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Why the Photos On Wikipedia Are So Bad 572

Posted by kdawson
from the does-this-cellphone-snap-make-me-look-fat dept.
Reservoir Hill writes "The NY Times has an article investigating why, unlike the articles on Wikipedia which in theory are improved, fact checked, footnoted, and generally enhanced over time, the photos that go with Wikipedia articles are so bad and in many cases there is no photo at all for even well known public figures. Few high-quality photographs, particularly of celebrities, make it onto on Wikipedia because Wikipedia runs only pictures with the most permissive Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to use an image, for commercial purposes or not, as long as the photographer is credited. 'Representatives or publicists will contact us' horrified at the photographs on the site, says Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation. 'They will say: "I have this image. I want you to use this image." But it is not as simple as uploading a picture that is e-mailed to us.' Recent photographs on Wikipedia are almost exclusively the work of amateurs who don't mind giving away their work. 'Amateur may be too kind a word; their photos tend to be the work of fans who happen to have a camera,' opines the Times's author. Ultimately the issue for professional photographers who might want to donate their work is copyright. 'To me the problem is the Wikipedia rule of public use,' says Jerry Avenaim, a celebrity photographer. 'If they truly wanted to elevate the image on the site, they should allow photographers to maintain the copyright.'"
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Why the Photos On Wikipedia Are So Bad

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  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:58AM (#28753959) Journal
    Wikipedia does not have to increase its popularity, it has no online free rivals. It is the people who have a wikipedia page that will be willing to have such a nice picture than all American presidents who will provide copyleft pictures. If we can get RIAA-sponsored stars to interest themselves about these pesky legal issues, this is a great benefit.

    And if you really need a picture or are ready to (sigh) "steal" an image with a copyright, there is always Google Image, the greatest aggregator of ready-to-be-pirated copyrighted material.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wikipedia is not a celebrity fansite. It's about information. If the information is sufficient to allow f.i. to tell a Mr. Clooney from a Ms. Berry, the goal has been achieved.

    • Indeed, instead of this:

      'To me the problem is the Wikipedia rule of public use,' says Jerry Avenaim, a celebrity photographer. 'If they truly wanted to elevate the image on the site, they should allow photographers to maintain the copyright.'"

      We should be hearing "If the publicists really want clients in the best light, they'll provide a picture which meets the largest encyclopedia's standards."

      They just don't get it. It's one picture that you donate to the world in exchange for your name being mentioned. Sports sponsors have been doing something similar for a long time.

      • by fbjon (692006) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:05AM (#28755217) Homepage Journal
        Not to mention that the photographers do maintain their copyright. Only a permissive license to use the image is required, and then only for the image uploaded to Wikipedia, not the original work.

        The world is filled with control freaks, it seems.

        • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:22AM (#28755351)

          Not to mention that the photographers do maintain their copyright. Only a permissive license to use the image is required, and then only for the image uploaded to Wikipedia, not the original work.

          The world is filled with control freaks, it seems.

          Well, it's the permissive aspect that is problematic - they are no doubt afraid that the image will become the image of choice of the celebrity; for which they will get no money.

          Not that I agree with that, but most photographers are very protective of their copyright protections around usage; simply because that's how they make their money.

          Of course, most of them aren't going to create the iconic image; more likely the real reason a Wiki photo would be used a lot is it is free. In the photographer's mind however, each use translates to ost money, never mind that the demand curve for the image approaches zero as teh price becomes non-zero.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Not to mention that the photographers do maintain their copyright. Only a permissive license to use the image is required, and then only for the image uploaded to Wikipedia, not the original work.

            The world is filled with control freaks, it seems.

            Well, it's the permissive aspect that is problematic - they are no doubt afraid that the image will become the image of choice of the celebrity; for which they will get no money.

            Not that I agree with that, but most photographers are very protective of their copyright protections around usage; simply because that's how they make their money.

            Of course, most of them aren't going to create the iconic image; more likely the real reason a Wiki photo would be used a lot is it is free. In the photographer's mind however, each use translates to ost money, never mind that the demand curve for the image approaches zero as teh price becomes non-zero.

            What most people don't realize is for a professional photographer, if they are luck 1 out of 10 photos are useable for sale. Why don't they sell the 1st rate photos to the tabloids, and then release a 2nd rate photo with minimal or no resale value (which is probably much better than an amateur photo)to Wikipedia. They can have their cake and eat it too.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Just Some Guy (3352)

            Not that I agree with that, but most photographers are very protective of their copyright protections around usage; simply because that's how they make their money.

