_up – I think that Григор Гачев is asking for more freedom for bots and scrapers. --Michaeldsuarez 17:31, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
@WhatamIdoing: Any information can be copied, and if what you have is good for you, it should be good for the forkers, too. Some methods will surely overload WMF, but others will not. For this reason, denying the right to fork in principle is NOT a defense of the WMF budget: it is a violation of the freedom promise, and the spirit of the GFDL and CC-BY-SA licenses. For the record: I did paid attention to John V's description (and have a lot of info he omitted for brevity's sake). My proposal of methods for mirroring takes into account these details, and allows seamless evolution to different structures without breaking the mirroring process. Did you paid any attention to it, instead of accusing me in not paying attention?
I agree to blocking entities that try forking in a way that overloads WMF (and telling them how they should do it instead). Amazon should be allowed to make their fork if they do not overload the WMF infrastructure; also, if they burden WMF with a noticeable cost, they must pay this cost. This is not a violation of the right to fork, much like stopping you from taking a plane without a ticket is not a violation of your right to travel. If you revoke people's right to travel just because some of them might try it without tickets, and there were ones that even tried to, you will be rightly accused of groundlessly violating basic freedoms. Same here. If you try to deny people's right to fork just because some will try it the wrong way, you will be rightly accused of violating the WMF promise and the spirit of the licenses used. And such an accusation is the very last thing WMF needs. If anything can destroy the WMF projects and its stated goal, that's it.
@Michaeldsuares: The two topics are completely different. Scrapers already have more freedom than they really need, in my opinion: see what Amazon tried to do, in the paragraph above by WhatamIdoing. Bots could get good use from a little more freedom. Mirroring and forking, however, are completely different thing, and should be considered separately. From the discussion you pointed to: for a small project, eg. :bg, a bot will still be the most selective and thus the most economical way for WMF to mirror the files used (they are < 0.01% of the Commons). Transferring the entire Commons on a storage instead will burden WMF far more. However, mirroring all the Commons is completely different thing.
From my experiments (I have several MediaWikis on my servers), the best way to mirror the Commons files would probably be initial transferring the file collection through a specialized storage, and then making daily (or hourly, etc) "snapshots" of the new files (at me, most effective proved directories with symlinks to the appropriate files), which can be rsynced. Removed / renamed files info can be derived from the MediaWiki logs / recentchanges, which can be obtained most selectively through a bot. Pages and revisions are also obtained best through a bot, because of the selectivity. The traffic generated by maintaining eg. ten mirrors through this mechanism should be a tiny part of the Commons traffic.
In the beginning, WMF could allow several mirrors (eg. ten), on the condition that each of them will allow 10 more, passing this obligation down. Many companies and organizations will benefit (and profit) from having a local mirror of the Commons, so there should be enough of candidates. The passed obligation will ensure that everyone who wants their mirror will find a mirror source. And WMF will save on this, too. Some mirrors will agree to webserve files to WMF pages, thus potentially relieving WMF from over a half of its traffic (which, I am told, gobbles most of the WMF expenses). A provision that mirrors should provide contents back to WMF on request will decrease also the hardware and maintenance expenses: eg. it will allow to decrease the Commons backups from 2 to 1, and it will still be backed up better than now. Last but not least, this mirroring mechanism will also grant the right of fork. A win-win.
I understand that some people at WMF are scared by the opportunity of many forks who dissolve the efforts of the volunteers. However, forks will nave a chance to attract significant number of editors only if WMF fails it mission - for example, if it fails its content freedom promise. And denying the right of fork is the principal way to deny the content freedom. I have the feeling (hopefully wrong) that there are people at WMF who don't understand this. So, putting a promise for fork help (again, not funding) in a very prominent place becomes a needed safeguard against this mission-critical mistake. That is why I demanded it to be included or linked in the TOU. -- Григор Гачев 23:44, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
WhatamIdoing, I'm trying to figure out a way to "split the difference" between two problems at different extremes. Obviously, nobody wants to permit a server overload under the justification of right-to-fork. But on the other hand, I can conceive of a situation I call "Go Fork Yourselves!", where a group gets into a dispute with the WMF, wants to fork, and WMF says that since these people are blocked/banned/terminated, their actions to download material to fork are in violation of the terms of use, as "unauthorized access". That is, server issues which could be handled amicably if the WMF wanted to do so, would be intentionally used as a way of hindering the dissent group's efforts. There's been accusations of foot-dragging with "Wikia", a commercial wiki-farm company, when digital sharecropper communities have done escapes from its electronic plantation. So it's not as if there no reason to think this couldn't happen with Wikipedia. Thus, appropriate language is the goal, even if it may be difficult to come up with concise phrasing. -- Seth Finkelstein 01:19, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
