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Proposal:Develop a copyright enforcement system

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Wikimedia content is both free-as-in-beer and free-as-in-freedom. The latter freedom comes with the responsibility to abide by the license terms of the content (usually the GFDL or a Creative Commons license). Re-using Wikimedia content without abiding by the license amounts to copyright infringement, and the copyright is owned by the user(s) who created it. Despite this, content is often used and adapted elsewhere without adhering to the license, which both abuses the generosity of Wikimedia contributors and creates an environment where it seems acceptable to further misuse Wikimedia content. Therefore, Wikimedia should develop a system to help users whose contributions have been used outside of license provisions to contact illegitimate re-users and negotiate license adherence (i.e., release of any works incorporating the user's contributions under a compatible free license) or fair payment for the right to use the work without the license.


  • Provide form letters to make it easy for Wikimedians to inform illegitimate re-users of the rights and obligations of re-using Wikimedia content and to request redress.
  • Provide some standard legal advice for how users can proceed in the relevant jurisdictions in cases where re-users do not cooperate.
  • Provide a forum to connect Wikimedians with lawyers who can pursue copyright violations through the legal system when necessary.


Because users, rather than Wikimedia, own the copyright for original contributions, Wikimedia cannot directly pursue copyright violations. However, we should still do what we can to protect users from exploitation.

Key Questions

  • How much Wikimedia content is being used outside of the license provisions?
  • How much content could be freed by convincing those who incorporate Wikimedia content release the products under free licenses?
  • How much more content would be contributed if users were more confident that their contributions would not be misused?
  • How much negativity toward Wikimedia projects would something like this create?

Potential Costs

  • Hiring legal experts to draft form letters and standard legal advice for many different copyright jurisdictions


Community Discussion

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