            A million F/OSS programmers and indie musicians are unsympathetic to their unsustainable business model.

            I don't mean that as a troll. Yeah, I can understand why photographers would want to keep working that way, but in a time of instant, unlimited, free redistribution of pretty much all content, relying on copyright to stay in business just isn't sane.

        • by muridae (966931) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:39AM (#28755497)

          Hmm, let's work this out from the photographer's perspective. I go out to a studio, with all my gear and assistants, and do a model shoot of a celebrity. It's a whole days work, with hair and makeup changes, wardrobe, setting of lights before people get there, and tearing stuff down when they all leave. Maybe I'm lucky and have a stocked stage someplace, or maybe I want to shoot them on location somewhere. End of the day, I expect to get paid for this work. And what I expect to get paid depends on what the celebrity and their company want to do with the picture. Most of the time, they want exclusive control of the image, and I charge them for that. That means, I can not turn around and re-license the picture to Wiki under the CC, as the contract we have forbids it. That's the publicists problem, not mine. If the publicist wants the picture under the CC, I am going to charge more for it.

          Counter-intuitive, I know, but hear me out. By my licensing the picture under the CC, I would be giving the publicist, and the rest of the world, more rights than a normal photo contract provides, provided the photo shoot wasn't done as work for hire (15x base cost, minimum since I can never use those pics in a portfolio). Because I would lose future rights on the photo, for now and forever, I would charge accordingly. It's not greed, it's pragmatism. You say that a photographer retains their copyright, but if the picture is out there under the CC who needs to license it from the photographer under anything more restrictive? Since that is lost future potential revenue, it's going to cost more, period.

          I know this opinion won't fly well with the /. crowd. All data and stuff should be free unless it's the work I do for the company on their time and then I should be paid like a king for it. Funny that photographers think the same way about the pictures they take on someone else's time.

          • by vlm (69642) on Monday July 20, 2009 @10:08AM (#28755799)

            You say that a photographer retains their copyright, but if the picture is out there under the CC who needs to license it from the photographer under anything more restrictive?

            Wikipedia might be content with a vaguely 320x240 pixel image of some celebrity. A typical "womens magazine" front cover at a reasonably non-blurry DPI would need, maybe, 4000x3000 resolution, probably at a totally difference aspect ratio than the image provided to wikipedia, and probably as a PNG/raw/GIF rather than a lossy jpeg file.

            I can't think of a downside if a photographer makes a small low res sample image, perhaps with a little banner at the bottom "john q hacker, professional photographer, http://www.johnqhacker.com/ [johnqhacker.com]" and distributes it as widely as possible.

            If some teenage girl wants to print it out and tape it to her school locker, she was never going to pay any money for a license permitting that, so no loss. If a magazine editor wants a front cover picture, the editor will gladly pay a nice big fee to license an ultra high res image in the format and aspect ratio of their choice, so no loss.

            Maybe instead of an ultra low res color image for free, try a medium res black and white for free? Assuming you are not "into" black and white for artistic reasons?

            I'm really struggling to see how a freely available low res image has any downside, and it has a microscopic upside of providing free advertising for the lazy people who don't remove the "banner ad" at the bottom.

          • By my licensing the picture under the CC, I would be giving the publicist, and the rest of the world, more rights than a normal photo contract provides, provided the photo shoot wasn't done as work for hire (15x base cost, minimum since I can never use those pics in a portfolio).

            As a professional programmer, I face pretty much the exact same situation. My solution: I got a job so that all of my work is for hire and my boss gets to deal with the business aspects.

            BTW, this sounds like a great opportunity for an enterprising photographer. Offer to sell good pictures at reasonable rates to the celebrities themselves so they they (and their agents) can make sure they're represented well on places like Wikipedia. If the best photographers don't find that acceptable, I'm sure there are plenty of up-and-comers who'd love the publicity and the professional connections.

