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Mar 25th, 2016
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  1. This is the response I received from the Wikimedia Foundation to this article about Wikipedia pirates in Angola ( The spokesperson is quoting text from the article and then responding to it. I've written a new article addressing the foundation's comments.
  3. Hey Jason,
  5. Thanks for the call yesterday -- really appreciate you chatting with us. We saw your article and found a few inaccuracies, and some points we don’t feel fully reflect ongoing discussions with the community or our mission. We’ll try to address them below (please excuse the lengthy email), but can hop on a call if that’s helpful.
  7. “So, naturally, Angolans have started hiding pirated movies and music in Wikipedia articles... ” And later: “...Angolans are hiding large files in Wikipedia articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia site…”
  9. Copyrighted content was not added to Wikipedia, but to Wikimedia Commons. As far as we know, no copyrighted images were added to any Wikipedia articles in this particular situation. Can you please adjust your article accordingly?
  11. “But now that Angolans are causing headaches for Wikipedia editors and the Wikimedia Foundation, no one is sure what to do about it.” And later: “Enterprising Angolans have used two free services—Facebook Free Basics and Wikipedia Zero—to share pirated movies, music, television shows, anime, and games on Wikipedia. And no one knows what to do about it.”
  13. I don’t think it’s fair to say “no one knows what to do about it” without explaining the work that is happening in this area. Editors regularly remove copyrighted content that’s reported, and as we mentioned in our call, we’ve been working since last fall to better understand the scope of the issue and the technical capabilities we have in providing viable solutions.
  15. For example, we’ve looked into the introduction of edit filters targeted specifically to Wikipedia Zero users to flag larger files for other editors, or a more technical measure that would detect abnormal images or PDFs that hold hidden files. We’re exploring these options and more as we continue conversations with the Wikimedia community as well as the feasibility of implementing proposed technical solutions.
  17. “This line of thinking inherently assumes that what Angola’s pirates are doing is bad for Wikipedia and that they must be assimilated to the already regulated norms of Wikipedia’s community. If the developing world wants to use our internet, they must play by our rules, the thinking goes.”
  19. As more people come online and participate on Wikimedia projects, there are important issues we need to address as a community, including how to make Wikimedia more inclusive and responsive to newcomers around the world.
  21. That said, uploading copyrighted content on the projects is a violation of the Foundation’s Terms of Use, in addition to various community-developed policies, and our mission to share freely licensed educational content on the Wikimedia projects. As a global free knowledge movement, the Wikimedia community cares deeply about the mission, and editors regularly clarify policies to new users and work together to get more people in more parts of the world adding, improving, and editing knowledge on Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects.
  23. Conversations on various Wikimedia channels have illustrated a desire to resolve the issue of uploading copyrighted material from users in Angola, but also to work with local editors to find a solution that also addresses the many good faith edits that are coming from Angola.
  25. Adele Vrana, head of the Wikimedia Zero program, told me in a phone interview that the foundation has been aware of the situation since at least last summer, and said that blanket bans or alterations of the Wikipedia Zero are “not on the table.” She wrote in an email to the listserv that the Wikimedia Foundation is as stumped as its editors.
  27. This last line is not a fair characterization of Adele’s email. We ask for suggestions and guidance not because we are “stumped” but because we want to hear from volunteer editors as we think about possible solutions. Also, Adele’s title is “Head of Strategic Partnerships, Global Emerging Markets”, a role which includes but is not limited to overseeing Wikipedia Zero (see our staff page).
  29. “Legal questions aside (Angola has more lax copyright laws than much of the world), Angola’s pirates are furthering Wikipedia’s mission of spreading information in a real and substantial way.”
  31. The Wikimedia mission is not to spread information, but to support the sharing of educational content under open licenses with the world. There are a variety of policies the Wikimedia community has developed to further guide what content is included on the sites.
  33. Vrana told me that Wikimedia is “looking into the legal aspects and understanding local legislation and how copyright might work in Angola,” but Juliet Barbara, a spokesperson for the Wikimedia Foundation, said that for the time being Wikimedia will use the community-developed framework to remove copyrighted material.
  35. It sounds like my words were misunderstood here. The community has frameworks for determining what can or should be removed on Wikimedia projects, and as a matter of legal policy, we encourage copyright owners to work directly with communities. Local communities tend to be conscientious of copyright issues especially as they apply in local regions, and can generally resolve any disputes. That said, the Wikimedia Foundation will step in in the case of formal DMCA takedown requests or to support editors if needed.
  37. We ask that you update your article to clarify the details presented above and consider the rest. Let us know if you have any questions.
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