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JohnDarrochNZ, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Benh LIEU SONG (Flickr), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Stefan Krause, Germany, FAL, via Wikimedia Commons

Michael S Adler, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

copyright

Debate: AI and the Commons – solutions to be found only beyond licences

While we surely must not shy away from looking at what develops with and around Open Content and for solutions of harmful effects we must seek beyond the licensing level. We shouldn’t try to leverage copyright as a prohibitive means unless we are willing to sacrifice the idea of the Open Content altogether.

Read the introduction to the debate

Read Anna Mazgal’s take on the issue

New technologies mean new dark sides

The breathtaking potential of automated systems includes a breathtaking danger of abuse. One might argue, however, that facial recognition is not actually an application of artificial intelligence technology, but a rather sophisticated method of pattern recognition combined with an instance of deep learning mechanisms. We should widen the scope to the digital content used for enhancing autonomous systems or automation in general – the term Automated Decision-Making, ADM, comes to mind. 

Nobody interested in digital technology, the internet, and fundamental rights should disengage from the debate around such systems and how to regulate them. At the same time we have to be quite precise about the types of content we are talking about. It’s not only because the property of being open (in the meaning of the open definition and the definition of Free Cultural Works) is key here. Also because the possible means for regulation differ according to the content in question.

Read More »Debate: AI and the Commons – solutions to be found only beyond licences

Debate: AI and the Commons – sharing is caring

The old principle that knowledge is power has been proven true in the online space in a way precedent only by the innovation of print. Free knowledge is designed to be shareable and shared online. It is evident that as the custodians of one of its flagship projects, Wikipedia, we should always consider if we could afford disengaging from conversation about the power that is created with it. This reflection is especially relevant in any global movement whose collective actions weigh enough to make a difference globally.

Read the introduction to the debate

Read John Weitzmann’s take on the issue

Match made in (online) heaven

Emergence of Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and other such projects wouldn’t have been possible without reliable, standardised mechanisms of controlling creative outputs by ceding rights to them. Creative Commons licences are a societally recognised tool to do just that. Of course Wikipedia could have gone with any tool of a release of rights. But because of the diffusion of Creative Commons licences and the community behind it willing to translate, improve and finally use the licensing it makes sense that CC licensing is present on Wikipedia to such an extent.

It is a joyous feedback loop – Wikipedia has many contributors so the intake of CC licensing is massive. Then the images and materials licensed in that way start functioning in other contexts and projects. The two ideas: of a tool and of a knowledge-building practice are mutually reinforcing. No wonder that there is a significant personal overlap between two communities of contributors.

Read More »Debate: AI and the Commons – sharing is caring

Debate: Should we care that AI facial recognition is trained on openly licensed photos?

Wikimedia.brussels introduces a new format: debate. Our regular contributors as well as guest authors look at one topic from various sides. The arguments may be contrary, or they may point to different priorities. Contributors cast light on the complexity of an issue that doesn’t lend itself to an easy one-way solution. It is up to our Readers to choose the most appealing point of view or appreciate the diversity of perspectives.

Read the contribution by Anna Mazgal

Read the contribution by John Weitzmann

These days, searchable Creative Commons-licensed resources include over 600 million items. Many of these are photos and out of them, a large number depicts humans – and their faces. While CC licensing does not touch upon the rights of subjects of photographs, the licences enable the author to waive many of their rights making possible, for example, reuse of images portraying people.

At Wikimedia, we are of course fans of open and free licensing – all content in projects such as Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons is available for further reuse. We love when people do that because practising Free Knowledge is only possible with frictionless sharing, adapting, remixing and building upon what already exists. But as we see the availability of these resources as a force for good, should we care if they are used in a way that harms people?

Read More »Debate: Should we care that AI facial recognition is trained on openly licensed photos?

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. 

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

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.

Read More »COMMUNIA, the voice for public domain, celebrates 10. anniversary

What happens in Geneva shouldn’t stay in Geneva: Wikimedia and international copyright negotiations

The fight over the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market has highlighted that European copyright rules affect the operation of Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects. The global-level regulatory framework is equally important, and that fight takes place in Geneva, at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This is why 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. This blog post is the prelude to an introductory series into the topic.

WIPO: What it is and why it matters

Intellectual property law is often considered an arcane matter, which is best left to lawyers. However, intellectual property law in general and copyright in particular have enormous economic and social implications, as they govern access to knowledge. Copyright specifically determines under what conditions creative works, such as textbooks and other educational materials as well as large portions of the world’s cultural heritage, can be accessed and used. This also applies to how users may incorporate sources and illustrations on Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata, etc.

Read More »What happens in Geneva shouldn’t stay in Geneva: Wikimedia and international copyright negotiations