Commons talk:Licensing/Which copyright law applies?

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Which copyright law applies?[edit]

I (Duesentrieb) have had a discussion with David Newton about what copyright law we have to consider to determine which works are PD. I belive this should be discussed in detail, and I hope someone more qualified than me can shed some more light on the situation. Here's a copy of the discussion:


Abut this edit: please discuss this on the talk page (or the village pump), i'll revert it for now. Afaik, the place where the work was created and/or published definitely does matter - if the other countries matter seems debatable. Most wikis appear to rely mainly on the country of origin to determin if an image is usable.

If I understand correctly, for an image to be PD, it has to bo PD at least in the country of origin. -- Duesentrieb(?!) 22:48, 7 April 2006 (UTC)

The country where something is first published is relevant to the length of copyright term in some jurisdictions, so it is relevant to whether something can be uploaded to Commons, but not always. It is only relevant in countries which have a rule of shorter term. That is an optional part of the Berne Convention which only some places have adopted. I know that EU countries have had it in their copyright laws since 1995, and it applies to anything made after 1995 there, but many countries, including the US, do not have it in their copyright laws.
What I have written is correct so far as I know. I am not a copyright lawyer so it cannot be definitive, but what was there before my edit and what is there now, thanks to your revert (assuming somebody else hasn't edited it in the meantime) is complete nonsense. If I upload something that is public domain in the UK, say a work by someone who died in 1935, where that work was published in their lifetime, but after 1923, then I would not be doing anything illegal in the UK, but I would be breaking copyright law in the US. That's what I was trying to get across and that is what it is critical for people uploading to Commons to understand. David Newton 18:31, 8 April 2006 (UTC)

Thank you for your response. You are probably right that the text on Commons:Licensing needs some tweaking. However, the law of the country of origin should IMHO still be the first thing we have to look at - if it's not PD there, it's probably not PD anywhere, and even if it was, it should be policy not to accept it.

For works that are PD in the country of origine (place of creation and/or first publication), the question is what else to consider. All I have seen about this so far just adds to the confusion:

  • the "rule of shorter term" is nice, but where is it supposed to apply? The US? The country the uploader is in? etc.
  • Does it matter where the servers are located? (IMHO not); Does it matter that the Foundation runs the servers, and is in the US? (IMHO maybe). Does it matter where the uploader is? (probably, because that's where he can be sued).
  • How about works that are PD for other reasons than age? It's unclear for instance if US government work is in fact PD outside the US.

This is really tricky, and I don't think anyone really knows how to deal with this. You said that if you upload something that is PD in the UK, you may be violating US law, if it's not PD by the US rules. But why should US law be relevant to that at all? Because of the location of the servers? Unlikely IMHO, since that's basically storage space... in fact, a Wikipedia user would have a hard time to find out where the image is going at all... depending on how the cluster setup changes (not to speak of caches), it may be hosted in Seoul, in Amsterdam, wherever - there's no telling. People don't upload images to the US as such. Think about it this way: if I go 100mph on a German autobahn, am I breaking US law?

So, if you want to change the wording on the licensing page, please put a proposal on Commons talk:Licensing, and discuss it there. Thank you! -- Duesentrieb(?!) 11:19, 9 April 2006 (UTC)

