by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 31st 2016 1:10pm
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Oct 27th 2016 9:31am
from the book-of-laughter-and-forgetting dept
As Techdirt reported last year, the problematic "right to be forgotten" -- strictly speaking, a right to be delisted from search results -- took a really dangerous turn when the French data protection regulator told Google that its orders to delist results should apply globally, not just in France, a view it confirmed twice. The latest development in this saga is the submission of a petition to the French Supreme Court against the global reach of delisting, made by the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization behind Wikipedia. As its blog post on the move explains:
Although the [French data protection authority] CNIL's case is directed towards Google, the gradual disappearance of Wikimedia pages from Google search results around the world ultimately impacts the public's ability to find the invaluable knowledge contained within the Wikimedia projects. Search engines have played an important role in the quest for knowledge -- roughly half of Wikipedia visits originate from search engines.
The fact that half of Wikipedia's visits come from online searches emphasizes the point that delisting a page from search results effectively removes it from the Internet. The Wikimedia post goes on to make all the obvious -- and completely valid -- arguments why global delisting is such a bad idea. It also mentions the following:
The CNIL's most recent order, if upheld, threatens the capacity to write and share important information about history, public figures, and more. It undermines the public's ability to find relevant and neutral information on the internet, and would make it exceedingly difficult for projects like Wikimedia's to provide information that is important for society.
As part of our efforts to bring more transparency to these requests, when we receive notice that a Wikipedia article was removed from a search engine due to a "right to be forgotten" delisting request, we publish the notice in a public index for the Wikimedia community's reference.
The page not only includes interesting statistics about delisting notices, but also helpfully provides copies of the notices themselves. From these we can see the Wikipedia articles that are no longer listed in search engines, which allows us to guess the names of those who don't want information about them to be readily available, and inevitably encourages us to speculate why that might be.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 25th 2016 1:35pm
from the come-join-us dept
by Glyn Moody
Mon, Sep 19th 2016 1:03pm
from the wow,-you-don't-say dept
A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about a victory in the courts for Creative Commons licenses, noting that such judgments were still rather few and far between. That's unfortunate, in the sense that some people still think CC licensing is weird, rarely-used or even invalid. The situation regarding Wikipedia is similar. Even though it has been around for 15 years -- just like Creative Commons -- it too suffers from continuing doubts about its aims and methods, and a relative dearth of legal cases helping to clarify the status of both.
Here's one from Brazil, which has recently been settled in favour of Wikipedia's parent organization, the Wikimedia Foundation. It concerns the Brazilian musician Rosanah Fienngo, who had brought a lawsuit objecting to information about her personal life being included on her Portuguese Wikipedia page. Wikimedia pointed out:
The Portuguese Wikipedia article about Ms. Fienngo contained information about her as a notable public figure in Brazil. This information included some details of her personal life, but this information was derived from public sources, most of which Ms. Fienngo had provided herself, such as an interview Ms. Fienngo gave to the gossip website O Fuxico.
You would have thought that someone who had provided details about her personal life to a gossip website would (a) realize that people might pass on that public information -- that's how gossip works -- and (b) be grateful to those who spread details she herself had chosen to make public. Fortunately, the judge seems to have understood the situation:
The court stated that although the information available on her Wikipedia page concerned her private life, Ms. Fienngo had already disclosed that information to the media herself, so its inclusion on Wikipedia was not an invasion of her privacy.
It's ridiculous that it required a court case to establish that, but the good news is the judgment should help to discourage others from bringing more such suits. Well, probably. Unfortunately, another similarity between the Brazilian Wikipedia case and the earlier Creative Commons one is that Ms. Fienngo could make an appeal, although Wikimedia notes:
We believe that the decision was strong enough that community members should feel free to make editorial decisions to write articles like the one about Ms. Fienngo.