          • by AK Marc (707885) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:33PM (#28757519)
            Because I would lose future rights on the photo, for now and forever,

            My understanding is that is incorrect. You retain the original. You license a copy. That copy is under CC. If you want to take it at 15 megapixels and retouch it after you are done for the best effect, then you have that. Give Wikipedia a 320x320 image. The issue for Wikipedia isn't always that the photo isn't "high quality" in the sense of resolution and such, but that it's a picture of them sneezing and the only one used because that's the only one submitted. Make a purposefully inferior copy. Give it away. Keep the others for yourself. Or, in a photoshoot, there will be hundreds of pictures taken. Take one of the mediocre ones. It will be better than what Wikipedia has now. And it will be one you would never have gotten compensated for.

            You sound more like someone that has decided that you don't like the idea and you are working hard to find reasons why it is bad, rather that taking scenarios that are more palatable and seeing how those would play out. Yes, it may take a small bit of cooperation between the photographer and the publicist, but they do that every photoshoot with a new contract, so I can't accept the "doesn't play well together" excuse when they do it all the time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by abigsmurf (919188)
      Wikipedia does have a big free online rival: Search engines. It can be just as fast to find specialist info straight through a search engine than to go through wikipedia (especially if the info you're after is in a maze of disambiguation and split articles).
  • by noidentity (188756) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:58AM (#28753963)

    To me the problem is the Wikipedia rule of public use,' says Jerry Avenaim, a celebrity photographer. 'If they truly wanted to elevate the image on the site, they should allow photographers to maintain the copyright.'

    Apparently they care more about freedom than having the highest quality images available. What more is there to say?

    • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:26AM (#28754105) Homepage Journal

      I have other theories:

        - Knowledge in words flows unhindered, images can only come to stay in our heads from RL, TV, Magazines, ...
            We can not reproduce images and forward it to other peoples brains. We only can with words.
        - Photos can not be improved incrementally
        - (tongue-in-cheek) You have to go outside for photos

    • by SolitaryMan (538416) on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:03AM (#28754251) Homepage Journal

      To me the problem is the Wikipedia rule of public use,' says Jerry Avenaim, a celebrity photographer. 'If they truly wanted to elevate the image on the site, they should allow photographers to maintain the copyright.'

      Apparently they care more about freedom than having the highest quality images available.

      This is the good thing. I don't come to Wikipedia to see HQ images. I come for free information I can immediately use: quote or contribute. There are plenty of other sites, where you can find images.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stephanruby (542433)

      Apparently they care more about freedom than having the highest quality images available. What more is there to say?

      Also, Wikipedia cares more about accuracy (not just freedom). The primary example [wikipedia.org] cited by that NYT article is not the primary picture shown on Halle Berry's Wikipedia page, it's only the second picture shown on that page, and that picture is only one of seven pictures designed to show the progression of her career.

      In 1987, Halle Berry was a no-name first-time television actor and a failed Mi

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:51AM (#28754477) Homepage Journal

      Interesting that the NY Times would press the idea that Wikipedia has "bad photos".

      It wouldn't have anything to do with the NYT being nervous about losing their status as the "official record", would it? After all, it's only been about a decade that the NY Times has had color photographs at all.

      If I remember correctly, the first color photograph appeared in the New York Times on October 16, 1997.

      Actually, and ironically, I learned this on Wikipedia.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mdwh2 (535323)

      Indeed - and conversely, photographers care more about being able to retain restrictive licences, rather than high quality pictures.

      As well as fully agreeing with Wikipedia's stance, to be honest I don't see the problem anyway: if a celebrity is bothered that there's an awful picture of them, then that's all the more encouragement for them to donate a free image :) Similarly with fans, if they're annoyed at a poor quality picture of their favourite celebrity.

      The fundamental problem here is not Wikipedia, bu

    • by SEWilco (27983)
      Is the highest quality image one which shows the person with or without makeup? Does high quality require the lighting, retouching, and background which is preferred by the publicist?
  • by 3dWarlord (862844) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:58AM (#28753965)
    They want to use wikipedia as a advertisement for their portfolio while still using a restrictive license for everyone else. This is a problem, of course, for the encyclopedia that aims to be free for anyone to copy, distrubute, modify as they please.
    • by Jugalator (259273) on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:11AM (#28754281) Journal

      Exactly. Many seem to think this is a "oh boy, those annoying freedom fighters that prioritize freedom over practicality again", but really... In *every* case where a non-free license would be used, Wikipedia would not be able to use the images and let people download them freely without breaking the law. And with a high profile site as Wikipedia, believe me, someone in the sue-happy country the English Wikipedia is based in, would try and win. (if not having this policy)

  • Good grief (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JohnFluxx (413620) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:59AM (#28753969)

    > 'If they truly wanted to elevate the image on the site, they should allow photographers to maintain the copyright.'"

