Wikisource talk:Copyright policy

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Discussion predating April 2006 rewriteEdit

Discussion in this section refers to the pre-April 2006 revisions of the copyright policy (see changes).

Copyright law(s) used at WikisourceEdit

What is the copyright law(s) relevant on Wikisource? Is it the American copyright law? The problem arises with works of authors from countries with different copyright law than the US. Is the date of publication or the death's date of the author which matters? Several cases I can see:

  • Works of M. K. Gandhi (1869-1948) and of Indian authors who died after 1943 published before 1923. (public domain in India: death + 60 years)
  • Works of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)?
  • Works of French authors who died after 1933 published before 1923. (public domain in France: death + 70 years). Examples: Raymond Boudon, Henri Duvernois, Maurice Leblanc, Henri Bergson, Ernest Pérochon, Romain Rolland, Jean Giraudoux, Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, Paul Valéry, Tristan Bernard, Georges Bernanos, André Gide, Colette...
  • Works of French authors who died between 1923 and 1933. Examples: Albert Londres, Georges Courteline, Gaston Leroux.

Yann 11:46, 3 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Surely the cut-off date we quote should increment year on year. If its 70 years after the death of the writer, then the date ought to be 1925, not 1923 we are using. Apwoolrich 13:31, 22 September 2005 (UTC)
Here is some basic copyright info User:Zhaladshar/Copyright#Published_works. There is an interesting two paragraph discussion of international copyright law from a google lawyer regarding the google print project here. --CSN 22:33, 22 September 2005 (UTC)
I consider that we have to obey BOTH the American Copyright Act and the laws that apply to where works have been published.--Jusjih 00:12, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
I don't think I'm not sure what you're saying. Are you saying that in posting a text, we need to consider its copyright status in America and its copyright status in the country in which it was originally published?—Zhaladshar (Talk) 00:27, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
That is what I think. What I do is check the copyight law in the country in which it was originally published first. American Copyright Law applies especially in case of claiming fair use, but it is not preferred here.--Jusjih 08:08, 10 February 2006 (UTC)
Commons:Licensing#Interaction_of_United_States_copyright_law_and_foreign_copyright_law says: For example, if a person in the UK uploads a picture that has been saved off a French website to the Commons server, the upload must be covered by UK, French and US copyright law. For a photograph to be acceptable for upload to Commons, it must be public domain in France, the UK and the US, or there must be an acceptable copyright licence for the photograph that covers the UK, US and France.--Jusjih 02:56, 22 November 2007 (UTC)
Pictures are much less of a problem here than in Commons. In a large proportion of cases the copyright status of the picture will be tied to that of the work, and is thus not a separate issue. Eclecticology 10:36, 22 November 2007 (UTC)


Which licence(s) to use for texts which I have written and I would like to publish on Wikisource? Apart from public domain and GFDL, is there any other possibility? Yann 12:06, 3 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Something compatible with the GNU Free Documentation License. The Wikinews community has decided that Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 is compatible with the GFDL. --Benn Newman 01:01, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
Please answer this question, and make it clear on the page. For example can a text tagged with "Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved." be uploaded to Wikisource? -- 21:31, 31 August 2005 (UTC)
No, derivative works must be allowed per the GFDL. --Benn Newman 01:01, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

Possible copyright violationsEdit

It is inevitable that people will submit copyright materal. If you come across a text which you believe is a copyright violation please list it at Wikisource:Possible copyright violations.

Exceptions for copyrighted work?Edit

I believe that some works might be appropriate on WikiSource despite their copyright. One such example would be music lyrics. These are undoubtedly copyrighted to the artist or producer, but are stil avaliable on thousands of web pages. The copyright owners don't seem to take the trouble to prevent their spread, quite the opposite in fact. Could these be posted on WS? (If you can think of other possible copyright exceptions, please post them here.) --HymylyTC 20:07, 25 November 2005 (UTC)

I would strongly advise not to post them here. Yes, while the copyright owners don't seem to care, it is still their copyright and we have no permission to post them. As Wikisource is a part of the Wikimedia Foundation, we must keep in mind that we are to operate at a level of professionalism that other sites might not feel the need to operate at. Unless we can get permission, the lyrics will most likely be marked as a copyvio and deleted soon thereafter.—Zhaladshar (Talk) 22:21, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
I agree Zhaladshar's opinion. Even if the copyright owners may not be caring, it does not automatically grant copyright. Fair use is extremely unlikely here.--Jusjih 00:15, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

No derivative works?Edit

Hello, I need some advice. In el.wikisource some other user has received permission from a well-known greek author to publish in wikisource all texts that are already published in the author's website (about 350 texts) but with some restrictions. He wrote: "The texts that I have in my website are free for anyone for redistribution, as long as there is attribution to the author and source - and as long as there are no abridgments and changes. So you can in any way add these in Wikisource. N.D."

That means the texts are not public domain, and not free to the spirit of GFDL, but instead are on a license like Creative Commons-Attribution-No Derivative Works cc-by-nd. Of course wikisource is just a collection of texts and in fact any changes to original texts should be avoided, but if we put these texts with this license notice, would this break the GFDL notice on the pages? -- 00:12, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Please see the Foundation-I mailing list. This has actually come up over there. It seems that all submissions to WS must be either public domain, GFDL, or GFDL-compatible. I'm not familiar in the slightest with CC licenses, but if the CC-by-nd is GFDL-compatible, then feel free to add it. If not, you might want to rethink it. Again, read up on what's going on over there; this is a bit confusing--especially since WS is getting different opinions from different people who know what they're talking about.—Zhaladshar (Talk) 21:38, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

Fair useEdit

Would anyone mind me changing this page around to reflect our policy of not accepting fair use documents?—Zhaladshar (Talk) 21:33, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

I cannot think of any reason not to make that clear. Jkelly 22:30, 22 February 2006 (UTC)
The project page says: "Fair use will not apply to most Wikisource material. Fair use depends on using no more of the text than is required for the purpose; our efforts to include whole texts is what usually makes it less likely to apply here." Therefore, fair use is already discouraged here. As I have reviewed the project page, I have not found notations expressly forbidding non-commercial licenses, including Template:UNCopyright. Has the Wikimedia Foundation concluded its copyright debate?--Jusjih 00:48, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
As I've said before I can't remember when this decision was made & I'd like to review the discussion before stating that we flat out won't take any fair use documents. AllanHainey 12:57, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
Fair use is "an aspect of United States copyright law that provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test" (w:Fair use). Fair use doesn't apply here under any circumstance. We're reproducing works in their entirety, not citing or incorporating them. Further, works on Wikisource are freely redistributed and our license allows users to use the content commercially if they so wish. If you think this should be discussed, I think the best place to do so would be on the Scriptorium. // Pathoschild (admin / talk) 15:18, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
Hm, I can't remember if the discussion was on WS or on IRC. If we need to, we can get a general consensus from the community regarding fair use material so that we can definitively point to something showing our decision. Such a vote should be held on the Scriptorium, however. But the biggest reason fair use doesn't apply here is the reason Pathoschild just mentioned. Fair use was never meant to be a reproduction of a complete work, but only portions insofar as it helps newspapers/scholars/etc. with their daily/academic work.—Zhaladshar (Talk) 17:06, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

Discussion predating March 2007 rewriteEdit

Discussion in this section refers to the pre-March 2007 revisions of the copyright policy (see changes).

Applicability of this policy at other Wikisource subdomainsEdit

Since this policy is now official here, shall we have the prohibition of fair use and non-commercial licenses apply to the multilingual Wikisource and other language subdomains? How shall we do this? is Template:UNESCOCopyright okay here while it is for educational and other non-commercial purposes?--Jusjih 17:01, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

It is my view, and the view of Jimbo Wales and at least one other elected trustee with whom I've discussed the issue, that the prohibition against noncommercial licenses is Foundation policy and applies equally to all Foundation wikis. Therefore, it should be codified into each Wikisource's copyright policy as soon as possible.
The UNESCO copyright statement prohibits noncommercial distribution, which our license explicitly allows. Therefore, we cannot host noncommercial works without changing the license with which the Wikimedia Foundation distributes its works.
The prohibition against fair use is a more local decision based on our judgement of the legal implications and requirements of fair use. I think that the application of fair use to complete texts is illegal and violates the spirit of the law. Perhaps we should have a centralised discussion about fair use on the multilingual Wikisource and come to a project-wide decision. // Pathoschild (admin / talk) 19:15, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
I'd rather not have project-wide decisions on how we will treat fair use. While I think that the points here should be raised on the other WS domains (like maybe the French WS might need to delete some UN Security Council Resolutions) probably by going through the multi-WS, I think we should determine how this wiki will deal with fair use, and not go along with how everybody else is doing things.—Zhaladshar (Talk) 22:09, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
In this case, I consider that at ALL Wikisource sites, we should disallow fair use for being extremely inapplicable and noncommercial licenses for being incompactible with GFDL. We are not Project Gutenburg that can host permitted copyrighted works without automatically allowing downstream users to reuse them as they like.--Jusjih 14:29, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
Oh, I agree. I'll add a note to the multilingual Scriptorium today about it.—Zhaladshar (Talk) 16:47, 11 April 2006 (UTC)

Stated CopyrightEdit

Do pages need to state the reason they are Public Domain? For example, JonBenét Ramsey ransom note and A House-Boat on the Styx have no copyright info. -Reuvenk[T][C] 05:10, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Yes; works which do not assert a compatible copyright status should be noted at Possible copyright violations. I've tagged those pages with the correct copyright information. // [admin] Pathoschild (talk/map) 16:41, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Unenforceable copyright/Presumed PD Without ReleaseEdit

Right now, a lot of people are saying"omg, the copyright policy sez that "unless somebody has specifically released their work into the public domain, it's not allowed to be here"" - which leaves us a distinct problem with items like Leopold and Loeb ransom note, the Zodiac Killer letters and Mohammad Atta's final instructions to the 9/11 hijackers. (not hosted yet, waiting on PD translation).

