Non-free images on Wikimedian projects

Before you continue to read this post, consider:

  1. If I don’t know something new related to this issue and you know, please let me know that.
  2. I don’t support non-free content, but at least a significant minority of Wikimedians support it.
  3. I was thinking to write this to foundation-l, but I am tired of long and usually useless discussions there about some important issues. So, if anyone is willing to read this, it is visible enough to the community.

A year ago WMF Board decided that non-free images shouldn’t be used on Wikimedia projects by default. If some project is willing to maintain non-free images, it should organize some kind of logistic support for that (I think that this includes a lawyer who would work on particular issues).

In practice, maybe a couple of Wikipedias (so, only Wikipedias, not all projects in a particular language) would be able to do so. AFAIK, community on English Wikipedia decided to keep non-free images (of course, in a rational amount), community on German Wikipedia (maybe all projects in German, too?) decided before the Board’s decision not to keep non-free images and I really don’t know what other projects did. (I would like to know what is going on French and Japanese Wikipedias.)

So, we are here, a year after. I may guarantee that not more then 10 of more then 700 projects made any kind of decision. And I am almost sure that only English Wikipedia is fulfilling necessary conditions.

Communities smaller then English or German are rarely able to make some important decision for themselves. For a lot of decisions 80% (consensus-like majority) is necessary. And if it is not of interest of people who are able to be loud and to do a hard work for getting what they are willing — decision will never be happened.

This means that Board’s decision was de jure fine (“leaving an option to a particular communities”), but de facto it was a nice worded decision to remove non-free images from all projects except English Wikipedia.

And is this fair?

Instead of that, it is possible to make carefully managed (like Debian’s non-free packages were selected: if some software has free option, it will not be included; if some weird license, almost free, is used and software is useful, it will be included there etc.). And, personally, I think that this is a Borad’s responsibility.

The main problem with not doing anything is making a lot of space for problems inside of smaller communities. At least one community was hardly affected by indirect consequences of the Board’s decision a year ago. But, it was only because people from that community read foundation-l emails.

After the March, a lot of smaller communities will be faced with deletion of their non-free images. And only after that we would be able to see a real consequences of this decision and poorly driven issue from the beginning to the end.

I could talk about that more, but… If there is a will for changing anything, thing will be changed. If there is not, I may talk much more without any result.


~ by millosh on February 8, 2008.

3 Responses to “Non-free images on Wikimedian projects”

  1. As was my understanding (and forgive any lapses, it’s probably been nearly a year since I read the Foundation’s policy on non-free media) non-free media are forbidden by default unless they specifically include a policy to allow it. Projects were supposed to decide for themselves what, if any, free content was to be allowed and in what quantities. In order to host non-free media, a project must craft a local policy called an “EDP” “Exemption Doctrine Policy”. The EDP must be minimal (that is you can’t say “we allow all non-free images without prejudice), in order to cover the needs of the project without abandoning the ideals of free content. There is no requirement for lawyers or anything like that, at least not explicitly.

    Many smaller projects have created EDPs, en.wikibooks and en.wikiversity have them, I know. I can’t speak for non-english projects, but I suspect that if non-english projects do not have them, it’s because they don’t know they need to have them yet.

    I would also venture to guess that making decisions is easier on smaller projects then it is on en.wikipedia. Smaller projects would have an easier time crafting an EDP then larger projects would (fewer parties, fewer special interests, etc).

  2. I think the resolution is not be followed up on by many small projects, as they were not reached out to enough during the crafting of the foundation’s policy. If it feels unilateral, people are not going to bend over backwards to make sure it happens.

  3. I can’t speak for all projects. But I do know that some (maybe even most) of the projects really support to not use non-free images, like the Dutch and German communities (with some exceptions). Besides that, they are bound by local laws, which prevent them from using fair-use images (the Dutch/Belgium situation is clear against the possibility of using non-free content). So I don’t think that other communities don’t know about the EDP-possibility is such an issue, allthough certainly there will be small communities which don’t bother and don’t want to take the time to write an EDP-policy.

    In my opinion the board missed a chance last year to solve the issue totally, but the compromise is understandable as in the interest of peace on English projects.

    I also think the commons in the meanwhile is growing so fast, that using non-free images will not be needed anymore (if it was needed at all time).

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