Jump to content

Talk:Wikimedia Israel/Letter to the BoT regarding URAA

Add topic
From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Latest comment: 10 years ago by Eclecticology in topic make projects decentral

Tackling URAA and ways to host PD media[edit]

I wholeheartly agree in tackling the URAA issue with a bold move. Wikisource and Commons rely heavily on public domain content (Wikisource almost exclusively), and it is a real loss that millions of public domain resource can't be used and shared because of URAA. I don't know if having separate servers outside US for both Commons and Wikisource would be feasible or legal, but I would like the Board to go as far as possible in trying to solve this huge issue. --Aubrey (talk) 10:01, 28 January 2014 (UTC)Reply

Thanks for your support. I do agree that the solution isn't that straightforward, but I think it is our responsibility, as chapters around the globe, to advocate for a global discussion during which a feasible solution will hopefully emerge.NLIGuy (talk) 14:14, 28 January 2014 (UTC)Reply
I hope that this subject being in focus by a local chapter helps the entire Wikimedia movement to force the Wikimedia Foundation Inc. to make more than a blog post focused only in the Wikipedia issue, the lesser impacted project. Many, many thanks to bringing up this! Lugusto 08:29, 30 January 2014 (UTC)Reply

@Aubrey: yes. Let us make this discussion about Rule of Shorter Term (RoST) in general, and not URAA in particular. We are no more likely to see URAA reform in the US than we are to see RoST reform: neither is currently on the table in any meaningful way. And the RoST is much easier to understand and to support for activists who care about the topic. Also, unlike URAA (which is complex and specific to the US), the RoST is a concept considered and implemented by a large number of countries, for comparison.

So the question is: how can we host shorter-term public domain [STPD?] works in a way that lets every curator in the world access them, and lets every wikimedia project name them, annotate them, link to them, and transclude them? I don't know the answer, but we should find out. So far, arguments against this that I have heard include "our job is to focus on material that is freely reusable in 100% of the world", and "linking to/ transcluding material that's not free in the US might create copyright liability".

  • As to the former: we need to reflect on this, and decide whether or not this is true. Is our job to share as much knowledge with as many people as possible? Are we restricted to freely-licensed knowledge? Are we regularly revisiting what it means to be free in this sense? It is not clear that STPD is free in the purest freedomdefined interpretation.
  • As to the latter: thanks to the DMCA, we may be able to wait until someone complains before acting on this. Most STPD works are also PD, or may otherwise be used on Wikimedia projects.

SJ talk  03:46, 8 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

@Sj:, I agree, RoST is the concept we should push forwards instead of the URAA issue. Just 2 cents:
  • "our job is to focus on material that is freely reusable in 100% of the world" is true, but focusing on the cumulative intersection of all copyright legislations could prove harder than we think, and more painful. I sense a sort of US-centrism in this (but maybe it's me), and I'm sure that if it could turn out that the (for example) North Korea or Vatican legislations say that half of Commons pictures are not PD, this statement could be disregarded in a minute.
  • "linking to/ transcluding material that's not free in the US might create copyright liability" that is true also, but I also wonder who could, in practice, ne threatened by this. If I follow the Italian concept of PD, and I am liable only in the US for uploading a post-1923 book, I would say I'm in a pretty sure position. I, as a user, would take responsability for such an action. I know that is not fair and right to make this comparison, but given the amount of plain copyright violation in the world (not a pre-1923 book, but yesterday movies or videogames), I would say that I don't see us sued for old non-English books (I know this is a dangerous concept). --Aubrey (talk) 08:13, 10 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

Italian Wikisource letter on the rule of the shorter term[edit]

See the 2007 letter . We're also asking a unified rule of the shorter term in EU, see European Commission copyright consultation/Single EU copyright title. --Nemo 10:12, 28 January 2014 (UTC)Reply