Now, there are two distinct factions, "These belong on Wikisource because even if they *were* copyrighted, it isn't enforceable in any real sense" (which isn't to say they *are* copyrighted) and "These don't belong on Wikisource because our policy says so" - so it seems to me, the 'best' solution is to find an amendment to the copyright policy that would allow such works to be hosted here.

Such an amendment would have to be carefully worded, so that we don't have new users pushing the envelope. Perhaps also making mention of some form of consensus, or are we too small a community for that?

It should be noted that many of these texts have been "ruled"/"considered"/"presumed" to be public domain dozens or hundreds of times by mass media and book publishers - who reproduce the works in whole (voiding any argument that "they must be using Fair Use!", because no, they aren't, they are presuming that the works are PD). Sherurcij (talk) (CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN) 03:02, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

I strongly oppose such an amendment to the policy, which is currently worded to eliminate ambiguity and make Wikisource's repertoire as useful and unquestionable as possible. Ambiguity reduces that usefulness, since users are forced to doubt whether any work they download or view on Wikisource is really free, or copyrighted with little chance of enforcement. This is part of what makes the English Wikisource unique, that we very clearly specify works' licenses or public domain criteria. We should not host works that may be copyrighted simply because we probably won't get sued over them. We should respect all authors' and publishers' rights. This is particularly important for our redistributors, which may publish our works commercially and are thus subject to more scrutiny in regards to copyright.
Regarding legal challenges, it should be noted that an analogous situation occurred over illegal music downloading several years ago. It bloomed largely because, despite being illegal, it was highly unlikely that anyone would ever be sued over the violations. In fact, many were convinced that music copyright was unenforceable on the Internet due to the (false) anonymity the networks provided. The legal campaign undertaken by the Recording Industry Association of America disproved that.
Regardless of how unenforceable some copyrights may be, regardless of how much we like or dislike the authors, they nonetheless have rights—both legal and intellectual—that the Wikimedia Foundation, in its mission to encourage "the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual content" (from the Foundation wiki), can neither afford nor allow. I've already mentioned my general opposition to hosting these ambiguously copyrighted works; explicitly allowing them is, in my opinion, out of the question. —[admin] Pathoschild 03:37, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
Responding to your subsequent addition, the fact that these works are published or displayed in the mass media does not automatically make them public domain. Such publication is often allowed under fair use, which some legal experts believe can cover the entirety of smaller texts, though this is controversial (RAWBLOG, Case Western Reserve University). That does not apply here; fair use is not free. —[admin] Pathoschild 19:01, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

There is nothing about the copyright for these works that makes it unenforceable. For the murder/ransom notes: the copyright holder (preferring, most likely, not to go to prison) has chosen to not enforce the copyright, there is no reason why they could not have it enforced. Regarding works by terrorists: Wikipedia:Template:IEEPA sanctions, which Sherurcij has used as a reason for allowing works by a "person, organization or state subject to U.S. sanctions" (in short, terrorists), is not public domain either — if anything, it is fair use. I do not know how any of this works can be compatible with the GNU Free Documentation License or with the Wikisource's mission of being "The Free Library." --Benn Newman 00:11, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

If we do not believe these to be PD they do not belong here. There is no reason to host things be believe to copyrighted. Ambiguity over what is PD, is the problem. Not our copyright policy. --\ 01:57, 10 November 2006 (UTC) --BirgitteSB 02:15, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

Which is how come you'll notice I support removing the statement "Unless the author has written an explicit release of their copyright, then anything that exists is copyrighted", since it furthers the ambiguity and misinformation of Public Domain vs. Copyrighted Material. Sherurcij (talk) (CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN) 02:10, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
Misinformation? I think that is a very good, safe definition of public domain (excluding works are in the public domain because of time et cetera). The author reserves all rights unless they explicitly say they do not. --Benn Newman 02:21, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
You can hardly exclude such a large amount of public domain material from a definition of public domain. Only an very, very small portion of public domain material is explicitly released as such. There is another small portion which has case law, in some jurisdictions, confirming it is in the public domain. There is a large chunk of material where the author died over a 100 years ago which can be asserted as public domain without question. The rest of it is just varying degrees of guesswork depending on age, date of author(s)' death, where it was first published, what country(ies) the author maintained citizenship in, the type of work, as well as any laws now applying to any person wanting to use the work downstream. Some areas are on firmer ground than others, but there is nothing "explicit" about public domain. --BirgitteSB 01:40, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

For the record, just received a response from BradPatrick - the person most able to dispel armchair legal theories on both sides - and he pretty much confirms that the texts I refer to are not copyrighted...or public domain. It's basically just a grey area that world never made rules for. Unlike homocide, copyright law is full of loopholes, ignored dusty corners, etcetera. It basically comes down to whether WS wants to only host "only US Gov't and 100-year old documents" - or to take the effort to actually rewrite our inclusion policy (which would still be based on copyright status) to cover all the nuances, decide which grey areas to adopt and which to ignore, and actually form a comprehensive strategy for becoming a free library...not just a collection of books written at least a century ago. Personally, I strongly believe it is worth the effort to rewrite our inclusion policy to be more specific, instead of making sweeping (untrue) claims. unsigned comment by Sherurcij (talk) 2006-11-10T20:12:34.

There's a vast repertoire of public domain texts written throughout the thousands of years of humanity's intellectual history that is explicitly, unquestionably free. I see no reason to dip into the much smaller repertoire available through grey areas and questionable loopholes, particularly since Wikisource defines itself as 'the free library'. These works are not free, much like music is not free just because nobody is going to come knocking on your door if you download it; you can download it, but you are violating the author's intellectual rights and are sacrificing any presence to it being free. If we do accept this, we may as well change our motto to 'yet another ambiguously copyrighted online library'. —[admin] Pathoschild 04:52, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
What you are offering here is known as a Straw man argument, as there is no real similiarity between an anonymous death threat, per se, and Britney Spears' latest album. One has an author who is tied to the work, the other was written by somebody who purposely eschewed any connection to their work. One was written for commercial gain, the other was not. One registered its copyright, the other did not. One was freely released by the government with no restrictions on what could be done on reproducing or distributing it, the other is released by the record label for $21.99 to play in your CD player, with very strict restrictions on whether you may reproduce or redistribute it. I'm not saying that a non-registered copyright makes something PD, I'm saying that you're doing a poor job of representing your argument. You can argue there are "thousands of years of human civilization", but unless you foresee the mass PD transcription and translation of ancient papyrus or Mayan symbology, again that's not really a very strong case. We're basically working from a small number of Medieval authors, and then 85% of what we host is Victorian, Gothic and Classical British/American authors, and the remaining 15% is US Government publications. Great for your second-year British Literature course reading list at University - but Poe, Swift and Twain do not a library make. Libraries have microfilm caches in the basement for a reason...that's where the good stuff is kept ;) Sherurcij (talk) (CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN) 07:23, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
Your above argument about my points being straw men is, ironically, a straw man argument. ;) Your representation of my argument is not accurate. I'm not referring to Britney Spears' latest album, any more than you are referring to the latest Harry Potter books. The analogy referred to the successful undertaking of legal action where it was previously believed that the copyrights were technically unenforceable. It wasn't a perfect analogy, though, so I may as well drop analogies now.
My main concern is that the usefulness of a "free library" is directly affected by the degree to which it is actually free. Unenforceable copyright is not free— it is, at best, unfree without legal problems arising from copyright violation. IEEPA sanctions are very poorly defined, for example, and I presume they are not eternal. They are at best controversial and arbitrary. Similarly, orphaned works are not free. They have an unknown status which is traditionally assumed to mean likely copyright; see the leading introduction for w:Orphaned work: "An orphaned work is a copyrighted work where it is difficult or impossible to contact the copyright holder." The United States has not yet passed legislation recognizing orphaned works, so normal copyright laws still apply.
My biggest concern, then, is this: Wikisource, as the free library, should not host unfree works, even if it can get away with it. —[admin] Pathoschild 10:10, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
I wish that others would agree with Pathoschild, it would make things a lot simpler and the project a lot more effective. At the moment, I can see many conflicting arguments about copyright, with different standards being applied to different works and some obvious copyvios being advertised on the main page. Wikisource copyright policy is clear—free use or nothing—yet it appears not to be enforced. If someone wishes to host works under U.S. fair use rules, or under the presumption that nobody will sue them, there are plenty of free web hosts available. Wikisource should not give up its reputation for such documents, as to do so would seriously affect its abilty to attract (and maybe even to host) documents in the future. Physchim62 17:04, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
I understand Pathoschild's reasoning, however he is being less than clear on how he would like to apply it. Personally I do not think we can guarantee anything is completely free unless the author has been dead 100 years or it is explictly released PD (US govt works, etc.) without major research being done for each work. This strict of an interprataion has never been the approach taken by this project. Recent deletion discussions have shown many people think we should host whatever we believe to be legal in the US. That includes alot of "unfree" works. I can see where Pathoschild is coming from, but I do not believe consensus is possible for such dramatic change in the project. If you guys want to get rid of speeches et al; you need to come up with reasoning for it that won't include a third of the project. I do not see people agreeing to get rid of a full third. You seem to be trying to avoid a real disscusion on this by either talking about broad missons or someone's father's suicide note. I will not pretend the above reasoning only applies to suicide notes because it does not. It applies to {{PD-1923}} and a great deal more. I don't see people agreeing to half so much as that.--BirgitteSB 18:14, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
No, we cannot guarantee it. It is not clear that the works I think you are referencing are in the public domain, in the United States or otherwise. --Benn Newman 18:38, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
For the record, I have quite explicitly not mentioned suicide notes in this particular suggestion - they are a separate, albeit thorny, issue. Right now I'm just strongly in favour of rewriting the Copyright Policy so that it doesn't include the phrase "anything that somebody has written, is copyrighted, unless they explictly released it", because that is not true - but it's getting quoted a lot. No matter what stance we take on Orphan Works, we have to expand the copyright policy, and hammer out specific details on what we're willing to host, and what we're not, based on death dates, publication dates, what country the person wrote the work in, what country it was first published in, manifestos, speeches - are the Nixon Tapes copyrighted? They're transcriptions of conversation, they weren't fixed in a tangible form by the author (Nixon), but they were by an anonymous whistleblower who released them to the public. What about leaked documents that have never been declassified, which includes large portions of the Pentagon Papers? By US Law, they obviously can't be published...but they're also not copyrighted...where does that leave us? We are growing at an exponential rate, and we need to actually hammer out a workable, yet legal, inclusion policy that allows more than "Poe, Swift, Twain and US Fed'l Government" authors. Sherurcij (talk) (CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN) 19:20, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

