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Wikimedia UK: Supporting free and open knowledge

Welcoming Karla Marte to our team

August 24th, 2015 by Daria Cybulska
The image is a photograph of Karla Marte in the Wikimedia UK office

Karla Marte at the Wikimedia UK office

This post was written by Daria Cybulska, Head of Programmes and Evaluation

We are excited to introduce to everyone a new addition to the team, Karla Marte, who is joining us as our Administration and Programme Assistant.

Having recently undergone a process of refocusing of our activities, we are now entering an exciting new phase where we want to build on large scale partnerships with external organisations. Strong reporting and administration will be a key element of that.

Karla will be providing both core administration and financial support for Wikimedia UK activities, with focus on its programmes and reporting. The role spans across the organisation though, providing administrative help wherever needed, which will make her much appreciated! She will also be the first port of contact for the organisation, so you will definitely come across her soon.

Karla has a very interesting background, coming to us from the Dominican Republic. Here she’s introducing herself:

“I recently relocated to the UK from the Dominican Republic. I have worked for an international development donor agency in the Caribbean region for the last ten years providing a range of administrative, financial and programmatic support to its education, health, youth, democracy and governance, and environmental programmes. I have an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and a masters degree in Management and Productivity.

“In my spare time I enjoy reading, baking, watching films, exploring museums and historic places and am a big follower of Formula 1.

“I am really looking forward to using what I have learnt from my previous work experience to further Wikimedia UK’s objectives.”

Please join us in welcoming Karla to the team!


August 18th, 2015 by Rebecca O'Neill

This post was written by Rebecca O’Neill


Just a few of the books Rebecca used during 100wikidays

It is hard to believe that I completed the #100wikidays challenge on the 9th August, as the time absolutely flew by. The challenge, as many people know, is to write an article a day for 100 days straight and draws on the idea of the 100 days of happiness. Within a few days of the challenge being mentioned to me by Asaf from the foundation, I had fallen down the rabbit hole and created a To Do list in my user space. Unlike the project’s originator, Vassia, I could not place my faith in finding a subject on each day or letting the article subject find you, I needed a plan of attack. As I’m involved in Wikimedia Community Ireland, I had become familiar with the list of Irish National Monuments through our running of Wiki Loves Monuments, and knew that many did not have articles. That was my jumping off point. From there I went to my own areas of interest, Irish naturalists from around the turn of twentieth century, and Irish museums. I choose these areas as I worked for a number of years in the Natural History Museum in Dublin and had become intrigued by the social history and people behind the specimens. My excuse on the museums is a childhood spent in local museums dotted across the county as my parents attempted to entertain children and visitors over the years. Soon enough I had a list of almost 100 potential articles right there.

Although I was not entirely new to creating new articles, I certainly had not created many, so had a lot of the new(ish) editor fears of deletion or criticism. Particularly as I am a woman, you sometimes come primed to expect a little push back, and as I began to focus on women more and more I wondered would I ever have the notability of my articles contested. I was pleasantly surprised. All of my articles are surviving as of right now, and I’m delighted to say that some have been improved upon since I created them. There was no greater pleasure for me than to see an article on an Irish botanical artist or collector edited by someone else adding to the story. It meant that I’m not the only one on Wikipedia who cares!

Soon the Irish naturalists and botanists I was writing about led me to the list of Irish botanical illustrators, which had its fair share of red links. It was finding this that led me to searching the Dictionary of Irish Biography for female entries that mentioned the word “artist”. Suddenly the flood gates opened. Having been an art student in a previous life I have some interest and limited knowledge of art history, and even I was shocked to find the obvious omissions from Wikipedia of Irish female artists. I had found a niche that felt more like a lacuna. If I had fallen down a rabbit hole with 100wikidays, I was through the looking glass now, with a seemingly endless list of artists to write about! Every one artist seem to alert me to at least one or two more red links. As it turns out, 100 days was never going to be enough. It looks as if a second challenge may be on the horizon for me, and rather than just having a general Irish theme it may be 100 Irish women, as there seems to be no end in sight.

