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It is very important that everyone working on Wikipedia respect copyrights. Since this is a wide-open project with no editorial oversight, this sort of thing will certainly happen again.

In our role as a provider of internet services, we have a fairly strong defense under theDigital Millenium Copyright Act, and a fairly strong responsibility. We can't be held financially liable for other people's actions, so long as we follow a reasonable take-down policy.

Nonetheless, I can tell you that my charitable instincts and love of knowledge will hit the wall if someone sues me. :-( --Jimbo Wales

Notice that I have added some more words at the bottom of the page when you go to submit. I think that the problem will mostly go away with this. People just need to understand that we don't want them to cut-and-paste from copyrighted sources!

There is no way to be 100% safe. But, hey, risk is a part of life. --Jimbo Wales


Hmmmm - The only place I found that article exactly like that in its full length was on Ginger's site, in connection with her Wolf Cam. The first two paragraphs also appear in the same form in The Dog Owner's Guide, though the rest of that article is quite different. The author's name (Norma Bennett Woolf - can you believe that?) and copyright information appear at that site, including ways in which they will permit their material to be used. I donno if Ginger got permission or not. I did not find it on Nova (Jimbo's link) at all, tho there's alotta junk about wolves there. Ginger - did you simply contribute the article from your own page and forget that part of it was copyrighted? AyeSpy
Actually I put it together from a few different sites. I was unaware of any copyright problems I was causing. I had never been to the pbs site Jimbo found the article at. I will be more careful in the future you can be sure. It is not my intention to cause problems for anyone and I feel badly about this. WcGing

No need to feel bad. I'm all about the future, not the past. :-) Some of the paragraphs were exactly from the Nova site.

I encourage you, WcGing, to write a shorter article based on the knowledge you got from those articles...

We don't have to be particularly original, we just have to try to be correct, and most importantly of all, we can't give anyone an excuse to try to shut us down. So we have to put everything in our own words.


I just changed this text of Jimbo's on the Recent Changes page to a similar statement which takes a more neutral position about the morality of intellectual property law:

"If you love freedom of information, one of the most important thing you can do is respect copyrights! You can really hurt this project if you steal. So please don't do it."

Personally I feel that infringement is quite different from theft of physical objects. So while we need to make everyone aware of what the law prevents us from doing, I would prefer not to endorse the law itself as part of the project. Because after all, the reason I'm so happy to contribute to the 'pedia itself is that I know the world will always have liberty to share and change it - a nice change from the common greedy-feeling atmosphere of authorship.

Similarly, I'd suggest something a little less loaded than "DO NOT STEAL!" at the bottom of the Edit page. Perhaps "Remember - no copyright-restricted material!" or somesuch thing.

But that's just my NSHO. -J


Has anyone considered starting a nonprofit or somesuch similar organization around the wiki so that it's not so legally tied (in either direction) to the folks that so kindly started it? IANAL, but it seems like it might have good consequences both ways in terms of liability, as well as for tax exemptions and such.
J, I totally disagree with your view about copyright. I think copyright infringement is every bit as serious as stealing and is very aptly considered in the same category. I am all for our keeping the "do not steal" notice up. It gets people's attention and makes it very clear how we officially feel about copyright infringement on Wikipedia. On the other hand, I think your less-strongly-worded notice on the Recent Changes page gets the point across just fine. -- Larry Sanger


Sorry, Larry, but I'm strongly with J on this one. Just because it's the law doesn't mean it should be the law, and there are a great many people (including Supreme Court Justice Breyer) who have expressed quite eloquently and convincingly that copyright law should be drastically curtailed if not eliminated. Calling it "theft" is an exercise in argument-by-definition, and is very much an expression of bias. You can achieve the same effect by expressing a fact: Current US law and international treaty prohibits redistribution of copyrighted creative works, and we encourage compliance with these laws. --Lee Daniel Crocker
I don't have any beef with the changing of the Recent Changes text, and I certainly think that it is within the spirit of the wikipedia to change my rant into something more "consensus oriented".

But hereon this talk page, I will gladly express my opinion. :-) Neverminding the legal situation, I think that taking someone elses writings without their permission *is* stealing. Imagine, for example, if Microsoft took the Linux kernel and incorporated it into one of their products without doing the Right Thing and making their changes open and free! Wouldn't that be morally wrong, even if the law allowed it?

I think that free software depends on copyright, because in a public domain system, anyone can take freely offered software and make it proprietary. I think that's wrong. If the author sets conditions on the use, those conditions should be respected... even if the conditions are "don't reuse it". Copyright is really important for the freedom of information!

