Wikisource:News/2006-11-11/Controversy over copyright restrictions

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Controversy over copyright restrictions
by Pathoschild, 11 November 2006
Intellectual rights
This page was written by a subject of the news story, and may contain a biased point of view. All users are welcome to edit this page to improve the story or neutralize the point of view.

Debate has arisen over whether Wikisource should allow unenforceable copyright, orphaned works, and presumed public domain works. Proponents believe that this will greatly increase the repertoire of works on Wikisource, and point out that many historical documents such as the Zodiac Killer letters could not be hosted otherwise. Opponents argue that allowing such works will decrease Wikisource's usefulness and harm its reputation as being a library of free texts.

The debate was largely sparked by a series of deletion proposals for works under these criteria. The primary discussion is "Unenforceable copyright/Presumed PD Without Release" (Copyright policy discussion, November 2006).

Proposed criteria[edit]

Presumed public domain[edit]

'Presumed public domain' includes works that are not explicitly released into the public domain and don't match the normal criteria, but which are assumed to be in the public domain because they are addressed to the public. Manifestos and speeches have traditionally been hosted on Wikisource under a presumed public domain license. The expanded criteria would also allow any work displayed in mass media, where the broadcasters did not author the content, to be presumed public domain.

Proponents argue that their publication in the mass media implicitly releases them into the public domain, since they are intended to be widely broadcast. Opponents state that this is done under questionable rights granted under the fair use law, which is prohibited on Wikisource, or under the assumption that the copyright can be safely ignored without lawsuits. Either way, they argue, such works are not free and do not belong in a free library.

Orphaned works[edit]

Orphaned works are copyrighted works whose authors are difficult or impossible to contact. The United States and the European Commission are considering allowing the exploitation of orphaned works through compulsory license legislation, as Canada has already enacted. Although the United States has not yet passed such legislation, a number of orphaned works are already hosted on Wikisource.

Proponents argue that disallowing such works is copyright paranoia and that it is highly unlikely that the copyright holders will ever hold the Foundation accountable. Opponents argue that such works remain copyrighted and unfree, and that Wikisource should not host such works even if it can get away with it.

Unenforceable copyright[edit]

Unenforceable copyrighted works are subject to copyright which cannot be enforced in the United States due to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which makes all commerce with an enemy state or organisation illegal. Proponents argue that copyright held by enemy states and organization can be ignored under the act. Opponents argue that such IEEPA sanctions are often temporary, and that hosting such works violates moral rights regardless of legal rights.