You and I seem to be talking at cross purposes so I'll define terms as I mean:
  1. Country of first publication - the country or countries where the work was first published, with a country qualifying for joint status of first publication with either simultaneous publication or publication within 30 days of the first issuing to the public. This is important in the EU for determining whether something comes under the duration rules of the rule of shorter term.
  2. Rule of shorter term - an optional part of the Berne Convention which means that if a work is first published in a foreign jurisdiction and the copyright term in that foreign jurisdiction is shorter that the copyright term of the foreign jurisdiction will apply in the country with the rule of shorter term. This is particularly applicable to the copyright of US-made television programs in Europe. They tend to get shown in the US first and nowhere else for 30 days. That means the country of first publication would be the US and the copyright term for the television program would be that of the US. It is also relevant for feature films, although less so due to the increasing harmonisation of world release dates.
  3. Country of origin - a term that does not really mean anything in international copyright law, except possibly when talking about foreign-published works coming back into copyright in the US as the countries of origin of those works come into the international copyright regime.
The rule of shorter term only applies in those nations which have made it part of their copyright law. As I said to you in my previous post it applies in the EU now. For those countries which were part of the EU in 1995 when it came into EU law it applies to those works published in or after 1995, and only those works. I know the US does not have the rule of shorter term in its copyright, but elsewhere I am not sure.
Does it matter where the servers are located? Yes it does. The country where the servers are physically located has legal jurisdiction over those servers and consequently the copyright laws of that country are applicable to the servers. The laws of the US apply to the Commons servers since they are physically located in the US. The laws of the UK apply to servers physically located in the UK, the laws of Russia apply to servers physically located in Russia etc., etc.
Does it matter where the uploader is located? Yes it does. The country where the uploader is physically located has legal jurisdiction over the uploader and consequently the copyright laws of the country are applicable to the uploader.
Regarding US Government works, that really is an interesting question which has not, to my knowledge, been definitively answered. Inside the US the position is clear thanks to the US Code. US Government websites are also clear since when they say that information is public information and is freely usable since the websites are accessible worldwide that declaration applies worldwide. In the EU for materials only published in the United States after 1995 the position is clear since materials only published in the United States would have the United States as the country of first publication and the laws of the United States for copyright duration would apply, ie the works would be public domain. It's US Government works that are published outside the US but not on the internet since 1995, and those published prior to 1995 (at least in the EU) that are the interesting ones. I strongly suspect the US Government would have a hard time enforcing copyright on those works in many jurisdictions.
We had a similar situation with respect to Crown copyright materials until recently. In the UK the situation was clear, but outside the UK the situation was a complete morass and nightmare. However a senior person in OPSI which administers Crown copyright for the British Government has stated quite clearly that they view the expiration of copyright in the UK as also applying worldwide. I wish we could get a similar statement from someone in the US Government, but I don't think an equivalent single authority on the matter exists.
International copyright law is a real morass, and that morass has been considerably worse by the internet and its cross-jurisdiction applications. It will probably take decades to sort out. To give you an example of this, in the UK up until November 2003 it was technically a violation of copyright law to run a web caching service. There was no fair dealing exception to copyright to cover that situation. We now have a rule covering transient copies of something that are of no independent economic value, but for nearly 10 years those running web caching servers were potentially very vulnerable to litigation. That's a relatively trivial example from a jurisdictional point of view but it does show the sort of problems that fast moving technological progress is casusing for the international intellectual property law corpus. David Newton 10:49, 10 April 2006 (UTC)


Hm... what you say saises some interresting questions... here are a few:

  • That means the country of first publication would be the US and the copyright term for the television program would be that of the US Uh, how's that? According to the rule of the shorter term, US law would not apply, because it has the longer copyright term on new works (95 years iirc). Or am I misunderstanding something?
  • The country where the servers are physically located has legal jurisdiction over those servers and consequently the copyright laws of that country are applicable to the servers Jurisdiction over the servers does not necessarily mean that local copyright law applies to all content there. It just mean that any copyright that may apply would have to be enforced by the US.
  • Say I have some image that was under crown copyright (or some other rule, no matter), but is now PD, because the copyright has expired under UK law. Now I upload this to the US server - and it magically becomes copyrighted again? Btw: how would someone uploading images to the german Wikipedia know that he is publishing something in the US? What would be the meaning of publish be in that context? All commons images are mirrored in Korea, btw - what does that imply?
  • The country where the uploader is physically located has legal jurisdiction over the uploader and consequently the copyright laws of the country are applicable to the uploader - same as for the server location: while it'S true that the uploader is under the juristiction of that country, and law would have to be enforced by that country, I don't see how this would mean that local copyright law suddenly applies to all material uploaded by that person, no matter where it came from. That would mean I can't upload PD-Soviet stuff when located in Germany, for instance, right?

As you said: international copyright is a complete mess, and the situation is even worse if the internet is involved. We cannot possibly sort out all legal eventualities. We need some clear guidelines. here are some suggestions:

  • if the work is not PD in the country of first publication, it's not acceptable on Commons.
  • hosting the work must not violate US law. We have still to determine if and how US copyright law applies to works originating outside the US.
  • uploading (i.e. publishing) the work must not violate the law of the uploaders country (actually, that's the uploaders risk, we may not need a ploicy on that). We have still to determine if and how local copyright law applies to works originating somewhere else.

