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Wikimedia UK: Supporting free and open knowledge

Revised three year strategy following consultation

June 22nd, 2016 by John Lubbock
In May, Wikimedia UK ran a community consultation on our draft new strategic framework for 2016 – 19. Thank you to everyone who responded to this, either on wiki, by email or via the mailing list. I really appreciate volunteers and members taking the time to engage with the strategy and we received some very helpful feedback, much of which has been incorporated into the updated framework.

In particular, there were a number of comments about the draft objectives for the third strategic goal for this period, concerning education and learning. This probably reflected the fact that this is the least well developed area for us in terms of delivery and we are still developing our ideas – alongside the community – for how best to work with education and to support learners. Our education meeting in May was very helpful in highlighting past practice and future ideas in this area – the notes from which are here.

Several people raised a concern that by talking about cultural heritage in our outcomes we would be excluding other areas of knowledge, such as science. This was not the intention of myself or the trustees so I have changed the wording of this planned outcome. I have also clarified some of the objectives around advocacy.

There was a hope expressed that WMUK would do more than ‘seek to engage’ volunteers, and that volunteering could be mentioned specifically around developing partnerships and speaking at events. Whilst I feel that the centrality of volunteers does come through in the strategic framework, particularly in our values and operating principles – which remain relatively unchanged from the previous five year organisational strategy – I have updated the strategy to make this implicit intention more explicit.

The new, revised strategic framework was formally approved by the board at their meeting on 10th June. Following this decision, I am now working on the three year business plan, which provides more context for the strategy as well as details of planned priorities and programmes for the three year period, and internal resources including staffing and funding and financial forecasts. The wiki will be updated soon but in the meantime, the revised framework is here.

Thanks again for your interest and your thoughtful responses to the consultation.

Lucy Crompton-Reid

Chief Executive

Supporting our community to create open content: we want your ideas!

June 10th, 2016 by John Lubbock

Spain win the UEFA Euro 2012 championship – photo by Илья Хохлов (via Football.ua) CC BY-SA 3.0

As the summer rolls around, there are so many important cultural events which the Wikimedia community can engage with and create content about. The European Football Championships start this week, and the Olympics aren’t far away either. The festival season is already beginning, and there are hundreds of other cultural events taking place across the UK and the world, from religious ceremonies to elections, the London Comic Con, Pride, or any other kind of commemoration or anniversary events.

Wikimedia UK is hoping to support people who want to cover any notable events to create high quality images available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. We have grant funding available for photographers who know how to take great photographs which could be used across Wikimedia projects. We would also be interested to support people who would like to add other content besides photographs. If you are going to particular events, we also may be able to liaise with the organisers to get you accreditation.

You can have a look at some of the featured images Wikimedia UK has helped to create in previous years here.

We normally give project grants up to £250 for expenses. You can refer to the grants application process to get an idea of the kind of projects we support. Projects which address diversity gaps would be of particular interest, or activities which link to our current partnerships with other institutions.

We want to reach out to volunteers and the wider wikimedia community, to support your work and help you to do more. We want to know about your talents and see if we can promote your work in support of Wikimedia projects, so if you have ideas for events you would like to go to and CC content you could produce there, please get in touch with us!


See London events list.

Visit England events.

Global events.

Anniversary and events calendar.

English Heritage events.

Speak up for open knowledge and a free internet: Freedom of Panorama Consultation

June 8th, 2016 by John Lubbock

“Saltimbanques” in Luxembourg’s Theaterplaatz, by Bénédicte Weis (born 1949), will remain under copyright until 75 years after his death. Photo by Lantus, free use.

You can tell Europe to help protect street photography

After last year’s drama in the European Parliament about “freedom of panorama”, the EU is consulting on how the law should change.

Article by Owen Blacker

Think about the state of digital photography 15 years ago, on 22 May 2001 say. It’s about a week after Mark Zuckerberg’s 17th birthday, a few years before Flickr, Instagram is almost a decade away and most people haven’t even heard of DSLR cameras — the first consumer-targetted DSLR, theFinePix S1 Pro, was only launched just over a year earlier.

Obviously, I didn’t pick that date at random — that’s when the Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC) was made, entering into force one month later. That’s when European copyright laws were last set in aspic.

Clearly, then, it’s well past time to update it to account for the Internet era — a time when we’re all creating content, rather than merely consuming it.

Since being elected as an MEP for the German Pirate Party in May 2014,Julia Reda determined to make copyright reform her focus for the legislative session; that November, the Parliament set up a review of the Copyright Directive, for which she was named rapporteur. Reda’s annotated draft report is online and is a great, approachable read for anyone interested in copyright reform — it walks the line between pragmatic and radical very well.

So what’s this “freedom of panorama” thing about then?

One of the more obvious areas where there are differences across the European Union is in something called “freedom of panorama”. This term refers to an exception in copyright law that says that photographs of works permanently in public spaces — buildings and sculptures, for example — do not need a licence from the copyright-holder. The team at #FixCopyright have put together a video explanation here:

Generally, European Union legislation seeks to “harmonise”, to create a common basis of law across the the common market. One of the things highlighted by the debates in the European Parliament last year was the difference in panorama rights across Europe.