Many of the red links languishing in my To Do list are still National Monuments and museums. Non-promotional, non-tourist driven, and comprehensive sources were hard to come by. My hope is to find homes for some of these smaller, or more obscure monuments and institutions, within other articles on their localities etc. Some people I have listed are perhaps not suited to Wikipedia and may be retired from the list, though I hold out hope for some of those early geologists and botanists yet! Doing the challenge has definitely made me a more confident Wikipedian, it has made me feel more like a “real” Wikipedian too, rather than just an enthusiast. I have met some wonderful people both on Wiki and in real life through it, and it has made editing more of a daily habit for me. Saying that I have taken a short break in editing to get PhD and other work done, but it is only a matter of time before another 100 days begins. Having written about everything from the stump of a windmill, to a butter museum, to an almost literal flying nun, I feel like this might only be the beginning.

Science and Wikipedia: a round-up

August 4th, 2015 by Martin Poulter

Entrance to the Wellcome Trust building, host of this year’s Wikipedia Science Conference

This post was written by Dr Martin Poulter, Wikimedia UK volunteer and convener of the Wikipedia Science Conference

The past year has been eventful and exciting for anyone interested in how Wikipedia can support the process and understanding of science. Here are a few stories that have caught my attention, plus a next step that anyone can take.

We knew that the free encyclopedia is one of the top ten most-visited web sites, but thanks to the charity CrossRef we now know that it is in the top ten sites via which people reach scholarly papers.

However, not all links are equal. A paper published on Arxiv and summarised in the MIT Technology Review finds that open-access papers are 47% more likely to be cited on English Wikipedia than closed-access papers. The authors concludeopen access policies have a tremendous impact on the diffusion of science to the broader general public through an intermediary like Wikipedia.”

Closed access versus open access can be a matter of life and death, as shown by a New York Times article about the African Ebola outbreak, which noted that some crucial research was practically unavailable because “downloading one of the papers would cost a physician [in Liberia] $45, about half a week’s salary.”

The single most-used source on Ebola in affected countries at the peak of the African outbreak was Wikipedia, as we now know thanks to a Journal of Medical Internet Research paper about Wikipedia’s medical content. The paper, summarised on the LSE Impact of Social Science blog, found that Wikipedia is now “the single most used website for health information globally”. The authors surveyed Wikipedia’s top contributors to medical content (those with more than 250 edits). Of 117 respondents, more than half were professionals in, or students of, healthcare.

If so many people are consulting Wikipedia for health information, the issue of quality becomes crucial. There is an active field of research comparing Wikipedia to other reference works. As even its logo makes clear, Wikipedia is a work in progress, and there are acknowledged weaknesses, but some scientific areas have reached an impressive standard. A paper published last year in PLoS One compares pharmacology in German and English Wikipedias against scholarly textbooks, concluding “Wikipedia is an accurate and comprehensive source of drug-related information for undergraduate medical education.”

It’s not just public understanding of science that is being shaped by Wikipedia, but even the publication process. A topic round-up on “Inferring Horizontal Gene Transfer” is the latest in a series of review papers published in both Plos Computational Biology and Wikipedia, providing both a fixed, citable reference and an evolving summary of current knowledge.

How to keep up with these rapid developments? There is no better way than attending the Wikipedia Science Conference this September 2-3 at the Wellcome Collection Conference Centre in London. Registration is just £29 for two days, including lunches. Geoffrey Bilder from CrossRef is amongst those talking about Wikipedia’s links to the scholarly literature. Speakers from University College London and Cancer Research UK will talk about improving and assessing Wikipedia articles about cancers. Daniel Mietchen will talk about new models of scholarly publication involving Wikipedia and Wikidata, and there is much more in a packed two days.

In an interview at Oxford University (video), well-known author Ben Goldacre argues that the current publication model for medical research “needs a kick up the bum” in the direction of openness. New research appears at a torrential rate that overwhelms any human reader, so we need results in a form that computers can easily query, gathering evidence from many studies at once. This requires the scientific community to tear down barriers to access, and that is what all the conference speakers are working on, in different capacities. Wikipedia, Wikidata and related projects are increasingly showing us what that transformed world of open science will look like.