Thank you, this is great background material. Aubrey: any update from the Italian community since then? SJ talk  03:32, 8 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
@Sj: The Italian community first created a website called "Biblioteca" and hosted there the mentioned texts, but then shut it down, as the burden of having 2 sites with such a small community of users was too much. Many books are now PD and on Commons, some others (a few of them) are still on Wikisource, but not comply the URAA (were published post-1923). --Aubrey (talk) 13:56, 10 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

Make your own server in Israel[edit]

Hi, I think it makes sense for Wikimedia Israel to have their own server in Israel where thoses pictures could be made available to the public while waiting for the law to change (or not) in the USA. Lionel Allorge (talk) 16:36, 28 January 2014 (UTC)Reply

Note that the Foundation made it clear in Legal and Community Advocacy/URAA Statement that media hosted in such a way could not legally be embedded not linked to from Wikimedia projects. Jean-Fred (talk) 17:27, 28 January 2014 (UTC)Reply
Yes but it seems like a small problem to me compared to the total loss of these images... Lionel Allorge (talk) 18:25, 28 January 2014 (UTC)Reply
Wikisources already have an fork at wikilivres:, currently maintained by Wikimedia Canada. Maybe Wikimedia Israel is interested in asking them to joining to run that project? Lugusto 08:25, 30 January 2014 (UTC)Reply
One of the isssue with Wikilivres, is that is yet another project: we have an multilingual Oldwikisource, several language wikisources and a less-copyrighted multilingual Wikisource, and we all know the Wikisource communities are pretty small and busy. This is way I sense that a bold move from the WMF itself could really be the solution here, instead of a "patch". --Aubrey (talk) 09:14, 30 January 2014 (UTC)Reply
Surely the best approach is to force WMF to make more actions apart than saying sorry, but you must delete all conflicting content, but this is a backup solution. If no new helpful actions from Wikimedia Foundation Inc arises all non-US citizens can stop contributing to the projects hosted in the USA in favour of Wikilivres; it may helps WMF to make an clear decision xD Lugusto 09:33, 30 January 2014 (UTC)Reply
I now maintain Wikilivres by myself. Last March WMCA chose to stop hosting Wikilivres on the basis that a site following copyright policies that differed from those of WMF could compromise its relationship as a chapter of WMF. What Wikilivres now seriously lacks is technical support. I think that hoping WMF to be forced into doing anything other than what it is doing now is nothing more than a dream. Eclecticology (talk) 12:01, 1 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
Dear Eclecticology, I hear you (also, for the message below). As you know, the italian community first set up it's own project ("Biblioteca"), but in the end it shut it down. The real problem for us is the "community": Wikisource is a great project with a tiny community, and splitting it makes it even more tiny. We so reluctantly decided to focus on the main Wikisource, complaying to the infamous URAA and thus working just with very old content. It's not good, of couurse, but luckily we have thousands of books to work on :-)
I understand your disillusion, but I think it is worth trying and pushing. So far, decentralizing projects didn't work so much, at least regarding community building. --Aubrey (talk) 11:13, 3 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
You are far more optimistic about how WMF will handle these matters than I am. There is, of course, much work that can be done with very old material. I fully understand the difficulty with small communities, and see no easy solution. I sometimes think that being big itself drives people away. It's very difficult to have a feeling of ownership or that one's own views matter in a big project. Eclecticology (talk 11:40, 4 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

Thank you[edit]

Thank you for raising the profile of this issue. It is being discussed by the Board. SJ talk  19:30, 28 January 2014 (UTC)Reply

Thanks, SJ! Is there a specific date for such a board discussion? Is there any public protocol that takes place during these meetings? NLIGuy (talk) 16:02, 29 January 2014 (UTC)Reply
Hello NLIGuy, we had a scheduled Board meeting Friday and Saturday. This was on the Saturday agenda. There is no special protocol for dealing with letters or proposed resolutions. For most topics on the agenda the issue is presented, there is time for discussion, and next steps are proposed. SJ talk  17:27, 6 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

@Sj: one week later, what is the current status of the discussion? Lugusto 16:32, 5 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

