Katherine has been a steady force of leadership and joy and commitment to Wikimedia values since joining the Foundation in 2014. She's been a long-time advocate, even before joining us, of global open communities. As you probably are aware, she's been our head of communications before she took on the executive director role. ... Katherine has something that many in the tech world find easy to lose—what I call "intuitive empathy". She truly understands that our community is about people, and that people come before technology. She fosters the human connections through communication and astute governance ...
I have a big, big announcement. Yesterday in our Board meeting, in a unanimous vote, we appointed Katherine as ED of the Wikimedia Foundation [rapturous applause, asks Katherine to come forward]. This ended her time as interim, it ended our search for an executive director. This is not just a surprise decision to all of you; it was a surprise decision to those of us on the Board. We came into the meeting, we heard a report from the staff engagement survey, we had all been talking to staff, ... the level of engagement, excitement, positive feelings about coming to work every day, has been absolutely astonishing since Katherine took the reins, and we all looked at each other in the Board meeting [to] discuss the executive search, and we [said to each other] what are we looking for? Here we are! This is what we wanted all along. So, here's Katherine.
Luis Villa, lawyer, programmer, and former C-level at the Foundation directs his main advice to the Board.
The Foundation published a press release on 24 June announcing the appointment, which has come after the tumultuous events surrounding the early departure of the previous ED, Lila Tretikov, after less than 18 months in the job. Maher was appointed interim ED starting 14 March, largely on the basis of advice from the WMF's "C-level" executive team, and shortly after was interviewed by the Signpost. A search to fill the post in a permanent capacity began in May.
Soon after Maher's permanent appointment, the Signpost asked seven prominent Wikimedians what, in their view, are the most urgent priorities for her to pursue over the next 12–18 months. Luis Villa (LuisVilla) is a lawyer and programmer who worked as deputy general counsel and then senior director of community engagement at the WMF for three years until his departure in early 2016. We approached him explicitly because of his close experience within the organisation, from which he now has a little distance:
Josh Lim suggests more responsiveness to the changing needs of communities in developing countries
Katherine will be an excellent ED, but her job is very difficult: the movement faces many challenges, and WMF has relatively limited resources. So I won't second-guess her by picking any immediate priorities. The board, however, has clear urgent priorities:
Strategy: The board shares blame for the Knowledge Engine fiasco, because they did not effectively help set strategy. It must work with Katherine to define strategy, and lead editors to make it a movement strategy, not just a WMF strategy.
Board effectiveness: The board must do a post-mortem of their work of the past two years (staff/exec/ED turnover, situation with James H., Knowledge Engine, etc.), and implement solutions for the problems they identify (for example, by improving their HR capacity or improving board member recruitment).
Vassia Atanassova prioritises community trust, transparency, and engagement.
In the same address at Wikimania, Jimmy Wales announced Emily Temple-Woods (Keilana) as joint Wikipedian of the Year, along with Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight (Rosiestep) (separately covered in this edition). Their concerns were shared by a number of the respondents. Temple-Woods told us: "I think the most important thing Katherine will need to do at the beginning of her tenure is to rebuild trust between the WMF and the community. Everything else can come from that." Stephenson-Goodknight believes "Katherine's most urgent priority is assuring there's a healthy workplace environment for staff and movement environment for the community."
Josh Lim (Sky Harbor) is the president of Wikimedia Philippines: "I feel that her main priority at this time should be to rebuild trust in the WMF and reaffirming that it is on the community's side. We've seen what happens when change comes from above and is "dictated" to communities; let's hope Katherine's leadership will see more empowering leadership coming from the ground up, and will in turn lead to meaningful outcomes that will allow the WMF to be more responsive to the changing needs of our movement, especially as it pertains to communities in developing countries where the WMF continues to do poorly."
The two runners-up for Wikipedian of the Year were Vassia Atanassova (Spiritia), a member of the Wikimedians of Bulgaria user group, and Mardetanha, a long-time steward and Farsi-speaker. Atanassova said: "one of the urgent priorities should be returning the community's trust in the capability of the Board and the ED to be transparent and engaging the community in the process of decision and policy making." Mardetanha told us: "I think the ED has to work on lost trust [between the] WMF and community, and to have better connection with local groups. The ED needs to pay a lot of attention to the communities from weaker countries—to be reachable to community members, to have better oversight on WMF expenses, and to make the hiring process more transparent."
Risker stresses executive hiring, stabilisation, and then progressive change.