Let's hope they're right.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 23rd 2016 10:40am
from the no,-no,-no,-bad-court,-bad dept
The court ruled against the Wikimedia Foundation and in favour of the Reiss Engelhorn Museum. The German court dismissed the case against Wikimedia Deutschland on the grounds that it was not legally responsible for the files in question, which were held by Wikimedia Commons in the US, which in turn are managed by the Wikimedia Foundation.This is not a particularly new issue -- it's come up many times in the past. In the US, thankfully, we have a nice precedent in Bridgeman v. Corel that states clearly that exact photographic copies of public domain works are not protected by copyright, because they lack the originality necessary for a copyright. Of course, that hasn't stopped some US Museums from looking to route around that ruling. Over in Europe, where there is no Bridgeman-like ruling, we tend to see a lot more of these kinds of attempts to relock down the public domain by museums. There have been similar attempts in the UK and in France, though as far as I can tell, neither case went to court.
Wikimedia says that it will appeal the ruling, which is the right move, but really an even larger question is why museums, which should want to more widely share such artwork with the world, are being so overprotective of these works. It's not as if someone seeing a digitized image of the Mona Lisa makes anyone less interested in seeing it in a museum.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 14th 2016 3:29pm
from the wrong-on-so-many-levels dept
You can read the full takedown letter here, sent by a redacted lawyer at Garvey Schubert Barer, a firm that claims to have expertise in intellectual property law. If that's true, they sure don't show it in this letter. First of all, they're sending a DMCA notice, which only applies to copyright, but posting campaign logos is hardly copyright infringement. When you're talking about logos, at best you're talking trademark, but that's not an issue here either. Whether it's trademark or copyright, Wikimedia hosting campaign logos is clearly fair use. If they're really arguing copyright, then it's an easy fair use call. If it's trademark, there's no "use in commerce" on the Wikimedia side, and no likelihood of confusion. Either one is simply stupid to argue.
Separately, these are campaign logos which are advertising for the campaign. What kind of clueless lawyer thinks the right move is to demand such things get taken down?
And, then of course, there's the inevitable backlash over this. Presidential campaigns trying to censor people -- or worse, a site like Wikipedia -- is always going to backfire. It makes the campaign look thin-skinned, foolish and short-sighted.
I'm guessing that if this makes enough news, the Sanders campaign will back down on this, and say it was an overzealous lawyer or some other such thing, but there's no reason such takedowns should ever be sent in the first place.
by Glyn Moody
Mon, Nov 30th 2015 9:31am
from the once-public-domain,-always-public-domain dept
The mission of museums and art galleries is generally to spread knowledge and appreciation of beautiful and interesting objects. So it's rather sad when they start taking legal action against others that want to help them by disseminating images of public domain works of art to a wider audience. This obsession with claiming "ownership" of something as immaterial as the copyright in a photograph of a work of art made centuries ago led the UK National Portrait Gallery (NPG) to threaten Derrick Coetzee, a software developer, when he downloaded images from the NPG and added them to Wikimedia Commons, the media repository for Wikipedia, of which he was an administrator. That was back in 2009, and yet incredibly the same thing is still happening today, as this Wikimedia blog post explains:
On October 28, the Reiss Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim, Germany, served a lawsuit against the Wikimedia Foundation and later against Wikimedia Deutschland, the local German chapter of the global Wikimedia movement. The suit concerns copyright claims related to 17 images of the museum's public domain works of art, which have been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. The Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland are reviewing the suit, and will coordinate a reply by the current deadline in December.
The problem, as usual, is that the museum is claiming that the photographs are new creations, and therefore covered by copyright:
The Reiss Engelhorn Museum asserts that copyright applies to these particular images because the museum hired the photographer who took some of them and it took him time, skill, and effort to take the photos. The Reiss Engelhorn Museum further asserts that because of their copyrights, the images of the artwork cannot be shared with the world through Wikimedia Commons.
As Wikimedia points out:
Even if German copyright law is found to provide some rights over these images, we believe that using those rights to prevent sharing of public domain works runs counter to the mission of the Reiss Engelhorn Museum and the City of Mannheim and impoverishes the cultural heritage of people worldwide.
The disagreement over the use of the NPG's images back in 2009 gradually fizzled out. The Museums Journal reported in 2012 that:
The National Portrait Gallery (NPG) has made changes to its image licensing to allow free downloads for non-commercial and academic uses.
