Why You Should Care
Everyone should have the right to access, create, share, and remix knowledge. Remixable knowledge can be used for textbooks, websites, art, and other creations. These reuses make free knowledge more widely available. As a result, more people are reading and improving it every day. Together, they create knowledge that belongs to everyone. Reforming copyright laws will help make this a reality for people across the globe.
We support a strong public domain as well as free licenses, such as a Creative Commons license. Freely licensed works not only enrich the projects, but can be reused in a wide variety of contexts. Free licenses can help people share beyond the Wikimedia projects, including on social media sites. This will allow everyone to share and reuse knowledge more broadly, on and offline. As part of our commitment to sharing free knowledge, we also support free and open source software. The software that powers Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites is free for anyone to run, study, share, and improve. We support software freedom as a way to build a democratic information infrastructure for the digital age.
Within the next few years, the United States’ copyright laws will likely be reformed. This process is already underway in the European Union. As copyright law is modernized, we want to make sure it is actually made fit for the digital age. We encourage legislators to consider the wide variety of new content creators on the web.
Works funded by the public should belong to the public. Works created by governments should therefore always enter the public domain. In the United States, works of the federal government are automatically in the public domain, while many works of European governments usually are not. Laws need to be reformed to ensure that public works are actually public, in the European Union and around the world. As more and different types of works enter the public domain, they can be made widely available. This will give everyone the freedom to find and use sources of important information. It will also expand the knowledge base upon which community members can draw to create content on the Wikimedia projects.
While advocating for broad availability of works in the public domain or under fair use, we also push for more specific reforms. For example, the Wikimedia community has recently taken a strong position on freedom of panorama in the European Union — and Member States — to protect the right to publish photos of buildings. We believe this right should extend to all photos of buildings in public spaces, for commercial and non-commercial reuse. We encourage all countries, across the European Union and around the world, to institute freedom of panorama rights.
In the context of copyright legislation, we also aim to address limitations on access to original as well as secondary sources. Wikimedia’s GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) initiative works to make cultural assets available on the Wikimedia projects. Truly modern copyright should not create new rights that lock in the public domain, just because a work is copied or digitized.
Among Wikipedia’s users are authors, creators, and artists who choose to freely share their works with others. The internet empowers people to share, remix, and reinterpret works in ways previously not thought possible. Copyright law needs to protect these rights. To that end, we call for shorter copyright terms and stronger, more comprehensive fair use exceptions, widespread freedom of panorama, and more support for free licenses. People should be free to comment on or remix a work without the fear that they will accidentally violate copyright law.
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