Hello Lugusto, the broader issue is not only URAA but also any material that is freely reusable in the source country but not in others. This is a long-standing issue that has been discussed for some years.
Hosting material and userdata in multiple countries is complicated. Sites outside the US would not have DMCA protection, which protects the site and contributors from lawsuits. Storing private data on servers in multiple countries reduces privacy controls.
The Board is drafting a reply, and the legal team aims to share some additional thinking in another week or two. SJ talk  17:27, 6 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
My personal view: The underlying question of what media Commons should host is a community decision. Right now we only host material that is reusable by everyone everywhere in the world, with small exceptions. (See Non-(c) restrictions that vary by country and reuse type.) Adding material with (c) restrictions that vary by country, as suggested here, would be a larger set of exceptions. Adding fair use media would be an even larger set of exceptions.
The community seems to be fairly conservative about (c) and doesn't want to host any media that are (c) in any jurisdiction. What I don't yet understand about this letter: is it asking for the WMF to counter that position? To suggest alternative ways to support archiving such media? The WMF has already taken a public stance against URAA; we could (all) continue to push for reform in that area, but the case was lost and is unlikely to be revisited in the near future. SJ talk 
Hi SJ, just to make things clearer, there are two issues here:
One is the issue of advocacy and activism to change US law. The WMF has indeed taken a public stance against URAA, but even if we lost this battle, we believe giving up is a mistake. As mentioned here by others, other directions can be taken, such as the rule of shorter term. It should be very frustrating for Americans, even more frustrating then restored copyrights, that some works are non-free for them when they are free almost anywhere else in the world.
The second issue is Wikimedia Common. Commons is not just another stand-alone project, it serves all other Wikimedia projects. As things stand now, almost no PD works from the modern State of Israel (~60 years) will be hosted in commons for the next three decades. This renders Commons useless for Israelis (and also for he:wp) as a repository of free media. The WMF should decide whether Commons is a US-only project, or an international project. This crucial decision cannot be left for the Commons community alone, doing their best to comply with current policy and are interpreting the law in the strictest possible way. A solution must be found, be it by a new policy, by guidelines for interpreting the law or by technological bypass. • Yael Meron (WMIL)19:50, 7 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

Hello Yael, more personal thoughts: There has never been a question that Commons serves all Wikimedia projects, and that (like all WM projects) it is international. Most Wikimedians and most Commons editors, who collectively set the policies for the project, are not from the US. The Commons community is not only trying to comply with current policy: they created that policy, and may change it. WMF Legal has provided through guidelines for interpreting the current law.

You are asking for something different: options for a bypass, for hosting conditionally-free as well as globally-free media. I strongly recommend that you build support among Commons contributors around this idea. The WMF can help realize anything the community wants, but does not often advocate for a particular policy shift. In particular the WMF has never pushed for mixing free and partly-free materials, with all of the complications that implies for reuse: even though adding rule of the shorter term [RoST] materials, or [some version of] Fair Use materials, could dramatically expand the scope and freshness of Commons.

Advocacy and public stance: yes, we should take a clear stance on what we believe is right. In this case, pushing for our host country to adopt RoST. This complements the goals of the URAA (whose intent was not directly related to RoST, but rather the opposite: avoiding having material that was PD in the US even though it was not PD in the country of origin) and would make the US a more friendly place for creative work that builds on the global public domain. I would like this to be a movement-wide position and campaign, but agree that the WMF should lend its active support to such a campaign much as we supported the effort to change the interpretation of the URAA.

Commons hosting of 'shorter-term PD' [STPD?}: The world needs an archive that hosts STPD media. I'm not yet clear on the risks of moving a core project to another country: WMF legal is working on some background information on that. It might make sense for it to be owned by a separate entity such as wikilivres. SJ talk  03:31, 8 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

Wikilivres could certainly handle this from a legal perspective, and take advantage of a few other peculiarities in Canadian law. Our big deficiency is with technical support, something that is well over my head. We are still at Mediawiki 1.16. My own path to Wikilivres has been through Wikisource, and I have never participated in Commons. When someone transferred a number of rejected images from Commons last curating them was a major difficulty that didn't have any satisfactory solution. The original Commons contributor is often long gone, and the transferor is more interested in finding a home for material he wants to get rid of. The risk is that Wikilivres would become a chaotic datadump. There have been no copyright problems with the material, except for a single unusual situation that raised some interesting questions. What I would recommend is a second Canadian project that maintains the Commons/Wikisource distinction. I do not have the skill with managing media that this would require. Eclecticology (talk) 12:40, 11 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

Response to WMIL (Ec)[edit]

Until chapters have the courage to stand up and put material of interest to their own nationals on their own servers according to their own laws this sort of thing will continue.