We can debate this here, on the CopyrightTalk page, but let me stress again, that my strong opinions about this don't necessarily belong in the wikipedia on anything other than a Talk page. :-)

When I say "DO NOT STEAL", I'm not taking a position on what the law ought to be, but I am taking a position on what is morally right. Just as it would be morally wrong for Microsoft to steal GNU code by making it proprietary, it is wrong for us to take a proprietary magazine and use it without permission. The moral issue is *consent*.

--JimboWales


(WARNING: long, biased, and probably interesting to only 2 or 3 people. Should probably be moved to its own page on my site as a short essay and linked to).

Yes, you are taking a moral position, and I don't quarrel with your choice to hold that particular one. But yes, you are in so doing taking a position on what the law ought to be, because IP is only "property" because the law defines it as such. The natural, instinctive, universal understanding of "property" refers to physical things which can only be used by one person at a time--if I steal your apple, you no longer have it. If I eat it, it is gone. There is, of course, a political debate over whether or not the state should protect an individual's right to sole control of his property; and on that score I am definitely in the capitalist camp. Stealing a physical thing, and depriving its owner of the use of that thing, I most definitely find immoral. If I grew the apple on my land, I expect to eat it. But ideas are fundamentally, objectively different. If I watch you plant an apple seed and water the sapling, and then I apply that same idea with my own apple seeds on my own land, I do not take away from your use of your things, I have merely used your discovery to my own benefit.

Now, in a modern marketplace, those with interesting or valuable ideas will naturally find it to their short-term benefit to be the sole user of those ideas. If you're selling apples, you'd just as soon not have the competition from other people selling their apples. The question, then, is whether or not it is right for a state to define certain ideas (like inventions, stories, music, etc.) as property, and define my use of someone else's idea (which does not in any way interfere with his use) as theft. If we do make that definition, then a creator has not only the right to use an idea for his benefit, but to prevent others from using it for theirs, protecting his market for businesses that use the idea. As expressed in the US Constitution, this is a pragmatic thing: we grant the creator this limited, short-duration monopoly so that he can make money, in order to encourage him and others like him to create other useful ideas, which will eventually become part of the public domain.

Of course in recent years, this pragmatic approach has come to be seen as a natural right, an end in itself rather than a means to the original goal (the creation of more useful ideas). The consequence is that the original goal has been subverted beyond recognition. Walt Disney, for example, is long dead, and presumably has little need of encouragement to create more ideas, yet copyright law still protects his "property" (most of which is based on stories from the public domain) and prevents it from becoming part of shared culture, which was the original goal. A large number of people favor at the very least returning copyright to its original bargain: a monopoly for a short time, which then expires and releases the ideas to the public. I personally think we could do without it entirely. I do not find anything inherently immoral about using someone else's ideas for my own benefit, or with him using my ideas for his. In fact, I find that to be the very purpose of things like language and society--to grow as beings by exchange and amplification of ideas, which (unlike physical things) are a limitless resource. In a world without copyright law, obviously traditional methods of making money from certain ideas won't work, and we'll have to be creative about business methods too. That doesn't scare me. Nearly all of my income comes from creation of IP (articles and software), but I do not fear the destruction of IP law, because creativity is a commodity that wil always be in demand, and consumers will always find a way to get it, just as they always did before the invention of copyright law (which is fairly recent idea). I have for years explicitly placed all my work in the public domain (except that which is done for my employer--but I work for a company that uses the software I write only internally, so they get no benefit from IP law).

I have written volumes on this topic, so I won't rehash all the arguments here, but I just wanted to clarify that support of IP law is a moral position that not everyone holds, and that if you really want to avoid bias as you claim, you should not so blatantly support that position in the very software that runs the system. And yes, I find even Stallman's use of copyright law to ensure free distribution wrong. For every article I produce for Wiki/Nupedia?, I will place a nearly identical one (with only my own work) on my own website released to the public domain, without restrictions. -- Lee Daniel Crocker.


