Tag Archive for 'wikipedia'

The FBI Doesn’t Think People Are Allowed To Post Pictures of its Seal on the Internet, So Let’s All Do It

Wikipedia has an article on the Federal Bureau of Investigation, much like all things that a large amount of people might desire encyclopedic information on. Naturally, because it makes sense to do so, the Wikipedia community put a picture of the FBI’s official seal in the article, just in case, you know, someone might want to know what it looked like.

So the FBI decided to send the Wikimedia Foundation a letter in which they demanded this image of the seal be removed because apparently there’s some federal law against depicting the seal of a federal agency in 18 U.S.C. § 701. Except that there isn’t.

Wikimedia’s attorney Mike Godwin (yes, that Godwin) wrote back to the FBI, informing them that:

As the leading case interpreting Section 701 points out, “The enactment of § 701 was intended to protect the public against the use of a recognizable assertion of authority with the intent to deceive.”…Our inclusion of an image of the FBI seal is in no way any evidence of “intent to deceive,” nor is it an “assertion of authority,” recognizable or otherwise.

Entertainingly, in support of your argument, you included a version of 701 in which you removed the very phrases that [pertain to deception]. While we appreciate your desire to revise the statute to reflect your expansive vision of it, the fact is that we must work with the actual language of the statute, not the aspirational version of Section 701 that you forwarded to us.

Long story short, it is perfectly okay to post a picture of the FBI seal on the Internet, as long as you’re not doing it in order to claim that you are the FBI. So I’m going to exercise my right to do so, and I encourage everyone else on the Internet to join me.

Seriously, doesn’t the FBI have anything better to do?

    Artists Get The Internets Angry At Wikipedia For No Reason

    Wikipedia Art: Everybody Look At Me!
    Being the Creative Commonsing, Fairly Using, “17 USC § 107″-number memorizing hippie I am, I was instantly riled up when I saw in my feed reader an Ars Technica article about how the Wikimedia Foundation is trying to pursue legal action against Wikipedia Art for “trademark infringement.”

    Wikipedia Art was an attempt at a conceptual “performance art” piece in the form of a Wikipedia article, acting as commentary on Wikipedia itself and…stuff. It was deleted from Wikipedia, not because it wasn’t art, but because it’s not an encyclopedia article. Perfectly reasonable. But then, allegedly, Wikipedia threatened a lawsuit and demanded the artists hand over the Wikipediaart.org domain name. This got the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is essentially an entire organization of crazy Fair Use-hippies like me, very upset. I mean, come on, Wikipedia? The paragon of free knowledge and culture going all RIAA on people?

    That’s what I thought. So I decided to do what nobody else had apparently attempted: get a comment from Wikimedia. On Twitter.

    • @XerxesQados: @jimmy_wales Are you okay with the threatened lawsuit against http://wikipediaart.org? Seems very anti-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Use #
    • @jimmy_wales: @XerxesQados There is no threatened lawsuit. #
    • @jimmy_wales: @XerxesQados : Wikimedia says: http://ow.ly/3PhY . I’m disappointed in the EFF – clearly misrepresenting the situation. #

    Well. Okay then. What Wales linked to was an official response from Mike Godwin, general legal counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation and predictor of Hitler.

    “Wikipedia editors brought the issue of the domain name to our attention, we corresponded with the Wikipedia Arts folks, raising domain name and trademark issues, and the result was a prominent disclaimer. No litigation was threatened or commenced.”

    In other words, Wikimedia asked for the domain name, not for the project to be shut down. They did this with VisualWikipedia.com as well, which is essentially a prettier wrapper over Wikipedia, and they now operate as VisWiki. Personally, I think it’s a bit of a stretch that people would get confused about whether any site with “wikipedia” in the domain was a Wikimedia project, but still, it’s nowhere near “threatening artists for fair use.”

    EFF, I love you, but calm down. Don’t let yourself get riled up just because some avant-garde artists want attention. I agree, the trademark enforcement doesn’t seem necessary, and it probably could be fought in court, but pick your battles. And YOU, Internet. Yes, YOU. Do more research before ranting on your blogs.

    Holy crap, I think I just did journalism.

      Ever Edited Wikipedia? Help It Get Free-er.

      Our friends at Creative Commons have informed the Internets that there’s a very important vote being called at Wikipedia. It’s about licensing Wikipedia under Creative Commons.

      This is very important, even if you’re not up on the whole free culture commons creativity stuff, and I will explain why. Currently, Wikipedia is licensed under something called the GFDL, which stands for “GNU Free Documentation License”, where GNU stands for “GNU’s Not Unix”, and GNU stands for “GNU’s Not Unix”, and GNU stands for “GNU’s Not Unix.” Ridiculous nomenclature notwithstanding, this license is intended for “free” documents, which can be distributed and reproduced freely. However, it has quite a few quirks which allow it to work very well for software manuals, and not very well for Wikipedia.

      When I started Wikipedia, Creative Commons did not exist,” says Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder, and the GFDL was the only thing around back then which seemed like it worked. But it doesn’t. Wikipedian David Gerard notes that, “Even cutting and pasting text between two Wikipedia articles is technically a violation unless the full author list for that piece of text is attached. This is not workable on a wiki.” The Wikimedia Foundation hasn’t been enforcing some of these troublesome rules, but the fact that it’s part of the license is, legally, not great.

      So, in other words, Wikipedia needs to switch to a better license, and they’ve found it in CC-BY-SA. Wikimedia, the Free Software Foundation (maintainers of the GFDL), and Creative Commons have all worked together to make it legally possible, under the latest GFDL, for wikis (such as Wikipedia) to switch to CC-BY-SA. Yes, even the GFDL’s creators want Wikipedia to drop it. All that’s left is you.

      Yes, you.

      Wikipedia is ridiculously democratic, considering it’s by EVERYONE, so the license change isn’t going through unless the majority agrees that it should happen. Which you should. Otherwise you hate America. And kittens.

      Now, the title of this post is a bit misleading, because technically this vote is only open to people who have made 25 edits or more to Wikipedia before March 15th of this year. However, every time you fixed a typo or something counts, so if you’ve ever clicked “edit this page” on Wikipedia and actually pressed the “submit” button when you’re done, just log into Wikipedia and go to the voting page to see if you’re eligible. If you are, please vote yes.

      Go vote here in case you didn’t catch the link on the last paragraph. Also, here’s another link to the vote page.


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