Wikimedia UK’s members elect new trustees

July 27th, 2015 by MichaelMaggs
The photo shows a panel of people at the front of a room, facing a crowd

Hustings at Saturday’s AGM

This post was written by Michael Maggs, Chair, Wikimedia UK

I am very pleased to announce that at our annual general meeting on Saturday 25 July the members of Wikimedia UK elected three new trustees to the board from a very strong slate of candidates.

Please join me in offering a very warm welcome to Doug Taylor, Nick Poole and Josie Fraser.

Doug Taylor will be well known to many readers as a long-standing active Wikimedia volunteer and Lead Trainer for WMUK. He previously served on the board during 2012-13. Doug is a retired teacher and IT professional.

Nick Poole is the Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. His previous roles include serving as CEO of the Collections Trust and Chair of the Europeana Network. He brings extensive knowledge of and influence in the international GLAM community, and has strong connections to policymakers and funders in the UK and Europe.

Josie Fraser has for the past five years worked in local government as the strategic technology lead of one of the country’s largest and most accelerated school building programmes. She is an expert in the relationship between education and technology and a vocal advocate for free and open knowledge.

Existing trustees Greyham Dawes (treasurer) and myself (chair) were re-elected.

Three trustees have stepped down from the board: Alastair McCapra, Saad Choudri and Joseph Seddon. We thank them for their exceptional expertise, commitment and diligence, and we wish them well for the future.

With these changes, the new board is as follows:

Michael Maggs (board chair, and chair of governance committee)
Simon Knight (vice chair)
Greyham Dawes (treasurer, governance committee, audit and risk committee)
Chris Keating (audit and risk committee)
Carol Campbell (chair of audit and risk committee)
Kate West (governance committee, audit and risk committee)
Gill Hamilton
Doug Taylor
Nick Poole
Josie Fraser

The new board will formally meet for the first time on Saturday 12 September at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, where officer roles will be reviewed.

Please join me in welcoming the new board.

Michael Maggs

Chair, Wikimedia UK

Is Wikipedia Relevant to University Web Managers?

July 20th, 2015 by Stevie Benton

This guest post is by Brian Kelly and was originally published here. Re-used with kind permission.

Areas Apparently Not Being Addressed By Web Managers

Recently in a post entitled “Pondering the Online Legacy of my Work” I described how two recent Facebook messages highlighted areas which appear not to be being addressed widely across the web management community. The post looked at how web content may be deleted after content creators leave the institution, meaning that the content creators, who are likely to care about the resource, are unable to exploit the resources unless they have migrated the resources before leaving.

This post was inspired by a Facebook update from Rod Ward who alerted my to a workshop on use of Wikipedia which he helped facilitate at the University of Exeter.

Wikimedia Workshop for University Web and Communication Staff

Rod’s Facebook post provided a link to the entry on the Wikimedia UK Web site about the workshop which was held at Exeter University  on 15 July. As shown in the screenshot the event was aimed at web and communication staff from universities in the south west of England.

I’ve a long-standing interest in Wikipedia, and last year published posts on “Librarians and Wikipedia: an Ideal Match?“, “#1amconf, Altmetrics and Raising the Visibility of One’s Research“, “Top Wikipedia Tips for Librarians: Why You Should Contribute and How You Can Support Your Users” and “Supporting Use of Wikipedia in the UK Higher Education and Library Sectors“.

As suggested by the title of these posts my main target audience for the posts were librarians and researchers. Members of university web and marketing teams would not be likely, I felt, to have responsibilities for managing Wikipedia articles. However from seeing the details of the recent workshop it seems that I was mistaken, with several of the participants working for university marketing teams.

But should people who work for marketing teams update Wikipedia articles about their institutions? In a post on “Wikipedia, Librarians and CILIP” I flagged the dangers of this:

“[In a talk to librarians] I pointed out the Wikipedia neutral point of view (NPOV) principle which means “representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic“.

One way of minimising risks of sub-conscious biases in articles is to ensure that content is provided by those who do not have direct involvement with the subject area of an article. For an article about an organisation it would therefore be appropriate for an article about CILIP should be updated by editors who are not employed by the organisation.

