The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, has recently formed consensus to dual-license all the content on their wiki projects under a CreativeCommons license. Wikipedia was founded before CreativeCommons came into existence, which is why up until now they have been using the pre-existing GNU Free Documentation License, written to ensure the free distribution of notes and manuals written to accompany free software. The community chose the Attribution-Share-Alike license, which allows licensed material to be reused in any work which is released under the same license, or a compatible license, as long as the sources of re-used material are given due credit. This is great news, as it opens up the huge body of material gathered by WIkimedia’s projects (also including Wiktionary, WikiQuote etc) for re-use and recincorporation with other CC-licensed works. It also means that CC-licensed work can be more easily incorporated into Wikimedia projects in the future. Free Culture was the winnner on the day, although I would be keen to know the reasoning of the 10.5% of the Wikimedia user community who voted against the dual-license proposal.

On the other side of the coin, is the French government’s recent decision to pass a draconian ‘3 strikes’ law against peer-to-peer file-sharers, described by this article in The Register. Like the copyright law changes here in Aotearoa that prompted pickets outside parliament, the French law allows for sanctions against internet users who have been accused of illegal file-sharing, without even requiring a conviction. Where the shelved New Zealand ammendment would have targeted Internet Service Providers, the French Law allows users to be banned from accessing the internet for a year, if they are accused 3 times. This is analagous to banning someone from all public places for a year, if they have been accused of picking pockets or burglary three times, without anyone actually having to prove they are guilty.

Even with due process in place, a ban from accessing the internet is still a heavy punishment. At a time when all broadcast and telecommunications systems are gradually merging with the internet, such a ban could make it nearly impossible for someone to carry out a normal daily life, limiting their ability to communicate with friends and family, their access to public information and organizations, their employment options, and many other areas of modern life. All for the heinous crime of participating in the culture of sharing that was the foundation of the public internet. Fortunately, the European Parliament have made a number of stands against laws which impose heavy civil penalties for the benefit of profit-orientated media corporations. According to an article on TorrentFreak, they recently approved a report by Greek MEP Stavros Lambrinidis which was highly critical of the 3 strikes law. The vote in the French parliament was fairly close, and hopefully as public awareness of the information freedom issues involved increases, politicians will come under greater pressure to depend digital civil rights.

Filed June 14th, 2009 under Uncategorized

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