Okay, perhaps it needs to be modified to allow speeches (and be more specific on being in the public domain because of time, which could be said to be explicitly in the public domain if you can figure ), but I have yet to be convinced that orphaned works should be allowed (why not, then, anonymous work?). --Benn Newman 20:05, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

There is a very important distinction, as pointed out by BirgitteSB, that can be drawn between works that are unfree and those that are free in the United States. I see no problem hosting works that are free in the US but not elsewhere, assuming they are properly categorised. That includes most speeches, government works, thousands of years of literature, et cetera. However, that does not include to orphaned works or IEEA sanctions, which are not free even in the United States however much we might get away with hosting them.
Sherurcij's main concern seems to be with the quote about works being copyrighted unless explicitly stated otherwise. Note that the sentence before it states that "Most recent written works are subject to copyright", which implies that the following line about explicit release applies to those works that are copyright. Perhaps that could be reworded to say, "Works should be assumed to be copyrighted unless they are explicitly licensed, or there is a specific and verifiable reason they are not (see Help:Public domain)." —[admin] Pathoschild 20:19, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
Some contributors seem to think that the question should be ignored simply because there is no "certainty". The main uncertainty arises from people trying to slip in provisos along the lines that "this is a Nazi publication so it can't be under copyright" (wrong, many of them are, including virtually all images): in other words, they try to slip in exceptions to copyright law without any justification. Copyright exists in a literary work from the moment of its creation (which for most countries means the point at which it is written down or otherwise "fixed"), and subsists until 70 years after the death of the author (some exceptions to that one, but none which is important for these discussions). The copyright status of the work can change if it is published with the consent of the author. Copyright may also be transferred, and works may be released into the public domain (which is the equivalent of a non-exclusive licese of all rights in the work). None of that is particularly difficult. It is the responsability of the uploader to show why the work is not copyrighted (too old, ineleigible, released, etc.), not for us to prove that it is copyrighted (although I am steadily uploading U.S. materials on copyright which may help). Physchim62 09:58, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
I don't think that summary is at all accurate. We are having difficulty establishing the copyright staus of some works. If we find they are copyrighted they will be deleted. The idea that most things can be clearly established as PD and we should delete everything else is incorrect. It is all degrees of certainty. The problem with this disscussion is no one is able to keep this on one issue at a time. You tend to lump a great many of areas together and say they are all equally obvious copyright violations in your eyes. You need to accept that this is not obvious. If it were obvious; they would be deleted. There have been other people who came here in the past who sounding just like you do now. They spoke with great authority and certainty while admitting they were not actually lawyers. And we listened to them; and they were wrong. I don't wish to go back and restore all this material in a few months and lose contributors here over nothing. Show me things similar to the works you are concerned with being treated as a copyrighted work. Define the area you wish to address, stay on subject, and assume good faith. Watching an issue and waiting for better information is not the same as ignoring an issue. If we wanted to ignore this we would not ensure they are all labeled with a self-categorizing template stating the problamtic copyright status. Go through random pages and look at how many non-problamatic works actually have license templates on them. I agree that the uploaders should do their own research and provide the reasoning etc, but the problem in the cases you have concerned yourself in is not any lack of information but the fact that you disagree with the uploader. I do not know who is correct but, after all my experience here, I cannot so easily believe copyright is as airtight as you wish me to. I hope we soon learn a definitive way to handle manifestos and the component parts of the Warren Commission Report. I really hope one day Wikisource can be a gold standard of copyright on the web in line with Scared Texts. That is goal I will continue to aim for. But the realization of that goal does not mean we give in to paranoia. It means we recruit lawyers and residents of Wahington DC to volunteer to address these issues. It means we develop FAQ's on the grey areas. It means we are open to discovering the complete story on copyright not shutting our ears to the parts that won't fit in the pretty box we first imagined.--BirgitteSB 18:41, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
I could be mistaken, but I don't think I've seen a single person on Wikisource claim "omg, Nazis can't have copyrighted things!" - that arena is rife with emotion and irrational logic on WP, but I haven't yet seen it appear on WS. I, as one of the primary 'villains' in this dispute, certainly haven't claimed it - I claim that certain other considerations can make a 1940s work viable for WS, but certainly not the fact "they were Nazis". Anyhow, I again echo Birgitte (It's happening too often) that this is about firmly defining our inclusion policy, noting that there are degrees of certainty, and that an open letter from w:Tito to w:Charlie Chaplin in 1937 requesting that the latter build him a nuclear bomb is likely to be treated on a slightly different scale (not neccessarily included) than say, w:Michael Eisner's resignation letter to the CEOs of Disney, which we deleted a few days ago. Sherurcij (talk) (CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN) 22:24, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
I disagree with BirgitteSB's statement that "The idea that most things can be clearly established as PD and we should delete everything else is incorrect." The vast majority of works are clearly in the public domain or explicitly licensed in a manner that is clearly compatible with the project's license. Of what is not clearly compatible, much of it can be safely presumed to be compatible based on well established laws and precedents (such as speeches and manifestos). Of the tiny unfree fraction that remains, I see no need to break away from the Foundation's mission to host them. Let the other libraries (such as Wikilivres) have them and make them accessible. Wikisource is not just another online library, it's a free library— and not just free as in beer.
Sherurcij's argument above is misrepresentative; What we're discussing here is not manifestos (which I see no problem hosting), but unenforceable copyright, presumption of public domain on any unlicensed work published in the mass media, or likely copyrighted orphaned works. —[admin] Pathoschild 23:44, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
I disagree with the certainty you have about public domain. But I guess it depends on how you define public domain or more exactly whose public domain. I don't think Sherurcij's argument is misrepresentative as it what we are discussing has not been outlined at all and Physchim62 is arguing for the deletion of many of these things as well. However since I actually agree with all your conclusions about what we should or should not actually host I probably should stop arguing with you. :) --BirgitteSB 00:00, 14 November 2006 (UTC)

I too have no particular qualm's with Pathoschild's analysis (except on foreign copyrights, but that is another argument). Neither do I have any problems with Wikisource:Copyright policy, except for the fact that it is not enforced as it is described. I have been careful to argue for the retention of works works where I disagree with their description as copyvio. The fact remains that copyrighted works are not only hosted here, but advertised on the main page: somewhere, there is a major problem of interpretation. Does Wikisource host "what it can get away with" or does it host "public domain and other freely licensed works"? Physchim62 08:38, 14 November 2006 (UTC)

Does Wikisource host "what it can get away with"? No. Does it host "public domain and other freely licensed works"? Yes this is the idea, however there is great variety of opinion on how to define free. If you want to discuss orphan works, please go to the Scriptorium dissucussion on the matter. Outside of that I am unsure of what you think we hosting just because we can get away with it. I do not support hosting anything that believe is likely to be unfree although there are things I think are most likely free but I cannot be 100% certain about. I am very conservative on what I will say is 100% free.--BirgitteSB 16:59, 14 November 2006 (UTC)

Orphan WorksEdit

I really think we need to specifiacally deal with one issue at a time. I would like to first examine the issue of orphan works, which I do not have a settled opinion on it as start this examination. A very useful reasource is Report on Orphan Works by the US Register on Copyrights. An important definition is found here:

  • "orphan works" - works for which no copyright owner can be found, and thus for which permission to use or adapt these works cannot be obtained.