Rod Ward, one of the facilitators at the recent workshop, proposed one mechanism for addressing this tension: he asked participants at the workshop to include the text on their Wikipedia user profile page:

I am username. I work for organisation as job title. Part of my role is to improve the Wikipedia articles about academics of my employer. I have attended a workshop where policies about the Neutral point of view, Biographies of Living People, Conflict of Interest and Paid Editing were discussed. I am aware of potential conflicts in this area. If you see any issues with my editing please contact me via my talk page.

This seems to me to be a sensible approach to addressing the NPOV principle: there may be factual aspects of Wikipedia articles which would be improved in a timely fashion if updated by staff working for the institution. For example, looking at the updates made two days ago to the University of Exeter article we can see that the updates are factual updates to the Medical School. These updates were made by user SallUEMS whose user profile states that the user “work[s] for the University of Exeter as a Web Marketing officer“.

Developing an Ethical Approach to Managing Wikipedia Content

I’d be interested to hear if other institutions are taking a pro-active approach in managing Wikipedia articles about their institutions, such as those which featured in the recent workshop: the List of University of Exeter people and the List of University of Bristol people as well as the collections of articles on Academics of Bath Spa UniversityAcademics of the University of BathAcademics of the University of BristolAcademics of the University of ExeterAcademics of the University of PlymouthAcademics of the University of the West of EnglandPeople associated with Cardiff University, People associated with Falmouth University and People associated with the University of St Mark & St John.

There will be a need to ensure that updates to Wikipedia articles are made in an ethical fashion, to avoid updates being reverted and to avoid the risks which politicians, political researchers and PR staff in Westminster have experienced as described in an article on “15 Embarrassing Edits Made To Politicians’ Wikipedia Pages By People In Parliament“.

In September I will give a talk on “Developing an Ethical Approach to Using Wikipedia as the Front Matter to all Research” at the Wikipedia Science 2015 conference. I’d be interested in hearing if any institutions have developed guidelines on updating Wikipedia articles related to activities carried out in the institution. It does seem to me that marketing staff would benefit from having policies and guidelines which they can use. There may be temptations (and pressures from senior managers) to remove embarrassing content – and yes, there are negative comments about vice-chancellors which have been published in national newspapers which could be cited!

The higher education sector should avoid the risks of seeing headlines such as “Wikipedia Pages of Star Clients Altered by P.R. Firm” in which a founder of the PR company Sunshine “acknowledged that several staff members had violated the terms of use by failing to disclose their association with the firm. Mr. Sunshine said a key employee in his web operation was not aware of Wikipedia’s new terms“. Interestingly, after being caught for “play[ing] loose with Wikipedia’s standards and violat[ing] the site’s updated terms of use agreement, by employing paid editors who fail to disclose their conflict of interest on the website” the PR company now requires “all employees who edit on Wikipedia have now disclosed their affiliation with Sunshine”.

This approach is aligned with the suggestions made at the recent Wikipedia workshop at the University of Exeter: if you do update articles in which there may be a conflict of interest ensure that you are open about possible conflicts of interest and invite feedback from those with concerns.

However there is a need to go beyond this simple approach. And I wonder if the higher education sector could learn from the approaches taken in the PR sector. In a post on Links From Wikipedia to Russell Group University Repositories I highlighted challenges for universities which may be tempted to seek to exploit the SEO benefits which links from Wikipedia to institutional web pages may provide. In the blog post I cited an article from the PR community who had recognised the dangers that PR companies can be easily tempted to provide links to clients’ web sites for similar reasons. In response to concerns raised by the Wikipedia community Top PR Firms Promise[d] They Won’t Edit Clients’ Wikipedia Entries on the Sly. The article, which is hosted on Wikipedia, describes the Statement on Wikipedia from participating communications firms which was published in 10 June 2014:

  • On behalf of our firms, we recognize Wikipedia’s unique and important role as a public knowledge resource. We also acknowledge that the prior actions of some in our industry have led to a challenging relationship with the community of Wikipedia editors. Our firms believe that it is in the best interest of our industry, and Wikipedia users at large, that Wikipedia fulfill its mission of developing an accurate and objective online encyclopedia. Therefore, it is wise for communications professionals to follow Wikipedia policies as part of ethical engagement practices. We therefore publicly state and commit, on behalf of our respective firms, to the best of our ability, to abide by the following principles:
  • To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
  • To act in accordance with Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, particularly those related to “conflict of interest.”
  • To abide by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use.
    To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies.
  • Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicize our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.
    We also seek opportunities for a productive and transparent dialogue with Wikipedia editors, inasmuch as we can provide accurate, up-to-date, and verifiable information that helps Wikipedia better achieve its goals.
  • A significant improvement in relations between our two communities may not occur quickly or easily, but it is our intention to do what we can to create a long-term positive change and contribute toward Wikipedia’s continued success.

