Open Licenses And Freedom Of Panorama Recognized In Russian Law

from the good-news-for-a-change dept

Techdirt has been reporting on a steady stream of dismal news coming out of Russia, chronicling its increasing clampdown on the Internet, so it’s great to hear about something extremely positive happening there. The Wikimedia blog reports on some important changes to Russia’s Civil Code, including the following:

Open licenses introduced.

The new law directly recognizes free licenses (which are fundamental for projects like Wikipedia or Linux). The authors of free content will be able to have legal protection from misuse of their works.

Freedom of panorama introduced.

Now it is allowed to take photos in any public territory. The photographers are no more formally offenders, as before when nobody was allowed to sell postcards with modern buildings without the permission of the architect or his successors (despite the fact that such situation was quite usual in practice). Unfortunately, monuments are still not covered by the introduced amendments.

As the Wikimedia blog post points out, the first of these is crucially important for Wikipedia and free software projects, both of which have existed in a kind of legal limbo until this latest move. That’s probably meant that some Russian software companies have been unwilling to embrace licenses like the GNU GPL for their code for fear that it would be unprotected under local law. According to Wikimedia’s Russian director, Vladimir Medeyko, the new provisions even go beyond what is found elsewhere:

The direct inclusion of the stipulations on the free licenses into the law is a progressive step not only for Russia, but worldwide. There are no specific articles on free licenses in other countries’ laws, and hence these licenses are still in a grey area there. Actually, free licenses exploit the archaic tercentenary system of copyright, that always limited the readers’ freedoms in order to allow the authors and the publishers to earn money, for the opposite goal — to protect the readers’ right to free access. Therefore, without direct regulation, there is too vast judicial discretion, and free licenses users are not protected perfectly. In the Russian law there are no uncertainties like that anymore.

Freedom of panorama refers to the right to take photos or videos of public spaces. As an interesting Wikipedia page indicates, this right is by no means universal, and so Russia is a welcome addition to the group of nations that do offer freedom of panorama in at least some form. The move is also a reminder that steady work by dedicated experts can achieve important results even against a retrogressive legal background.

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