Other useful info:

  • In spite of this uncertainty [where authorship of a specific work cannot be determined], however, users occasionally exploit works having indeterminate ownership. This typically occurs only when the user perceives an acceptable risk based on the facts surrounding the work and the use at issue, and almost always after the user has performed some degree of due diligence in attempting to locate copyright owner based on the limited contextual information available. This appears to be the case for both experienced users of copyrighted works,37 as well as for members of the public generally.38
    • 37 See, e.g., National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine (654) (describing a policy for conducting a search for copyright owners; if unsuccessful, materials are web-published with a disclaimer).
    • 38 See, e.g., Earnest (78) (describing the use of an aerial photograph of a building on the campus of Stanford University in a “historical exhibit at Stanford’s Computer Science Department”; first a search of local aerial photography companies was conducted, but all denied ownership; the user remains “uneasy about its ambiguous status”).
  • While U.S. copyright law does not contain an omnibus provision addressing all orphan works as such, it does contain a few provisions that permit certain users to make certain uses of certain classes of orphan works, and other provisions that reduce the risk in using an orphan work. There are thus already some “orphan works provisions” in U.S. copyright law, although they are not labeled as such. These provisions include section 108(h), section 115(b), section 504(c)(2), and the termination provisions (sections 203, 304(c), and 304(d)).99
    • 99 Other provisions in the Copyright Act can permit use of orphan works. For example, statutory licenses other than section 115 (such as the licenses available under sections 112, 114, and 118) can permit
    • section 108(h) allows a library or archives to make use of a work n the last 20 years of it's copyright term (this is not limited to orphan works) provided it has made a reasonable investigation to detrmine:
      • 1) It not subject to normal commercial exploitation (I believe this translates into "out of print")
      • 2)A copy or phonorecord of the work cannot be obtained at a reasonable price
      • 3)the copyright owner or its agent provides notice pursuant to regulations promulgated by the Register of Copyrights #1 or #2 apply
      • The exemption provided in this subsection does not apply to any subsequent uses by users other than such library or archives.
      • Section 108 relies expressly on the concept of reasonableness: the terms “reasonable investigation” and “reasonable price” are central to its operation. However, section 108(h) defines neither of these terms. Similarly, it does not define the important term “normal commercial exploitation.” We could find no case interpreting these terms in section 108(h) to date.
    • Section 115(b); Section 504(c); Sections 203, 304(c), and 304(d) does not apply to us
  • The fact that Canada does have an oprhan works provision was mentioned in passing this should be looked into

The orphan work provision suggested by this report would eliminate any possible monetary damages from WS if a copyright holder resurfaced however it does not "free" the orphan work in a meaningful way. Basically it is more similar to Fair Use than PD. After reading a good portion of this report I do not think we should consider hosting any orphan works which are not of a certain age. Anything published before 1923 would have {{PD-1923}}. However we have an issue with unpublished works which must in theroy enter the public domain after some amount of time even if the authors death date is unknown. So it would be silly to outlaw them completely. I would like to suggest we only accepts orphan works when are at least 150 years old. What does everyone else think? --BirgitteSB 01:09, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

If the orphan work has to be more than 150 years old, that seems to be even more restrictive than the actual law which says anything published pre-1923 is PD - so no, I can't really see that being an appropriate response to the issue. Having read the entire report, I'm also not seeing how it offers evidence linking use of Orphan Works to fair use. The "uncertain" users of orphan works as given in the examples (NIHM, Aerial photos) are not said to be claiming "fair use" on their documents, but to be claiming "We believe this to be public domain".
In fact the report very clearly states "For purposes of developing a legislative solution we have defined the “orphan works” situation to be one where the use goes beyond any limitation or exemption tocopyright, such as fair use."
As Birgitte mentioned, the report suggests that there is no way WMF/WS could be held liable for monetary damages (assuming we used "reasonable attempts" to located a copyright holder), without broaching anything like "fair use of copyrighted material", which we shun. This leaves us struggling with what a "free library" really means. Clearly we are not going to be like the libraries you find in the city that have books by Michael Crichton or Chuck Palahnuik, we're focusing on texts that are free. But "free" and "public domain" do not mean identical things. Sherurcij (talk) (CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN) 01:42, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
I think you misunderstand me. The oprhan works reports suggest allowing things to be used simlar to how fair use is allowed. It would allow people to use works as if they granted permission not as if there were not a claim of copyright. This is unacceptable for the same reasons fair use is unacceptable and it is useless for people downstream who would liable for monetary damages unlike WS. Therefore I do not believe we show allow something because it is an orphan.
New paragraph. Since I don't wish to allow orphan works we have one problem. There is material which is certainly PD despite the fact that it is orphaned, however we can not say exactly when the author died etc. Things published pre-1923 are already covered. This leaves really old diaries, letters, etc. which are PD through their age yet we cannot say exactly when they went PD (because we don't know info about the author). I think we should come up with a way to handle these somehow. I was thinking we generally have an idea how old they are and we can say the author must be dead by some period of time after their creation. So we should pick something like 150 or 200 years so we are not being stupid in forever excluding a work just because it is orphaned. This paragraph is me trying to use commonsence and has nothing to do with the Orphan Work Report. --BirgitteSB 02:08, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
Responding only to the latter paragraph, I would assume that we could whittle down a few years - nobody lives past 120, and nobody writes works before the age of 5. So 115 years would seem "just as reasonable" as 150, which still isn't really addressing any issues, since there will be no documents "published post-1923, plus 115 years" until 2038, or "published post-1923, plus 150 years" until 2073. Sherurcij (talk) (CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN) 02:15, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
I agree with BirgitteSB that orphaned works seem much more like fair use than public domain, and I think my previous argument—that a free library should only contain free works—applies. The fact that we can get away with violating likely copyright does not make the work free in any meaningful sense, any more than the fact that fair use lets us get away with violating known copyright means we should.
There is no reason to allow unfree works that can override the Wikimedia Foundation's primary goal of offering free content. There are public domain criteria that cover approximately 4880–5930 years of entirely free writing, and those numbers increase to 5000–6000 of mostly free works when we include free licenses. Surely there are enough free works to fill our library that we don't have to turn to unfree works within the last 70 years, particularly with many free works even within those 70 years.
Regarding old orphaned works, note that unpublished works enter the public domain 120 years after creation. For works whose date of creation is unknown, we can pick a latest possible date and apply that criteria from that date. —[admin] Pathoschild 02:17, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
To Sherurcij: I was speaking of unpublished works only, like a diary from 1800 where the author was unknown. But nevermind I didn;t know about the 120 year PD rule for unpublished works. --BirgitteSB 02:22, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
The 120-year rule is for U.S. works: European anonymous (or collective) works created before 1926 are PD (but you have to be sure that they're really anonymous...). From 1926 onwards, the rules are as for the U.S., due to 17 U.S.C. 104A. Physchim62 10:05, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
Some orphan works can be legally reproduced in countries and areas not copyrighting them due to shorter terms. As I now consider 17 U.S.C. 104A impeding Wikisource and its sister projects, I would like to introduce m:American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term where I have proposed a petition to the United States Congress.--Jusjih 08:29, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Another hole in the currenty policyEdit

This page doesn't help me determine whether WS would host the w:Blinky Bill books, which are PD in Australia (where they were published), since the author died 50+ years ago. (And what if the case were different, and the author had died in 1947, meaning 50+ years ago...but as of 1996, it wasn't in the PD in its home country?) I'm not looking for an answer specific to Blinky Bill, I'm pointing out that the current copyright policy really needs an overhaul, so that it's a valid resource for members to turn to, rather than something to be quoted out of context when a dispute arises. Sherurcij (talk) (CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN) 18:50, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

These aren't policy related questions. They are specific legal questions, which can only be answered by doing research/consulting with an intellectual property lawyer. Because the copyright policy doesn't address these kinds of questions doesn't mean it needs an overhaul: the policy was never meant to address such question, but merely dictate the broad framework that WS will take in matters of copyright. Our policy boils down to "If we have the right to redistribute, let others redistribute what we are redistributing, allow for modifications, and allow for commercial use, they we accept it." But the copyright policy is not a rubric for determining legal status of works, and should not be used that way (not that I see how it could, since the policy is far too broad to draw those kinds of specifics).—Zhaladshar (Talk) 19:48, 15 November 2006 (UTC)
I agree with Zhaladshar. The policy states what is or isn't acceptable, but it isn't a help page. For example, it states that we accept works that are in the public domain, but it doesn't list public domain criteria. There are various help pages (some of which are linked to from the policy page) which try address such questions; see Help:Copyright tags and User:Pathoschild/Help:Public domain, for example. —[admin] Pathoschild 01:45, 16 November 2006 (UTC)
Myself any some other editors are (slowly) working on the sort of problem which Sherurcij raised at w:Wikipedia:Non-U.S. copyrights. The Blinky Bill books would have had to have their copyright renewed in the U.S. if they are still to be under copyright there: otherwise, they are PD in Australia and New Zealand which would normally be sufficient for them to be PD outside the U.S. (which has different rules on this sort of thing). That leads to a policy question: to what extent does WS host works which might have had their U.S. copyright renewed. WP does not allow such works except as fair use, as it deals mostly with images (virtually impossible to know that an image has not had its copyright renewed somehow or another). It is easier to check for registration and renewal of texts. Physchim62 15:58, 16 November 2006 (UTC)
We currently host texts with reasonable claims of non-renewal. Of course it is very difficult to prove a negative but there are people doing reliable research into these matters. In a perfect world we would have some volunteers in DC who would being willing to visit the Copyright Office. Still there are reliable catalogs online for certain years and some research can be done towards this as it stands. --BirgitteSB 17:58, 16 November 2006 (UTC)
Link Description
Copyright policy [policy] Explains the legal rights and obligations of Wikisource editors in regards to copyright law.
Inclusion policy [policy] Outlines the guidelines used to decide whether or not Wikisource accepts a work.