Risker currently serves on the Wikimedia Foundation's Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC), which scrutinises and recommends funding for large bids by eligible WMF affiliates. She is a former member of the English Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee:
In the first 12–18 months, I'd say a very early priority is for Katherine to fill in the gaps at the executive level, especially the CTO role. The newly constituted Board has already made it clear in public comments that the development of a strategy and some longer range planning is a significant priority—one that other communities can depend on in order to establish their plans. From my own perspective, I think the full appointment will allow for stabilization and then progressive, considered changes as movement priorities are re-examined and modified.
There were important developments in two Wikimedia lawsuits in June: a victory in France, and a defeat in Germany.
As reported on the Wikimedia blog, the Paris Court of Appeals has ruled in favour of the Wikimedia Foundation in a right-of-response suit, defending the Foundation’s status as a hosting provider:
The Court acknowledged that the Foundation merely hosts user-uploaded content and does not have knowledge or control over the data stored as it merely provides, free of charge, “the infrastructures and the organization framework allowing internet users wishing to do so, to build projects by contributing and editing content themselves” without playing any active role.
As a result, the Foundation does not have an obligation to allow the complainant, Élizabeth Teissier, a French astrologer, to make her own posting on Wikipedia in response to an article about her.
The defeat in the German case does not seem to have been reported on the Wikimedia Foundation blog. As described in a WMF blog post last November, the suit brought by the Reiss Engelhorn Museum against both the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland “concerned copyright claims related to 17 images of the museum’s public-domain works of art, which have been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.”
The Reiss Engelhorn Museum pointed out that the images were created by its in-house photographer and demanded the removal of the images from Wikimedia Commons, as their presence on the site—where they were marked as being in the public domain—had led to multiple cases of unapproved re-use, including commercial re-use.
The Wikimedia Foundation argued that as the works photographed were in the public domain, the resulting photographs, aimed merely at creating a faithful reproduction of the underlying work, should also be in the public domain. The court disagreed, ruling that the work of the museum's photographer is protected regardless of the public-domain status of the photographed work, and justified its decision by pointing out that creating faithful reproductions of art is a far from trivial task, requiring special effort and expertise to set up and light the shot in order to arrive at an image that correctly represents the colour hues and details of the original, and that freedom of information does not include the right to appropriate and profit from the skilled work of others without asking permission.
In a statement posted on the Wikimedia Deutschland blog, the Wikimedia Foundation expresses the view that the German court’s decision is erroneous, that even if the photographs were subject to copyright, they would not be subject to copyright in the United States, and that the decision whether the images—presently housed in a special category on Commons—should or should not remain on Wikimedia Commons thus lies with the volunteer community. While the Wikimedia Foundation was found liable as a contributor to copyright infringement (“Störer”), the suit against Wikimedia Deutschland was dismissed, as Wikimedia Deutschland does not manage the Wikimedia Commons site.
Reiss Engelhorn Museum general director Alfried Wieczorek welcomed the court's decision and explained that the suit was not motivated by any ill-will towards Wikipedia:
As far as we are concerned this case is not about harming Wikipedia, or of us fundamentally disagreeing with this project. On the contrary: we have great sympathy for the Wikipedia project, and share with Wikipedia the object of spreading knowledge. But in this case, the question for us is who should decide whether and especially how our holdings should be made available. Even if one supports the free public accessibility of cultural items on Wikipedia, it is difficult for us to comprehend that a single Wikipedia author claims the right to decide on their own to release to everybody the results of work created with public funds on Wikipedia for free and thus also for commercial use.
The Wikimedia Deutschland blog post asserts that the museum forbids visitors from taking pictures of the artworks in question; German press reports say that while photography in the museum's public display areas is forbidden, permissions to photograph artwork are granted upon request.
The Wikimedia Foundation has said that it will appeal; judging by comments from the media, it seems likely that the case will eventually end up at the German Federal Court of Justice.
Wikistudies: Announced on Wiki-Research-L: “Wiki Studies is an interdisciplinary, open access, peer-reviewed journal focusing on the intersection of Wikipedia and higher education. We are interested in most all of the same topics hosted on the research listserv and the newsletter, including articles about pedagogical practices, epistemology, bias, mission, and reliability. We will not charge for submission or publication, and will offer open access to readers. We will host on Open Journal Systems. We are just getting started. We are recruiting editors, and plan to have a presence at the upcoming Wiki Conference North America in San Diego 7-10 October 2016. We hope to publish our first volume in March of 2017, consisting of submissions received by 31 December 2016.” The website is: Wikistudies.org.
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