As far as I see, this pretty much reflects current policy and practice. -- Duesentrieb(?!) 12:17, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

On country of first publication for a TV program being the US with the shorter copyright term consider this: in the US it is a work for hire with a copyright length of 95 years, but under UK law it is considered a film for copyright purposes with a copyright term which expires 70 years after the death of the latest to die of the director, the producer, the writer of the screenplay and the writer of any original music for the show. It would be a very unusual TV program for all of those people to die within 25 years of the creation of the program, and consequently US copyright law would prevail as having a shorter term of protection.
If something is physically located in the territory of a country, unless it is something like diplomatic premises, then the laws of that country apply to the something. To say otherwise is to deny the fundamental concept of national sovereignty.
If you upload something which is PD in the UK to a US server, but it is not PD in the US then you do breach copyright. This is what I have been trying to get across about the different jurisdictions interacting here. It is not UK law that you are breaching, it is US law. It doesn't magically become copyrighted again, but the fact that you have transferred it between jurisdictions alters the laws that apply to it. Different jurisdictions have different copyright term lengths and consequently something can be copyrighted in one jurisdiction and public domain in another jurisdiction. It's simply that the internet has made transferring things between jurisdictions a more common occurrence.
The country where you physically are has jurisdiction over you. In order to upload something to Commons you have to save a copy to your local disk drive (unless you have a very unusual remote transfer situation). By saving a copy to your local disk drive you have created something under the jurisdiction of your local copyright law. Uploading something that is not public domain or licensed for uploading is a violation of that local copyright law. You seem to be running into the same conceptual problem that people have when I tell them that fair use does not exist outside the US and that any images sourced from outside the US cannot be uploaded under a fair use justification to any Wikimedia server. If the PD-Soviet material is copyrighted in Germany and you are located in Germany then yes you cannot upload the material to Commons legally. David Newton 22:42, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

Nachdem bei den Löschkandidaten neuerdings Vielsprachigkeit zugelassen ist, sehe ich keinen Grund mich mit dem Englischen zu quälen, zumal Duesentrieb meine Ausführungen auf Deutsch ständig zu ignorieren beliebt. Duesentrieb und Newton stochern im Gegensatz zu en User:Lupo im Nebel. In der englischsprachigen Wikipedia gibt es einen ausgezeichneten Artikel Public Domain, den diese beiden Helden beharrlich übergehen. Hier sind einige Fakten:

  • Grundsätzlich besteht stets die Möglichkeit des Forum Shopping. Man kann sich nach gesetzlicher Regelung und nach Gerichtskosten das Land aussuchen, wo man klagt, da das Schutzlandprinzip gilt. Es gilt also das Recht des Landes, für das der Schutz begehrt wird. (Von der Möglichkeit des Internationalen Privatrechts, dass z.B. ein deutsches Recht nach US-Recht urteilt, kann abgesehen werden. Es ist ohnehin kompliziert genug.) Der Schutz kann weltweit begehrt werden, da Commons weltweit abgerufen werden kann.
  • Zwar sind Verfahren in den USA (z.B. Zustellung deutscher einstweiliger Verfügungen) für Ausländer schwieriger, aber nicht ausgeschlossen. Der Standort unserer Server heisst nicht: legibus solutus.
  • Grundsätzlich gilt das Urheberrecht eines Landes mindestens für die Staatsbürger. Ein Franzose kann also vor einem französischen Gericht gegen die Panoramafreiheit eines in Deutschland befindlichen Kunstwerks klagen, wenn er der Urheber ist.
  • Grundsätzlich gilt in der EU die Inländerbehandlung für die Staatsangehörigen anderer EU-Staaten (einschließlich der EWR-Staaten wie Schweiz und Island). EU-Bürger dürfen nicht diskriminiert werden. Also kann ein Pole wegen seines in Deutschland aufgestellten Kunstwerks in Frankreich klagen (in Polen und Deutschland Frankreich (Lupo) gilt die Panoramafreiheit nicht).
  • In der EU/EWR kann es sein, dass in einem Land ein Werk PD ist, in einem anderen nicht. Der Fotograf des Wachmann Meili (in der Schweiz höchstrichterlich PD mangels Schöpfungshöhe) kann in Deutschland und den anderen EU-Ländern den Schutz als Lichtbild bzw. Lichtbildwerk gerichtlich durchsetzen.
  • Für die EU ist von der Regelschutzfrist 70 Jahre pma auszugehen, auch wenn durch spezielle Vorschriften in einem Land das Urheberrecht bereits erloschen ist.
  • Ob die mit der EU-Schutzdauerrichtlinie nicht vereinbaren Zuschläge für Kriegsteilnehmer in Frankreich zur 70 Jahresfrist nach wie vor gültig sind, ist selbst in Frankreich umstritten.
  • Der Standort des fotografierten Objekts und die Nationalität des Künstlers schließt Klagen in anderen Ländern nicht aus. Hundertwasser war Österreicher und das Hundertwasserhaus steht in Wien. In Österreich war es absolut legal, dass die Metro Postkarten des Hauses vertrieben hat, die von einem erhöhten Standpunkt im gegenüberliegenden Haus gemacht wurden. Mit der Einfuhr nach Deutschland wurden sie illegal und der deutsche Bundesgerichtshof hat die Einfuhr verboten. Auch das Verbreitungsrecht war nicht erschöpft. Bei einer Online-Veröffentlichung wäre der Abruf in Deutschland eine gute Gelegenheit, die restriktive Auslegung der in Österreich weitergehenden Panoramafreiheit entsprechend durchzusetzen (z.B. gegenüber Nachnutzern etwa der Wikipedia-DVD, wenn man nicht gegen die Foundation in Florida klagen möchte).
  • Filme und Bücher, die in den USA PD sind, wurden in Deutschland erfolgreich vor Gericht als urheberrechtlich geschützt verteidigt. Das liegt daran, dass ein bilaterales Abkommen zwischen dem Deutschen Reich und den USA nach wie vor Geltung hat und der von der EU gegenüber Drittstaaten in der Schutzdauerrichtlinie vorgeschriebene Schutzfristenvergleich (rule of the shorter term) nicht zieht.
  • Für die Karsh-Fotos hat Lupo gezeigt, dass alles dafür spricht, dass diese in Kanada gemeinfreien Werke mindestens in den USA noch geschützt sind.
  • Lupo hat auch den Russland-Mythos, der hier immer noch eifrig gepflegt wird, schlüssig widerlegt. Was Deutschland angeht, gilt allerdings der Schutzfristenvergleich mit der Konsequenz, dass Werke russischer Urheber in Deutschland nur 50 Jahre pma 70 Jahre pma (Lupo) geschützt sind.
  • Aufgrund des Serverstandorts in Florida ist es nicht ganz unwahrscheinlich, dass US-Urheber vor einem US-Gericht klagen. Dann gilt natürlich das US-Recht, was dazu führen kann, dass nach 1923 publizierte Bilder als geschützt angesehen werden, auch wenn der Urheber länger als 70 Jahre tot ist. Darauf können sich auch deutsche Urheber berufen, da die USA aufgrund des genannten Abkommens deutschen Staatsbürgern die Inländerbehandlung zusichert, Deutsche werden wie US-Bürger geschützt, also nach nationalem US-Recht.
  • Wie sieht es mit der Schutzfrist in Mexiko (100 Jahre pma) aus? Für mexikanische Urheber werden sie mexikanische Gerichte natürlich bejahen (s.a. Licensing zur Ausnahme früherer Werke). Für ausländische Urheber richtet sich das Urteil nach den urheberrechtlichen internationalen Abkommen, in denen Mexiko Mitglied ist. Falls es kein bilaterales Abkommen mit den USA gibt und falls Mexiko Mitglied der Revidierten Berner Übereinkunft (RBÜ) ist, würde ein Schutzfristenvergleich gemäß RBÜ beispielsweise zur Folge haben, dass US-PD-Werke auch in Mexiko PD sind.
  • Zu den US-Government-Werken steht fest, dass ausdrücklich festgehalten wurde, dass sie nur IN den USA PD sind. Das ist x-mal - auch hier auf Commons - belegt und nachgewiesen worden, aber David Newton erfindet das Rad neu und tut so, als sei das eine neue Frage. Für den FWS liegt ein ausdrücklicher Verzicht vor, bei den anderen Regierungsbehörden stellt sich natürlich die Frage, wie die USA das Urheberrecht außerhalb der USA durchsetzen könnte. Wir akzeptieren solche Bilder zurecht als Quasi-weltweite PD - es kann sein, dass sich an dieser Einschätzung etwas ändert. Aber ich sehe keinen Handlungsbedarf.

Welche Konsequenzen sind zu ziehen?