If after being here 6 months, with 2,500 edits, I still can't discern the difference between these, and why you're saying that "A" serves the same purpose of "B"...perhaps we really should merge/condense/whatever some of these. Help:Copyright and Wikisource, Help:Copyright tags, Wikisource:Copyright policyUser:Pathoschild/Help:Public domain (which looks fantastic, and should be moved off of userspace), Wikisource:What_is_Wikisource?#What_do_we_include_and_exclude_at_Wikisource.3F, Wikisource:What Wikisource includes - at least one or two of them could be merged into the others...which will also mean more "advertisimng" of the remaining, improved, works. Sherurcij (talk) (CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN) 09:30, 16 November 2006 (UTC)


If I find a source work licensed under the GPL and no other licence, would copyright allow it on Wikisource? (GPL is incompatible with GFDL, but it's a copyleft licence without non-commercial or no-derivative restrictions, and Commons accepts it (grudgingly) for images.) Ais523 08:56, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

That's a difficult question. The only problematic requirement in the GNU General Public License is the provision of source code for all works. This is fine on Wikisource itself, where it is freely available in the edit view, but it's not available with our redistributors who don't allow editing. I'm don't think the HTML output visible in the page source would qualify as the work's 'source code'.
In general, it is more free than the GNU Free Documentation License, which contains all sorts of problematic clauses like 'Invariant Sections', 'Cover Texts', 'Acknowledgments', et cetera. This too is a problem, since that means that the licenses are not actually compatible. You cannot impose additional restrictions over the GPL or remove restrictions from the GFDL by placing a GPL work in a GFDL database.
The best solution would to be write our own license for Wikimedia projects, but that's not likely to happen. You could try asking the author if you can redistribute it under the GFDL, but that may or may not be likely. Failing that, I don't think we can host it without legal complications.
One feasible solution would be to change the Foundation projects' footers to say something along the lines of "Content is available under the GNU Free Documentation License or the indicated free license". This would have to be a Foundation decision, though, so it won't happen very soon. —[admin] Pathoschild 19:50, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

The question depends as well on the nature of the source work: is this a hypothetical question or do you have a particular work in mind? The screen shots of Wikimedia projects used to be (may still be to a certain extent) covered by the GPL, you can still see the remains at w:Template:GPL. Releasing source code on Wikisource should not by a copyright problem, but may not fit in with inclusion criteria... Physchim62 17:52, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

UK/Canadian LegislationEdit

Question 1: UK Legislation, while still under Crown Copyright, is freely reproducable with no commercial restrictions under a waiver of copyright. There used to be a copyright tag to this effect, but it seems to have been deleted. A similar policy applies to Canadian legislation, and the copyright tag for the Canadian documents has not been deleted. Is the legislation (post-1957) of Canada, the UK, or both reproducable under Wikisources copyright policy?

Question 2: The Canadian Constitution contains Acts that were originally enacted by the UK government, but since 1982 these acts have been modified by the Canadian legislation. Would the consolidated acts containing the original UK legislation and the subsequent Canadian modifications be covered under Canadian copyright law, UK copyright law, or both (or neither). Ex. if the original UK legislation is PD, and the Canadian Acts modifying the documents are post-1957, would the consolidated documents be PD, or Canadian Crown Copyright? If both documents are post-1957, what copyright applies? -T. Mazzei 22:18, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

We've previously discussed the topic of crown copyright & determined that documents under crown copyright can't be hosted here, even if there is a waiver. I don't know about Canada but UK legislation post 1957 can't unfortunately be reproduced here. AllanHainey 12:59, 29 January 2007 (UTC)
Just noticed there's been some discussion on the scriptorium about this Wikisource:Scriptorium#UK_legislation AllanHainey 13:02, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

The waivers for Canadian and UK Legislation do not violate Wikisource copyright policy for "prohibited licenses". It is not "fair use", and it is not a "non-commercial license". If it is to be the case that these waivers are not acceptable licenses, the copyright policy should be updated to reflect this, and an official reason for its exclusion given.

The restrictions placed on reproducing these documents are that reasonable attempts are made to ensure the accuracy of the document, and that it is not represented as an official version. I don't see that a requirement of reasonably accurate reproduction is detrimental to the goal of only posting articles that are freely reuseable, since beyond a prohibition against deliberate misrepresentation, there is no restriction on reproduction of the works. It must be noted that these waivers only applies to legislation/legal documents, where misrepresentation could have damaging consequences.

Also note that since it appears that the Canadian order applies to all Canadian legislation (and legal decisions), both crown copyright and public domain, a policy prohibiting works under such a license would prohibit all Canadian legal documents. --T. Mazzei 20:17, 10 February 2007 (UTC)

BirgitteSB's view on the draft policyEdit

I had some issues with this draft and found it easier to redo it how I want than to give you a list of criticism. My draft is at User:BirgitteSB/Copyright policy with changes shown here. My suggestion in removing the non-commercial disscussion is to have a seperate page archive disscusion of particular licenses in one spot. I set a link up as a subpage call "Incompatible licenses" but as I think of it now I think we have it be more general and archive all past disscusion of licenses. I don't see why non-commercial should be singled out more than Crown Copyright or more than the back and forth of UN licensing. It would be really useful to keep links at hand to all these discussions without cluttering up a simple policy.--BirgitteSB 21:12, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

I think it is best to use the notes parameter to state the basis of the policy which everything below should simply be a more detailed explanation of. My idea is to say: "Wikisource, as The Free Library, is committed to developing a collection of free content works. This page outlines the policy used to determine whether or not content is compatible with the free content definition below." The rest of the policy is rooted in those two lines. The definition defines the concept of "free content" we are using to judge compatibility. The rights and obligations explains how to users are expected to assert this compatibility, and how Wikisource's license affects their rights in regard to copyright on their creative contribution. Copyright violations explains how we determine compatibility when we are in doubt. Though out the policy mentions how breaches of the policy will be handled by administrators to enforce the commitment to this issue. This idea came from an essay at Wikpedia where one suggestion was "try writing a one or two-sentence nutshell (with no comma clauses) that the whole process follows from. Make sure the nutshell follows as directly as possible from the core policies." I think it worked well in making WS:WWI more focused and think all of are policies can benefit from following such a suggestion. I also think the notes parameter is the perfect place for these lines.

Pathoschild's version of the notes (which I realize is not attempting to follow the same suggestion I did) reads: "This copyright policy codifies the licensing philosophy of the English Wikisource, which is binding. The copyright laws applicable to Wikisource are primarily those of the United States of America, where the physical Wikimedia servers are located. The United States is not obliged to extend copyright beyond what it would be in the author's own country, and virtually all countries have copyrights that last for the author's life plus some number of years." Even disregarding that I prefer using the above mentioned philosophy for this parameter, I have some problems with last two lines of this statement in this policy. The copyright policy needs to be about free-content and there are no copyright laws that says what is free content. There are plenty of texts (i.e. by permission) which perfectly follow all copyright laws and still we have deleted them. Whether something is compatible with the definition of free-content is what matters in describing the copyright policy. Laws have so far mainly come into play where we are determining if something is public domain or not. That is much larger discussion which is not even touched on in the rest of the policy so I find strange to mention copyright laws so vaguely in the notes. Also I believe it is false to say that " The United States is not obliged to extend copyright beyond what it would be in the author's own country". Jusjih has several times brought up that the US does not follow the the "rule of the shorter term" and no one has ever corrected him. Nor have I been corrected the few times I made comments based on the assumption that Jusjih's statements were correct. If he is correct than the above statement is at the least very misleading; although the US is not necessarily obliged to do extend copyright, it happens to actually do so.--BirgitteSB 20:36, 11 March 2007 (UTC)

I agree on all points; I've implemented all your changes in the proposal. —{admin} Pathoschild 22:18:14, 11 March 2007 (UTC)

Linking to copyrighted worksEdit

I'm not sure "Linking to copyrighted works is usually not a problem, as long as you have made a reasonable effort to determine that the page in question is not violating someone else's copyright" is vrey clear. Could we rewrite? Sherurcij Collaboration of the Week: Author:William Gordon Stables 20:15, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

Linking to copyrighted works is acceptable, unless the target site is violating someone else's copyright Is that clearer? That way it is clearly OK, unless we determine the target site is violating copyright rather than requiring some undefined unprovable "reasonable effort"--BirgitteSB 01:36, 27 October 2007 (UTC)
I'm not sure what it's trying to convey, we're just saying that users can include links to their own personally-copyrighted translations of documents? Sherurcij Collaboration of the Week: Author:William Gordon Stables 02:12, 27 October 2007 (UTC)
I think it is trying to links to a text at Wikilivres are OK because they don't violate copyright (based on their Canadian location), but links to song lyrics at a random ABBA fansite are not (because song lyrics from the 70's are going to be copyrighted). So don't link to a geocities page that ignores copyright, but do link to a university website that has permission to display a copyrighted work.--BirgitteSB 16:36, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

Your edit ignores the fact that some works are displayed on the internet with permission. not copyrighted != not a copyright violation. A work may not be a copyright violation and still be copyrighted in country the servers are located in. --BirgitteSB 19:51, 27 October 2007 (UTC) An example Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