    Um, they do. If he can't even understand a basic thing such as copyright, then why is he writing such an article? The whole article stinks.

    The nytimes seems to be complaining that the photos of celebrities are ordinary photos, rather than 'glamour shots' (their words). I fail to see the problem.

    It goes on to say that photographs are static and can't be improved, thus exposing a flaw in the wikipedia model. Wtf? You can just replace a photograph with a better. And I have even seen a given photo re-uploaded when someone else found a better version (like the NASA photos).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:01AM (#28753975)

    But surely the photographers DO maintain the copyright, they just license the image freely. If they have a problem with 'freedom', they should just say that instead. "We photographers don't like freedom". There, I restated the problem, clearly.

    If some celeb has a problem with their picture, they can just pay for one to be CCd. Don't tell me in a world of millions of photographers, they're all asshats?

    • by julesh (229690) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:35AM (#28754135)

      But surely the photographers DO maintain the copyright, they just license the image freely. If they have a problem with 'freedom', they should just say that instead. "We photographers don't like freedom". There, I restated the problem, clearly.

      If some celeb has a problem with their picture, they can just pay for one to be CCd. Don't tell me in a world of millions of photographers, they're all asshats?

      In over 10 years in the web design industry, working closely with probably 20+ commercial photographers, I have yet to find one that doesn't insist on retaining control of the rights to reproduce the photos they take for you. They want to charge you for taking the photo, then they want to charge you again if you want to use the photo in a different way to how you used it the first time.

    • by funkatron (912521) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:55AM (#28754217)

      Asshat photographers are pretty common. At a gig my band were playing we had a photographer turn up (we didn't know him or invite him), get in the way at the front of the stage and then try to sell us pictures by showing us the display on his camera while we were trying to clear the gear up. He wasn't even interested in emailing us thumbnails so that we could look at them properly (and put them on our myspazz without buying full size versions). We're ok with people coming and taking pictures and using them wherever they want but trying to sell them to us is pushing it when we can get plenty of good pics off facebook etc. for free.

      The other and far more common place to find asshats is uni graduation ceremonies where the photographers charge extortionate amounts just to take one or two pictures.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by FireFury03 (653718)

        we can get plenty of good pics off facebook etc. for free.

        You know that you don't have implicit permission to redistribute a photo just because it's on Facebook, right?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Next time you just tell him that your performance is choreographed, as such his photographs are a derivative work and he may not redistribute them without your permission.

  • "I want the free publicity I get from having my images freely distributable, but I want to retain the sole right to distribute it."

    Not how it works.

  • by cas2000 (148703) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:03AM (#28753993)

    'To me the problem is the Wikipedia rule of public use,' says Jerry Avenaim, a celebrity photographer. 'If they truly wanted to elevate the image on the site, they should allow photographers to maintain the copyright.'"

    To me, the problem is the professional photographers' restrictions on public re-use of their work. If they truly wanted to elevate the image on the site then they'd release the image under an appropriate open license.

    ps: i have no idea what "elevate the image on the site" means either. but if someone as smart enough to be a celebrity photographer says it, it must mean something really clever and important.

    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:16AM (#28754045) Homepage Journal
      You would think that for a celebrity it would be worth paying a photographer to take a good shot and release it under a license which wikipedia will accept.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jimicus (737525)

        A lot of photographers are very awkward with that kind of thing because they make a significant amount of money from people coming to them later for reprints.

        I think some of it is cultural - when I got married there were plenty of photographers in Ireland prepared to release the rights to the photos to me for reprinting, but in the UK that's very rare.

  • by incense (63332) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:04AM (#28753999)

    If I'm not entirely mistaken, the photographer maintains the copyright, but the publishing on wikipedia under the creative commons allows everybody to use the photography as long as the photographer is credited.

    If photographers want to help, but are worried they'll lose control, why not upload lower than mint quality images?

  • Really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by noundi (1044080) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:07AM (#28754009)
    And to think I was looking for a 4000x3000 raw bitmap photo of Halle Berry on Wikipedia. Good thing I now know better.

