The Visual Copyright Society in Sweden (BUS), which represents painters, photographers, illustrators and designers among others, had sued Wikimedia Sweden for making photographs of their artwork displayed in public places available in its database, without their consent.
The Supreme Court found in favour of BUS, arguing that while individuals were permitted to photograph artwork on display in public spaces, it was "an entirely different matter" to make the photographs available in a database for free and unlimited use.
As reported by the BBC (April 5), the court took the view that—
Such a database can be assumed to have a commercial value that is not insignificant. ... The court finds that the artists are entitled to that value.
We respectfully disagree with the Supreme Court's decision to erode the freedom of panorama that is a fundamental part of freedom of expression, freedom of information, and artistic expression. As we read it, the Swedish copyright law in question only limits the production of three-dimensional copies of sculptures, and cannot be interpreted as placing limits on pictures of public art being published on the internet. The fact that the copyright law allows images of public art on postcards, even for profit and without the artist's consent, demonstrates this intent and, in our opinion, is inconsistent with the Supreme Court's interpretation of the law.
The Wikimedia Foundation respects artists' rights to control their works, but artists who wish to control all images of their art have the option to place their works in private places. The public should be free to enjoy and share views of public monuments and landscapes. The European Parliament agrees, as shown by its recent rejection of attempts to stifle freedom of panorama. This Swedish Supreme Court decision disregards this point. Sharing images of public art online does more than allow others to experience that art—it helps the world share in knowledge and have a dialogue about public spaces that surround us. Sites like Offentligkonst.se help provide that information in a structured and accessible way. Diminishing the ability to show these images restricts our ability to discuss our own surroundings.
The decision sparked much discussion in social media, with people worried whether, as private individuals, they were still at liberty to upload images of statues for example to Facebook or Instagram. Supreme Court Justice Lars Edlund toldSVT, Sweden's national public TV broadcaster, that the court's decision only applied to this specific case, i.e. a large-scale open database of artwork photographs; the legality of individuals posting such photographs to Facebook or Instagram was not considered in this case.
The judgment was welcomed by BUS, who said it had been important in establishing "who decides over the artists' works; the artists themselves or the big players on the internet." BUS lawyer Erik Forslund toldNy Teknik (April 4) that the decision finally confirmed artists' exclusive rights to publication online, adding that BUS presently has agreements with local governments who pay a fee to show their art on the web. According to Forslund, these fees amount to "a few hundred dollars" per municipality, depending on how large the municipality is and how many works are involved.
Forslund said his organisation was not interested in what individuals did online—and indeed that it would be inappropriate to go after individuals—but expressed the view that this ruling opened up new opportunities for BUS to sign contracts with large commercial players publishing images of public art such as Swedish search engine Hitta.se, Facebook and Google, as well as Wikimedia.
Wikimedia Sweden's Anna Troberg remained unconvinced, saying she did not believe BUS might not be willing to seek compensation from private individuals in the future. She toldThe Local, an English-language website focused on Swedish news:
We are naturally very disappointed. We view this as an anachronistic and restrictive interpretation of copyright laws. It also runs counter to recommendations from the European Court of Human Rights.
Troberg said that Wikimedia Sweden would consult with its lawyer and the Wikimedia Foundation to decide their next steps: "Our priority now will be to re-shape the debate, because clearly this is an outdated judgement."
BUS, on the other hand, recalled that Wikimedia had—
refused to sign a licensing agreement with Bildupphovsrätt for artists' rights—an agreement that would cost just a few hundred euros a year. Rather than negotiating on payments to artists, Wikimedia has instead chosen to spend tens of thousands of euros on lawyers to avoid it.
We hope that this declaration from the Supreme Court means that both parties can now move on from these disputes and come to a mutually constructive solution. Bildupphovsrätt is constantly signing this kind of agreement for using visual artworks, and discussions are best held at the negotiating table rather than in a courtroom.
The amount of damages Wikimedia Sweden will have to pay BUS will be established at a later date by a Stockholm district court.
