NPG-WMF talks are in progress. What would you like to see from them?

Erik Möller has just emailed this to the communications committee list, and said it can be posted publicly:

“Quick note: The National Portrait Gallery contacted us to see if we can find a compromise regarding the images in question, and we’ve entered good faith discussions with them. Feel free to point this out in relevant places.”

Of course, details on terms, proposals etc. are confidential at this stage. But let’s assume that, interesting as a final verdict might be, neither WMF, the NPG or DCoetzee really want this to come to a legal battle. (The WMF is a charity and broke by definition, the NPG is a government sub-department.) That’s a really good thing. Working with people always beats working against them.

So: what would you like to see in a compromise, that addresses the concerns of all sides? (My initial ideas are here.)

The real problem is funding digitisation — that governments tell galleries they have to make money from copyright on the works in their possession. This was barely workable last century, and is increasingly untenable in this one.

That million pounds the NPG spent on digitisation was taxpayer’s money. We’ve already paid for it. IMO, we should be getting the images at highest resolution completely unencumbered. I don’t hold out hope of this being standard until we get the Ordnance Survey data and the postcode database released, though.

(Also: this blog quoted on the BBC News site.)

(Note: I am on the comcom list, and answer media queries as a WMF volunteer, but opinions on this blog are entirely mine and not WMF’s.)

Wikimedia writes on the NPG legal threat.

Erik Möller’s posted to the Wikimedia blog on the issue. Note the correction of the NPG’s claims that Wikimedia never responded to them (rather than responding with “Bridgeman v. Corel, go away”) — Erik assumes good faith and presumes this is in error.

About the best roundup of coverage so far is Dcoetzee’s own link collection — press and blog posts. I liked the WikiNews story.

Other British taxpayers as annoyed at the NPG’s waste of their money as I am have been putting in FOI requests to see just how much money they make from keeping it all to themselves (£378k before expenses — what are the expenses? six staff, what else?), how much they’re spending on legal representation, what proportion of their web hits are from Wikimedia links and so forth.

(One request that should be made: £10-15k annually from web licenses — they need to be asked how much the person handling these licenses is paid. They make more money selling food in the café. Suggest your best prospective FOI requests in the comments!)

I’m suspecting a severe case of bureaucratic empire building here: the bureaucrats honestly think the paintings belong to them rather than to us. Which is what one might see from a private for-profit corporation, but is rather less than acceptable for a government sub-department, not even an independent charity. As Sage Ross notes from Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody:

Self-preservation of the institution becomes job number one, while its stated goal is relegated to job number two or lower, no matter what the mission statement says.

Carphone Warehouse is now sending spam to ask for blog spam.

This just arrived and appears genuine. Carphone Warehouse are (a) sending spam (b) to request blog spam. They also have past form of spamming. I suggest not dealing with them, cancelling existing contracts with them, and telling them why.

Continue reading “Carphone Warehouse is now sending spam to ask for blog spam.”

Has anyone been in touch with the National Portrait Gallery?

I was going to call NPG this morning first thing as a volunteer, to see what could be reasonably done to avert a public battle — a public battle would really foul up our other museum liaison volunteers’ ongoing efforts. But I was awake all night with a sick child and so I just got up …

Has anyone reading this called yet, as a volunteer? Physchim62, who did a lot to get the American Chemical Society working with us, was going to call. Has anyone else?

(I don’t hold out much hope for this — the NPG’s position has been completely consistent and completely uncooperative for many years. But it’s always worth asking.)

It’s reasonably important to avoid directly going into details of the possible legal case, for Dcoetzee’s sake — but the NPG’s lawyers have effectively written a press release read by ten thousand Wikimedians and a million Slashdot readers. The letter clearly does directly and personally threaten a lot of them. I bet it’s been more widely read than any intentional NPG press release has been.

Ideal outcome: PD everything, they welcome a team of our photographers in.

Plausible good outcome: We put up the hi-res images with notes that they are PD in the US but the NPG claims copyright in Europe and releases them under copyleft, and full credit is requested in either case. (Copyleft is not as ideal as PD, but it’s plenty good enough for us.) We issue press releases lauding the NPG to the skies and say nice things about them forever.

