On Second Thought…

In an unusual case from January 2020, someone wrote us to make a Digital Millennium Copyright Act claim on behalf of an education focused non-profit organization. They claimed that material written by the non-profit had been placed on English Wikipedia, and copied the head of the non-profit on the email. By the end of the day, they had written again, saying that after speaking with the organization’s head, they were withdrawing their DMCA. The material remains on the projects. We are used to evaluating DMCA notices, pushing back if we find they are not valid, and removing material in the rare cases where they are. But the writer changing their mind, and so quickly? This was a new one for us.

Derivative DMCA

In May, the Wikimedia Foundation received a surprising Digital Millennium Copyright Act request to take down an image of an artist’s work on Commons. The request was surprising not because of its content, but because the image had already been removed as a result of an earlier DMCA request. Upon further investigation, we discovered that the artist’s work appeared in a derivative project that had been generated from a number of images prior to the original artwork’s removal. We then took steps to delete the video, as we are happy to comply with legitimate DMCA requests.

DMCA Unleashed

We occasionally receive Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to remove allegedly copyrighted images. We thoroughly examine these requests, and only grant the few that are valid. In January, we received a DMCA takedown notice regarding a photograph of a canis lupus familiaris against a snowy backdrop on Commons. The allegedly infringing photograph was a digitally modified version of the original, with a newer copyright. The photographer contended that the picture available on Commons was not only snipped from the re-copyrighted image, but was also accompanied with a false claim of ownership. Before we could evaluate the notice, Commons contributors had already removed the photo. Commons deletion policy includes a speedy deletion tag for obvious copyright violations, and contributors are mindful to keep only properly licensed material on Commons.

Paid Editing Disclosure

Many people want to be included in a Wikipedia article. Some are even willing to pay for it—but they don’t always like people knowing that they’ve paid. A business owner contacted us and requested that we delete a user page on English Wikipedia where a user listed some paid edits made on the business owner’s behalf. But that user was doing the right thing in disclosing those paid edits, because such notice is required under our terms of use. While paid edits are permitted, in the Wikimedia spirit of openness and transparency, we require all such edits to be clearly listed and marked on the relevant user page, talk page, or edit summary. We explained this to the business owner, and the userpage remained unchanged.

Mystics Were Made

When it comes to such sensitive topics as biographies of living persons, Wikimedia users abide by a strict set of policies to ensure the resulting product is as accurate and respectful as possible. Unfortunately, some biographical subjects are still left unsatisfied, and in May, a European mystic wrote to us to request that an Italian Wikipedia article about them be deleted and that we forward them information regarding the article’s authors. We encouraged them to reach out to our community of dedicated volunteer editors to review, improve, and possibly delete the article. The article was eventually deleted by trusted volunteer editors. As to their second request, the Wikimedia Foundation generally requires a court order before it will hand over user information.

Domain Name Games

Sometimes trademark holders demand changes to Wikimedia content by claiming it violates their trademark. In May, the owner of a top level domain name trademark requested that an English Wikipedia article about the domain be amended. They wanted us to remove information that they claimed was inaccurate, arguing that it therefore violated their trademark rights. We explained how Wikipedia pages are created and edited, and advised them to use the relevant talk pages to work with volunteer contributors. Unfortunately, the owner refused to discuss their concerns with the editors. Because the information was well sourced, and did not constitute trademark infringement, we did not remove the information.

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