Yes, in theory, this material could be considered infringing in the United States, and a legal opinion from a US lawyer must say this. Unfortunately, volunteer communities tend to interpret laws in the strictest literal sense, and to their own detriment. This kind of interpretation by far exceeds what is required by common sense. Lawyers evaluate risks and advise about the underlying law; the ultimate decision-making power remains with their clients. When you consider orphan copyrights there is always the possibility that an untraceable rights owner will make a miraculous appearance with unreasonable demands. This requires a concatenation of events, each of which has its own exceedingly low probability. Not least among these is the willingness of a writer's foreign heirs to prosecute an expensive case in a US court with prospects of very little in return if they win.

To the public the WMF is easily seen as having deep pockets. In this regard smaller organizations such as chapters have considerably greater latitude for taking risks.

One does not defeat an unjust law through abject compliance. At the very least one allows for multiple interpretations of the law, some of which may be more favorable. Industry succeeds by pushing that envelope much farther than would be ethically sound. That is the other extreme; the optimum is between them.

Generally, I think that the WMF passion for centralizing everything has been terribly wrong, and not just in terms of the law. A framework where chapters and other family member organizations are accepting their own responsibility for what is posted on their sites would provide for a much richer environment. Eclecticology (talk) 12:00, 1 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

This letter makes it sound like the WMF did nothing at all against the URAA. In fact, the WMF was actively involved in the Golan v. Holder case and submitted an amicus brief against the URAA. Unfortunately, we lost the case. This is very different than SOPA which was proposed legislation, not enacted legislation backed up by a Supreme Court decision. The reason the Foundation's recent legal position didn't take any position is because the Foundation can't blatantly tell the community to break copyright law. That would endanger the Foundation's safe harbor status, which is the only thing that keeps the Foundation from being sued into oblivion. As far as hosting images elsewhere, there is no country on the planet that will not present a host of legal challenges for hosting all of the images on commons. Besides copyright, most countries outside the US also have various levels of moral rights, personality rights, obscenity laws, libel laws, etc. Distributing images across multiple countries is both a technical and legal nightmare. The best solution in my view would be to get the US to adopt the rule of the shorter term. Kaldari (talk) 21:43, 5 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
I'm not suggesting that the WMF tell anyone to break the law. Telling people to act according to the laws of their own country is not the same as telling them to break the law. Nor am I saying that any country should host all the images. Each country would have a different partial set of images on servers owned and operated in that country. Waiting for the US to adopt the rule of the shorter term is as good as giving up. Eclecticology (talk) 20:47, 6 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

Support to WMIL and letter to the BoT from Wikimedia Spain[edit]


In support to Wikimedia Israel, Wikimedia Spain has also written a letter to the BoT.

Cheers, --Alan (talk) 23:58, 19 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

Thank you, Alan and WM Spain. Your perspective is welcome.
I hear you saying that we need to address the larger question of limiting outrageous copyright terms. I agree with you, however this is much broader than just handling the URAA well. That may demand a broader community campaign, to change some elements of international law. SJ talk  06:18, 21 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

Response from Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees[edit]

Thank you for efforts in improving and expanding Wikimedia Commons. The URAA is a frustrating issue for the community. We agree that we should oppose, when possible, laws that interfere with our mission to distribute the same free knowledge to everyone in all countries.