Many thanks to all for this discussion, which I find fascinating and quite humbling. It is a needed reminder that our community of editors has created Wikipedia and its sister projects, that free content means just that, and that no entity has a monopoly over general knowledge. Here are some thoughts or questions:
1. The Foundation believes in free content obviously, as articulated in Sec. 7 of the proposed TOS. The Foundation also believes that, pursuant to the terms of the free licenses, people have the right to copy the free content from its projects and use that content to support another (contrary) site (assuming all proper attributions and other license requirements are fulfilled).
2. For most of the reasons articulated above, however, I remain unconvinced that the TOS is the best place to address a so-called "right to help" without a more thorough Board review and study of the question. But, if we were to include language today, what should it say? For discussion purposes, taking into the present constraints, one proposal might read like this:
The Foundation recognizes that others may copy the free content on its Projects for use on other sites pursuant to the applicable licenses and that, as a desirable but nonbinding goal, the Foundation should seek to facilitate such copying within the constraints of its budget, resources, and other priorities.
3. Can anybody find TOS language from another free content site that guarantees a right for assistance during a fork? My guess is that this is somewhat novel to Wikimedia projects.
4. During the Spanish Fork in Wikipedia's early history, was there any assistance from the Foundation vis-a-vis the fork?
Thanks. Geoffbrigham 14:56, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
Geoff, when the spanish fork happened in 2002, the WMF did not yet exist. Actually, without the fork, the WMF probably wouldn't have been founded (in 2003) but a private business company based on advertisement similar to wikia (founded by Wales in 2004 in Florida and re-incorporated in Delaware as Wikia, Inc. in January 2006). Further background: For reasons that I don't understand, the WMF wanted to move its headquarters from Florida in 2007 - and moved to expensive San Francisco, which helped Wales consolidate his business interests since Wikia was then based in San Mateo. --Atlasowa 15:32, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
@Geoff: Thank you for the nice words. As for the points you brought:
1) The right to copy the content is moot without the opportunity to do this. If WMF acknowledges your right to copy its content, but denies you the technical opportunity to do it, you are effectively denied the right to copy content. (Or if the info you are provided is not good for a fork, eg, if it is months old.) I agree this copying should be done in a way that does not unreasonably burden WMF, but believe that we need a commitment on its side to not deny the opportunity (see the next paragraph).
2) The proposal addresses the problem in a way different from what some people here, incl. me, would mean. It does not bind WMF to provide fork assistance (which I think should be provided), and appears to me to bind WMF to provide what assistance it gives on its own expenses (I think these should be covered by the entity that does the fork). An example: if someone comes to WMF and wants to fork eg. the German-language Wikipedia, WMF should be bound to give him the technical opportunity to copy the relevant content, incl. to tell him what he needs to copy, etc. However, WMF should not be bound to cover his expenses on buying a storage on which to copy the content etc, and if the copying process puts noticeable expenses on WMF (Internet traffic, admin time or whatever), WMF should be able to ask the forker to cover these expenses too. Unhappily, my English is way below the level needed to propose a legal text to this sense.
3) Typically, no TOS / TOU I am aware of includes such a grant. However, most free projects do not accept people who would doubt whether they should permit a fork, while WMF appears to have such people onboard. Also, most free projects have no record of blocking fork attempts, while WMF has it (and probably cannot avoid having it). For this reason, I believe WMF TOU should include or link to such a grant.
There is one more aspect that is important: what one needs for a fork. Let me give an example with the free software. If you take the compiled binaries, this is not forking, but redistributing: you can't for a project by them. For a fork, you need the source. In our context, this will mean that the right to fork covers the wikitext and the original images, but not the generated HTML and thumbs (their freedom might be covered by another content freedom aspects, but I don't discuss these here). Let's make the difference. -- Григор Гачев 19:01, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
Seth, I've got a lot of sympathy for what you're trying to do, but the fact remains that saying "the WMF will never" when the WMF not only does, but must, is dishonest. Although I don't actually object to Geoff's latest proposal, I think it's ultimately too complicated an issue to be addressed here. WhatamIdoing 19:13, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
Григор Гачев says: the best way to mirror the Commons files would probably be initial transferring the file collection through a specialized storage, and then making daily (or hourly, etc) "snapshots" of the new files (at me, most effective proved directories with symlinks to the appropriate files), which can be rsynced.