    Seriously though, what's wrong with the diversity that the net has to offer? I use wikipedia.org to get some shallow information about anything that crosses my mind, and I use images.google.com to browse for images. So wikipedia is not the source for everything, big deal, I have the rest of the internet at my disposal at any time. So thank you wikipedia, thank you google, and fuck you NY Times.
  • by gonz (13914) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:07AM (#28754011)

    Wikipedia provides full citations for the author/source of all uploaded photos. If a professional photographer wanted to increase his exposure (no pun intended), he could contribute to wikipedia under a free license. The upsides really dwarf the downsides.

    -Gonz

    • by bheer (633842) <rbheer@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:52AM (#28754201)

      The combination of the NYT's editing and Slashdot's summarizing has been rather unkind to that "they should allow photographers to maintain the copyright" quote, imho.

      > If a professional photographer wanted to increase his exposure (no pun intended), he could contribute to wikipedia under a free license.

      That's exactly what the guy who the quote was attributed to has done.

      The story quoted Jerry Avenaim, who has contributed his photos to Wikipedia, for example here [wikimedia.org]. He says that photographers get paid very little for celebrity shots and make most of their money on resales of their photos (presumably print and online). If a freely licensed version on Wikipedia exists, then many publishers would simply take the wikipedia photo.

      Given that Avenaim himself has contributed photos, he's obviously aware of the upsides and the downsides of doing so - he even notes that he gets free publicity out of it. But re his "they should allow photographers to maintain the copyright" quote, it sounds like he meant Wikipedia should have a license that allows photographers to contribute _only to Wikipedia_ (presumably *.wikipedia.org) and still retain rights for usage of that photo anywhere else.

      I can see how this could be made to work. Have a 'better' photo for use on wikipedia.org, and point to an alternate free copy for use e.g. when other sites re-use wikipedia. That way photographers can contribute high-quality photos AND get paid, wikipedia gains, AND freedom to reuse is not lost.

      However, given that wikipedians are pretty hard-core about free (libre) content, it's unlikely anyone will take him seriously. Which is a pity. Good illustrations really enhance the value of an encyclopedia, but I'm guessing wikipedia won't compromise on its core 'free-ness' thing to get them.

      • by slim (1652) <john@hartn u p .net> on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:21AM (#28754329) Homepage

        I can see how this could be made to work. Have a 'better' photo for use on wikipedia.org, and point to an alternate free copy for use e.g. when other sites re-use wikipedia. That way photographers can contribute high-quality photos AND get paid, wikipedia gains, AND freedom to reuse is not lost.

        However, given that wikipedians are pretty hard-core about free (libre) content, it's unlikely anyone will take him seriously. Which is a pity. Good illustrations really enhance the value of an encyclopedia, but I'm guessing wikipedia won't compromise on its core 'free-ness' thing to get them

        It really would compromise the core free-ness thing in a practical way though.

        Currently Wikipedia works like "We're collaborating on this work, which you can take a copy of, to do whatever you like".

        With your modification it would be, "We're collaborating on this work. You can browse the premium edition here, or you can take a copy of the second class edition to do whatever you like".

        To me that's a massive difference, and a slippery slope.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bheer (633842)

          I do agree it would _change_ Wikipedia's core free-ness, and I myself am not sure how it'd work out - I like it that Wikipedia is free (libre) and remixable. But then I like good photographs too (aargh! it's almost like non-free drivers on Linux!).

          > With your modification it would be, "We're collaborating on
          > this work. You can browse the premium edition here, or you
          > can take a copy of the second class edition to do whatever you like".

          What I'll say to that is, there's no reason libre content has t

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sjames (1099)

        it sounds like he meant Wikipedia should have a license that allows photographers to contribute _only to Wikipedia_ (presumably *.wikipedia.org) and still retain rights for usage of that photo anywhere else.

        If I were running things there, I'm fairly sure I wouldn't be anxious to accept the potential liabilities of accepting more restricted licenses. Next thing you know, someone uploads such a restricted image and someone else downloads and uses it without checking the license. Next thing you know, you're being sued for the entire GNP of China for "contributory infringement" because, in the photographer's opinion, the restricted rights were not indicated clearly enough somewhere.