Current freedom of panorama rights across Europe. Greens indicate territories with a right to freedom of panorama, with lighter green countries providing FoP only over images of buildings, not other works. Yellow territories have FoP for non-commercial use only andred countries (Belarus, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Ukraine) have no FoP in their laws. Grey (Andorra, Monaco and San Marino) have unclear FoP rights. Map byKing of Hearts and others, licensed CC BY-SA.

Here in the UK, I can take a photograph from any public street and know that the presence of a building or item of public art cannot pose any copyright claim — I could sell that photo without issue and I can share it with a Free licence.

In France or Belgium, however, those public works of art have a copyright so, for example, images of the Atomium in Brussels are subject to rights held by the litigious heirs of André Waterkeyn until 2076, a full 70 years after his death; SABAM, the Belgian collecting society, zealously pursues those rights. The image at the top of this article is a photo of the dancing figures in Luxembourg’s Theaterplaatz, redacted to protect Bénédicte Weis’s copyright, valid until 70 years after he passes away. Iceland has restricted panorama rights too — there are no pictures of Hallgrímskirkja on Wikimedia Commons, as it is under copyright there until 2021.

Cross-border publishing confuses matters further — I’m a British citizen in the UK writing this on a website hosted in the Cloud by a company registered in California; the header image is a photo of a work in Luxembourg taken by a German domiciled in Switzerland. This is part of why the EU prefers to harmonise rules, rather than just to apply “country of origin” rules to allow different restrictions to apply in different places.

Panorama from Tower Bridge at dawn, modified to censor some of the buildings that require freedom of panorama. Both the original image and the annotated version are byUser:Colin and licensed CC BY-SA.

But why would I care? Do restrictions on panorama make a difference anyway?

The image rights from public art really are “gleanings from the field” — they are marginal to the creators of new buildings and new art but they’re ofimmense value to the ability to publicly depict and discuss these works.

Wiki Loves Monuments logo, by Lusitana, dual-licensed CC BY-SA and GFDL.

Freedom of panorama allows us all to take and publish photographs of buildings and monuments in public places — as celebrated in the Wiki Loves Monuments competition every year, as well as many books with author-supplied photographs, for example. Without that freedom, full permissions, clearances and royalties need to be negotiated for every video, photo, painting and drawing with potential commercial use.

As merely one example of why this is a big deal, Wikipedia does not accept images unless they can be reused for any purpose. The English Wikipedia’s policy on non-free content explicitly only allows images on licences that meet Wikipedia’s definition of “free” use, disallowing images that are only available for non-commercial use; the Catalan and Italian policies are similar. By comparison, the Spanish and Hungarian Wikipedias have a policy of only using Free images. Wikimedia Commons has a category full of deletion requests that relate to FoP, with over 4500 images having been deleted; there have been nearly 100 images deleted of the Louvre Pyramid alone. There are 221 censored images of European works in the appropriate categories on Commons.

“Non-commercial” restrictions seem like they’re only be a problem for companies who want to make money by selling photographs. But in practice, the distinction between commercial and non-commercial is much more complicated. Sure, you probably won’t actually get in trouble for posting holiday snaps to Facebook (§9.1 of their Terms say you give them permission to use your images commercially and §5.1 says you’ve cleared the rights to do so) but, to quote Julia Reda’s blogpost (with her emphasis) from last year:

It is far easier to transgress the limitations of a non-commercial restrictions than commonly understood. … If there is a consensus on this matter, it’s thatthe realm of commercial usage is entered long before a person makes a profit. You can expect your personal website to be considered commercial if you have advertisements or a Flattr button or other micro-payment service in use, even if you make a lot less money than you pay for hosting your website.

This isn’t even something that creators are calling out for, as Reda wrote in her follow-up piece, many creators’ organisations across Europe were quick to condemn the amended plans to restrict FoP, with the Royal Institute of British Architects among the first to denounce the proposals.

Of the 7 EU countries where architects and visual artists earn the highest incomes, 6 have full and unrestricted freedom of panorama (Luxembourg, the exception, is the second-richest country in the world by GDP PPP). And creators aren’t making these works ignorant of their destination — it is not the public space entering the artist’s atelier, but the artist’s work being presented in a public space.

So what happened last year — and what’s happened since?

The European Parliament building — censored because of France’s lack of panorama rights. Photo taken and censored by Ralf Roletschek, licensed GFDL.

Julia Reda’s original draft report proposed extending freedom of panorama across the Union, butan amendment was made in committee that could have threatened our right to take photographs in Europe if they included buildings or street art that’s still in copyright.

After over 500,000 people signed a petition asking MEPs to reject the anti-panorama amendment, it was defeated overwhelmingly and the final report avoided mentioning freedom of panorama altogether, by way of a compromise.

