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The Internet Government News

Huge German Donation Marks Wikipedia's Evolution 130

Posted by kdawson
from the more-pictures-than-you dept.
Raul654 writes "In December, we discussed the German Federal Archive's agreement, at the urging of Wikimedia Deutschland, to donate 100,000 pictures to Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. At the time that was the largest picture donation ever to Wikipedia, and thought to be largest in the history of the free culture movement. Now Wikimedia Deutschland has reached a similar agreement with the Saxon State and University Library, which will donate 250,000 pictures to Wikipedia under CCA-ShareAlike. On a not-unrelated note: Microsoft has announced that it will discontinue its Encarta encyclopedia."
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Huge German Donation Marks Wikipedia's Evolution

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  • nice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by niner69 (1431193) on Monday March 30, 2009 @09:54PM (#27396915)
    Good job Germany. We should start lobbying Congress to do the same with the Library of Congress.
    • by maxume (22995)

      That doesn't even make sense.

      Lots of what they have is already accessible anyway:

      http://www.loc.gov/library/libarch-digital.html [loc.gov]

      • Re:nice (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Raul654 (453029) on Monday March 30, 2009 @10:24PM (#27397131) Homepage

        The good side is that American law specifies that the work of government employees on government time is in the public domain. The bad side is that the library of congress website is the single most disorganized, least function website on the internet. It is the only non-proxy website I have seen in a decade or more that uses temporary URLs (which makes deep linking to their content on Wikipedia difficult, since we can't link to the page we got it from).

        • Re:nice (Score:5, Informative)

          by corsec67 (627446) on Monday March 30, 2009 @10:28PM (#27397165) Homepage Journal

          The good side is that American law specifies that the work of government employees on government time is in the public domain.

          That is only true of the federal government, not the various state and local governments.

          • Then we need to pass laws to change the state government laws. Anything produced with taxpayer money should be accessible to the folks who paid for it (us). We're the boss and we have a right to review the employees' work.

        • I've never understood something, which is how information in the public domain is compatible with the GFDL. For that matter, Creative Commons-Share Alike isn't either.

          GFDL requires for something to currently be under copyright in order for the share-alike aspect of it to be enforceable and to propagate further on. If Wikipedia continues to accept these incompatible donations or incorporate public domain works, Wikipedia as a whole becomes polluted. Claiming GFDL is claiming a kind of copyright, but the

          • by Raul654 (453029) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:05AM (#27397763) Homepage

            On Wikipedia, a distinction is made between pictures and text. All the text is GFDL, but the pictures can be other licenses. An article can have GFDL text with creative commons attribution/sharealike pictures. I'm not a lawyer, but I've been told that mixed copyright like this is a relatively new, ill-defined area of law. For distribution, Wikipedia is available in text-only dumps and combined text/image dumps.

          • FYI, until August 2009 there is a window of opportunity for Wikipedia to move to dual-licensing of their text as both GFDL and CC-SA. [wikipedia.org]

            Perhaps the Wikimedia Foundation and/or the FSF are also concerned about what you're talking about?

            (BTW, when I first read your post, I thought you were just misunderstanding something about the GFDL and that there had to be a way that it would be legal to add public domain works without violating the license, but now that I have bothered to read the latest version, I totally

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by McDutchie (151611)
            This is why the Wikimedia Foundation has been in talks with the FSF, which resulted in a new version [gnu.org] of the GFDL that allows dual licensing with CC-BY-SA. A proposal [wikimedia.org] is now underway to make such dual licensing mandatory for all new content on Wikimedia projects.
          • I've never understood something, which is how information in the public domain is compatible with the GFDL.

            The GFDL is compatible with any strictly more lenient terms. If you create a derivative of a GFDL work, it prohibits you from imposing further restrictions on it, but doesn't require you to impose that "viral" aspect of parts of the work that weren't already subject to it. If I combine a GFDL work with a public-domain work and license the result under the GFDL, then anyone can use it under the terms of the GFDL, so that's fine. Nobody said parts of it can't be usable under more generous terms as well. T

        • by pjt33 (739471)

          The NGIS website (also U.S. government) also uses temporary URLs. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that there's a small circle of consulting companies which is responsible for most federal websites and that each has its own way of doing things.

        • by bhiestand (157373) *

          It is the only non-proxy website I have seen in a decade or more that uses temporary URLs (which makes deep linking to their content on Wikipedia difficult, since we can't link to the page we got it from).

          I was going to argue with you and say you've obviously never seen the House/Senate sites, but it appears they've transition to the LoC as well. But yeah, this isn't just a problem with wikipedia... they make the full text of legislation very difficult to actually find, and even harder to store your own copy, bookmark, or share with others.