Charles Watson, convicted of seven first-degree murders in 1971, does not dispute that he stabbed, shot and mutilated several people to death. Nor does he deny being “the right-hand man” of the cult leader and killer Charles Manson.
But Watson, still serving a life term in Ione, Calif., does reportedly want to set the record straight on a couple of scores: Last week, someone claiming to be the 70-year-old convict submitted a list of meticulous corrections to Wikipedia.
Among other things, the person claiming to be Watson disputes that he took $70 from one of his victim’s purses, or that he ever went by the nickname "Mad Charlie." He also wants the world to know he attended Cal State, not the University of California—and that, four years after his infamous killing spree, he converted to Christianity.
When the Signpost asked for further details about how the letter found its way to the Wikimedia Foundation, its communications department would only say:
As you know, given that we (the Foundation) generally don't write, edit, or curate Wikipedia content, editors are almost always better suited to evaluate and support requests to make changes to Wikipedia content, often through the OTRS system, as was done in this case. For additional context, the request came in directly through OTRS rather than to the Foundation or another channel. We do refer many content-related inquiries that come in through our channels to the OTRS system where editors are able to evaluate and look into any requests to edit, add, or remove content on the sites, as well as help explain community policies to newcomers.
We can't reasonably confirm or deny the person's identity who made this request for the en.WP article for Tex Watson, just as you can't fully 'know' who the person is behind any form of online communications. As I'm sure you know though, editors are actively discussing and evaluating the proposed edits to the article.
It's important to recognize that editors are evaluating the proposed edits to the article for Tex Watson (regardless of who they might have come from), but ultimately are relying on neutral, third party sources to back up any new information or changes to the article. While it will never be perfect, this is a good example of English Wikipedia policies and editors working to keep content on the site neutral, reliable, and well-sourced.
This is a topic that has been discussed in recent Signpost stories exploring the relationship between Wikipedia, Wikidata and the various commercial answer engines now coming onto the market, which at some level compete with Wikipedia, even as they're basing their responses on Wikimedia content (see "Whither Wikidata?" and "So, what's a knowledge engine anyway?").
As Oremus notes, after communicating with "Alexa, the voice assistant whose digital spirit animates the Amazon Echo",
... voice assistants tend to answer your question by drawing from a single source of their own choosing. Alexa's confident response to my kinkajou question, I later discovered, came directly from Wikipedia, which Amazon has apparently chosen as the default source for Alexa's answers to factual questions. The reasons seem fairly obvious: It's the world's most comprehensive encyclopedia, its information is free and public, and it's already digitized. What it's not, of course, is infallible. Yet Alexa's response to my question didn't begin with the words, "Well, according to Wikipedia ...". She—it—just launched into the answer, as if she (it) knew it off the top of her (its) head. If a human did that, we might call it plagiarism.
The sin here is not merely academic. By not consistently citing the sources of its answers, Alexa makes it difficult to evaluate their credibility. It also implicitly turns Alexa into an information source in its own right, rather than a guide to information sources, because the only entity in which we can place our trust or distrust is Alexa itself. That's a problem if its information source turns out to be wrong. ...
Amazon’s response is that Alexa does give you options and cite its sources—in the Alexa app, which keeps a record of your queries and its responses. When the Echo tells you what a kinkajou is, you can open the app on your phone and see a link to the Wikipedia article, as well as an option to search Bing.
Oremus also looks at the way certain vendors could and indeed do receive preferential treatment from voice assistants like Amazon Echo, affecting consumers' choices—whether they're ordering a pizza or buying music. He envisages—
problems of transparency, privacy, objectivity, and trust—questions that are not new to the world of personal technology and the Internet but are resurfacing in fresh and urgent forms. A world of conversational machines is one in which we treat software like humans, letting them deeper into our lives and confiding in them more than ever. It's one in which the world's largest corporations know more about us, hold greater influence over our choices, and make more decisions for us than ever before. And it all starts with a friendly "Hello."
