The great licensing update is upon us. Or rather, the voting part of it is. This is the community consultation part of whether or not the Wikimedia Foundation officially chooses to make use of the “Wiki clause” that Richard Stallman so kindly gave us in the GFDL 1.3. (For background see the initial story in Wikipedia Signpost, Benjamin Mako Hill’s post, Richard Stallman’s open letter, Wikipedia’s Exit Permit on LWN.net).
Any user who has made at least 25 edits to any Wikimedia project (before March 15, 2009) is eligible to vote. That is a huge number of people. If you have ever registered an account at any Wikimedia project go check your edit count (special:preferences) because you very well may be eligible to vote.
So get your vote on and let the Wikimedia projects move forth under a sensible license! Yes, a modern license for a modern wiki!
My SVG is kind of whack so if you want to help me get rid of the black box and make the fonts behave, that would be nice, too. ;)
Much of the work at Wikimedia Commons revolves around identifying and removing copyright violations. So it is unusual to find that someone copyio’ed our content rather than the other way round.
Few days ago I got e-mail from London. The guy e-mailed me that he saw my image of a puffer fish at the posters advertising Kleenex in London tube. I asked him, if he could take an image of this poster and he was kind enough to do it for me. He e-mailed the image of the poster to me. There was my fish at this poster all right. I felt “all puffed up” and I e-mailed to Kleenex for the explanations. Today they called me. They admitted they took my image from Wikipedia and they told me that the artist, who did it, was told that Wikipedia is the place to get free images. [..] They apologized, they are going to pay me 700 Pound sterlings, send me the copy of the poster and a letter with the admission they violated my copy rights. My main condition was that I did not want them to punish the artist, who I sure, has not had a bad intention and took my image by mistake.
LOL. I’m pretty sure taking the time to read the license would have been cheaper than £700.
The big bad wolf? (Public domain)
When it comes to free-content-ish licensing, the prospect of allowing commercial use seems to be a sheep in wolf’s clothing. It sounds bad, and one can easily dream up horrible what-if exploitation scenarios, but there’s no evidence that those scenarios have any basis in reality.
The scary scenario generally sounds like this: But what if $XYZ_LARGE_CORP takes my content and publishes it and makes a squillion dollars, and I don’t get anything? That wouldn’t be fair, would it?
Indeed that’s a possibility, but how many times has it ever happened?
Look at Wikipedia, one of the most popular websites on the web in every country around the world. If there was a way to make megabucks from it, don’t you think someone would have done so by now?
Another example is Flickr. They let their users use Creative Commons licensing and that has undoubtedly been an element of their success, but I would argue that Flickr could have had the same success without using CC at all. (CC would probably be a lot worse off though. Flickr is the highest-visibility use of CC licensing I think.) Flickr did a lot of things right, and CC licensing was only one of them. Their success seems more due to being in the right place at the right time, having an easy-to-use website, and then providing easy ways to embed Flickr content in other applications. But their RSS feeds, for example, include all-rights-reserved images, so not using CC would not have restricted that.
There is nothing, of course, stopping anyone downloading all the CC-licensed images from Flickr and creating a Flickr-fork. And there is nothing stopping anyone from mirroring Wikipedia too (except out of date dumps, cough). But so far it doesn’t seem like anyone’s going to bother. And why is that? —Because if you can access the original, why would anyone use a second-rate copy?
The original has the community that created the content, and they usually have some technical advantage. If they avoid pissing off their community and can keep far enough ahead of the tech curve, it should be true that any major fork will fail to gain enough traction to do any significant damage.
The right to fork that is created by free content licensing keeps the parent organisations honest.
Good on Citizendium for dealing themselves back in the game by choosing a CC-BY-SA license. Zealotry rules. ;)
Being mentioned in the New York Times (or more accurately, their blog) is one thing, but I only really felt famous when Andrew Lih invited me on Wikipedia Weekly. WW is a podcast: not quite weekly, and not just Wikipedia, but close enough. IMO it is usually twice as long and half as frequent as it should be, but the discussion is typically quite interesting, as a Wikimedian.