      • by Jurily (900488)

        Lots of what they have is already accessible anyway:

        Yes, but that way we won't have edit wars. We want freedom goddammit!

      • by larpon (974081)
        I wonder where they find all that AIDS?
        http://lcweb2.loc.gov/faid/faidfrquery.html [loc.gov]
    • Re:nice (Score:4, Funny)

      by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Monday March 30, 2009 @10:14PM (#27397051)
      But if that happens, will that mean the standard of measurement will become 'how many Wikipedias is that?'
    • /me has an idea what to ask Microsoft for...

      I mean of course a creative commons release of the the Encarta MS reference font...

  • Encarta? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 30, 2009 @09:57PM (#27396935)
    Did anyone know it was still around?
    • They might of, if it did a better job.

      That being said, I think MS have realized that collaboration knowledge bases are the wave of the future. I wouldn't be surprised to see them release a wiki like product of their own.

      • I dunno. I always liked Encarta - though, as other posters have said of themselves, I guess I haven't used it in years. I think the richness of Encarta still hasn't been 100% matched by Wikipedia yet, though the detail and level of content (on an average basis) certainly has been vastly exceeded.

        Encarta was among my favorite MS products, I am a little disappointed to hear it's not going to be around anymore. But... that's capitalism.
        • by anss123 (985305)

          I think the richness of Encarta still hasn't been 100% matched by Wikipedia yet, though the detail and level of content (on an average basis) certainly has been vastly exceeded.

          I've seen Encarta used as a source for Wikipedia articles. I did a search just now for "encyclopedia Encarta" (with quotes) and got ~20 articles. Not a whole lot but it's still unfortunate that a potential secondary source has to close down.

      • That would be Powerset [powerset.com].
    • Re:Encarta? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Bob54321 (911744) on Monday March 30, 2009 @10:28PM (#27397169)

      Did anyone know it was still around?

      Well, yes... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encarta [wikipedia.org]

      • Re:Encarta? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Monday March 30, 2009 @11:32PM (#27397541)

        Naturally Microsoft, being a self-described good corporate citizen [microsoft.com] and having no further profit motive for doing otherwise, will proceed to do the right thing and donate all the Encarta articles and images to the commons. Won't they? Won't they?

        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Probably under some kind of Microsoft Encyclopedia Media Multi Distribution SemiCommons License.

        • Re:Encarta? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:40AM (#27398001)
          As far as I know most or at least major parts of most of the the articles are licensed from other encyclopaedias, so they are not really free to just give them out.
          • So MS did with encyclopaedias what they did with software - buy up others' products to sell, instead of generating their own.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            As far as I know most or at least major parts of most of the the articles are licensed from other encyclopaedias, so they are not really free to just give them out.

            According to Wikpedia [wikipedia.org] although the original content from Funk & Wagnalls was non-exclusive, Microsoft later purchased Collier's and New Merit Scholar encyclopedias, so at least some of the content would be free for Microsoft to donate. Should it happen to discover a shred of genuine generosity somewhere in its cold little heart.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by David Gerard (12369)
          Wikimedia is already asking them about this.
      • Re:Encarta? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Dutch Gun (899105) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @01:02AM (#27398141)

        The fact that there's a fairly complete, informative article about Encarta aptly demonstrates one of Wikipedia's strengths.

        Following the first multimedia Academic American Encyclopedia, Microsoft initiated Encarta by purchasing non-exclusive rights to the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, incorporating it into its first edition in 1993. (Funk & Wagnalls continued to publish revised editions for several years independently of Encarta, but then ceased printing in the late 1990s.) Funk & Wagnalls had been a third-tier encyclopedia available at cut rates in grocery stores, where volumes were sold individually as well as in one collected set. The name Encarta was created for Microsoft by an advertising agency, successfully guessing that it sounded better than Funk & Wagnalls.[4]

        The article's summary illustrates one of its weaknesses...

      • Reading the Discontinuation FAQ [msn.com]

        People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past.

        which seeks to be microsoft speak for Wikipedia killed encarta. First big victory for the open content movement.

    • It is certain that Wiki will continue to receive money and donations for years to come. What I find interesting is that MS is slowing killing off what was considered for decades its core programs. Flight Sim is gone. Now Encartia. At one time, those WERE big players for MS.
  • Gee... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 30, 2009 @10:05PM (#27396985)

    I hope they don't have to figure out how to submit them and enter all the metadata through Wikipedia's terrible interface one by one.

    I once tried to submit a photo to Wikimedia and it took me an hour to do it. Just figuring out which of ten diffeent licenses I should license it under was a pain because they're poorly described. And when I wanted to find the image later after some jerk reverted my edit to the page I added the image to, it took forever to do that as well because the search function wouldn't return it as a result.

