In August and September 2020, the Wikimedia Foundation received two Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requests from the same person in Bangladesh. One asked us to remove a photo of the Boston skyline, the other to take down a photo of a national park in Alaska. The requester tried to prove they owned the copyrights by linking other websites where the photos appeared. As with every DMCA notice, we investigated the claim. We found that both photos were on Wikimedia Commons. (In fact, both photos were featured pictures on Commons when we received the DMCA. What a coincidence!) This led to a discussion with the requester. Eventually, we discovered that the images were actually taken by a different photographer, and were appropriately licensed on Wikimedia Commons. We therefore took no action, and the photos remain on the projects.
Many of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act notices we receive relate to photographs, but not all of them. In August 2020, we received a message about a collection of poems on Slovenian Wikisource, disputing the license under which the poems had been uploaded to the site. The DMCA requires that all notices include certain information, including evidence of copyright ownership and a statement that the notice is accurate, which must be made under penalty of perjury. We informed the requester that their message lacked some of the DMCA requirements and explained what was missing. However, they have not contacted us to provide any further information, and the poems remain on the projects.
Under a provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA),websites are required to remove infringing content upon receiving a takedown notice from the copyright owner. When the Wikimedia Foundation receives such a notice, we take quick action to investigate. If the claim turns out to be valid, we will remove the content. In July 2020, a photographer in the United Kingdom contacted the Foundation with a DMCA takedown request of a photo of a museum. They provided a link to the original image, a link to the allegedly infringing image on Wikimedia Commons, and additional background information. We investigated and found the claim to be accurate, so we removed the image from Commons.
Expanding the Commons
The nonprofit organization Creative Commons routinely hosts photo challenges to encourage Wikimedia contributors to take and upload CC-licensed photographs to Wikimedia Commons and other projects. The monthly thematic competitions encourage users to try photographing new subjects, improving the Commons repository of freely licensed images. In August 2020, the Wikimedia Foundation received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request to remove some images that were uploaded to Commons as part of one of these photography campaigns. However, like other photos submitted as part of the challenges, the photos were uploaded using the correct license. We explained this to the photographer and rejected the takedown requests.
A United States-based photographer filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request in July 2020, claiming to own the copyright in an image on Wikimedia Commons. They asked us to remove the photo, which had been taken at a U.S. historical site. When the Foundation looked into the claim, we discovered that this was a complex case: the original photo had been taken in the 1800s. (Yes, you read that right: the 1800s.) We soon discovered that the image on Commons, depicting this 150-year old photo, had been taken by another photographer, not the person who contacted us. When we asked the requester about the basis of their DMCA notice, they revoked their claim, apologized, and explained that they mistakenly thought they had taken the photos in the past decade.
In October 2020, the Wikimedia Foundation received a complaint concerning a Spanish Wikipedia article about a Venezuelan actress. The problem? While the actress shared part of her name with a real person, she did not actually exist. Upon investigation, Wikipedia editors discovered that the issue began when a South American writer fell for a hoax about the fake actress. Before realizing the information was incorrect, the writer published an article about her that subsequently went viral on social media. That article was then used as the basis for creating a Spanish Wikipedia article. Fortunately, Wikipedia contributors managed to identify the hoax and delete the article, even before the Foundation contacted them about it.
Keeping the world informed
Wikipedia editors respond to events around the world by creating accurate, encyclopedic articles about history in the making. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, around 7,000 Wikipedia articles have been created about the disease, in over 180 languages. In the second half of 2020, the Foundation received a few messages from the public asking about coverage of the pandemic on Wikipedia, seeking to ensure that it was accurate, free from bias, and protected from potential vandalism. As it happens, almost 100,000 editors from around the world have worked on writing, editing, and updating Wikipedia’s COVID-19 articles, and so many eyes on the content have undoubtedly helped to uphold their neutrality and accuracy. In October, the Foundation partnered with the World Health Organization in order to make critical public health information freely available (for example, see the WHO’s disinformation-fighting infographics on Wikimedia Commons). As the pandemic continues, Wikipedia contributors will undoubtedly continue to keep information about it up to date. For more information about COVID-19 coverage on the projects, please see our COVID-19 article data page.
Make it right
Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia articles about high-profile topics often get a lot of traffic. In many cases, this means that if an article is vandalized or edited with incorrect information, those changes will be quickly spotted and reverted. In July 2020, the Wikimedia Foundation received messages about changes to the Spanish Wikipedia article on Korean Pop band BTS. We explained to the people who reached out that they could raise questions or concerns on the article’s talk page. Other readers also took to the talk page to point out the recent incorrect edits. Together, Spanish Wikipedia contributors discussed how best to correct the article, and they fixed it in short order. Editors working together to protect the projects and their content is precisely how the Wikimedia sites are supposed to function.
It is not uncommon for governments, celebrities, and private corporations to have questions regarding information about them on Wikipedia. A European company that sells cleaning products reached out to the Wikimedia Foundation in November 2020 to ask us to remove content from Wikipedia. Their brand name was repeatedly used in multiple French Wikipedia articles, as well as on French Wiktionary, to refer to certain types of cleaning products, instead of being used only to refer to the company’s own products. The company was therefore concerned the name was being used generically; this happens when a brand name becomes so identified with a product that people tend to call any product of that type, regardless of maker, by the brand name. The Foundation team explained that, while a company cannot stop the public from using a brand name to refer to products generally, they were welcome to address the issue on the article’s talk page.
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Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management
Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management
Felipe Esquivel Reed