Simpler would be: Links to external sites do not imply that Wikisource has expressed any opinion on the legality of the site under any copyright law. I think that my view is closer to Birgitte's on this one. Coming to any kind of reasonable determination about whether some other site is infringing is near impossible. Without engaging in detailed inquiries we cannot know what private arrangements there may be between the owners of the copyright and of the site. Contributory infringement depends on real knowledge of the circumstances, and the copyright owner having taken action against the alleged primary infringer. If the owner is successful in getting the page taken down, our link simply won't work. If there is any significant risk it is taken by the person doing the actual posting. We have enough to keep ourselves busy without trying to determine the whether someone else's actions are legal. If we were transcluding the material this would be a different question, but nobody is suggesting that we do that. Shirurcij's proposal to include references to foreign law only makes the policy more complicated than it already was with no benefit in return. Eclecticology 20:51, 27 October 2007 (UTC)
Not a problem, I like the sounds of Links to external sites do not imply that Wikisource has expressed any opinion on the legality of the site under any copyright law. Sherurcij Collaboration of the Week: Author:William Gordon Stables 21:25, 27 October 2007 (UTC)
I disagree most of the time it is patently obvious whether a website is a copyright violation or not. And we have adopted a policy against allowing links to promote such sites. There of course cases were we may not know but edge cases make bad policy. I strongly oppose changing the wording to Ec's suggestion.--BirgitteSB 15:20, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
Its benefit is that it's clear and makes sense, to go back to your wish would require a lot of clarification, that's all. I've got no problem with "External links are allowed if we have permission of the translator" or whatever - but it seems to not make sense in its current form. Even still, I'm not sure if you're suggesting that a site which says "This cannot be reproduced in any form" means we can still create an Author:William Carlos Williams and then just link to offsite copies of his copyrighted work? Sherurcij Collaboration of the Week: Author:William Gordon Stables 15:26, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
(edit conflict)I added this important point back in. Mess around with clarifying the wording all you want but don't change' policy without agreement. The original policy read Linking to copyrighted works is usually not a problem, as long as you have made a reasonable effort to determine that the page in question is not violating someone else's copyright. If it is, please do not link to the page. in case anyone forgot. I still like my suggestion of Linking to copyrighted works is acceptable, unless the target site is violating someone else's copyright but I am not going argue over exact wording as long the policy still says A)It is acceptable to link to works Wikisoure won't host because of copyright. And B) It is not acceptable to link to a copyright violation on an external site.--BirgitteSB 15:33, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
  • I'm not sure if you're suggesting that a site which says "This cannot be reproduced in any form" means we can still create an Author:William Carlos Williams and then just link to offsite copies of his copyrighted work? Of course I am not suggesting that. And I don't think that should ever be answered in this policy. Would I personally make such a page? No. If someone else did I imagine it would end up on "Proposed Deletions" sooner or later and I cannot predict what the outcome of that discussion would be. However I do think that this policy allows the linking to non pre-1923 works for Author:T.S. Eliot. I don't think the original question you ask matters until someone makes such a page and someone else wishes to delete it.--BirgitteSB 15:41, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
    • Sorry I misread you. I thought you were asking about an author which had no un-copyrighted works at all. I think, yes, we can link to copyrighted version of his work as long as they are not copyright infringing versions. That is what I have always thought it meant. I believe this general idea is copied from en.WP policy.--BirgitteSB 15:46, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
      The problem is that for most external sites it's practically impossible to know that there is a copyright infringement unless there has been an open dispute somewhere, and we are made aware of that dispute. We don't know if there is an agreement between the site and the copyright owners. We don't know if fair use is involved. We don't know if the owners of the site have simply used a liberal but perfectly defensible interpretation of copyright law. We don't know if the material in question is copyrightable. There's a big difference between linking to a site, and transcluding its material. In the latter case we are effectively treating the material as our own.
      If we want to depend on "reasonable effort to determine that the page in question is not violating someone else's copyright," that should be more precisely defined so that people are not running around in a futile effort to prove a negative. The general principle that the burden of proof primarily lies on the person asserting the positive is well-known in law. In evaluating other people's sites we should begin by assuming good faith. Eclecticology 19:29, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
      • I personally don't want to talk about reasonable effort. I would like to say something like Linking to copyrighted works is acceptable, unless the target site is hosting the text in violation of copyright. It really does not take a rocket scientist to spot a copyright violation. And the edge cases should not be talked about in policy. If there ever is such an edge case we can discuss it in a non-hypothetical fashion when it happens. We don't need detailed rules and procedures for this. There has yet to even be a single dispute over a link! We can also add a line saying If you are unsure if a particular link is appropriate ask for advice here.--BirgitteSB 18:44, 29 October 2007 (UTC)
          • We may be employing different rocket scientists. At the same time I don't dispute that there has not been a single dispute over a link. All the more reason to avoid presumptions about the other site. Eclecticology 23:31, 29 October 2007 (UTC)
        • I think it's the redundancy of the word "copyright" that makes the policy sound self-contradictory (even if it isn't). "Linking to copyrighted works...unless they violate copyright" in onerous at best. "Linking to texts hosted on foreign servers, where the work is no longer under copyright, is typically allowed - unless the site is purposely taking advantage of a complete lack of legislation by hosting recent texts likely to harm the author's commercial viability." has the benefit of explaining we're talking about foreign servers (Wikilivres, PG Australia) - while ruling out somebody hosting something on Tokelau or Ethiopia. Sherurcij Collaboration of the Week: Author:Ivan Turgenev 19:00, 29 October 2007 (UTC)
          • To eliminate redundancy: It is acceptable have an external link to a work that is not free content, unless the target site is hosting the text in violation of copyright. If you are unsure if a particular link is appropriate ask for advice here. We are not only talking of foriegn servers remember my example --BirgitteSB 19:20, 29 October 2007 (UTC)
            • How about External links may be made to a work that is not free content, unless the target site is clearly hosting the text in violation of copyright. I've changed the first part to avoid the impersonal verb form, and added the word "clearly" in the second part. I don't think that the additional sentence is needed because we should be encouraging this sort of thing in relation to just about every policy. It strikes me as and advisory rather than policy type of statement. Are we close? Eclecticology

This seems like a perfect litmus test of the two policies. We are dealing with a link that does not violate copyright since it points to the author's own hosting - but it is certainly not free/PD in any country. What are the opinions on including/notIncluding links like these? Sherurcij Collaboration of the Week: Author:Ivan Turgenev 23:38, 1 November 2007 (UTC)

This only covers one corner of the possibilities, and I certainly have no problem with those links. I'm thinking of something much broader. What would we do with something like the Harry Potter Dictionary who have been threatened by Rowling and Warner with a lawsuit only if they go ahead with a dead-tree version with the same material? Eclecticology 01:08, 2 November 2007 (UTC)
I also say include these links for existing authors.--BirgitteSB 19:57, 2 November 2007 (UTC)

Firstly, the word "(web)site" should be avoided at all cost in any amended version, lest we find people thinking we are creating a WS:BADSITES proposal. Throwing another suggestion to the wind:

External links to copyright violations are not permitted in Wikisource content and index pages, however Wikisource expresses no opinion on the legality of any external material.

That leaves it open enough for practise, rather than policy, to take care of the judging best efforts. If someone continually breaks this without appearing to do best effort checks, this has enough teeth to allow admins to ban the user. John Vandenberg 02:45, 2 November 2007 (UTC)

I dislike it for two reasons 1) It does not tell people that links to copyrighted/non-free content texts are allowed. Remember the whole policy up to this point is focussed on the prohibition of material that is not free content. 2) It implies that "Wikisource" expresses an opinion on the legality of internal material as an w:Exception that proves the rule. This is a bad idea.--BirgitteSB 19:57, 2 November 2007 (UTC)
I'm fine with your first point. I just spent a couple hours looking into the WP article that you cited, and ended up making significant changes. The whole issue is quite subtle, and we should not be encouraging that level of wikilawyering on the part of those who do not have the necessary attention span to support their arguments. Eclecticology 08:53, 3 November 2007 (UTC)

Rule of shorter termsEdit


It seems in the discussions that we do not accept the rule of shorter terms, but I think that actually it is not what we do in practice. I am still looking for cases:

Yann 21:34, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

I strongly believe that we should recognize the rule of the shorter term, especially when we are dealing with something that has never been published in the United States. The thought that someone might come out of the woodwork at least 50 years after the author's death, and take steps to protect what was never worth protecting before boggles the imagination. He never thought before that he would have a market in the United States, and if we never put up those works his heirs would never dream of such a possibility. That being said, some groundwork needs to be built up before we get there. Eclecticology 21:35, 27 October 2007 (UTC)
In practice we have deleted works because of American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term. Besides the larger general discussions, there have been discussion at WS:COPYVIO {example) which brought the larger general discussion into practice. --BirgitteSB 19:40, 29 October 2007 (UTC)
I think there is a big difference between a text published and copyrighted in USA (that's the case of "Banquet Night") and a text which is not published in USA, or has no copyright in USA any more (it seems so far the case of The Natural Economic Order ). Regards, Yann 20:07, 29 October 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for clarifying, I was confused about your message since I thought you took part in the discussions at WS:COPYVIO. I think texts not published in the US should all have restored copyrights from w:URAA. I have never seen anything about there being a distinct situation for them before. w:Golan v. Gonzales covered w:Metropolis (film) which was not produced in the US and seems to treat it no differently than the works that were.--BirgitteSB 20:33, 29 October 2007 (UTC)
I couldn't find the reference to Metropolis in the decision, but Fritz Lang did not die until 1976. The principle of the shorter term is only a factor in the U.S. when the first owner has been dead for 50, 60 or 70 years depending on his country of residence. The copyvio discussion reference related to some of Arthur Conan Doyle's works which had a U.S. publication and which at least to some extent had the copyright renewed. That case could be more complicated because of the relationship between publication in magazine or book form. It would be unsafe to generalize from a specific case. For the sake of this discussion, we should limit to issues where the author is sufficiently dead, and when the work in question has never been published in the United States. The more complicated circumstances can deferred to a later time. Eclecticology 22:37, 29 October 2007 (UTC)
Context regarding Metropolis can be found in the complaint, but as you say it isnt relevant to the shorter rule. John Vandenberg 16:41, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
I agree in principle with Yann and Eclecticology on accepting works that have never been published in the US, but I expect they will be far and few between on en.WS, as it will usually be the English translation that we need to use.
The Natural Economic Order doesnt seem to fit that bill, as we dont know for certain where Pye called home, or when he died.
I think there is also room to add US published works that would be PD under the term of shorter rule, but not as a general rule. It would need to be case by case where it was defensible, because it is an orphan work, or out of print and the archive clauses also applied. If we go down this path, we want a collection that is defensible.
Stalin; A New World Seen Through One Man, by Henri Barbusse was published in the US (New York: The Macmillan Company. 1935), and I don't think that Macmillan would make a good adversary. John Vandenberg 16:41, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
Absolutely. The more restricted suggestion that I was making was in order to keep things in the range of the possible. If people can see that there is no real danger with hosting within that limited range of criteria, it may make it easier at some unspecified future time to expand those criteria. Eclecticology 18:14, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
Of course, we could publish this Barbusse's work only if the copyright from Macmillan has expired. I am not very familiar with these copyright databases, so I couldn't find the info. Yann 18:58, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
I consider Wikisource and Commons most vulnerable to American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term. English Wikipedia is less vulnerable because American fair use can be claimed. So far Wikisource and Commons have not firmly rejected works PD at home but copyrighted in the USA due to American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term. Chinese Wikisource has deleted a few works whose authors died since 1952. I have faxed the Wikimedia Foundation about this concern without any responses. The Foundation does not seem to care, so are we accepting works that are PD either at home or in the USA?--Jusjih 02:50, 22 November 2007 (UTC)
I think this is a fair conclusion. It should still be done with caution and full disclosure. This should not open the floodgates to improperly researched material. Special caution also is needed when the work does have a US edition. Eclecticology 10:25, 22 November 2007 (UTC)


The URAA requires that a work is published in the US within 30 days of being published overseas. As far as I know, there is no database that allow us to verify things down to that level, so this is a gray area. This has come up due to Stalin: A New World Seen through One Man, OCLC:3000445all editions which was published in US and UK in 1935 (translated by w:Vyvyan Holland (1886 – 1967), so it is still under copyright in the UK, but there is no renewal in the US. For discussion, I have created {{PD-URAA-same-year}} (the template name is probably not ideal). Is it reasonable to assume that works published in the same year were probably published in both countries simultaneously? John Vandenberg 11:58, 3 November 2007 (UTC)

I am not really following you here. I think you are saying that URAA does not restore copyrights to works published in the US within 30 day of being published overseas. Is that correct? (Your link for URAA does not explain anything and I forgot where the details are given.)--BirgitteSB 18:06, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
Yes. w:URAA doesnt really help; WS:FORM mentions this, and the actual text at Uruguay Round Agreements Act/Title V says
has at least one author or rightholder who was, at the time the work was created, a national or domiciliary of an eligible country, and if published, was first published in an eligible country and not published in the United States during the 30-day period following publication in such eligible country.
John Vandenberg 00:33, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
For it to have acquired copyright in the US at the time, it would have had to have been published within 30 days. If the same people published it in the US and in the UK, they would done so within 30 days to avoid shooting themselves in the foot. However, in this case, unless the underlying French work was published in the US, the copyright on that should protect the translation and any later derived work.--Prosfilaes (talk) 21:17, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
Maybe. Eclecticology (talk) 19:01, 13 January 2009 (UTC)

Commercial useEdit

I have poetry that I'd like to add. I'm afraid, if someone likes my work, they might use it for there own profitable gains. Does it allowed them to take my work and do that under the GNU or which ever copyright protection Wikisource offers? Also, after I add my work, am I able to publish my work later for my own profitable gains? & Is there a way to protect my poetry from being modified? The last question is flexible. I just wish that modified versions of my poem could be approved and/or linked back to the original...?

Thx, Chase Blanchard

Wikisource only accepts works which are in the public domain, or under the GFDL license. So yes, everything published here can be reproduced "for their own profitable gains". Also please note that works have to be published elsewhere previously in order to be accepted. Regards, Yann 09:36, 4 November 2007 (UTC)
Everything under GFDL can be reproduced "for their own profitable gains" within the scope of copyright laws and regulations. In some jurisdictions, doing so commercially without compensation to original contributors may constitute "unfair civil actions". For example, Article 4 of the Civil Law General Principle of the People's Republic of China (zh:中华人民共和国民法通则) provides: "Civil actions shall follow the voluntary, fair, equivalent compensation, and honest credit principles." (Translated from simplified Chinese 民事活动应当遵循自愿、公平、等价有偿、诚实信用的原则。) This Chinese example is beyond the scope of copyright and non-binding to those outside China. However, I have heard from a forgotten source suggesting that commercial reproducers often donate to Wikimedia Foundation as an acknowledgment. What we call freedom to use is with regard to copyright, but this world has many other non-copyright limits, such as personality and moral rights.--Jusjih 01:06, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

Twin Books v. Walt Disney Co.Edit

Is this a valid case law in order to keep texts? (found when re-reading ). Lugusto 08:47, 19 January 2008 (UTC)

Ah yes, Twin Books vs. Disney, my old nemesis. It's an extremely complicated case involving copyright minutia in three different Congressional acts. "Bambi" the book was created by Felix Salten in 1923, published in Germany (in German) without a copyright notice. (Copyright notices were required by U.S. copyright law, but not German copyright law, so Salten had no reason to affix a notice.) It's a very good book, by the way, and much better than the movie. Also, Salten was a Jew, persecuted by the Nazis. Anyway, when the book hit international markets, Salten republished it with a copyright notice. Disney took the book, made a movie out of it, and never paid Salten a dime. Salten's heirs eventually transferred copyright to Twin Books, which sued Disney.
The Ninth Circuit could have ruled that Disney violated Salten's copyright, and had to pay damages. (Knowing Disney's cozy relationship with the 9th court, this was unlikely.) The Ninth Circuit could have ruled that the work was actually in the public domain, since it was first published without a copyright notice. But instead, the court created a monstrous ruling that Bambi was "unpublished" and in the public domain between 1923 and 1925, but was later legally copyrighted, becoming in effect and entirely new class of work. This makes determining copyright much more difficult for all sorts of reasons. The ruling has been roundly criticized by a wide array of commenters.
William Patry of the esteemed "Patry Copyright Blog" says "Sometimes you read a case and gloss over how truly horrible it is. . . One could never pick the worst Ninth Circuit opinion because the field is almost limitless. But in the realm of copyright, Twin Books could be a contender." Cornell University's "Copyright Information Center" notes "The decision has been harshly criticized in Nimmer on Copyright, the leading treatise on copyright, as being incompatible with previous decisions and the intent of Congress when it restored foreign copyrights. The Copyright Office as well ignores the Twin Books decision in its circular on restored copyrights."
If the 9th Circuit's ruling is good law, this means that a work first published before 1923 could still be under copyright, provided all the following conditions are met: The work. . .
  • was first published outside the U.S.
  • was first published in a language other than Engish
  • was first published after July 1, 1909
  • was not published prior to 1923 in the U.S.
  • was not published abroad prior to 1923 with a copyright notice recognized by the US
This would also only apply in the 9th Circuit: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. But this ruling has never been accepted. No case law cites it. The U.S. Copyright Office ignores it. No court has ever ruled that a work first published before 1923 was still copyrighted. If the U.S. Copyright Office ignores this ruling, I think we can safely do so too.
But read the book. It's really very good. —Quadell (talk / swapmeet) 14:50, 19 January 2008 (UTC)

Simpler policies needed: e.g. for translationsEdit

I had the idea to give one of my translations to wikisource after I noticed a couple of indications that a translation of the original (non-copyright) text is wanted for wikipedia and wikisource. I happened to translate it myself a little while ago, for my private research purposes. But what I read about the copyright policies here makes me feel deterred from posting it here, even though the only copyright is my translator's copyright, and I don't want to reserve anything for any material gain.