Well, hey, Mr. Crocker - I gotta say that as an author and songwriter (who has made precious little from either occupation) I cannot disagree more strongly with the idea that copyright should be abolished. Were it so, publishers would have no incentive to honor contracts with creators of entertainment. I would write a song, Biddle Entertainment would press and sell a load of copies until the pirates drove demand into the ground, and my share of the pie would be but crumbs. Hence, unable to make a living from the craft, I would abandon it. People gotta be protected from their ideas being ripped off, or they will quit sharing them. If I see no direct benefit to me for enlightening another, then I will only do it if moved by the most altruitstic motive. And we know how much free time and resources there are lying around for everyone to be altruistic. You can have your "all ideas belong to everyone" world. For me, it don't fly.
Be sure to consider the flip side of the coin, however. Biddle Entertainment provides the precious little money you mentioned in exchange for complete control of your work. If they decide to let it go out of print or stop advertising it, there's nothing you or I can really do about it. If it is in print and I find that it's a nice piece of authorship, I can tell everyone here on the Wiki about it, but I'm prevented from sharing it with them - the best I can do is suggest that they spend $15 on a CD or mail order a copy of the score/article from one of Biddle's retailers. And most detrimentally, IMHO, you and I and our children and grandchildren won't ever be able to build on your work without Biddle's permission, even long after you've passed away. I and others you've never even met may someday have great ideas about how a few tweaks here or there might make your work fit a particular need, or bring it up to date with a new development. But if Biddle doesn't feel like allowing it, it will go on rotting in their archives (assuming they actually keep your work in an archive) until our great-grandchildren are getting gray (and that's not an exaggeration - copyrights are now well past 70 years, and still growing). So much for tomorrow's Mendelssohn discovering today's Bach.

Without IP law, to be sure, companies like Biddle won't have the allure of exclusive exploitation of your work to motivate them to sign contracts with you. But when they and the pirates you mention press gazillions of copies of your work, they'll only be helping to spread your reputation to gazillions of people. If they've somehow dealt unfairly with you, I'm free to take my business elsewhere and still be able to enjoy access to your work. And you as an author will have an audience that's exactly as big as it deserves to be, and an insanely huge wealth of others' work to build on when you sit down with pen in hand. -J


"If they've somehow dealt unfairly with you..." In the real world, you will not give a hoot in hell whether people who give you my intellectual creations have dealt fairly with me or not. I have not the resources to publish them for money. So, I gotta get Biddle to do it. They won't, unless they can make a buck. So, the work has to be worthy, and it's gotta be property. Then they can sell it, and not only do my ideas see the light of day, I don't die of starvation before someone asks me to sign a copy.
That isn't true anymore: the same technology that makes "piracy" cheap and easy also makes distribution and advertisement cheap and easy. Any artist can publish his work for almost no cost to get a following (such as the the South Park guys did with their Christmas cartoon), then trade upon the popularity it generates in other (non-piratable) ways, like live performances, custom work, time-dependent work, etc. No big publishing company needed. Will lack of copyrights put lots of publishers out of business? Absolutely, and good riddance. Will it harm the artists themselves? No, not those who are smart enough to realize they don't need the publishers anymore, and whose work is good enough to create demand among consumers, who will do whatever they have to do--including pay--to get the art they want.
I agree: <A HREF="#1">internal link</A> - Mathijs


I didn't know where to put Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.


Generally if people want to write a new article, they just find a way to work the title into another, existing one; and if the connection isn't obvious someone comes along and makes it so. Putting it on a Talk page is fine for the short term, but links to new articles should probably go in a main articles instead, as the talk pages are frequently edited, cleaned up, or eliminated completely, and not everyone reads them anyway. --KQ
I have reorganized this article to seperate it into a general section and a US specific section. -- Simon J Kissane
What is our policy for including copyrighted but freely distributable work? In other words, the copyright allows all retransmission but does not allow changes. E.g. I provisionally added Free Software Definition--as long as noone changes the text, it can be copied in any medium any number of times. -- The Cunctator


You should accompany such text with an article about the text (just as one might write an article about the US Constitution or a Shakespeare play), and include the exact text labelled as such. Wikipedians are free to change the article, but changing the included text specifically referenced as from an external source is clearly the wrong thing to do (though someone might want to correct mistranscriptions), so Wikipedian won't be tempted to change it. --LDC
The copyright article is but good but has flaws: it portrays copyright as the government granting someone the right to copy a work whereas most laws formulate the right by making unauthorised copies (and the act of making them) illegal. It should point out that modern copyright originally came about in order to protect the printers' businesses.

There is no discussion of moral rights (the most important one being the right to be identified as the author of a work). In some countries, France I believe, the moral rights are strong enough to control the use of original work. For example, I may not be able to place a painting by artist A in a context that is offensive to the reputation of artist A (this may include simply being placed next to another work). (contradicts last sentence of 1st para)

Not all countries have something exactly analogous to copyright. It is common in Europe for countries to have a right that would be better translated as "author's rights".

There is also public lending right (right to be recompensed when ones work are publicly lent). (contradicts last sentence of 1st para)

The author is not always the first owner of copyright (often it is the employer). This is pointed out later on in the article, but it contradicts para 3.

This is something I am currently researching (particularly with regard to IT). I may revise the head article at some point. Sorry this isn't very constructive yet.

Surely US sopyright law simply belongs in another topic?


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