And here's what I want to know: How exactly are you going to create that "specialized storage" with zero money, zero new hardware, and zero staff time? Wave a magic wand? Wish on a falling star?
Or do you think we can finally agree that creating "specialized storage" to enable this mirror will actually cost the WMF some real money? WhatamIdoing 17:30, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
"Specialized storage" in the context of copying large amount of information usually means a specialized storage hardware, eg. a big NAS. Of course it should be provided by the side that makes the fork. (If this is not a fork, but a mirroring according to the scheme I described above, it may be provided by WMF to facilitate the mirrors it will benefit from. However, this is NOT a case related to the right of fork we discuss here.)
This is probably the fifth time I am explaining that fork expenses are not expected to be covered by WMF. Please tell me how many more times I should repeat it to get it understood, in order to finally be able to proceed with the topic on hand. -- Григор Гачев 19:01, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
And the big NAS will be installed by magic fairies, so that it will require none of the networking staff's time? It will use no electricity? It will not increase their bandwidth expenses?
You're not getting it: there is no way to do anything in the WMF's server farm that does not ultimately cost the WMF cold, hard cash. You are here proposing essentially a "right" to pay the WMF to make a copy of the Projects for you, at whatever they declare the going price to be. In my opinion, this is not the sort of thing that needs to be done in the TOU. If that's what you want, you can have it right now: you just need to send them a proposal, a standard fee-for-service contract, and a fairly large check. WhatamIdoing 19:11, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
A NAS will not increase the bandwidth expenses, as it is connected locally. Connecting it to a server farm will require a power plug, a LAN socket and 10 mins staff time to show these to the forker. At the standard consumption of a NAS (about 300W/h), the week needed to make a full Commons (the largest WMF project) copy will consume about 50 KWh power, costing about 10 USD. (Assuming a price of USD 0.2 / kWh; please adjust if the price is different.) Another 10 USD will cover the increased power consumption of the WMF servers during the copying. And the 10 mins of staff time will cost about 20 USD, at a rate of 120 USD / hour. In total, your fairly large check is going to be about 40 USD. (Unless WMF tries to make a huge profit by effectively selling the data we created under a freedom promise by it, in which case most people will bring it to the court and the media immediately. This is the development I am trying to avoid, by requiring measures that will decrease its probability. What are you trying to do?)
This is the sixth time I explain that fork expenses should be paid. You didn't answered me how many more times I should do it to finally get us on a constructive track. And, pardon me, you appear to be arguing in circles in order to avoid WMF having to take a prominent obligation to allow mirroring and forking. The reason I find so important to have such an obligation in the TOU is exactly this stance. You are demonstrating it, and the need for such an obligation, better than I could. -- Григор Гачев 12:12, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
Would you let anyone at all have full physical access to your machine room, with only ten minutes of supervision? I certainly wouldn't. Not only that, I'd very probably fire anyone who thought it would be acceptable.
Even if every WMF manager was an idiot, and every WMF tech thought that letting unknown people do whatever they wanted in the server farm was a fine thing (and if you're not directly supervising the work, that is exactly what you are actually permitting), the fact is that it would take more than ten minutes just to make the initial appointment. WhatamIdoing 17:45, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
Please tell me, and everybody else, that you really expect the forker to be let into the machine room, and to stay there during the copying, eg. one week, day and night. We desperately need additional basis to evaluate how good your judgment is. What you gave through this talk by now is not enough.
In the reality, 5 minutes will be needed by a staff member to take the storage from the forker outside the machine room, move it in, connect it and get out. The other 5 mins will be used to move the storage out after the copying and give it back to the forker. Additional 1 second will be needed to run a simple copying script. At the company I work in, making an appointment takes about 1 minute. Does WMF spend on such a task hours, paid by the donations? And if the fork help was taking even 10 hours instead of 10 minutes, would the expenses be large enough to assume that the forkers will not pay them, and to deny fork requests on this basis?
I already don't doubt that you will fire anyone who will think it is acceptable to make a fork of the WMF content, and will keep inventing even less plausible reasons to deny it. However, I don't have infinite time to waste. With your help, the case is demonstrated convincingly enough. There are people who will deny the right to fork with baseless arguments, will get WMF sued by a hell lot of people (and convicted), will destroy the public image of its projects, and will teach everyone around that who helps a noble cause gets cheated. For this reason, the WMF TOU desperately need to include or link to a clear statement from WMF that they will support morally the right of fork. The knowledge that everyone knows WMF can be forked on need is the only deterrent for such people I am aware of. -- Григор Гачев 15:55, 13 November 2011 (UTC)