Might universities find it useful to embrace similar principles?

In order to help identify early institutional adopters of guidelines and policies for updating Wikipedia content where there may be a conflict of interest you are invited to complete the following surveys. The first survey covers policies/guidelines on updating Wikipedia content and the second asks about responsibilities for updating Wikipedia articles.

Have you signed up for our volunteer strategy day?

July 17th, 2015 by Stevie Benton

Our previous volunteer strategy day, November 2014

Wikimedia UK is working hard to make sure that volunteers are at the heart of everything the charity does. The next step on this journey is the upcoming volunteer strategy day on Saturday 25 July.

The day is designed to develop a better understanding of how the charity works with its members and volunteer community to further the work of the Wikimedia movement.

There will be a short presentation, and discussions about our proposed structures and mechanisms for interacting with volunteers and engaging them in our work. This will be followed by discussions on the new proposed project planning process, designed to ensure we have ambitious and sustainable projects.
Please bring your ideas for projects and your ideas for how we should work with the community. We hope to have a productive day and finish with some actions for both Wikimedia UK and the community.

As an added incentive our CEO-elect, Lucy Crompton-Reid, will be dropping by to meet the community.

This is a great opportunity to have your say about how Wikimedia UK goes about its mission. We very much hope to see you there. Full details, including address and registration, can be found here. The volunteer strategy day is also followed by the charity’s AGM, so why not come along to both?

Wikimedia projects benefit from Bodleian Libraries residency

July 16th, 2015 by Martin Poulter
The image shows a colourful watercolour of Gautama Buddha sitting beneath a pagoda

18th century Burmese watercolour featuring Gautama Buddha. From the Bodleian Libraries

This post was written by Dr Martin Poulter, Wikimedian in Residence at the Bodleian Libraries

For anyone looking to define Taijitu, Putso or Sangha, or to learn about Elizabeth Fry, the Junior wives of Krishna, or the Royal Ploughing Ceremony, one of the top internet search hits will be Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Articles about these, and hundreds of other topics, are now being improved using the Bodleian Libraries’ historic collections.

Images from Digital.Bodleian collection are being uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, the database of freely reusable digital files. From here they can be embedded in articles not just in English Wikipedia, but in other languages and in other educational projects. So far, more than six hundred articles, across many different languages, are illustrated with images from the Bodleian  Libraries, reaching a total of nearly 1.5 million readers per month.

The Bodleian images come from many different countries and eras. The themes range from the serene watercolours of 19th century Burma (present-day Myanmar), via geometrical diagrams in an 11th century Arabic book, to the nightmarish demonic visions of the 14th century Book of Wonders.

A taste is given in an image gallery on Commons. Clicking on any of the images – here or in Wikipedia – and then on ‘More details’ will bring up a larger version, along with links and shelfmarks so that interested readers can track down the physical object.

Anyone is allowed to edit the entries for the images, for example to translate descriptions into other languages. However, these edits are monitored to make sure they respect the educational goals of the site.

This is just the start of an ongoing project: more files and more themes will be added over the next nine months. The Bodleian Libraries’ Wikimedian In Residence, Martin Poulter, welcomes enquiries at martin.poulter@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

Welcoming Lucy Crompton-Reid as new CEO of Wikimedia UK

July 14th, 2015 by MichaelMaggs

Lucy Crompton-Reid

This post was written by Michael Maggs, Chair, Wikimedia UK

I am very pleased to be able to announce that Wikimedia UK has been been fortunate enough to secure as our new CEO Lucy Crompton-Reid, currently Director of the national live literature charity Apples and Snakes. Lucy brings extensive experience in volunteer engagement, organisational development, working with strategic partners, media, education, and securing external fundraising from trusts and foundations.