URAA opposition
The WMF does not support the URAA. We have sought to overturn the pertinent provision of the URAA when it was challenged before the US Supreme Court. We filed an amicus brief, along with the EFF and many other organizations, recommending such an overturn. But, unfortunately, the decision in that case was unfavorable. The community is free to explore organizing a protest, as it did with SOPA/PIPA, and there may be ways that we could make the negative impact of URAA more visible to readers. However, the law seems unlikely to change in the near future.

Deletion of content
The WMF does not plan to remove any content unless it has actual knowledge of infringement or receives a valid DMCA takedown notice. To date, no such notice has been received under the URAA. We are not recommending that community members undertake mass deletion of existing content on URAA grounds, without such actual knowledge of infringement or takedown notices.

Hosting servers in other countries
There are advantages in locating our servers in the United States, including protection of freedom of expression. There are also unfortunate constraints such as the URAA. Last year, the WMF legal team published a detailed analysis of the implications of the law, with guidance for editors. The team has also done considerable research about the possibility of moving our current servers or establishing additional servers in other jurisdictions to support hosting this sort of content. Unfortunately, they have not found a tenable option for a number of reasons. We have confidence in their research and advice. As a follow-up to this note, the legal team has volunteered to publish a short statement within about a week explaining some of the challenges in the establishment of servers outside of the U.S. and some alternative considerations.

Jan-Bart de Vreede
Chair Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees
13:44, 20 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

As promised, we have elaborated on our position on foreign servers and the URAA. You can find our statement under the Legal and Community Advocacy section. Thanks to everyone who have participated in this discussion both here and on Wikimedia-l. YWelinder (WMF) (talk) 00:28, 28 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

make projects decentral[edit]

Why are the projects required to have a single location, why not make it possible to install a software on your computer and you host a small or a large part of Wikimedia Commons. Something similar to GNUnet. 00:14, 24 February 2014 (UTC)Reply