  • Eine Option wäre, angesichts der Globalisierung sich auf den kleinsten gemeinsamen Nenner zu einigen. Nur wenn ein Bild in allen Staaten der Erde frei ist, kann es hier rein. Absurd, dann gäbs keine Panoramafreiheit und kein Bidgeman v. Corel (Repro zweidimensionaler Vorlagen) man hätte zahlreiche nationale Sondervorschriften zu beachten, abgesehen davon, dass eine Prüfung eines einzelnen Bildes Stunden oder Tage dauern würde und praktisch unmöglich wäre.
  • Wenn man nicht jedes Risiko ausschließen kann, muss man gewisse - möglichst kleine - Risiken eingehen. Zur Abschätzung der Risiken des Forum Shopping fehlen empirische Daten, da Wikimedia bislang kaum nachhaltigen Ärger wg. Bildrechten hatte und auch sonst Bildrechte im internationalen Kontext selten gerichtskundig werden.
  • Bei der Bestimmung der Faustregeln können und sollen kulturpolitische Positionen von Jimbo Wales und der Foundation (z.B. Akzeptanz von Bridgeman v. Corel) Eingang finden.
  • Die Faustregeln sollten negativ formuliert werden, etwa:
    • Keine Bilder, die in den USA geschützt sind.
    • Keine Bilder, deren Urheber keine 70 Jahre tot ist.
    • Keine Bilder, deren Urheber/Erben in ihrem eigenen Staat Schutz geltend machen können.


Bei älteren Bildern kann ohne weiteres die deutsche x-100-Regelung übernommen werden, da das Risiko sehr gering erscheint, dass wegen so alten Bildern Ansprüche geltend gemacht werden. Ebenso sollte man versuchen, die Panoramafreiheit möglichst weitgehend in Anspruch zu nehmen. An Bridgeman v. Corel sollte nicht gerüttelt werden. Eine intensive Beratung durch en User Lupo sollte selbstverständlich sein. --Historiograf 22:26, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

Histriograf, I had asked you already before not to advertise my name as a copyright expert that I am not. I'm a normal Wikipedia editor who, after having made an error with the Einstein image by Karsh (which you pointed out to me, BTW), set out to really read up on copyright in an international context. That's all, and as the Meili image shows, my understanding of these issues is far from perfect and I sometimes still make mistakes. I'm not a lawyer. I don't know what would be a workable set of rules of thumb for the commons. Lupo 12:38, 26 April 2006 (UTC)
P.S.: I see PD-Soviet was mentioned a couple of times above. There ain't no such thing, the only workable rule for Soviet works I see is 70 years p.m.a. See Template talk:PD-USSR. Lupo 12:38, 26 April 2006 (UTC)
Duesentrieb says above "hosting the work must not violate US law. We have still to determine if and how US copyright law applies to works originating outside the US." All right. Let's assume that U.S. law does apply to content hosted in the U.S. That would be the "if" part, but why U.S. law should not apply to a U.S. foundation based in Florida, U.S., is beyond me. Granted, in an Internet context, even other laws might apply—if I understood this issue correctly, the lawyers still debate which laws would apply (server country? download country? both? all?). But for the Wikimedia foundation, U.S. law is certainly relevant. Now to the "how": take a look at Peter Hirtle's chart. In summary: works published before 1923 anywhere in the world are PD in the U.S. (with some caveats if there was no © notice). Foreign works published between 1923 and 1995 (inclusive) are PD in the U.S. only if they were PD in their country of origin on January 1, 1996. Otherwise, foreign works published before 1978 are copyrighted until 95 years since the publication (i.e. at least until 1923 + 95 = 2018), and foreign works published 1978 or later are copyrighted until 70 years p.m.a.
Hence an image of a photographer who died before 1936, but which was first published in Germany 1923 or later, is copyrighted in the U.S. (Because that work was copyrighted in Germany on January 1, 1996.) Especially with EU countries, there is no use invoking special or historical rules about images because of the retroactive nature of the EU copyright directive. See WP:PD for an explanation of that particular ugly situation.
If you want to ensure that all images on the commons are also PD under U.S. law, you will have to implement the rules outlined above. That would mean to require for each and every foreign work (tagged with one of the country-specific tags) a mandatory rationale explaining why the image was also PD in the U.S., and you'd have to remove quite a few images that are PD "only" outside the U.S. (see the "German photograph" example just above). And that's only for published works! <wishful thinking>If only the U.S. implemented the rule of the shorter term. That would make things much easier.</wishful thinking>
Final note: I didn't make those rules. They are what the law says. Whether that rule must be implemented, I do not know (as I said above). In my opinion, that's a foundation issue, because if it is to be implemented, there will be stiff opposition. Lupo 19:23, 26 April 2006 (UTC)