Over the course of her career Lucy has worked in both the charitable and public sectors, including most recently Head of Outreach at the House of Lords where she was strategic and operational lead for education and outreach activities. Before that, she worked at Arts Council England, initially developing strategic partnerships before setting up a new area office with local government and schools partnerships. As Refugee Week National Co-ordinator for the British Refugee Council, Lucy chaired the UK steering group of NGOs and charities, led on media activities, and facilitated hundreds of volunteer cultural events each year. Lucy is passionate about education and learning and is deeply committed to ensuring open access to knowledge and information.

Lucy will be joining us in early October. In the meantime, our interim CEO, D’Arcy Myers, will remain in post and will be working with Lucy to ensure a smooth handover.

Please join me in offering Lucy a very warm welcome.

Lucy says:

“I’m delighted to be joining Wikimedia UK this October as the charity’s new Chief Executive, and look forward to working with the staff team, board and volunteer community – as well as national and international partners – to develop the work of the organisation. This is a significant time for Wikimedia and for the open knowledge sector more broadly, with the potential to create unparalleled access to educational content, coupled with threats to limit public access to information and knowledge. With nearly 18 years’ experience in the arts, charitable and public sectors, I’m passionate about participation, and excited about the opportunity to facilitate greater public engagement with online content and information through Wikipedia and its sister projects, and other Wikimedia UK initiatives.”

What would London look like without Freedom of Panorama? A letter to MEPs

July 2nd, 2015 by MichaelMaggs

The letter below was sent to all UK MEPs on 2 July signed by Michael Maggs, Chair of Wikimedia UK

© User:Colin Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

What would London look like without Freedom of Panorama?

Who would you need to seek permission from before photographing the skyline?

Dear MEP

I’m writing from Wikimedia UK, the leading UK charity dedicated to providing free knowledge for all and to supporting Wikipedia. I want to ask for your support in protecting the right of photographers and film makers to take pictures of buildings and sculptures in public spaces, and to do what they like with their own images without having to seek permission from any third party copyright owner. This is known as Freedom of Panorama, and it has been a fundamental freedom we in the UK have enjoyed for over a century – a freedom first enshrined in the 1911 Copyright Act.

Freedom of Panorama rights are enjoyed in the majority of EU states, but in a few such as France, Italy and Belgium photographers and film makers have to obtain third party copyright licences and pay fees before they can work in public areas. I want to bring to your attention an attempt by some of your fellow MEPs to harmonise European law to a French-style system of royalties on public spaces. These royalties create funding streams for certain local and regional copyright fee collection societies who are supporting this attempt.

In her own-initiative report on copyright harmonisation, Julia Reda sensibly proposed harmonising full Freedom of Panorama across all EU states. Unfortunately, her proposal has been utterly subverted by M Cavada’s AM 421:

16. Considers that the commercial use of photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in physical public places should always be subject to prior authorisation from the authors or any proxy acting for them

This amendment would be disastrous. Although its proponents argue that ordinary citizens are non-commercial and would not need to seek licences, that is incorrect. Many citizens use Facebook, Tumblr and other commercial social media sites, and uploads to such sites would put photographers at legal risk, even if no money changes hands.

Non-commercial is not the same as non-profit, and large numbers of educational, charity and academic sites would be affected, including Wikipedia. On Wikipedia alone, huge numbers of existing freely-licensed educational images illustrating the modern built environment would have to be deleted. It’s difficult to estimate numbers, but most probably several hundred thousand.

All EU citizens should be free to document, share and discuss their public architectural heritage.

Full freedom of panorama facilitates the free movement of professional photographers and film makers throughout the EU, as well as attracting international film makers who will otherwise prefer to work in less legally-restrictive countries. Full freedom provides an open market and level playing field for commercial photographic and film activities to take place anywhere, bringing income and employment benefits to local populations.

Architects and sculptors do not want or need the special pleading of the AM 421 wording. They normally work on a commission basis, and where they are designing for a building or sculpture intended for a public place, they know that in advance and can and do negotiate their fee accordingly. Any high-quality building or sculpture in a public place will inevitably attract photographers and film makers, and the fee paid for the commission allows for that. There is no need for special national rules to provide additional payments to architects and sculptors who have already been paid a fair fee for their public works.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is against the proposals.

