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WMF petitions Obama, longer AFDs, UK meeting, and more

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By Phoebe and Tilman Bayer

Wikimedia Foundation joins protest against Obama's RIAA appointments

Wired reports that on 2 April the Wikimedia Foundation, together with 18 other "public interest groups, library associations, and trade associations representing the technology, consumer electronics, and telecommunications industries" (among them the Internet Archive, Public Knowledge, the American Library Association and Educause) has signed an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama expressing concern that

several of your appointees to positions that oversee the formulation and implementation of IP [ intellectual property ] policy have, immediately prior to their appointments, represented the concentrated copyright industries

Wired indicates that two of these are the former Recording Industry Association of America attorneys Donald Verrilli Jr. and Tom Perrilli who were appointed to two of the highest ranking positions in the US Department of Justice (Associate Deputy Attorney General and Associate Attorney General); the Department of Justice subsequently sided with the RIAA in an important lawsuit. The letter asks Mr. Obama

to consider that individuals who support overly broad IP protection might favor established distribution models at the expense of technological innovators, creative artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and an increasingly participatory public. Overzealous expansion and enforcement of copyright, for example, can quash innovative information technologies, the development and marketing of new and useful devices, and the creation of new works, as well as prohibit the public from accessing and using its cultural heritage.

AFD length extended, and discussions discussed

Following discussion, the length of the discussion period for Articles for Deletion has been changed to 7 days, instead of the current 5. The discussion was carried with 45 supports to 16 opposes. Arguments in favor of the change involved bringing AFD in line with RFA, where discussions are 7 days to allow editors who can only edit on certain days to participate; to increase participation and decrease complaints about unfair closes; and for fairness in discussions that may require research or extra effort to determine the best outcome. Arguments against included the potential increased workload, with more AFDs open at any given time; that it might increase early closings and that relisted AFDs would be open for as long as two weeks; and that the proposal was unnecessary as AFDs with no consensus after 5 days are already routinely relisted, and the majority of AFDs are resolved within only 3 days.

After being mentioned on the mailing list wiken-l, a brief discussion ensued about whether the proposed change had been publicized well enough, and a notice was posted on the administrator's noticeboard. As a result of the mailing list discussion, a new page, Wikipedia:Advertising discussions, was created; it is about how to best advertise important discussions in the Wikipedia community.

Wikimedia UK to hold first general meeting

Wikimedia UK, which was recently re-formed and approved as a chapter by the Wikimedia Foundation, is holding its first Annual General Meeting at the University of Manchester Students' Union. The formal business of the meeting will include the election of a new Board of Directors and voting on several resolutions (focusing on election rules, membership rules, membership fees, and whether permission of the membership is required to terminate or amend the chapter agreement). A list of those running for the Board can be found here. Discussions during the meeting will focus on the priorities of the Board for the upcoming year and how to make the chapter a success.

Membership in Wikimedia UK is open to all, and is not restricted by age or location; current membership fees are £12 a year. This is the second time Wikimedia UK has been formed; it was first formed in 2006, then dissolved and re-formed in 2008.

Sanger speaks out

Larry Sanger posted an open letter to Jimmy Wales' talk page last week, outlining his dispute with Wales over the issue of who founded Wikipedia. Sanger, who said he was "finally speaking out," disputed Wales' version of Wikipedia's history from several interviews, including a recent Hot Press interview, and included two requests: that the Wikimedia Foundation issue a statement that both Sanger and Wales are co-founders of Wikipedia, and that reporters who interview Wales about the early history of Wikipedia also interview Sanger.

The lengthy letter was removed by Wales from his talk page with a brief edit summary of "Decline to participate, sorry"; the letter was then reposted by Sanger on the Citizendium blog and the wikien-l mailing list, where discussion ensued. After further discussion on his talk page, Wales posted a short statement saying in part "As I have said many times, I think the entire 'controversy' is silly....Larry didn't make Wikipedia, and neither did I. It was made by the community, and lots of people played interesting roles. If other people feel a burning need to discuss this, please do so elsewhere other than my talk page; I'm not interested in discussing it at this time."

The issue of Sanger and Wales' respective roles in the founding of Wikipedia, particularly whether they should be considered co-founders of the site, has been a source of contention in the past.

Ruling on public domain content

Ars Technica reports that a U.S. federal court issued a ruling on the copyright case Golan v. Gonzales, finding that it violates the First Amendment for a law to move works back under copyright after they have passed into the public domain. While copyright activists such as Lawrence Lessig and Anthony Falzone hail this as an important victory, further appeals are expected.


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