WhatamIdoing wrote "We blocked Amazon in the very act of them attempting to fork the English Wikipedia, because their method of forking was slamming the servers." Actually WMF did not "block the very act of attempting to fork" and Amazon's Shopping-enabled Wikipedia pages are still up: . See also w:Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2010-12-06/In the news#Amazon adds "shopping-enabled" Wikipedia pages. This is a (commercial) mirror, not a fork, and it apparently did Remote loading, which was blocked. --Atlasowa 10:14, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

Apparently, one of their efforts to create this mirror slammed the servers, and they got blocked. I've heard that everything got worked out in the end, but that doesn't change the fact that they did actually get blocked (once) during the very act of trying to copy the files. WhatamIdoing 17:45, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

Right to fork - New Section[edit]

I agree with WhatamIdoing that facilitating a fork will cost money. Configuring the software to produce a usable data file will cost money. Storing this file will cost money. Every time someone downloads this file it will use bandwidth which costs money.
I also agree with Григор Гачев. This is worth doing for it's own sake just like it is worth providing the information for free download page by page and all the other things WMF does to support it's mission.
I also believe doing this will have certain other benefits which will mitigate the cost - notably that it will let others help us keep security backups - and that we can probably find others who are prepared to donate storage space and bandwidth to host copies of the data dump because they support our mission, especially if someone comes up with a way to do this in a distributed way so they can store a part of the file.Filceolaire 08:53, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree that it should be done. But the way to make that happen is to develop a detailed plan, a budget, and a list of staff members responsible for doing it. Saying "You have the right to fork this content from the WMF servers" will be interpreted by certain site scrapers as "you have an unlimited right to fork no matter how you choose to go about it", which is not true. Putting such an irresponsibly unqualified statement into the TOU could result in one of them suing the WMF for "breach of contract" when they get blocked for slamming the servers. Even having such a lawsuit threatened costs the WMF real money, even if we all believe that they're going to lose.
Again: good idea, but bad method. WhatamIdoing 17:51, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
If an unqualified "right to fork" is a bad idea then I guess we should qualify this right - for example by requiring the WMF to make appropriate arrangements and requiring those wishing to create a fork to cooperate with those arrangements.
Without this kind of agreed procedure, as you noted above, there can be problems, but, as you noted above, these problems can be (and have been in the past) resolved with a little cooperation.
It may even be that if you want a copy of the data you have to buy a hard drive, loaded with the data, from WMF - price as listed on the download page, similar to the retail price of the drive plus shipping. That would meet my expectations. Filceolaire 19:12, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
I believe this has been an extremely useful conversation for the reasons I stated above, and I have been impressed with the strength of the arguments. Although I do not intend to cut off further discussion, as previously noted, I honestly don't see the WMF moving much on this without a larger community discussion and review by the Board. Now, to be clear, WMF is maintaining a strong commitment to keeping all information in our projects freely available and re-usable, free of charge, in perpetuity, as per our mission statement. (And I suppose we can say that in the user agreement if we want.) As noted, WMF recognizes the right to copy our content and re-use it on other sites. It is easy to copy the text of all revisions from; images and other media files can be manually slurped over time. But, without a more formal directive, we are not in a postion today to make a commitment to provide additional technical assistance or support, especially give our constrained budgets and priorities. Thanks to all for your views on this, which have been quite helpful. Geoffbrigham 01:09, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
@WhatamIdoing: Filceolaire expressed it nicely. The best way to avoid being sued by scrappers etc. is to have a developed procedure for forking that ensures content quality and completeness, is not overpriced, does not make one wait beyond what is technically necessary, is easy to follow, and its description is readily available. If so, I am unable to find an argument that a scrapper will be able to defend in a court. And there is one more benefit: the procedure will be effectively the same as for mirroring, and WMF has a lot to gain from mirroring. (In fact, mirrors and forks are interchangeable to a degree: I don't see a strong reason to differentiate between them, as long as the procedure is concerned.)
The procedure might be different for different-sized projects. Mirroring the smallest Wikipedias by a bot will probably constitute under a megabyte of traffic per year - this is negligible. For larger projects a bot will still be the cheapest approach, once there is agreement who will pay the traffic. For the largest projects bot-only might not be an option: even if the mirrorers agrees to pay the traffic, slurping too much per time may slam the WMF servers. But this talk already belongs to the procedure development.
As for the scrappers depending on the statement to sue WMF: a scrapper would have a hard time to convince a court that WMF simply owes him the money that pay for their work. However, a scrapper will have absolutely no problem to sue WMF for not keeping to their explicit written promise and the spirit of the licenses they receive the content under. Given the current situation with the content, a lot of judges will easily decide on the scrapper side, and the scrapper might not only get all at WMF expense, but to even litigate a compensation from WMF - that is, the scrapper has the incentive to go for it. Including or linking this statement in the TOU will nudge some people at WMF to finally take measures to prevent this far bigger and present now danger.
@Geoff: The dumps are typically months old - a scrapper can convincingly argue in court that they do not really fulfill the right to copy. And the talk is not about providing technical assistance beyond the copying, neither it is expected to be done on WMF expenses. For this reason, the budget has nothing to do here. And keeping to the spirit of the licenses and the promises should be expected to be very high in the WMF priorities. In fact, to have been very high since a lot of time - and this raises some unpleasant questions. Given all this, I believe that it would be irresponsible to not have such a commitment included or linked in the TOU. -- Григор Гачев 16:46, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
@Григор Гачев. I hear you and understand your position. As I've said, I believe this requires more discussion and review before turning it into a contractual obligation. I have been quite impressed by your advocacy, which shows an admirable dedication to open source philosophy. What I can promise you is that I will hightlight to the Board that this was a strongly debated issue (if we decide to submit the TOS to the Board for approval). And the Board will have access to this discussion for its own consideration. There are times when I have strong respect for a position, but cannot incorporate it immediately because of practical considerations. This is one of those times. Geoffbrigham 23:57, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