Congressman's campaign removes "unflattering information" from his Wikipedia article, blames other Wikipedia editors for "opposition research messaging"
Republican Congressman David Jolly discovered the Streisand effect first-hand when Buzzfeedreported on April 5 that his campaign admitted to editing his Wikipedia article to remove "unflattering information". Jolly represents Florida's 13th congressional district in the US House of Representatives and is running for the US Senate to replace Senator and former US Presidential candidate Marco Rubio. Jolly spokesperson Sarah Bascom, president of the political firm Bascom Communications & Consulting, told Buzzfeed: "We were notified a few months ago that a consultant who works for one of our us senate [sic] opponents has been intentionally editing the David Jolly Wikipedia page to follow their opposition research messaging so they can use it in a mail or digital campaign. Once we found about it, we went in and attempted to correct his page to be consistent with all of his public bios."
Twoedits were made in March and April by an account that at the time was named "Bascomcomm". They added promotional material and language to the article and removed references to Jolly's career as a lobbyist, his divorce, his support for same-sex marriage, and his relationship with Scientology. The latter detail was prominently mentioned in subsequent news reports, including Techdirt and Gawker. The "worldwide spiritual headquarters" of the Church of Scientology is in Jolly's Congressional district and his connections to the Church, including donations and appearances at fundraisers and events, have been previously highlighted by the media. After each edit, the information was restored by other editors.
Bascom accused two editors by name of working on behalf of Jolly's political opponents: Champaign Supernova and CFredkin, editors since 2012 and 2013, respectively. Both edit articles on a range of US politicians from both major political parties. Bascom refused to tell Buzzfeed who those editors were allegedly working for and offered no proof of their alleged affiliations. Bascom claimed "I have been told by numerous people who is behind it, but I can't use that. That would be unethical."
On April 6, the Tampa Bay Times reported Jolly's response. Jolly told the Times "It was a careless staff mistake that I first learned about from the Times" and said that an unidentified campaign aide edited Wikipedia at their own initiative. Buzzfeed too had a follow-up article on April 6, including a response from Champaign Supernova, who called the allegations "absurd". G
Canadian government edits: Global Newsreports that an IP address belonging to the Correctional Service of Canada edited the article Political positions of Donald Trump to include inaccurate information regarding the sexuality and gender identity of the current US Presidential candidate. Homophobic edits from the very same IP address prompted an investigation in January. Motherboard also looks into this kind of editing from Canadian government employees: "There's no better way to peer into the seamy underbelly of bureaucracy than by looking at how people in power waste their time. It's in this spirit that I present to you a curated list at all the ways employees of the Canadian federal government, from the military to tech support, have edited Wikipedia in 2016. It's quite the collection—from one person arguing that Donald Trump is a self-proclaimed [redacted] to another claiming that Ghanaian Jollof rice tastes like 'pupu' compared to the Nigerian variety." The collection is based on a Twitterbot logging edits from Canadian government IP addresses. (Apr. 6–7) AK, G
Stumped: AskMennotes the deletion of the Wikipedia article on the "Stump" drinking game, "Wikipedia's reason being that the game's not notable enough. But Jimmy Fallon and Elijah Wood played it on Late Night in 2010, so here's hoping more attention will raise its profile enough to keep the page alive." (Apr. 6) AK
Revolution: Newsweekhighlights a Quora answer by Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim, which likens the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 to the social processes underlying Wikipedia: "The decentralized nature of the protest, and the shared commitment among everyone who took part of the movement, reminded me of how Wikipedia operates." (Apr. 6) AK
Emertainment Shemertainment: Emertainment Monthly (the "official entertainment magazine" of Emerson College, get it?) believes that the graphic novel Out There: The Evil Within is "Deserving of a Wikipedia Page". Why haven't you acceded to this completely reasonable request, Wikipedia? The series by Brian Augustyn and Humberto Ramos was originally published in 2001, back when Wikipedia was being created, so we were a little busy at the time. Emertainment Monthly writes, "This will hopefully inspire someone, somewhere to finally write something about the Out There universe on Wikipedia", but they can't do it themselves because they are busy creating the official entertainment magazine of Emerson College. (April 3) G