There are some legal-types who are interested in examining some legal issues for Wikimedia (?). This could be a good opportunity for Commons to get some "legal answers" to recurring questions that we seem unable to resolve through user discussion.
Things that need to be decided prior to the discussion:
- will Commons/Wikimedia accept their decisions or recommendations as binding, or are they merely another opinion to be considered?
Our current process for showing permission (when uploading someone else's work):
- People ask permission, hopefully using commons:email templates
- they forward the permission to OTRS as described on commons:OTRS
- OTRS magically figures out if it's valid or not, and either asks for more permission, or put a tag on the image indicating the permission has been recorded
Local vs US laws
To what extent are we bound by local laws and to what extent are we bound by Florida's laws (as the home of our servers). Country copyrights vary considerably with regards to duration of copyright, "freedom of panorama" (Panoramafreiheit) /whether public objects such as statues and even buildings can be freely photographed and there is a lot of confusion about this. Should we respect local law always or interpret in terms of US law?
Do we consider copyright independently of trademark status? Is that even possible? (Seems to be possible for Germany)
If a website says "these images can be used freely, can we interpret that as allowing commercial use and derivative works, and thus Commons-compliant? Or do we need to check each time whether they intend to allow these specific rights? [I think this has mostly been resolved in favour of the latter]
Photographs of commercial products such as: Pokemon/Star Wars/Simpsons toys, LEGO, box of Pringles, can of Coke, Coke billboard incidentally in a photo of a shop, also people in dress-up outfits of characters such as Lara Croft/Chewbacca.
Photographs of art
If the artwork itself is old enough to be PD, is it true that any photograph of the art itself is also PD, but any photograph of the art in its frame or on a wall is not? (Because it is 3-D, not 2-D anymore)
What permission is required of people photographed, if any? (eg "Can I take your picture"/"Can I publish your picture on a public database that allows commercial use?") Is this a copyright concern or a "other law" concern that we don't need to worry about? What if the people aren't recognisable (and how can you decide that anyway?)? Which country's laws should apply?
Also model releases - should we start requiring one?? What should it say?
Current hot potato: Commons:Deletion requests/Image:Childhood Obesity.JPG
Flickr change of license
Flickr allows users to change the licenses on their images with no external notice. So CC-BY or CC-BY-SA images uploaded to Commons might later appear to be CC-BY-NC-ND or even "all rights reserved". This is an increasing problem. Obviously Flickr needs a "history" tab, but until then...?
(We have recently started a process to have a bot mark Flickr images with a template saying 'checked as of DD/MM/YY', but the whole thing is still a giant PITA.)
Threshold of originality
Flag copyright - originality - again which laws to apply? Is this accurate? Again relates to German laws and logos above.
For example, German Wikipedia has a copy of the Australian Aboriginal flag, even though it's considered copyrighted in Australia: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bild:Flag_of_the_Australian_Aborigines.svg I find this incredibly problematic...