Geoff, you're being slightly sloppy: It's not the WMF's content. The WMF doesn't hold the copyright on my contributions. I do. So it's not "the right to copy our content and re-use it"; it's "the right to copy content that we're hosting and re-use it"—a right that the contributor, not the WMF, granted to both the WMF and the rest of the world.
Yep. You are right to put me in check on this. Thanks. Geoffbrigham 13:40, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
Григор Гачев, the WMF cannot be sued successfully for refusing to allow someone to copy my content from their servers. The WMF has zero legal obligation to provide you, or any site scraper, with the content that is owned by someone else (the contributors). The WMF has made zero "explicit written promise" to guarantee site scrapers the ability to conveniently copy everything at the WMF's expense, or even at the scraper's own expense. It's equally true that the folks who print up articles on paper have no duty to provide you with convenient methods of copying the work from their books. Perhaps your "knowledge" of this promise is based on rumors and hearsay, rather than reading and understanding the formal documents? WhatamIdoing 00:01, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
@Geoffbrigham - again, I believe this issue can at least be mentioned in terms-of-use by focusing on terms of use issues, and it can be incorporated as a matter of a promise not to have to any disputes resulting in blocks/bans/terminations override any right-to-fork. That is a reasonable terms of use matter. Right now, that scenario is not a hot topic, as there isn't a dissident faction. However, just for an example, given the tensions of e.g. the image filter, and some of the politics around possibility imposing it on unwilling projects, it's not hard to see a potential dispute. This of course leaves open the specifics of any such obligations. But that shouldn't be a show-stopper. After all, the "Global Ban" so-called policy isn't fully written yet, and the terms of use had no problem making a legally binding reference to a policy that didn't exist, and wasn't clear what it would be if/when it did exist! Note to WhatamIdoing, in terms of calling-out-numbers argument, I understand your objections, so you need not repeat them. -- Seth Finkelstein 00:18, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
A draft version of the Global Ban policy is now ready for review; you should be able to link to it from the agreement. Understand it is not final, so I hear your point. I'm open to proposed language for consideration, but, for the reasons already stated, I don't see us resolving this issue substantively on this round. Geoffbrigham 13:40, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
//@ Geoffbrigham, with some ec's// OK. First, you should know that I fully accept and support the need of something like a central organisation (German: Dachorganisation), in our case the WMF/Board (I just simplify and make no difference in this posting of mine). I fully understand that you cannot do certain steps immediatelly but you must consult some other participants. OK. But I would like go back to the roots (as you can see I am registered here since 2004) and I give you some question: 1. whan was the Wikipedia created, 2 whan was the WMF/Board (and chapters) created, 3. who created whom and why, 4. what are then the principial goals of this two parts of one whole, 5. who is earnig the money for the technical suppost (the WMF/Board or the authors here?), 6. should both parts of this whole participate and cooperate on the WP in the future, and last but not least 7. what is the best sort of a cooperation in this case. I know these problems from other situations and I really know it is sometimes quite difficult. But sometimes possible. so here we are. Regards -jkb- 00:22, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
If you are looking for answers then the Wikipedia articles on the WMF in various languages have most of them. Or did you mean that the Terms of Use page should include the answers to these questions? 07:59, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
@jkb. Your experience on projects (since 2004!) is quite impressive, and, if I understand your point correctly, you are reminding us never to forget that the editors and contributors have made Wikimedia. I can't agree more. I do believe there is a role for collaboration or cooperation with WMF, but maybe you can explain a little more your thoughts expressed above. Thanks. Geoffbrigham 13:40, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
Your last statement is laudable, but not complete: We - the contributors - did not just made Wikimedia, we own all the content. WMF just owns the servers and the trademark. The copyrights are ours and while anyone including the WMF may use our content under the free license provided, we can take our content anywhere else under the same license, including a full or partial fork. --h-stt !? 14:40, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes, and fundamentally the question is this:
I have personally granted Григор Гачев the right to copy my contributions (with certain small restrictions, as outlined in the licenses) through unspecified means.
Does the fact that I, an individual human, have granted Григор Гачев this right mean that Григор Гачев has the legal right to copy my contributions specifically from the WMF servers, even if there is some reason why the WMF does not want their server used that way (say, because Григор Гачев is slamming the server, or only wants to copy during peak traffic times, or wants to have physical access to the server to make the copy)? Or does it just mean that he has the right to make a copy somehow, possibly in ways completely unrelated to the WMF?
There's another question: Does Григор Гачев have the right to do the same thing for any copy of my contributions, or is he singling out the WMF as having some (mythical) special rights to my contributions? There's a mirror at Facebook, and my contributions are present there under exactly the same license terms as they are present on the WMF servers. Does the fact that my contributions are present at Facebook mean that Григор Гачев can demand that Facebook let him physically install a NAS in their server farm (his preferred method) and download all of our contributions from Facebook? And once he's done so, can we all go to his home and demand physical access to his copy? Or is it only the WMF that he believes should be forced to make special allowances for his desire to copy the files?
It seems to me that my choice to grant a right to copy my contributions does not impose any special burden on the WMF to make it easy or convenient for someone else to make those copies. In fact, it seems to me that my choice legally cannot impose any special burden on the WMF, because I don't own or control the WMF. WhatamIdoing 20:08, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
I think per the calling-out-numbers joke, it's time to assign this argument a number, which should be "1201" (in-joke, from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act). That is, "Can a licensing right be de facto nullified by an access restriction?". Having gone through this in the real world, I can say it's intensely disputed, and I believe unsettled. The answer to your question in specific, is yes, by the WMF *soliciting contributions*, and possibly making some sort of implicit or explicit promises on their reuse (colloquially called the right-to-fork), it's arguable that the WMF has to live up to those promises and not turn around and break them because by definition keeping such promises would be more effort than not. At least, that's what one side would argue in a legal dispute. Now, to save going around again, please recognize that while you may not consider it the correct answer, it is indeed a well-grounded answer to the question you raised. -- Seth Finkelstein 09:49, 19 November 2011 (UTC)

