A widely acclaimed novel from 1945 would not typically enter the public domain until 70 years after the author’s death, due to intellectual copyright protection. Yet, a German translation of one such novel was incorrectly tagged as belonging to the public domain and erroneously uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. In November 2022, we received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown request from the copyright owner relating to the material. After an investigation revealed that the request was valid, the Legal Department took action to remove the translated novel from Wikimedia Commons, ensuring that only appropriately licensed work remains on the projects.
In July 2022, an individual contacted us with concerns around the results of a certain search engine query. When the individual typed their name into a search engine, an English Wikipedia article about a notable individual – with a different but similar sounding name – appeared as a suggested result. The Wikimedia Foundation’s Legal Department responded on the same day, explaining that the Foundation has no control over search engine results. The referenced Wikipedia article was about a person whose biography was well-sourced and cited, per Wikipedia’s editorial guidelines. Unfortunately for our requester, this was not a case of mistaken identity, and no changes were made to the article.
Take down… or contribute?
We occasionally receive requests claiming that Wikimedia projects are biased in their representation of topics, an issue we transparently acknowledge and work to address with Wikimedia volunteers around the world. In July 2022, we received a request to take down Wikipedia articles of women who are supermodels and actresses so that women with other types of educational or professional accomplishments will be better represented. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we recognize that our projects, such as Wikipedia, are powered by humans and can thus reflect the structural and historical inequalities women experience around the world. Over the years, we have launched multiple initiatives, including Project Rewrite, to close this gender gap on Wikimedia projects. Though the requester raises the important issue of representation, we do not feel that deleting encyclopedic articles about notable supermodels and actresses contributes to closing the gender gap. We responded to this requester with an invitation to help join us in our mission to share free knowledge, including knowledge about women, around the globe.
Volunteers to the rescue
Ensuring public access to verified political information, through articles on English Wikipedia, is one crucial way that the Wikimedia Foundation supports the fight against disinformation worldwide. In August 2022, an aspiring political candidate contacted the Wikipedia Volunteer Response Team (VRT) to update an article about herself. The VRT advised the requester that due to Wikipedia’s conflict of interest guidelines, she should avoid editing the article herself. Instead, she could suggest an edit with appropriate sources and engage in public discussion via the article’s talk page. The article history reveals that the update was made within a week of the request. As always, we have the wonderful Wikimedian community to thank for ensuring that information on our projects accurately informs citizens about their candidates.
Sometimes, we receive requests to change or update articles on Wikipedia from fairly famous people. In August 2022, we received a request from someone claiming to be a parliament member in a Scandinavian country who wanted to change information about a fellow parliament member on one of the Wikimedia projects. Suspiciously, this person contacted us from an unofficial email account. We were unable to verify both a source that confirmed the requested change’s accuracy and the requester’s real identity. The Wikimedia Foundation does not generally write, edit, or curate articles or other content on Wikipedia or its sister projects. To update Wikipedia, anyone can become a volunteer editor and provide a high quality source along with the edit. Your participation helps grow and diversify the global community of volunteers who collaborate to share free knowledge.
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As a nonprofit, Wikipedia and our related free knowledge projects are powered primarily through donations.