    If they'd actually make it easy for people to submit stuff to the site, this donation wouldn't even be worth a mention, because they'd be drowning in media. I'm one guy and I have 10,000 nature photos I'd be happy to submit, but won't, because they've made it way too difficult and time consuming to be bothered with.

    • Re:Gee... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Raul654 (453029) on Monday March 30, 2009 @10:20PM (#27397097) Homepage

      The tools for automated submissions of the pictures are already in place. What is needed, however, are people to translate the German captions into English.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        The tools for automated submissions of the pictures are already in place. What is needed, however, are people to translate the German captions into English.

        Well for the English version anyway. What about all the other languages supported by wikipedia?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Raul654 (453029)

          English is the almost universal language of academia, business, and the internet. Once you have the captions translated into English, it's relatively easy to go from English to each of the other 300-odd Wikipedia languages.

          • by bursch-X (458146)
            Oh, yes I forgot it's always better to translate another translation than to use the original for other translations. If you go to languages that are as different from Indo-European languages as, say Japanese, you better make very sure what the original caption said and intended in all its subtleness and then translate that to such a language, rather than trying to second-guess the above through the filter of yet another translation that just can help but introduce new ambiguities and unclarity.
            • by Locklin (1074657)

              It's probably a manpower issue. There are plenty of people who speak, for instance Japanese and English, but much fewer who speak German and Japanese.

              A quick Google search says that English is the most common second language in the world. I don't know if that's true, but it's probably close.

    • Re:Gee... (Score:5, Informative)

      by corsec67 (627446) on Monday March 30, 2009 @10:23PM (#27397113) Homepage Journal

      It isn't that hard. I have submitted quite a few pictures to Wikipedia, and have learned a bit along the way.

      The first one does take a while, but then you know what you want to use. I have hundreds of pictures on Commons, with most of them still on the Wikipedia pages. The ones that aren't have been replaced by better pictures.

      The main thing is that pictures that you took, and can license in any way you want should go on commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/ [wikimedia.org] . That allows your pictures to be used on other language Wikipedias, which images only on en.Wikipedia can't be due to licensing issues. Then, they will be listed in your gallery, and contributions lists.

      Pictures where you can only claim a fair-use license have to go on Wikipedia, since fair-use is a US only thing, and can't necessarily be used in other countries.

      If you have pictures of species that don't currently have pictures on Wikipedia, then it would be helpful if you put pictures on those pages, with the images hosted on Commons, and maybe added to the other language Wikipdeias as well.

      • by syousef (465911)

        It isn't that hard. I have submitted quite a few pictures to Wikipedia, and have learned a bit along the way.

        Don't you see the problem right there? Submitting a picture is a simple thing. It shouldn't involve much learning. It should be a no brainer. Reserve your time and effort learning for something worth learning, not some esoteric interface.

        • Re:Gee... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Raul654 (453029) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:47AM (#27398039) Homepage

          "Submitting a picture is a simple thing. It shouldn't involve much learning." - in a world without copyright that's true. It's technically trivial create something like 4chan.

          But if you want such a database to be reusable and legally trusthworthy, and not a legal land mine, then you have to ask a bit more of your contributors. And copyright law, especially international copyright law, is anything but simple.

    • Uploading images on Wikipedia is made difficult on purpose due to the large amount of copyright violations that ended up being uploaded through the easy-to-use interface. I don't understand why it took you so long to find your photo again though, if you go through the history of the article and click the permalink to your version your photo will still be there.
    • by Inschato (1350323)
      Even if someone reverted your edit, you'd still be able to go into the history for it, and find your image still listed in your revision.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by OverlordQ (264228)

      And when I wanted to find the image later after some jerk reverted my edit to the page I added the image to, it took forever to do that as well because the search function wouldn't return it as a result.

      That's why Wikipedia logs well . . . everything. There's this handy one called the upload log [wikipedia.org] that, surprise surprise, logs uploads. Plug in your username there and it'd take about 2 seconds to find it again.

  • w00t. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Monday March 30, 2009 @10:07PM (#27397005)
    If this can be given some momentum by other scions of Wikipedia following the model and pushing for similar arrangements with archives around the world based on referencing the WikiDE arrangements, maybe this could be turned into a tidal wave trend. The time has come for the artificial scarcity of knowledge in the modern era to end.
  • shizer on the intarwebz already, but thx anyway germany
  • A win for the noble contributors of this article [wikipedia.org].
  • Permanent storage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Narpak (961733) on Monday March 30, 2009 @10:22PM (#27397109)
    I reckon one way to ensure that data is more secure, for instance the pictures in this case, is to make it available to sites like Wikipedia. Thus creating another place were the data is stored; and it becomes easily accessible to many. I would like to see this continue, perhaps not only through wikipedia; but it is a good start.
    • by Raul654 (453029)