Right to Fork - Legal benefits?[edit]

I was wondering if making the "Right to Fork" the ultimate sanction in the TOU could be used to weaken the right to sue to enforce the TOU.

Editors and contributors can certainly sue to enforce their rights under copyright if the use of their contributions doesn't comply with the licenses. The rights and duties under the TOU are a bit different and we would really rather disputes over how the terms of the TOU are implemented should be handled under our own internal procedures, rather than in court.

If the TOU make the Board the court of final appeal and the right to fork the ultimate sanction for anyone dissatisfied by the response of the Board would that make it more difficult for others to go to court if they disagreed with our implementation/ interpretation/ enforcement of the TOU? i.e. would it make courts more likely to refuse to hear such cases or make it easier for WMF to win such cases? -Filceolaire 12:10, 18 November 2011 (UTC)

Filceolaire ... this is an interesting idea. I think the answer is that, if we expressly make the Board the court of last resort, it may create some arguments militating against outside law suits. It is not unlike compulsory arbitration clauses in contracts where the parties agree to take their dispute to a certified arbitrator as opposed to a court. There is always the risk that some who disagree with a Board's decision will nevertheless try to sue, claiming some lack of due process or other grounds, but we would urge against that position. From a practical standpoint, however, the Board probably should not be asked to be the final decision-maker because, simply put, the Board is too busy to take on that kind of day-to-day arbitration role; the Board's role is to look at the big picture in terms of strategy for the WMF. I would submit that they have little time for more day-to-day administrative functions. Also the right to fork as a remedy may not always work for every violation of the agreement; for example, if someone downloads malware on the site and receives an adverse Board decision, should the WMF have to support that person in a fork effort? I would suggest not. Geoffbrigham 17:01, 5 December 2011 (UTC)

Right to Fork - WMF benefits?[edit]

Much of the debate about the right to fork has been conducted in a somewhat confrontational way as if the Foundation could keep groups of volunteers and prevent forks simply by making them difficult, or people suspect that the WMF seeks to do that. I'd like to suggest that the Foundation approach this from the opposite angle. The Right to Fork is a great reassurance to editors in times of controversy, but measures to enable it are also a potential reassurance to our partners and potential partners in the GLAM community.

Proper full backups and a practical way to make efficient copies are needed for the right to fork to be meaningful for large projects, and also some have argued are needed for the Foundation to honour its license commitments to the volunteers who contribute content and the compatibly licensed content that we import from elsewhere. It would also be a much more user friendly response to people who want to legitimately copy the data if we said how they could conveniently copy as much data as they wanted when we tell them not to do it in a way that looks like denial of service attack. A digital archive that could survive even if the Foundation closes would be a great reassurance to some editors and potential GLAM partners. We are competing with commercial organisations to be the place that museums and other institutions choose to upload files to. We are currently losing that competition because our software is difficult to use and loading images to Commons is much harder than doing so to Flickr, and it is easier to then display a Flikr page on the museum's own website. What uploads we do get are partly because we are a fellow not for profit, but one of the questions we face is digital archiving - what guarantee can we make that the information released via us will continue to be available? We should also remember that the most popular proposal in the Strategy wiki was Strategy:Proposal:Keep the servers running and this is reflected in one of the five themes of the current WMF strategy. So a plan from the WMF showing how the data entrusted to it will remain fully available would be a very positive move, and I would suggest in keeping with its published strategy and license commitments.

This could be achieved in the short term by making a clear simple commitment such as "A complete copy can be taken in the following manner give us x days notice then visit our servers with the following equipment and the knowledge of how to use it". More realistically and for the medium term it should be quite straightforward for the Foundation to pay an IT provider to maintain a full backup of the Public data (if this was done outside the US it could result in dramatically improved access speeds in whatever part of the Globe the mirror was located). Maintaining longterm digital archives is a fairly new area and it would be interesting to see what responses and publicity the WMF would receive if it invited bids for "A digital repository that would be available for the longterm" including at a minimum a 100 year archive.

Among the risks of making it inconvenient for large projects to fork are:

  1. Those projects which are small enough to do so anyway may be more tempted to go.
  2. Editors who feel trapped could be demotivated.
  3. Projects to fork may take longer to bring to fruition, but in the process they could acquire their own inertia and be difficult to reevaluate - even if Foundation relations with the community have improved during their gestation period.

I appreciate that enshrining the right to fork in the TOU and making it more practical would require a substantial rethink at the WMF. But I would suggest it is in the true interest of both the WMF and the community. WereSpielChequers 11:44, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

Referral of Discussion to the Board[edit]

Thank you for this discussion, which I have found quite educational and important. For reasons already set out above, WMF obviously agrees that people have the right to copy content under the applicable free licenses (see Sec. 7) and reuse on a new site (the "right to fork"). Although not always perfect, the state of today's world allows anyone to copy text from and manually slurp images and other media files. If the community feels that WMF should do more (such as actively allocating resources to support a fork, maintaining better archives, or ensuring access), I personally believe that a conversation independent from the TOS is necessary since any final decision would impact WMF priorities, budget, resources, etc. For these reasons, I do not intend to add additional language to the TOS, but, in transferring the final TOS for review, discussion, and decision, I will highlight this issue and conversation to the Board for its consideration. Geoffbrigham 18:45, 5 December 2011 (UTC)

