Wikimania 2012: copyright and closing thoughts

This is the last in series of posting on my first Wikimania. I’m (mostly) focusing on the connection between Wikipedia and libraries, and approaching topics thematically, rather than going through the conference in order.

I was distracted by the Society of American Archivists meeting (which I’ll be blogging about soon!), but I’m back to wrap up Wikimania.

Wikisource, Wikicommons and the copyright conundrum

Discussion about IP rights came up in many discussions and presentations at Wikimania (as you would expect with a group so dedicated to increasing access to free knowledge), but the one I found most interesting was an Oxford style debate on the topic “That all Wikimedia projects should have Fair Use, or none of them.” Why is this important? Because Wikimedia is more than just Wikipedia, and has a range of projects which make content available. For example, The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) here in the United States is contributing to both Wikisource and to Wikicommons (I explained a little about these two Wikipedia “sister” projects in a previous post). Because Wikimedia projects exist in a very international context, contributions to Wikisource and Wikicommons must be very strictly in the public domain or covered under an appropriate licence that renders the materials as “free content” in a similar way (it’s important to note here that licensing that requires attribution is acceptable). Putting materials into either project and claiming fair use is in fact strictly prohibited.

I know that many institutions will find both Wikisource and Wikicommons to be attractive options, but there are few (U.S. based) institutions that will be able to put most or all of what they have digitized into these projects (NARA may be an exception, as may other government institutions or those who exclusively collect material from the 19th century or earlier.) This is too bad, because otherwise, Wikimedia projects are ideally aligned with the mission and aims of cultural heritage institutions. Still, there is much to collaborate around, so I’m still very excited!

Conference roundup

I want to wrap up by giving some of the high points as well as oddities I noted at this conference. The conference was very inexpensive compared to many library conferences (thank you, sponsors!). Registration ranged from $35 to $95, which included morning food and lunch (additionally, there was a reception each evening with some level of food and drink). This is the first conference I’ve attended (with the possible exception of ALA) which was “trending” on Twitter. Thanks to ubiquitous wireless, ample power, and an enthusiastic cadre of Twitterati, the conference stream was useful, and at times overwhelming. All the people I met were amazing. During lunch I was touched when people noticed that I was scanning for a friendly face and invited me to sit with them.

The conference was not without flaws. On several panels, at least one of the scheduled presenters was not present. Odd to me, everyone presented from their own laptop, rather than consolidating presentations on a single machine. To make matters worse, almost everyone was presenting from a Mac and the majority of them had difficulty shifting displays. This was amusing to me, both because of the Mac’s “intuitive” reputation and also because of otherwise extraordinary tech prowess of presenters. However, the time wasted dorking with technology was considerable. If Raganathan had rules for conferencing, one of them would surely be “save the time of the attendee.”

Attending Wikimania was a terrific experience and I hope I have the opportunity to attend in the future. As I have said repeatedly, I have been excited about the potential for alliances between libraries and other cultural heritages institutions and Wikipedia / Wikimedia. Attending the conference only cemented my conviction.

Goodbye Wikimania, see you next time!

If you want to take a look at some other blog posts summarizing the conference from the LAM perspective, see Ed Summers on Wikimania Revisited and the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s report, Wikimania 2012 & BHL

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