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Markus Trienke, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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copyright exceptions

Retrospective: A Year of Advocacy at Wikimedia Sverige

2021 marked the 20th anniversary of Swedish Wikipedia, which we made sure to celebrate on several occasions here in Sweden. Today, almost nine out of ten Swedes regularly use the website, and polls show that it is one of only a very few platforms that Swedes find trustworthy across the political spectrum. More and more institutions and organizations realize the importance and value of working with the Wikimedia platforms. In its 2021 report, the Swedish Museums Association finds that out of the 233 million reported digital views of their members’ works, 185 million originated from Wikipedia. And then only 19 out of their 230 members reported Wikipedia statistics, indicating that the real number could be much higher.

Wikimedians don’t, however, operate in vacuum. In 2021, Wikimedia Sverige saw more and more reasons to intensify our efforts to safeguard the free and open internet, especially when it comes to protecting the rights and freedoms of the users. Pretty much everyone loves Wikipedia, but not everyone understands that Wikipedia can only thrive in a digital sphere where legislation allows for creativity and sharing.

In this text, we will try to outline some of the major battles Wikimedia Sverige fought in 2021, some of the achievements – and some of our hopes for the future. On top of the support that we, as always, give our lobbying team in Brussels.

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Digital Principles by European Commission: too little, too late?

As abstract as they may seem, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of grand narratives in policy making. They help people make the meaning of events that otherwise seem as random as the weather and assess how effectively actions respond to objectives that the narrative sets. It therefore makes a lot of sense that the European Commision comes up with a plan for a Declaration of Digital Principles accompanied by a “Digital Compass”. But why only now? And why such a scope? And is all this enough to give the EU citizens a greater meaning of the role that the EU may have in shaping their online experiences? 

“The failure of imagination”

The European Commission from time to time takes seriously the need to create a grand narrative to help communicate its policy goals – and then underdelivers in practice. It is visible in the notion of “promoting our European way of life”, a framing that made its way into the official list of priorities of the Commission in the current legislative term. Not only is it a disappointing nod to the right-wing rhetoric of “Europe under siege”, but it also hardly means anything as we Europeans are rather beautifully different in how we choose to shape our ways of life. In fact In varietate concordia (Latin for United in diversity), the official motto of the EU fits us much better.

Another example is the Digital Single Market framework (DSM), which seems to make sense as to its core objective – removing online barriers in access to goods and services across the European Union. The problem is that the market does not exist in separation from the people, their needs, aspirations, and structural barriers they encounter in access to public and private services, in creating non-monetary value for themselves and for others, and finally in reaching out one another in a way that nurtures public debate and European cohesion. 

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An Introduction to WIPO, Part II: The fight for Users’ Rights in Geneva

The fight over the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market has shown that European copyright rules affect the operation of Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects. Global rules are equally important. Negotiations take place in Geneva, at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Wikimedia Deutschland and the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group are committed to increasing transparency around WIPO negotiations on international copyright law, and shaping WIPO-level policy outcomes, especially facing the pressure by rightsholders’ to expand the scope of copyright protections. This is the second installment of a series on Wikimedia’s involvement at WIPO (part I).

An imbalanced debate

The public debate on copyright has been heavily skewed in favor of rightsholders’ concerns since the very beginning. Veterans will remember the early days where discussions centered on illicit file sharing and digital protection measures. Over the last couple of years, this has culminated in the mandating of upload filters via the Digital Single Market Directive’s infamous article 17. Advocates of users’ rights have always stressed that international rules need not just to protect rightsholders’ interests, but also the public domain and fundamental rights, including the right to education. 

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COMMUNIA, the voice for public domain, celebrates 10. anniversary

Advocating for a better internet for all, we wouldn’t go far without our partners and collaborators. COMMUNIA International Association On the Digital Public Domain, where we are a member, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week.

Distinct profile, great results

In the digital rights bubble COMMUNIA is unique: its focus on digital public domain stems not from it running projects based on the use of these resources but because public domain – like any public good – requires preservation and protection. One could say that copyright is only a short break in the continuum of human creative heritage. However, with the creative industry’s insatiable appetite to expand and extend copyright (we are looking at you, Disney) there is a need for a targeted effort to keep public domain accessible to everyone.

These issues may seem abstract, but when we think of such classics as Anne Frank Diary and the absurdities of its release into public domain, we can see how important this work is. If that doesn’t convince you, think of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry– the story of extending the French copyright for works by authors that died during World War II is still one of the most read COMMUNIA articles.

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