Hah, saw this before he even had a chance to refer it. I've read the discussions. I think that the ability to fork is important, and something WMF has already had an am implicit principle--many other decisions have been made that take it into account, even if the principle has never set down anywhere. It's difficult to write proper language that captures the idea of what we want to do--to not hold a monopoly over the ability to reproduce the content and host a community around it--without making guarantees that are impractical or inappropriate. But I'll start drafting something that I think would be appropriate to set down as a board-level resolution and then send it to the lists for discussion. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 20:30, 6 December 2011 (UTC)

This section has been reviewed. If there are new issues or outstanding concerns related to this, please start a new conversation. Mdennis (WMF) 15:16, 6 December 2011 (UTC)

Ensuring prior notice is provided[edit]

The Terms of Use are only enforceable because the edit box includes above it "By clicking the "Save Page" button, you agree to the Terms of Use" or the local equivalent. However, this leaves us powerless against clever vandals who avoid the editing function and rely on a means of disruption that does not involving clicking that button, such as: editing via the Mediawiki API, page moving, compromising administrator accounts and using them to perform non-editing admin actions like delete, protect, and block, distributed denial of service attacks (e.g. rendering a preview page containing images of many different sizes), and so on. In some cases (such as page moves) this is relatively easy to fix, while in others it may not be. How can we ensure to the greatest extent possible that all users of the site are given notice of the terms of use before they have the opportunity to violate them? Dcoetzee 03:26, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

We intend to include page footers throughout the projects that say the following: "By using this site, you agree to abide by the terms of use." In specific cases, we could employ language tailored to the specific tool that would condition the use of that tool on the acceptance of the terms of use. Geoffbrigham 09:03, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
Is this really a realistic concern? Do you think any judge in the country will buy into the equivalent of "Yes, your Honor, I have the right to continue throwing bricks into any window that doesn't have the note 'it is illegal to destroy me' on it."? Seb az86556 21:42, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
It really depends on the issue. The user agreement, of course, addresses questions beyond the "bricks into any window," so I think it is wise to add the additional language, even if not totally necessary for all issues. Geoffbrigham 08:07, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
The point here is that the examples given above show that someone who puts in the necessary effort of deliberately circumventing the terms of use notice will darn well know s/he's doing something wrong, e.g. the only motivation for avoiding the save-button is maliciousness. No? Seb az86556 09:33, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
@Geoff: I think the footers will be unhelpful, ref Specht v. Netscape Communications Corp.. I do think it would helpful if all actions which write the database (move, delete, etc.), which already have confirmation pages anyway, include a "By clicking the button below" notice. Similarly, we could change "By clicking the "Save Page" button" to "By clicking any button" to encompass most forms of DDoS. I'm not sure what to do about the Mediawiki API, however - this is currently accessible to anyone, very powerful, and they can easily produce their own tools to use it, so a EULA on API-based tools would be powerless. Dcoetzee 05:13, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
Thanks much Dcoetzee for your thoughts here. As I see it, the footers may still be helpful despite Specht since their main purpose is to provide notice to our readers (which is factually different from the purpose in Specht). Furthermore, we could present the link to the TOS elsewhere on the page, such as in the left-hand toolbar. And, as courts have suggested, the rationale of Specht will depend on the specific facts of the case at hand. See, e.g., Cario v. Crossmedia Services, Inc., 2005 WL 756610 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 1, 2005)(agreement upheld where the language "By continuing past this page and/or using this site, you agree to abide by the Terms of Use for this site" was displayed on every page of the website and user repeatedly accessed the site); Pollstar v. Gigmania, Letd., 170 F. Supp. 2d 974 (E.D. Cal. 2000)(finding that dismissal of breach of contract claim is inappropriate, even though visitors to plantiff's website were presumably "not aware that the license agreement is linked to the homepage" and "the user is not immediately confronted with the notice of the license agreement"); Molnar v., Inc., 2008 WL 4772125 *7 (C.D. Cal. 2008)("a party's use of a website may be sufficient to give rise to an inference of asset to the Terms of Use contained therein."). In short, I see no harm in including the footers. Once we figure out the TOS, we can figure out how to present it on the Mediawiki API. With the help of the community, I'm pretty sure we can find a solution. Geoffbrigham 00:15, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
Interesting point, Dcoetzee. There's one specific case that should be considered -- shouldn't users have to explicitly agree to the TOU (and maybe the Privacy Policy as well) upon creating an account? Because there's no mention of them on that page currently. -Pete F 19:34, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
I had thought of that Pete, but, of course, we have many unregistered users. That is why, for contributions, our present placement of langauge above the edit summary makes sense in my mind. Geoffbrigham 16:20, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I am not suggesting that it should be removed from the edit summary -- merely that it be added to the account creation page as yet another way to make them visible. From an end-user perspective, it seems if someone were ever inclined to look for the Terms of Use, it would be at the time when he/she takes a strong step toward joining the community. It seems important to have a link on the account-creation page, in addition to the edit submission window. -Pete F 19:25, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
OK. There is really no legal reason against it. But, as a user experience issue, it may not be ideal. Someone who registers as a user (and then agrees to the TOS) will likely make edits immediately afterwards, at which time that user will be asked to agree to the TOS ... again. If asked, I would vote against including on the registration page, but my reasons are more cosmetic than legal. Geoffbrigham 15:58, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
That doesn't strike me as a huge problem -- in my opinion, a little duplication is a small price to pay for having the TOU linked in the place where, in my opinion, it is most likely to be noticed and read. However, maybe there's a happy compromise available? I suspect it would be simple, on a technical level, to have the TOU linked from the edit screen when a user is not logged in, but absent when editing from a registered account. If you think that would be a good idea, I'd be happy to ask some developers if that's an easy change to make. -Pete F 17:27, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
That would work except for the fact that, when we have a revision, we need to redeliver the TOS for agreement. We would need to think that out. Geoffbrigham 20:38, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
Ah, I see. That makes sense. Would either of the following approaches work?
  • TOU on account creation is linked with text along the lines of, "I agree to the current Terms of Use, and understand that when I make any future edits, I will abide by the then-current TOU, which will be visible in the edit screen"
  • or: A new technical feature which, when there are new TOU, interrupts the normal user login process with a text box and an "Accept" button
The second one seems to me to be pretty standard practice elsewhere on the web and in the software world. -Pete F 02:08, 17 November 2011 (UTC)
Two problems with the second option: Most edits are made by people who don't login (ever), so there's no login process to interrupt, and most people who login do so only infrequently (as little as once every 30 days), so it would take a month to deliver all of these notices even to people who edit every single day. WhatamIdoing 15:07, 17 November 2011 (UTC)
Whatamidoing: the first isn't an issue here (I'm not proposing any changes to how the TOU are delivered by non-logged-in users).
The second one: good point, but that seems like a small technical hurdle that could likely be easily overcome. The interruption could come to a user while logged in -- as soon as they click the "edit" button, they are presented with the new TOU. Maybe it comes up as an optional/dismissable box several days before going into effect, and then turns into a mandatory box on the date it goes into effect. Regardless -- if the general approach is approved, I think this sort of issue could easily be handled offline as part of a software design process. -Pete F 01:34, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Maybe the wording on the edit screen could be changed to tell you when the Terms of Use were last changed? That way if it was 2 years since you last edited and you see the Terms Of Use were last changed 18 months ago you know. Filceolaire 07:34, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