It can be downloaded from this page: Episode 38 (42 min)
I certainly don’t enunciate my words as clearly as Liam and Andrew. :) And maybe I have a bit too much of that high rising intonation, but at least it’s more interesting to listen to than a monotone. (Possibly more annoying, though.)
So, I discussed two topics: the first is the Philip Greenspun illustration project. I talked a bit about my broader hopes and plans for the project, and asked people to please submit illustration requests. If you are interested in seeing some of the existing illustrator efforts within Wikimedia, please check out the Community links.
The second topic is the GFDL/CC-BY-SA harmonisation effort. A good report on the initial Wikimedia community reaction is the Signpost article, and Creative Commons’ blog post Wikipedia and Creative Commons next steps summarises where the situation is now. So in this part I talk about the benefits to the commons and some of the issues that have been raised that will need to be addressed in this process. I mentioned the metaphor of “silos” of content caused by different-but-similar sharealike licenses (“and never the twain shall meet”), which I am repeating after hearing from Evan Prodromou.
NB: I mistakenly said that the GPL has a “any later version” clause. However this is not true: some project choose to make this a requirement of contributors, to license under GPL vX “and later version”.
In closing: Sealand.
Card-carrying free culture proponents, here’s what’s hot at all hip water coolers this week:
It’s fundraiser time
The WMF fundraiser continues, with some interesting comments from Board chair Florence Devouard in an interview with the Wikipedia Signpost this week, about the success so far and whether or not there will be matching donations.
Wikipedia is many things to many people. While to some it’s nothing more than status or a game, imagine what it could be for the students of this school.
Also happening is the iCommons Auction. Thirty items have been donated by free culture leaders, and they range from the limited edition to the slightly weird. (I can’t say I have a hankering for the lead item, Lawrence Lessig’s coat. What would you do with it, sniff it? Wear it? About the only place you would get bragging rights for it is at the iSummit.)
You can join the iCommons mailing list to be notified when particular items become available for bidding.
A new license: Affero GPL
No beta for this baby, straight to version 3!
The idea behind it is thus: The GPL came about because RMS wanted the right to view and modify source code of programs on his machine. You can make a web app available using GPL code without releasing the code, and that is OK, because the code doesn’t go onto users’ machines and you’re offering a service (use of a program) rather than a product (the software itself). I think that’s the story.
So, some people in the FLOSS movement find this dodgy and feel that such developers should be obligated to release their code, while others feel that that would be a radical and unwelcome interpretation of the GPL. Hence, new license. Soon you’ll be saying “Is it Affero GPL?” quicker than you can mouth Open Social.
Well, maybe. In this age of APIs where users can be grateful to have the very data that they contributed released back to them in an accessible format, is it too late for AGPL to have an impact?
Mako has some thoughts on it worth reading.
Free culture/free software symbiosis
Mako has also published a short piece Free Culture Advanced which describes how the nascent free content movement has drawn inspiration from the free software movement. As one of the authors of the Definition of Free Cultural Works he is hardly an impartial observer but it is a useful primer. As an even more basic guide I suggest the Ideology and philosophy section on the Wikimedia Commons “Choosing a license” guide, which, um, I mostly wrote. (Lately even that is overkill, given you can learn who to namedrop via xkcd.)
I have a vague memory of a CC-authored “free content definition”-style document being mentioned on one of the CC mailing lists, but I can’t find it now. Anyone else recall this?
Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader
Ebooks are great except for one nagging problem… The Future of Reading has some sobering quotes to contemplate.
Cool toy: GunnMap
Enough Serious Biz. Say hello to GunnMap (Flash, sorry). No more handcoding coloured maps! Just tick, tick, write, click, “Save SVG”, upload as CC-BY-SA, done! (Confession: I haven’t actually used it. I’m not a map creator by trade. But it looks pretty awesome and I hope it works as well as it looks.)
PS: For Facebook addicts, RSVP to the Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Year 2007 event so you won’t forget to vote! :)