In a letter to the Times (‘Photo bombshell’, 27 June), Chris Wheeldon, a Film Location Manager, pointed out that

“Both domestic and international film makers may justifiably consider it too much of a risk that any building inadvertently overlooked, or so distant as to be almost unrecognisable, could hold the right to prevent the finished film from being seen or hold a financial gun to their heads”.

Italian movie makers have actually left for Spain because of the restrictive copyright rules in their home country.

177,000 people have already signed a petition on Change.org against these restrictions.

Fortunately, a positive AM has recently been proposed by Marietje Schaake & the ALDE group:

Recognises the right to use photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in public places


Your help is needed now. I hope that you will agree to protect photographers’ freedoms and will:

  • Vote to accept the AM by Marietje Schaake and the ALDE group
  • Vote to delete M Cavada’s AM 421


  • Vote to harmonise full Freedom of Panorama
  • Vote against any limitation to ‘non-commercial’ or similar


In a world in which we communicate by taking pictures, Freedom of Panorama is like freedom of speech. Please support those freedoms.

With thanks and best regards

Michael Maggs

Chair, Wikimedia UK


The Freedom to Photograph must be upheld – letters to The Times

June 30th, 2015 by MichaelMaggs
Photo of the London skyline during the daytime with the London Eye blacked out.

If we lose freedom of panorama, Wikipedia could lose images of iconic landmarks such as the London Eye.

Last week there were two  letters to The Times newspaper on the issue of copyright reform and freedom of panorama. These were published on Friday 26 June. One was signed by Michael Maggs as Wikimedia UK Chair, the was signed by several organisations supporting the protection of freedom of panorama. The letters are published below.


Sir, The freedom to take a photograph in a public place, and to do you what like with your own image without having to seek permission from the building’s owner or other rights holder, has been a fundamental part of UK law for more than a century.

It has been suggested that restricting “commercial use” would be acceptable, as that would affect only professional photographers and film makers, but that is not the case. Any private individual who uploads personal photographs to a social media website will be affected, as most sites require users to warrant that their uploads do not not infringe the intellectual property rights of any third party. Anybody using social media to share even private photographs that include a modern building or streetscape within the view will be at significant legal risk.

Before this recent negative proposal, Julia Reda, MEP, had sought to persuade the European Parliament to retain existing freedom of panorama, and to extend it to those European countries that do not currently enjoy those rights. Her original proposal is to be applauded and should be restored.

Michael Maggs
Chairman, Wikimedia UK


Sir, We agree that moves to restrict the freedom to photograph buildings and artworks in public places, currently permitted under section 62 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, should give rise to the greatest concern (leader, June 24).

If such a measure is adopted in the future, most websites and most photographers would instantly become copyright infringers with any photo of any public space which features at least one structure designed by a person that is either alive, or died fewer than 70 years ago.

The prohibition would dramatically affect the way we share knowledge, culture and current events, as well as our everyday lives. Tourists would not be able to promote our country with their photographs on commercial websites such as Facebook or Flickr; Wikipedia, which is designed to be free for any use, would not be able to describe our landmarks; and professional photographers would need to contact dozens of rightsholders for any photo they shoot in public spaces, spending more money on paperwork than they can possibly earn with the outcome. Even blogs which have advertising would be affected.

We urge all UK MEPs to vote not to let the current paragraph 16 go through unamended during the vote in the plenary session in Strasbourg on July 9, and to defend our right to make and use photos of public spaces.

Paul Herrmann, chairman, British Photographic Council; Jeff Moore, chairman, British Press Photographers’ Association; Denise Swanson, British Institute of Professional Photographers; Jimmy Wales, founder, Wikipedia; Nigel Atherton, editor, Amateur Photographer; Stewart Gibson, Bureau of Freelance Photographers; Dominic Cooper, general secretary, Chartered Institute of Journalists; Alastair McCapra, chief executive, Chartered Institute of Public Relations; Jim Killock, executive director, Open Rights Group

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