This section has been reviewed. If there are new issues or outstanding concerns related to this, please start a new conversation. Mdennis (WMF) 14:57, 6 December 2011 (UTC)

Falsification of content[edit]

There's a discussion going on at Talk:Global bans#Clarification please about administrators who deliberately insert false information into pages (and then lock them). There is a clause in the proposed Terms of Use which says (no. 4) that such behaviour is forbidden if done "with the intent to deceive." What is the point of that qualification? It seems to be saying that blatant falsehoods are OK because nobody would be deceived by them. Other websites just say that you can't put in false information full stop.

I would suggest Wikipedia does likewise (if you haven't checked whether your edit is factually correct don't make it). Alternatively, there could be a get - out for people who who are misled by reliable sources which later turn out to be wrong (it does happen). The prohibition could then be on

  • intentionally or knowingly posting content that is false or inaccurate. 18:34, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Good question -- please take a look at this discussion: Talk:Terms_of_use/Archives/2011-11-08#Prohibited_activities
In my view, a situation like the one you describe is the community's responsibility to resolve, not something that should be expressly prohibited in the TOU. It's very common for somebody to post false information in the course of good faith editing -- either out of his/her own ignorance, etc., or (as on Wikisource) by transcribing something was inaccurate, or (as on Wikibooks) something that is fictional, etc. I believe community processes are sufficient to deal with those cases that need to be addressed. -Pete F 19:16, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Perhaps the prohibition could be

(4) ... These activities include: ...

  • Representing as true something which you know or believe to be false ...

This would protect someone writing "Creationists say that evolution is a myth" but not someone writing "The sun goes round the earth". That way, you avoid having to make a value judgment on whether someone intended to deceive, which is notoriously difficult to do. 15:57, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

Interesting point, and I appreciate the comment. In the end, after thinking about it, I propose leaving the language as is. It is a close call, but I believe Pete F makes a good point that community processes are sufficient to deal with these cases. The TOS could definitely be more comprehensive to include the above, but I need to weigh other feedback that we don't want the TOS to be too long, complicated, overbearing, etc. Many thanks for the discussion (which raised a legitimate point). Geoffbrigham 22:54, 5 December 2011 (UTC)

"entire Agreement"[edit]

When you say "please read the entire Agreement" in Overview, do you expect that readers will learn that this (new) terms of use is an authoritative contract which supersedes previous negotiations? Or, would it be nothing more than that you want readers to continue reading until the end? Clarification would be much appreciated, as it would enable us to make better translations. --whym 00:12, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

Thanks Whym (and thanks to all the translators for the excellent work they are doing). I simply want readers to read until the end. I will try to clarify the language. Tx. Geoffbrigham 09:38, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I see, thank you! --whym 11:52, 25 November 2011 (UTC)


This section has been reviewed. If there are new issues or outstanding concerns related to this, please start a new conversation. Mdennis (WMF) 14:43, 6 December 2011 (UTC)