      It's not exactly a secret that the best way to back up data is to have multiple copies in multiple places. It's just that Wikipedia's license happens to facilitate this. However, most people consider their data private and don't want anyone being able to get a copy willy-nilly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Narpak (961733)
        I should have specified that the data I had in mind was things that are, or should be, available to everyone; but can only be accesses through archaic means at the present moment. What individuals to do preserve their own private personal data or pictures is non of my concern.
    • "Only wimps use tape backup: _real_ men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it." -- Linus Torvalds

    • by Denial93 (773403)
      True, but the most important benefit the first German archive got and that apparently helped convince the second is the captioning of images. They never had the staff to do that, so putting the stuff on the wiki is a smart move.

      Those 250,000 are just a fraction of the 3 million that archive has - much of it on microfiche and hard to access. There is more of that coming.
  • "Microsoft's vision is that everyone around the world needs to have access to quality education, and we believe that we can use what we've learned and assets we've accrued with offerings like Encarta to develop future technology solutions."

    So Microsoft's vision is to be charitable, discontinue, or develop an even more exciting technology than electronic encyclopedias?

  • by HoldmyCauls (239328) on Monday March 30, 2009 @11:17PM (#27397439) Journal

    Are they *all* of David Hasselhoff?

  • Regarding Encarta, it appears access to it will be discontinued after October. Wouldn't it make sense for Microsoft, from a PR standpoint, to release its content under a public license, enabling Wikipedia to incorporate content it deems appropriate?

    Seems like a stingy decision the way it is ("if I can't have it, neither can anybody else"), but that's not too surprising coming from Microsoft.

    • I couldn't even begin to imagine how much of a nightmare that would be if they outsourced the writing of any of Encarta, and didn't think ahead for that kind of thing. It would be awesome if they did it, but no matter what their intentions, it may just not be possible.

    • Wouldn't it make sense for Microsoft, from a PR standpoint, to release its content under a public license, enabling Wikipedia to incorporate content it deems appropriate?

      I agree with you. Now if only we can solve these problems:

      1. Some materials may be licensed from elsewhere. (Cassius Corodes (1084513))
      2. Microsoft won't like the loss of control or copyright.

        .

      3. It will be quickly forgotten by the general public.
      4. It won't be noticed by the TV-watching public.
      5. People will underestimate how much work (and salary) went into it.

        .

      6. People can recompile the materials into a ad-supported website elsewhere. Free money!
      7. People can misrepresent, modify and degrade the work.
      8. The degraded work w
  • The first step of the eventual demise of Microsoft, as given by an ancient prophecy:

    I met a traveller from an antique land

    Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

    And on the pedestal these words appear:

    `My name is Ozymandias

  • Before reading the summary I thought Germany had decided to get rid of its old currency by donating it to Wikipedia.
  • Maybe the recent collapse of the Historical Archive of Cologne [wikipedia.org] that buried thousands of invaluable historical documents underneath tons of rubble will cause more historical archives to re-think and open up and share their contents with the public.

    Unfortunately, many museums and archives are more concerned about making profits with their historical documents rather than making some effort to make them available to the broad public. Many still think they own the copyrights to century old documents and paintin

    • Maybe the recent collapse...

      Unlikely, as will be discussed below.

      ...many museums and archives are more concerned about making profits...

      Many museums are in fact businesses, not charities, or public services, so this is understandable.

      Many still think they own the copyrights ...

      Now you know what posession is 9/10th of the law is all about !

      While I agree that it is travesty to have such significant aspects of the human cultural experience privately held, it is difficult to imagine what type of sys
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by prefec2 (875483)

        Most museums in Germany are owned by the state (federal state, states or cities) or foundations. This has the advantage that they can first preserve the material and then think about making a profit.

  • And they are quite good at handling images I think; http://www.flickr.com/commons [flickr.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Back in my day we called those "related note".

  • On a not-unrelated note: Microsoft has announced that it will discontinue its Encarta encyclopedia."

    Encarta could never compete with Wikipedia due to the tremendous workforce updating Wikipedia every day. Once gain open source wins against proprietary.

  • Wow, this is a (symbolic) victory for Free Software, and GNU.
    Wikipedia was originally conceived as GNUpedia, then Wales made Wikipedia and it was decided to merge them onto Wikipedia.

    Many people, including Eric S. Raymond, said it would fail.
    But it has worked excellently. +1 for communal development.

    For those interested here [gnu.org] is Richard Stallman's original proposal which led to GNUpedia and eventually Wikipedia.

"One Architecture, One OS" also translates as "One Egg, One Basket".

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