        Then there's the foreclosure of

  • by anomnomnomymous (1321267) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:08AM (#28754015)
    'To me the problem is the Wikipedia rule of public use,' says Jerry Avenaim, a celebrity photographer. 'If they truly wanted to elevate the image on the site, they should allow photographers to maintain the copyright.'

    Then you better be sure to stay off Wikipedia, Mr. Avenaim.
    He just fails to understand the concept of Wikipedia, whereas everyone should be able to copy-paste a whole article, -with- the photos included, if deemed necesary.
    I couldn't care less if a picture of a celebrity is not up-to-date, glamorous, or whatever: As long as the provided information is correct. And -if- the celebrity (or their management) cares... Well, supply a freaking photo with a Creative Commons license: Is this so hard?

    Mr. Avenaim would just love it to keep the copyright over his work, so probably in the future he could ask for some money for using his work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by julesh (229690)

      Mr Avenaim also just doesn't understand how copyright works. Of course he retains copyright; he merely grants a license to the version of the picture he uploads.

      There is nothing stopping him from uploading a reduced resolution image; he can then continue use the full resolution version in whatever way he wants, including licensing it to people who want something suitable for print purposes for insane sums of money, if he chooses.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Then you better be sure to stay off Wikipedia, Mr. Avenaim.

      Too Late [wikipedia.org]. It even looks like he has uploaded his own portrait to Wikimedia Commons under a CC license.

  • by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:10AM (#28754021)
    See, NYT, it's not called a web because we like to imagine spiders crawling all over our internets. It's called that because pages are supposed to be joined into an interconnected mesh through hyperlinks. So, when your article on the bad photos on Wikipedia doesn't include a single link to the bad photos themselves, or to any page on wikipedia at all (I've checked, "wikipedia.org" doesn't occur even once in the page source), the impression you're giving is not "we're a respectable news organization", it's "we fail at the internet forever, kick us."
  • by Shag (3737) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:15AM (#28754035) Homepage

    I love free use and all that. I'm also a photographer - not one who makes a living off it, but a moderately serious amateur who makes a little money now and then.

    In my real job, I work somewhere where a permit is required for "commercial" photography or filming. I can take all the pictures I want for personal use, of course, and I can put pictures on my personal web page (or for that matter my work one), but unless I pony up the bucks for a permit (hundreds of dollars) I can't profit in any way, nor (and here's the clincher) can I give the photos for free to someone else who profits in any way from them.

    There is a Creative Commons license (actually, lots of them) for things like this - the -nc- (non-commercial) ones. Unfortunately, last time I looked at Wikipedia, they insisted on a license allowing all uses, including commercial uses.

    So as an amateur who doesn't want or need to make money off pictures of where I work, to upload a picture of my workplace (unsurprisingly, I have plenty, many of them quite good) I would have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a permit, then allow anyone and everyone do do whatever they want with my picture, including making money off it. So not only am I basically releasing it to the public domain, I'm paying out of pocket for the right to let other people make money off it.

    If Wikipedia has changed their terms and are allowing cc-*-nc-* licensing, then I'll be very happy to stand corrected. If they still require licensing of all uses including commercial ones then I'm sorry, but I simply can't play that game.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blublu (647618)
      Sounds like a problem with your workplace rather than with Wikipedia.
    • by julesh (229690) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:52AM (#28754203)

      If Wikipedia has changed their terms and are allowing cc-*-nc-* licensing, then I'll be very happy to stand corrected. If they still require licensing of all uses including commercial ones then I'm sorry, but I simply can't play that game.

      They can't. One of the stated goals of the project is to allow commercial reproductions (e.g. distributions on CDROM or printed copies). To permit restriction of photographs to non-commercial uses would cripple this, effectively preventing them from reaching a key aim point. They'd rather not have the photo (which encourages somebody else -- perhaps somebody who already has that commercial use permit -- to take the photo for them) than have one that can't be used properly.

