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Tag: wikipedia

Censoring History Won’t Work

Another interesting example of how attempting to filter information coming from the web doesn’t work all that well.

This situation has to do with a man who was convicted of murdering a well-known actor in Germany and is now out on parole, and who now wants Wikipedia to remove all mentions of his name from the article about the actor.

At issue is an apparent conflict between the U.S. First Amendment–which protects truthful speech–and German law–which seeks to protect the name and likenesses of private persons from unwanted publicity. Sedlmayr’s murderer became a public figure when he and his accomplice were tried for brutally killing the well-known actor, and contemporary newspapers published his identity at that time. Fifteen years later, according to his attorneys, German law views the killer as a private citizen again. So, his lawyers have sued the German language Wikipedia, and threatened the English language version with the same, if they fail to censor the Sedlmayr article.

This “private citizen” and his lawyers, and German law for that matter, don’t understand that a “world wide” web makes it pretty much impossible to completely insulate any country (or individual) from information they don’t like.

However, that’s also true for schools where we put a lot of effort into selectively censoring the flow, trying hard to control what information enters the classroom.

But we keep trying.

International Digital Rights

Another interesting conflict in the world of copyright and digital media.

The National Portrait Gallery [Great Britain] is threatening legal action after 3,300 images from its website were uploaded to online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

A contributor to the popular site, Derrick Coetzee, breached English copyright laws by posting images from the gallery’s collection, the NPG said.

But photographs of works of art are not protected by copyright in the US, where Mr Coetzee and Wikipedia are based.

Of course these issues go beyond a simple my-rights, your-rights squabble.

The situation illustrates once again that the web freely crosses national borders (at least most of them) while intellectual property laws don’t.

So, should a publicly-funded museum in the UK have the right to prevent a US-based non-profit web site (fast becoming an international public utility) from using images of works that are already posted on the museum’s web site and carry no copyright restrictions outside of the country?

I doubt a definitive answer will be crafted anytime soon.

It Actually Works!

The editor of the Washington Post Magazine, a decidedly old media entity (although one that usually entertaining), has discovered Wikipedia.

Miraculously, I found a brief existing entry [in Wikipedia] for a subject on which I was an expert: the Tropic Hunt, a mass-participation puzzle that inspired the Post Hunt, and which I helped to create and preside over. The entry was one paragraph, out of date and factually flawed. I rewrote it to 472 words on the history and nature of the event, then pushed the “save” button, still not really believing I could simply input my changes into the actual article. But when I went to the Wikipedia main page and searched for Tropic Hunt, there it was. And, before long, the Wikipedia fairies had visited my entry, cleaning up little bits of style here and there.

It’s all part of his introduction to the article in the same issue telling the story of a uniquely Wikipedian battle over the entry for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the process, the writer also clearly explains not only how Wikipedia works but also why it’s successful.

A Step Back From Web 2.0

A German publisher is planning on selling a dead-tree edition of Wikipedia.

Next fall, you’ll be able to buy a collection of articles from the German edition of the online encyclopedia called The One-Volume Wikipedia Encyclopedia. It will cost about 20 euros.

Since all the material in Wikipedia was produced by volunteers under a Creative Commons license, the company is not required to pay for the content (they will, however, donate 1 euro per copy to the Wikimedia foundation).

So, are the writers who contributed to the wiki being ripped off?

Possibly. They certainly aren’t being paid for the material they added to articles being sold.

But beyond that, the idea of a printed version of Wikipedia seems somewhat bizarre. The whole concept of the project is to maintain a living document that constantly changes based on the best available information.

Locking it down into print form seems so much like…, like…, like the Encyclopedia Britannica.

On the other hand, maybe the librarians and other educators who view Wikipedia as the great evil of knowledge will be more accepting of it in this pre-web 2.0 format.

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