Meanwhile, high-resolution NPG images are still available on Wikimedia Commons, although Wikipedia notes that these are prudently hosted in the US, where their legal position as works in the public domain seems clearer. It's really time for other countries to catch up with the US and recognize that photos of public domain works of art are still in the public domain, and that sharing them with the world is something to be praised as helpful, not pursued as harmful.
The change means that more than 53,000 low-resolution images are now available free of charge to non-commercial users through a standard Creative Commons licence.
And more than 87,000 high-resolution images are available for free for academic use through the gallery’s own licence. Users will be invited to give a donation in return for the service.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 10th 2015 6:12am
from the boom dept
- Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act: Under this program the NSA is collecting all the phone metadata on calls in the US.
- Executive Order 12333: This is what enables the NSA to hack into pretty much anything overseas -- including things like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's data centers.
- PRISM: Actually part of Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. Allows for (slightly) targeted collections of information via a court order from the FISA Court, demanding specific types of information (rather than "all" information).
- Upstream collection: Also under Section 702, but this is the program that lets the NSA tap into backbone fiber optic cables, such as from AT&T and others, and slurp up all traffic in case there's anything "interesting" happening that it can classify as "foreign intelligence information."
That upstream program is the one that was first disclosed by Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who wandered into the EFF's offices a decade ago with the evidence. This resulted in a lawsuit -- Hepting v. AT&T -- that AT&T was able to get out of thanks to Congress passing a law granting the telcos retroactive immunity for helping the NSA. The EFF has a long-running similar case against the NSA over the upstream collection -- Jewel v. NSA -- which recently suffered a setback, in that the judges claimed there wasn't evidence for "standing." That is, the plaintiffs need to be able to prove that they were spied on -- which is a fairly tough barrier.
Another case that was filed on similar grounds, by Amnesty International (also with the ACLU), also lost at the Supreme Court on the question of "standing." However, as it later came out, that victory was based mostly on a false statement from Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who had argued that if the US government made use of any of the upstream collection data in a lawsuit against someone, the government would need to reveal it to the defendants, who would then have standing to challenge it. Only later -- thanks to a Senate speech from Senator Dianne Feinstein -- did it come out that the DOJ regularly made use of information collected this way without ever alerting the defendants about how the information was collected.
Wikimedia thinks that it has a chance to get past this "standing" hurdle, thanks to the following NSA slide that was leaked in the Ed Snowden revelations:
The 2013 mass surveillance disclosures included a slide from a classified NSA presentation that made explicit reference to Wikipedia, using our global trademark. Because these disclosures revealed that the government specifically targeted Wikipedia and its users, we believe we have more than sufficient evidence to establish standing.In an op-ed for the NY Times, Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales explains why the organization is doing this:
The harm to Wikimedia and the hundreds of millions of people who visit our websites is clear: Pervasive surveillance has a chilling effect. It stifles freedom of expression and the free exchange of knowledge that Wikimedia was designed to enable.Given how much difficulty other cases have had in establishing standing, it appears that this may still be a challenge here. However, the fact that the US government effectively misled the Supreme Court last time around at least suggests that maybe it will be open to revisiting the issue this time around.
During the 2011 Arab uprisings, Wikipedia users collaborated to create articles that helped educate the world about what was happening. Continuing cooperation between American and Egyptian intelligence services is well established; the director of Egypt’s main spy agency under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi boasted in 2013 that he was “in constant contact” with the Central Intelligence Agency.
So imagine, now, a Wikipedia user in Egypt who wants to edit a page about government opposition or discuss it with fellow editors. If that user knows the N.S.A. is routinely combing through her contributions to Wikipedia, and possibly sharing information with her government, she will surely be less likely to add her knowledge or have that conversation, for fear of reprisal.
And then imagine this decision playing out in the minds of thousands of would-be contributors in other countries. That represents a loss for everyone who uses Wikipedia and the Internet — not just fellow editors, but hundreds of millions of readers in the United States and around the world.
Kudos to Wikimedia for stepping up to the challenge, and to the ACLU for not giving up on this issue.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 6th 2014 3:36pm
from the good-to-see dept
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Jan 5th 2012 12:04am
from the wheels-within-wheels dept
One of the central questions the Wikipedia community grapples with is: What exactly is Wikipedia trying to achieve? For example, does it aspire to be a total encyclopedia of everything? What is the appropriate level of detail?