Another plausible good outcome: They welcome a team of our photographers in. Careful supervision, etc. Then we can do stuff like infrared shots as well (which can show interesting things about a painting’s restoration history).

Awful outcome: great big legal and public relations battle. Even if we or they win, we both lose.

Bad outcome: mainstream press about this at all, really. It will hamper our efforts with other museums. The NPG probably doesn’t see it that way.

Any other possible outcomes to list?

Additional data point: the NPG has removed the hi-res versions. Thus, the Wikimedia copies are the only copies currently available. This makes it actually culturally important for us to keep them up!

Meanwhile, here’s an article you must read on this topic: Public Domain Art in an Age of Easier Mechanical Reproducibility by Kenneth Hamma, Executive Director for Digital Policy, J. Paul Getty Trust. Precis: do your best to get as many of the highest-quality copies out there as you can.

Sue and be damned.

For several years, the National Portrait Gallery has claimed copyright over public domain images in their possession. Wikimedia has ignored these claims, occasionally laughing. (Bridgeman v. Corel. Sweat of the brow is not creation in US law; go away.) Our official stance in this time has been “sue and be damned.”

So the National Portrait Gallery has tried. Here’s their letter. A lollipop for every misconception or unlikely or impossible demand. This was sent after (so they claim) the WMF ignored their latest missive. The editor they sent the threat to is … an American.

A UK organisation is threatening an American with legal action over uploading images that are public domain in the US to an American server — unambiguously, in established US law, not a copyright violation of any sort. I wonder how the case will go.

It’s most unfortunate that the National Portrait Gallery considers this in any way sensible behaviour, considering how well we’ve been going with museum partnerships for Wikipedia Loves Art — the V&A were fantastically helpful and lovely people, who realise that spreading their name and exhibits far and wide is much more likely to get them money and fame than claims of copyright over works hundreds of years old.

I can’t see this ending well for the National Portrait Gallery, whatever happens. Anyone who could speak on their behalf at this level won’t be in until Monday; I wonder if they’ll be surprised at the people politely queueing with pitchforks and torches.

I’ll be calling them first thing Monday (in my capacity as “just a blogger on Wikimedia-related topics”) to establish just what they think they’re doing here. Other bloggers and, if interested, journalists may wish to do the same, to establish what their consistent response is.

Grape Lane (euph.)

Looks like we survived yesterday’s featuring of Gropecunt Lane on the front page of English Wikipedia. Total press coverage: Popbitch — not one word elsewhere. I’m amazed. I did write a suitable News of the News. Even the on-site angst was minimal (good discussion on Raul654’s user page). Did someone fail to think of the fictional children?

Update: Second bit of press: Stephen Fry approves.

A WikiEN-L discussion actually goes somewhere: BibleBay!

WJohnson brought up on WikiEN-L that Bible quotes were pointing to (a) external sites (b) that made fraudulent claims of copyright over public domain translations.

After a bit of discussion, Magnus Manske hacked together the BibleBay! A given chapter and verse range, listed in all translations on WikiSource.

Suggested additions: 1. The original Hebrew or Greek the section is translated from. 2. Links to an external site with the New International Version. 3. The future canonical version.

Update: Greek and NIV links added. And … try this.

Wikipedia keeps the truth from everyone.

WIKICITIES, Helmand, Monday (NNN) — The kidnapping of Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist David Rohde in Afghanistan was suppressed not only by almost all press syndicates but also by Wikipedia, on the direct command-and-control orders of Jimbo Wales, who is personally responsible for every word in the popular web-based encyclopedia.

Conservative commentators were appalled at the suppression. “Would they have protected HITLER like this?” thundered Michelle Malkin. Wales pointed out that the encyclopedia’s biography of Hitler had already been appropriately edited and cited per the Biographies of Living Persons policy:

Adolf Hitler is the Chancellor of Germany[citation needed]. He is noted[citation needed] for his work on the moral fibre of German society[citation needed] and stimulating the economy[citation needed], notably through the Autobahn construction programme[citation needed]. Some[who?] have criticized aspects of his policies[citation needed].

(