  • barvennon (Score:3, Interesting)

    by barv (1382797) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:15AM (#28754039) Journal
    Creative commons attribution is the only copyright and patent law we need. I look forward to the day when music is free to copy and musicians make their money from live performance, when images are free to copy and the original has value because it's, well, the original. When the written word may be copied and recopied, when patent law is no longer needed because people invent and discover for prestige.
  • by Blublu (647618) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:17AM (#28754055) Journal
    If you are a celebrity and want Wikipedia to have a good photo of you, provide one with the appropriate license and stop bitching. Problem solved! If you can't provide a picture under a free license, don't complain when someone else puts up a crappy picture. There is no problem here.
  • Here's the thing... (Score:5, Informative)

    by SirFozzie (442268) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:17AM (#28754059)

    (Please note, stating my Conflict of Interest up front: I am currently a Wikipedia Administrator, one of the 2,500 or so)

    I do agree that photos are not a good spot for Wikipedia. And we're currently in a spot where our pictures are simultaneously decried as not good enough (this topic) and too good (http://news.slashdot.org/story/09/07/17/085244/New-Developments-In-NPGWikipedia-Lawsuit-Threat [slashdot.org] , the museum in question says that low res versions would be ok, but high res infringes on their copyright (note, the items in question are in the public domain in the US, but the laws regarding reproductions of items are a bit wonky in the UK)

    We are a free encyclopedia. The people who use the encyclopedia have a right to reuse the material on Wikipedia in any way possible. Therefore, we cannot present any material that doesn't meet the requirements, because outside the two categories (things permissible under the GFDL/CC-BY-SA licensing terms, and limited fair-use exemptions, usually when no other picture is possible, such as photos of a person who is no longer living).

    One could quite possibly argue that if we did not restrict items to these categories, then on other versions of Wikipedia, or otherwise legal use of Wikipedia (for example, reusing the article elsewhere), Wikipedia would be contributing to copyright infringement, or even considering the terms the rest of the website is under, encouraging copyright infringement.

    Do I (speaking more as a user of the encyclopedia, rather than an administrator) want professional looking photographs and information on Wikipedia? Yes, Of course. I would LOVE for a lot of professional photographers to be able to release their work. But it's their decision. If they don't want to donate the phots under the suitable license, then, unfortunately, we cannot use them.

    And I should say that there are categories where Wikipedia shines. Several governments including the German goverment (http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08%2F12%2F06%2F1654246&from=rss [slashdot.org]) have released hundreds of thousands of historical to current day photographs to be used on Wikipedia by the site's terms.

    I know a user on Wikipedia (who I am proud to call a friend), who makes it their mission to restore old, faded pictures and photographs. They have close to 300 featured picture credits to their name. There's a whole category at the Wikipedia Commons (a sister project to Wikipedia) that makes it their goal to restore these photos and historical documents. (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Potential_restorations [wikimedia.org]).

    So it's an ever-improving process. We can only take what we are GIVEN, but everyday we're given more and more to work with.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Dear Wikipedia Administrator,

      A lot of photographers like myself would love to contribute photos to your service.

      However, the one time I attempted to do this, the process was so incomprhensible that it took me thirty minutes to figure out how where to submit the photo, how to submit the photo, and which one of twleve different copyrights was appropriate. Then it took the same amount of time to figure out how to go about replacing a photo in an article with the one I submitted.

      And I am a computer programmer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SirFozzie (442268)

        I do agree that the process for uploading photos needs to be improved (anyone with MediaWiki experience want to write us a better mousetrap?) But it does work, kludgey, but it works.

        • by Marcika (1003625) on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:25AM (#28754349)
          The upload process itself is quite simple (and has been at least since 2004) - the problem is the bureaucracy that people with entirely too much time on their hand have built around it... And the fascist enforcement of the minutiae of this bureaucracy by some individuals with even more time on their hands.

          I am sure Betacommand alone has turned hundreds (if not thousands) of photographers off Wikipedia with his automated deletion rampages based on "insufficiently explicit copyright tags" and such (doing it on images that were correctly tagged years before he and his ilk even joined to arbitrarily rewrite tagging policies)... He was banned, but there are still dozens of admins like him around.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jbolden (176878)

          It doesn't work. I've been active off an on for 4 years. I was walking a novice through releasing a photo he owned the rights to. An email went back 5x. If creative commons needs specific language in their release email then CC site should generate the email with the language.

          The person who was working with him, incidentally was stating things that were legally false. I had to write a very complex paragraph to satisfy CC.

          There are some really bad assumptions made. Try it yourself, go through the site

      • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot@davidge ... k ['co.' in gap]> on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:28AM (#28754369) Homepage

        The Usability Initiative is working on stuff that sucks less.

        If you really want to put a pic in but can't figure out WTF (which is appallingly common), (a) put it on Flickr as CC-by-sa (b) put a note on the talk page "I can't figure out your arglearble wikitext syntax, but I have a suitably licensed pic at this link."