The requirements are too complicated and rigid: the GFDL is probably good for its purposes, but the guys that drafted it didn't seem to think about scholarly translations, where an important aim is fidelity to the source-language original. They did not seem to make provision for what are sometimes called 'moral rights', the right of the author not to have modifications passed off in certain ways (for example). These have legitimate application to scholarly translations, in that it ought to be acceptable to express, in a licence of such a work, a condition that people who amend such a translation should indicate what they have amended, and briefly note how it is an improvement as a translation of the source text. But on wikisource, unless I'm mistaken (which is entirely possible I guess, in such a labyrinth), an expression of this intent seems to be forbidden by policy. I suggest this would be regrettable, leading to waste of opportunities to acquire texts that wikisource and wikiedia seem to say are wanted. Terry0051 20:54, 1 March 2008 (UTC)

In my experience, the majority of Wikisource-original translations are released into the w:Public domain rather than the GFDL. For me, this is simply because the GFDL is "too complicated and rigid" as you suggest. Sadly, there is no legal substance similar to w:Moral rights in the United States copyright law, so the issue is unfortunately a moot point and no matter what licensing we used, we just have to trust in the "common sense" of the public. You can certainly make note of your intent on the talkpage, even making notes on the {{Textinfo}} template (which is linked from the header on the main page through the use of edition within {{header}}) - but a legal court is unlikely to recognise it as binding. Sherurcij Collaboration of the Week: Author:Honoré de Balzac 21:51, 1 March 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for your reply (quite long ago, I'm sorry for my slowness in reacting). I agree it's so that 'moral rights' do not figure in the US copyright statute; but that fact only means that their implementation is not automatic in the US, as it is (by contrast) in the copyright laws of some other countries: at the same time, US copyright law contains nothing to prevent voluntary copyright licensing arrangements from including equivalent provision. So it's only Wikisource policy and practice that appear to stand out against -- for example -- arrangements for marking and tracking contributors' amendments to translations by reference to a standard of fidelity to the original. Regards, Terry0051 (talk) 10:39, 16 May 2009 (UTC)
Happily, US copyright law does not attach the same importance to moral rights as prevails in the European Union. Much of this is because of the tradition in English common law that copyright is essentially an economic and property right. The application of European moral rights legislation, notably in France, has been prone to excesses such as when it treats the colorizing of an old black-and-white movie as a violation of the copyright owner's moral rights. Wiki-translations should be easily amendable. That is exactly what insures fidelity to the original, and prevents translations dominated by someone's POV about how the original is interpreted. Amendments to translations are in fact tracked; just look a a page's history to see this. Eclecticology - the offended (talk) 16:59, 16 May 2009 (UTC)
[From Terry0051] Thanks for your reply. If you look back you can see that I have said no word against translations being easily amendable, but with respect, it is a non-sequitur to say that this is exactly what ensures fidelity to the original. It is only a background of proper standards that can ensure that. And while I would agree that it is important to prevent individual POVs from dominating the interpretation of an original, I can't see that the answer is a vacuum of background standards. I don't understand the objection to a requirement for reasoned explanations for amendments. Terry0051 (talk) 12:28, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
I wouldn't say that my comments implied that we took opposing views. The emphasis on "should" more likely implied agreement, nor do I see the sequitur status as being relevant to my comments. By positing background standards you suggest that they exist. Strict adherence to such standards is more likely to give us something that looks like bizarre machine translation; it ignores the more subtle cultural aspects of translation as an art. There is plenty of room for "reasoned explanations for amendments" on the talk page. This is not to suggest that every single amendment requires discussion. Eclecticology - the offended (talk) 20:14, 17 May 2009 (UTC)

Letters of George Bernard ShawEdit

I want to add a number of Shaw's letters to the list of works on the author:George Bernard Shaw page. The letters were written before 1923, but I found them in copyrighted books by other authors. A Letter to Frank Harris, from Shaw, found in The Portable Bernard Shaw, a book edited by Stanley Weintraub and published by Penguin in 1977 is an example. Can I legally make and use copies of such letters? Wugo 02:09, 13 March 2008 (UTC)

Letters published before 1923 are in the public domain. Anything that falls under the non-renewal rules is public domain, but given that Shaw was Irish that's hard to prove. Starting in 2020, first letters published after 2002 will be in the public domain. So, not really.--Prosfilaes (talk) 03:01, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the URAA‎Edit

As reading material Author:US Copyright Office's Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the URAA‎ is now available locally. -- billinghurst (talk) 15:26, 15 February 2009 (UTC)

Revocability clausesEdit

Does a license that is free in every other respect become incompatible with Wikisource if it is revocable? I'm unable to find anything definitive either way, at least here on Wikisource. The specific case I'm looking at is the Conservapedia license, which reads in part: "Conservapedia grants a non-exclusive license to you to use any of the content (other than images) on this site with or without attribution. … This license is revocable only in very rare instances of self-defense, such as protecting continued use by Conservapedia editors or other licensees or stopping unauthorized copying or mirroring of entire parts of this site" (emphasis mine), and "Conservapedia may clarify and amend its copyright [sic] from time to time by updating this document here." --LarryGilbert (talk) 18:03, 21 December 2009 (UTC)

No; none of the other freedoms are meaningful if the license is revocable.--Prosfilaes (talk) 00:42, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
What, then, do we do with the fact that every copyright license is revocable during a defined period under Sections 203(a) and 304(c)? There is no such thing as an irrevocable license under United States copyright law; sections 203(a)(5) and 304(c)(5) make very clear that a licensor’s agreement not to revoke a license is void. If the possibility of future revocation makes a license un-“free,” then there is no such thing as a free license. Tarmstro99 (talk) 19:37, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
I think that's an exaggeration. Yes, if a licensor made the claim that "this license cannot be terminated, not even within the five-year window permitted by law," that would be unenforceable and void. Still, I think there's a big difference between a termination window set in stone by federal law and a termination window of "whenever I feel like it." (In fairness, though, you've highlighted an interesting fact—I did not know about that five-year window provided by law.) —LarryGilbert (talk) 00:18, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
I certainly agree that it’s not necessary (or appropriate) to follow the argument to the point of reductio ad absurdum; my only point was that the definition of what we consider to be “free content” can’t depend on the possibility of future revocation of the rights granted under the license, because that criterion does not usefully differentiate a class of licenses that can be revoked from a class of licenses that cannot be: by statute, they can all be revoked. Perhaps our copyright policy ought to be something like: a license that reserves to the licensor broader powers to terminate or revoke the license than are mandated by federal law is not compatible with the “free content” definition. If we draw the line there, then the Conservapedia license is out, but licenses that are silent on the issue of revocation would be OK.
(Drawing the line there raises a separate problem, namely, what do you do with the so-called “termination clauses” that actually appear in licenses that Wikisource recognizes as “free-content” compatible, such as the Section 9 of the GFDL 1.3, or Section 7(a) of the 3.0-series Creative Commons licenses? I think those are best understood as forfeiture clauses, not termination, even though the latter is how they are labeled; that is, they tell users “if you fail to comply with the conditions stated in the license, you forfeit your authorization to exercise the rights granted in the license (for example, to copy or make derivative works)”; they do not tell users, “the licensor reserves the power to rescind your authorization irrespective of whether you have breached the terms of the license.” In other words, the licenses say “termination,” but they don’t really mean it, at least not in the way that federal copyright law defines what it means for a license to be “terminated.” I have a paper coming out in the summer that develops this point a little further; lots of licenses both in and outside the open-source world use key terms in ways that vary from how those terms are understood under copyright law, which makes it more difficult to make confident predictions about how those licenses would be interpreted in court.)
The point is, ultimately, that copyright licensing is really tricky stuff; lots of complexity lurks just below the surface even when the question presented seems to be a simple one. To the extent that we’re trying to provide clear guidance about which content to include and exclude here, it might be easier to do so through WS:WWI than through parsing the terms of other sites’ licenses alone. Licensing issues are likely to be of interest to the powers that be at WMF, too, in view of the liability implications of getting it “wrong” at WS. Tarmstro99 (talk) 15:03, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
Excellent observations. And I'll be very interested to read that paper. —LarryGilbert (talk) 19:29, 5 January 2010 (UTC)

Need to update WS:COPYEdit

The above needs to be revised. This policy statement contains advice that is not current WikiSource policy. In particular, it says the following:

[For copyright purposes etc.] “[i]t is the responsibility of the contributor to assert compatibility with Wikisource's license.”

Although I think the above should be the WikiSource policy in all cases – I am in a minority of one and it has emerged a discussion on the copyright discussion page (on that page see:#On who is the onus to establish the copyright position?) that this is not the case. Two standards apply: One standard for new works (where this principle is applied) and another standard for works that have been hosted here for some time (how long etc is unclear). Please could I ask the Administrators especially to take the lead in updating WS:COPY so the position is 100% clear. Thanks. Formosa (talk) 13:40, 2 May 2010 (UTC)


Are modern transcriptions of public domain works in the public domain, or are they protected by copyright? 21:34, 2 March 2011 (UTC)

A simple copy or transcription of a public domain work is not enough to give the copier or transcriber a new copyright.--Prosfilaes (talk) 04:28, 3 March 2011 (UTC)
What about cases where the transcription demands competent analysis? Say, an ancient cuneiform text is in the public domain, but transcribing it into Latin characters isn't a trivial task and requires training and some interpretative work, so different scholars could do it in different ways. A less extreme example would be transcribing John Eliot's Wampanoag/Massachusett bible from the original colonial spelling into the standardised modern spelling, which requires some knowledge of the language and/or of other Algonquian languages. Or transcribing an Old Norse manuscript with all its variations and peculiarities in spelling into the standardised form of Old Norse. Even writing down an individual version of a folk legend still requires some editing work if it isn't a simple transcript of speech. A somewhat similar situation is found in the case of a version of a folk legend or a medieval text that an editor has produced by comparing different recorded versions of the legend or different medieval manuscripts - that requires even more original editing work.-- 21:47, 8 June 2021 (UTC)