As might be expected in a community made up of volunteers, feelings run high over these apparently dry questions of philosophy. Just as there are free software and open source factions that work together for a common cause, but eternally snipe at each other over details, so the Wikipedia community harbors two groups that agree to disagree on what is the proper scope for the project: the deletionists and the inclusionists. Here's what Wikipedia itself has to say on them:
"Deletionists" are proponents of selective coverage and removal of articles seen as unnecessary or highly substandard. Deletionist viewpoints are commonly motivated by a desire that Wikipedia be focused on and cover significant topics – along with the desire to place a firm cap upon proliferation of promotional use (seen as abuse of the website), trivia, and articles which are of no general interest, lack suitable source material for high quality coverage, or are too short or otherwise unacceptably poor in quality.
One particular area where the limits of inclusionism and deletionism are tested is local information. Should Wikipedia strive to provide the same level of detail about local information as it does about global facts? If so, how?
"Inclusionists" are proponents of broad retention, including retention of "harmless" articles and articles otherwise deemed substandard to allow for future improvement. Inclusionist viewpoints are commonly motivated by a desire to keep Wikipedia broad in coverage with a much lower entry barrier for topics covered – along with the belief in that it is impossible to tell what knowledge might be "useful" or productive, that content often starts poor and is improved if time is allowed, that there is effectively no incremental cost of coverage, that arbitrary lines in the sand are unhelpful and may prove divisive, and that goodwill requires avoiding arbitrary deletion of others' work. Some extend this to include allowing a wider range of sources such as notable blogs and other websites.
Maybe Wikipedia has found a way to do so without overloading the main encyclopedia: create a mini-Wikipedia devoted entirely to one location – in this case Monmouthpedia, about the Welsh town of Monmouth:
Monmouthpedia will be the first Wikipedia project to cover a whole town, creating articles on interesting and notable places, people, artifacts, flora, fauna and other things in Monmouth in as many languages as possible including Welsh.
There are a number of interesting facets to this project. The first is the direct involvement of local people. By limiting the range of the entries to one location it might prove easier to motivate new contributors – a perennial concern for the larger Wikipedia – and allow them to capture key aspects of a place they know well.
We are very keen for local people to be involved in what ever way they would like. Computer skills are not that important, it’s the interest and the willingness to be involved, suggesting and writing articles, taking and donating photos and recommending good reference materials. If you speak another language it would be a great place to practice your writing skills and learn new vocabulary and grammar. There are a lot of opportunities for community involvement including teaching and learning of I.T skills, local history, natural history, languages and people of different ages working together.
The amount, detail and quality of the information we could create is amazing. The Council for British Archaeology has designated Monmouth as the 7th best town in Britain. Knowledge gives us context, it allows us to appreciate our surroundings more, Monmouth may be first place in the world to offer its tourist information in up to 270 languages.
Monmouthpedia will use QRpedia codes, a type of bar code a smartphone can read through its camera that takes you to a Wikipedia article in your language. QR codes are extremely useful, physical signs have no way of displaying the same amount of information and in a potentially huge number of languages.
Articles will have coordinates (geotags) to allow a virtual tour of the town using the Wikipedia layer on Google Streetview, Google Maps and will be available in augmented reality software including Layar.
The use of QR codes in physical signage around the town will add a new directionality to the links between Monmouthpedia and the town it describes. Similarly, the geotags in the articles will allow text and images linked to geographical locations to be loaded automatically as people walk around with suitable apps on their smartphones. Obviously, once in place, that localized QR-coded infrastructure could also be exploited by other, quite different smartphone programs, to produce fascinating geo-informational mashups.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of Monmouthpedia is that it creates a kind of fractal Wikipedia. That's important because if it functions well, it sets a precedent for a new, nested kind of Wikipedia whose entries can sometimes drop down a level to an entirely new Wikipedia-like resource about a specific topic. Maybe the ultimate test of Monmouthpedia's success will be when people start creating wikis about those same "places, people, artifacts, flora, fauna and other things" that will soon fill its pages – an Inception-like Wikipedia within a Wikipedia within a Wikipedia.
Update: see this comment from a Wikipedian involved with the project for some clarifications.