Friday, July 17, 2009

More Wikistupidity

Ah, the lovely smell of hypocrisy. Wikipedia, with its overt insistence on "public domain" only - yet when an 'influential' Wikipedia editor is caught out stitching together partial hi-res images from the National Portrait Gallery, we get this nonsense from the borg:

But the (sic) Wikipedia volunteer David Gerard accuses the gallery of bureaucratic empire building.

"They honestly think the paintings belong to them rather than to us," he wrote.

Now, Mr Gerard is an Australian, albeit living in London, and the sub-title of his blog pretty much says it all. Even if he was a British citizen, the 'us' he is clearly referring to is the elitist (for a peculiar definition of elite) Wikimedia Foundation. You could make a moral case that the original paintings belong to the British public. Morally and legally, the hi-res pictures clearly belong, under British law, to the National Portrait Gallery.

David is asking for comments on the talks between the borg and the victims - personally, I'd like to see Wikimedia Foundation bankrupted for breach of real law as opposed to it editing inconvenient people (i.e. those who do not hold the borg opinion) out of existence. For an encore, what about Mr Coetzee prosecuted and imprisoned for breaching the DMCA (he claims he can pick and chose from copyright law - let's pick the legal jurisdiction of the cabal - he bypassed an electronic protection measure, the same crime that Jon Johansen was prosecuted for in Norway). But then I'm just a reactionary grumpy old git.


MaxG said...

I think you're wrong about this.

1. The original pictures in question are long out of copyright.
2. NPG is asserting a new copyright in mere photographs of the works of art, which is arguable, but by no means certain, in the UK, but is just not true in the US.
3. The very idea that you can create a new copyright by merely copying an out of copyright work is after all, on the face of it, ludicrous. I asked this very question of DACS at a seminar, as it seemed to me to open the way to a species of permanent copyright - keep making new copy photographs - which undermined the legislative limits on copyright protection. The only response I got was "That's a very good question."
4. The DMCA angle is a red herring. Zoomify isn't copy protection, since it doesn't require any specific engineering or programming to recreate the full image. This person appears to have automated a process that could equally have been done manually (albeit much more slowly).

NPG have made themselves look like complete dicks, barging straight in with the legal heavy artillery (after having walked away from previous talks apparently), and talking about it as a threat to their £400k picture licensing business - while neglecting to mention that only £19k of this is online licensing and all of that is from corporate users. They could (as the Bundesarchiv did) have taken it as an opportunity to win more business, but sadly, they just don't seem to get this interwebby thing.

Surreptitious Evil said...

Hmm, Okay,

1. Entirely correct but irrelevant.
2. I disagree (clearly.) The US position is clear (although completely hypocritical - you attract 50 years copyright for the performance of a song you sing - even if the song was in the public domain!) I believe the UK position is equally clear. And anyway, isn't Coetzee South African?
3. You are not creating new copyright, you are creating a new work which attracts its own copyright (under UK law). If you or I took a picture of the picture, then that copyright belongs to us, not to the NPG, and we can then donate it to Wikimedia Commons if we so choose. But that is not what happened.
4. As for the DMCA - you may be correct (I am not a US lawyer) but you can also be done for circumventing an access restriction as well as for marketing a circumvention device (the latter, clearly, didn't happen.)

If the borg's own rules had been followed "Can you, for sure, deny Third Party Rights? ... No ... Do Not Upload!", then this would never have happened.

And I think it is the "Wikipedia - everything belongs to the borg" attitude that the NPG don't get (and I despise), not the internet.

_Felix said...

5. Copyright is ludicrous. If you publish some data, it no longer belongs to you.

(I suppose that is exactly the attitude that you despise. I'd say it's not so much an attitude as an obvious fact, necessary for a consistent concept of property rights, and part of freedom of speech. Personally I despise Queen Anne for kicking off the whole sorry business in 1709.)

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