It’s easy to forget just how old Wikipedia is, compared to many of the free culture organizations on the Web. One looming example of this has always been our use of the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL).
VoteYes!
Founded before Creative Commons, the GFDL was the only copyleft license that even came close to making our work free for others in a way that fit our mission.

But it’s never been a perfect fit. Far from it, in fact.

Clauses such as the invariant sections rule and the burden of printing both the full text of the license and a list of authors have seriously handicapped past efforts to republish works of Wikimedia projects. The GFDL is not really to be faulted for this, since it’s written with software documentation in mind, not an encyclopedia with thousands of authors.

But there’s a solution on the horizon. With the advent of Version 1.3 of the GFDL, we can now legally transition to the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. But the choice to move to Creative Commons rests not with our non-profit, the Wikimedia Foundation. It rests with the people who have licensed their contributions: namely, you. If you’ve got more than 25 edits to a Wikimedia project before the 15th of March, please make your voice heard by voting!

More information:

Hearing details
Thursday, June 19
10:30 AM
Hearing Room A
State capitol, Salem

This Thursday, the Oregon Legislative Counsel Committee (LCC) will be holding a hearing that should be of major interest to anyone with an interest in Oregon law, and in building (or using) public resources on the Internet. The topic: whether or not the laws that we, the people of Oregon write are in the public domain, or whether the State can prevent their republication by insisting on licensing arrangements.

A couple months back, the LCC — which provides legal advice to the state legislature, and edits draft legislation — issued a takedown notice to justia.com, which was hosting the Oregon Revised Statutes. Justia is a web site that publishes state laws (free of charge, and without advertising) from all states, in a standard format.

Legislative Counsel Dexter Johnson issued the takedown notice under direction from the LCC, and cited a 1953 law that gives it authority to make determinations about ownership of various works of the Legislature. He wrote that although the words of the laws themselves are in the public domain, some of the text involved in their publication — the section numbers, descriptive text, etc. — is owned by the State, and protected by copyright.

California-based nonprofit public.resource.org has been the leading advocate for getting this policy changed. They have retained counsel to challenge the policy. Their research indicates both that there aren’t solid legal grounds for this policy, and that it is contrary to the public interest.

The LCC has invited Public.resource.org to give testimony at their next public meeting, but there is no formal representation for Oregon’s community of wiki editors, bloggers, etc. (more…)

Last week, Pete showed us How to publish a photo on Wikipedia. Here’s another easy and important thing you can do: Release your Flickr photos under a Creative Commons license that allows derivative works and commercial use. Flickr enables users to share their work with others by publishing images under a Creative Commons license. Many people choose a CC license that prohibits commercial use, thinking that they don’t want their beautiful photos of Mount Hood to show up on a postcard or in a Mazda commercial. What they don’t realize is that they are also preventing their work from showing up on Wikipedia.

When Wikiproject Oregon editors want to add an image to the article, they frequently go rummaging through the wonderful world of Flickr looking for Creative Commons photos. Nothing beats stumbling across a photostream — like Marc Shandro, eyeliam, mulmatsherm, pfly, or atul666 — full of commons-licensed Oregon photos. We need more of these! If you don’t want pictures of your kids showing up on in travel brochures, you can always choose to license some of your photos under a CC-BY-SA or CC-BY license, while reserving additional rights on more personal and private photos. Flickr’s organizer tool makes it easy to apply licenses to large batches of photos at a time. Make sure you tag and caption your photos well so that editors can find them easily for Wikipedia, identifying location, geographic features, buildings, notable people, and plant and animal species if possible.

Here’s another thing we should do. Let’s start a photo pool called “Oregon Commons.” Flickr already has many great pools like Oregon and Northwest Outdoors, featuring the best Oregon images. Unfortunately, the Flickr search engine doesn’t provide an easy way to search within those pools for Creative Commons-licensed images. What we need is a pool for the best Oregon photos released under CC-BY and CC-BY-SA licenses. We could send notices to the members of those other pools inviting them to join our pool and teaching them how to license images so that they can be used on Wikipedia. And over time we’ll build up a useful resource. Who wants to take the lead?

UPDATE: More instructions in the comments below. In Flickr’s terminology, the CC-BY license is “Attribution Creative Commons” and CC-BY-SA is “Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons.” These are the only two licenses compatible with Wikipedia.

Interesting blog post about licensing photos possible violations.

no free imageWhen you think of a political party, you probably don’t think of cocktails and buffalo wings. But that’s the kind of political party I found myself at on election night (May 20). As I chatted up a candidate for Treasurer of Oregon, I spotted a few other notable politicians, whose Wikipedia articles lack even a basic photo. So I grabbed my point-and-shoot camera, and asked if I could snap their pictures.

Each politician I approached graciously agreed, and Wikipedia’s coverage of Oregon politics became just a little more complete.

Putting an image on Wikipedia can be one of the more frustrating tasks on the encyclopedia that (supposedly) anyone can edit. The upload system is a little clunky, but moreover, the legal and procedural technicalities can confound even the most eager and dedicated contributor.

So, at the end of this blog post is a simple and little-known procedure that allows anyone with an email account to submit a photo of themselves, or of someone they represent. (more…)

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