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by noundi (1044080)
        If you're a professional photographer (which you state that you are not) it is, in my opinion, quite important that you already know the CC licenses before you snap your camera around. To me it is as important as it is for you (as a computer programmer) to know what the GPL or the MPL are.

        In your case however I understand the frustration about the procedure. However in wikipedias defence uploading pictures and placing them properly is well documented on the site itself. Of course you have to spend some tim
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by julesh (229690)

      the museum in question says that low res versions would be ok, but high res infringes on their copyright (note, the items in question are in the public domain in the US, but the laws regarding reproductions of items are a bit wonky in the UK)

      Actually, my understanding is that the laws regarding reproductions are actually very similar. Corel v Bridgeman, for instance, was heard by a US court but the decision was based on UK law. The only problem is no UK court has ever heard an equivalent case, and UK cour

  • Clueless Journo (Score:3, Informative)

    by toolz (2119) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:19AM (#28754067) Homepage Journal

    The author of that article needs to get pulled up by his editor for bad research and reporting.

    Who the hell said that licensing something under Creative Commons means that you are giving up your copyright? Does he even understand what Copyright is all about? And what a license is?

    It's this kind of article that scares the willies out readers, who are led to believe that licensing under the GPL or CC means that you lose the right to be identified as the author of the work. What rubbish!

  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:23AM (#28754075) Homepage

    "'If they truly wanted to elevate the image on the site, they should allow photographers to maintain the copyright.'"

    The problem is that Wikipedia does not end at Wikipedia. Even if they themselves are given copyright permissions I imagine they consider it a problem if the endusers that copy the images from Wikipedia for other purposes get in trouble.

    The critics apparently want Wikipedia to pursue the maximum image quality they can get for readers of the site, but they don't stop to consider that there's a lot more people do with the stuff on wikipedia than just view it on the wikipedia.org domain.

  • Pictures? (Score:5, Funny)

    by MadKeithV (102058) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:34AM (#28754131)
    I swear, I read wikipedia for the articles, not for the pictures!
  • Business as usual (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thue (121682) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:57AM (#28754221) Homepage

    So as I understand it from the article, the problem is this:

    • Photographers are hired by celebrities, who gets a photo for a symbolic sum, in return for the photographer retaining copyright and the rights to resell the images.
    • But if a free photo was uploaded to Wikipedia then everybody would be happy to just use this, and the photographer would loose most of his income.

    So it seems to me that

    • If most people would be happy to just use one shot, then that is the will of the free market, and it is only through cartel-like monopoly of the photographers that the current status quo works. The current system benefits the photographers, but detracts from society at large. Everybody but the photographers would benefit from free photos being available, including magazines, etc.
    • If the celebrities were willing to use a little money to get a one-time shot taken then they could get a lot of free publicity. The celebrities don't seem to make money from their photos, so the celebrities have little to loose. Since it would in principle only take one freelance photographer to break the photography cartel then it shouldn't be a problem in theory. The only thing needed for this to happen is the celebrities realizing that they have this option.
  • by vorlich (972710) on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:18AM (#28754313) Homepage Journal
    And I have no problem understanding the copyright laws, certainly those relevant to Europe. I possess about 250,000 negatives which are my copyright (although not all of them are worth a dime). I know that Wikipedia is a community resource where we are neither intended to make money or achieve fame or infamy. So the NYT article is just dumb. If celebs want images in wikipedia then they should upload a completely copyright free image and stop whining. That's all there is to it. Not complicated. No script writer needed. They do it every other day when they appear on the beach for the paparazzi.
  • by dalesc (66212) on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:34AM (#28754395)
    I have a bunch of high quality images that I've taken and am happy to donate. However, when I tried to upload them I was prevented due to not having updated a sufficient number of articles. Until you've updated the text on something like 10 articles you can't upload any images. I simply haven't found that many articles I felt I could make a useful contribution to yet. It seems like an odd restriction to me. Unless you can prove you can write readable text, you can't upload pictures.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Locklin (1074657)

      Sounds like they had an issue with people dumping copyrighted/inappropriate pictures on the site.

      I would suggest contacting someone who does make regular contributions (there are thousands of them, you should be able to find one easily). They can upload pictures for you and attribute you as the photographer.

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