I don't think it's just the location of the files that matters. I am not a lawyer but as far as I've been able to follow this so far: The WMF is registered and located within the US so it, and the projects it runs, should comply with US laws. Further, last I heard the .org high level domain is handled by a company within a short drive of the Wikimedia servers in Virginia and the US government considers all .org websites to be within US cyberspace and US legal jurisdiction. Moving everything somewhere else just changes the inconvenient laws that you don't want to follow. There isn't a quick fix to resolve this. Things like Wikilivres (and possibly WMIT's Biblioteca, although I don't know much about that project) seem viable but they won't be integrated into the Wikimedia projects (for example, a picture held on an offshore server could not be displayed in Wikipedia). - AdamBMorgan (talk) 14:37, 25 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
If I upload something which violates Swedish law, then I can be sued here in Sweden for doing that, regardless of where the server is located. Swedish people are sometimes sued for uploading content to Facebook or other US-hosted websites, and then the courts will only use Swedish law, and not US law, to determine whether the uploader committed a crime. I would assume that the same is true for the Wikimedia Foundation: if content is uploaded to a foreign server, then the Foundation still has to comply with US law, and possibly also with the laws of the country where the content is hosted. I don't know if it would be possible to use some kind of regional lock-out by making the content inaccessible from the United States, but if for example a Wikipedia page shows one thing in the United States and a completely different thing in Canada or Italy, then articles may be very confusing to people. --Stefan2 (talk) 22:26, 25 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
The question seems to be : What do we change in WMF to extend the rights to publish ?
The answer could be : Each WMF decision could come from the country where the laws are most usefull, like in international enterprises.
This could give : The WMF is divided in 2 or 3 or more decision centers, each in the adequate country to extend the rights to publish, or other goal. Of course the internal discussions and orientations continue like now. The only change is declarative and formal accountability, but the experts are the same.
Example :
  • French WMF follows french laws, choose which editorial line to apply to commons files uploaded from france, which page can be edited from france and some other countries. If necessary French WMF register the files uploaded from france, but always with international softwares and servers.
  • USA WMF follows USA laws, choose which editorial line to apply to commons files used in USA and some other countries. USA WMF continue to drive servers and many other central roles.
  • At any moment this organisation can change to adapt to laws of all countries and add new necessary decision centers.
--Rical (talk) 21:29, 26 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
Everything would have to be separated into subsidiary chapters. You would have to do things like split Commons by language, so English Commons, French Commons etc. You would also probably need to split languages by nation across all projects, e.g. en-US Wikipedia, en-US Wikisource etc in the US; en-GB Wikipedia, en-GB Wikisource etc in the UK; and so on and so forth. No national set of projects would be able to share media with other nations. They would also have to change URLs to avoid .org (I think .org.fr is considered French cyberspace, for example). Even then, that doesn't stop someone in, say, Sweden uploading a file to American English Commons. Smaller countries without their own chapter are going to be hit hard by this, even if there was enough money to put a server in every single larger nation. It would create new problems too, such as the United States' concept of "fair use" not being shared by other countries and all the deletions that would follow. I don't think this approach, or anything like it, is practical. You just can't play games with international law while also including the fifth largest website on Earth and expect to get away with it. - AdamBMorgan (talk) 00:09, 27 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
What you would have to do is probably geographical lock-out based on IP addresses:
  • If someone is connecting from an American IP address, then show any content which is legal in the United States, but hide other content
  • If someone is connecting from a French IP address, then show any content which is legal in France, but hide other content (meaning for example that the images in w:Turning Torso do not display for French IP addresses, as French law doesn't permit the use of photographs of recent buildings without permission from the architect)
  • If someone is connecting from a Swedish IP address, then show any content which is legal in Sweden, but hide other content (meaning for example that most images in w:History of painting do not display for Swedish IP addresses, as Swedish law doesn't permit the use of post-1968 photographs of paintings without permission from the photographer)
Unfortunately, this would make articles very hard to follow. One user from Brutopia might write "see the picture to the right", but a reader from Syldavia will be confused as he does not see any picture to the right. It would also be confusing if the Brutopian and the Syldavian users see different infobox photographs in an article about a historical person, because of conflicting laws about the copyright status of those images. It would also mean discrimination as some people have access to information which is inaccessible to other people. --Stefan2 (talk) 00:31, 27 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
Yes, the question is hard. But the question is "What can we change ?".
  • Can we drive the rights of all french wiki under a french decision center grouping main french speaking countries from where laws are usefull and/or from where problem could come : france, canada, belgium... ?
  • Can we have 2 decisions centers, one in english for USA laws, and another for all other countries ? --Rical (talk) 10:41, 27 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
Unfortunately, all countries have very different laws. For example, Canadian law permits photographs of recent buildings in Canada, France and Belgium, whereas French and Belgian laws do not. Also, France uses the rule of the shorter term on US works published before 1923, whereas Canada does not. Neither country uses the rule of the shorter term on United States copyright formalities, but maybe Belgium does. If you do something for one country, then you get a bad solution for the other countries. --Stefan2 (talk) 16:26, 27 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
The choose become :
  • Do we want to follow the shorter term from all countries on all files upload ?
  • Or do we want to follow the largest term about each document, but then record for each document the year, relevant country, document type and author, then compute the rights and record or discard ?
  • In the last case, could several decisions centers help us ? --Rical (talk) 10:21, 28 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
There is a public domain calculator in beta version. The flow chart is here. Some other calculators are sustained by french government (read abstract). --Rical (talk) 11:23, 28 February 2014 (UTC)Reply
About Canada and the shorter term: To be sure there is no need to make specific reference to the US rule about works published before 1923. The exclusion of the United States and Mexico (more correctly "a party to the North American Free Trade Agreement") from the rule of the shorter term came into effect on January 1, 1994. If a US work had fallen into the public domain there before that date the rule of the shorter term would still apply. This includes most works for which copyright was never renewed. Eclecticology (talk) 22:42, 12 March 2014 (UTC)Reply

Wikimedia Argentina/Open letter regarding URAA[edit]

Galio just uploaded the Wikimedia Argentina/Open letter regarding URAA. Lugusto 03:44, 25 February 2014 (UTC)Reply