This was an “own initiative” report from the Parliament, so had no legislative weight itself but in December the Commission outlined its proposals “to broaden access to online content and … modernise EU copyright rules”. These proposals contained several changes — some of which have already been watered down, such as content portability, where they were originally proposing that I could watch BBC iPlayer and Netflix UK when on holiday within the EU but have backed down in the face of pressure from rightsholders. Importantly, though, the Commission has included a consultation on freedom of panorama.

Bonde Palace in Stockholm, the location of Högsta domstolen, the Swedish Supreme Court.Photo by Tmarki, dedicated to the public domain under a CC0 licence.

Since then, proposals have also gone to the Belgian and French parliaments to extend freedom of panorama, though the Swedish Supreme Court made a frankly bizarre ruling that, despite their panorama law, a Wikimedia Sverige website was not allowed to collect together photos of public works of art online. There are certainly problems with the French proposals, which are overly restrictive, but that the French Senate approved a pro-panorama amendment at all is a sign that the mood is changing in the more copyright-conservative countries in the EU.

So what do we need to do now?

For once, this isn’t something where you need to write to your elected representatives. That’s one for another time. But there is a consultation being held by the European Commission; the important thing for now is to be heard.

There is a response form on the EU’s consultation website. Alternatively, there’s an online form from the #FixCopyright team to guide you through the questions.

The EU consultation closes on Wednesday 15 June

Tell everyone you know! Orator, by southtyrolean, licensed CC BY.

If you would like some help with how to respond, there is aresponse guide from Wikimedia, with their answers available to see.

Speak up now to tell the European Commission that street photography is important and brings its own benefits — and, as always, tell everyone you know!

This article is dedicated to the public domain under the terms of the Creative Commons Zero licence. Please translate, copy, excerpt, share, disseminate and otherwise spread it far and wide. You don’t need to ask me, you don’t need to tell me. Just do it!

Share your photos of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves on Wikipedia to inspire the world

June 6th, 2016 by John Lubbock
Photo by Elgollimoh, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

A European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) in Ichkeul National Park and Biosphere Reserve, Tunisia. Photo by Elgollimoh, CC BY-SA 3.0.

This blog is also available in French, Spanish and Russian on the Wikimedia Foundation blog.


Yesterday was World Environment Day, the United Nations’ designated day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.

Many of us know the world faces unprecedented pressure from human activities. The United Nations Environment Programme Global Environment Outlook reports:

The state of global biodiversity is continuing to decline, with substantial and ongoing losses of populations, species and habitats. For instance, vertebrate populations have declined on average by 30 per cent since 1970, and up to two-thirds of species in some taxa are now threatened with extinction.

Education is key to reversing this decline, to find sustainable solutions to the problems we all face and to learn to live sustainably with the rest of the natural world.

Sustainable environmental action hinges on the education of all citizens, from the earliest age, in sustainable development…..No single country, however powerful, can resolve the challenges of our common environment. (Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO)

UNESCO created the Man and the Biosphere Programme “to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments”.  Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination thereof, which are internationally recognized within the framework of UNESCO’s Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB). Each Biosphere Reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. Today there are 669 biosphere reserves in 120 countries belonging to a World Network of Biosphere Reserves, all offering us opportunities to explore how to live sustainably.

Photo by Vian and retouched by Iifar, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine. Photo by Vian and retouched by Iifar, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Wikipedia is where 500 million of us go to understand complex subjects like climate change, biodiversity and sustainability, and give us information about the world around us. It can also foster our appreciation, wonder and empathy with the rest of the natural world through photographs,.

Everyone can contribute to Wikipedia, it gives us the opportunity to share what we know and what we see, in 2015 one trillion photos were created, more than all previous years combined. More people have phones with cameras than ever before and mobile internet is becoming a major education tool for the developing and developed countries.

UNESCO and Wiki Loves Earth have partnered to create Wiki Loves Earth Biosphere Reserves, a competition to create photographs free for everyone to use and to enrich Wikipedia. 10 winning images will be shared on the UNESCO website and social media and will be entered into the Wiki Loves Earth international competition. Wiki Loves Earth competitions around the world have created over 180,000 images of protected natural sites.

If you don’t have access to a Biosphere Reserve you can still be involved by promoting the project, adding the photographs to Wikipedia and using them to teach people about the environment.

To help more people to learn about biosphere reserves, UNESCO have made the official descriptions available under a Creative Commons license, which Wikipedia volunteers will use to create missing articles.

Cormorants at dusk on the pond of Vaccarès, part of Delta du Rhone Biosphere Reserve, France. Photo by Ddeveze, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Cormorants at dusk on the pond of Vaccarès, part of Delta du Rhone Biosphere Reserve, France. Photo by Ddeveze, CC BY-SA 3.0.

UNESCO’s mandate is to build peace in the minds of men and women. Biosphere Reserves are the places where we discover ways to live in harmony with the environment. Wikipedia is where we inspire and teach each other how.

Wiki Loves Earth Biosphere Reserves will run from today until 30 June.

Wiki Loves Earth Biosphere Reserves is created in collaboration by the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme, Wikimedia volunteers (special thanks to Navino Evans, Mykola Kozlenko and Romaine), John Cummings (Wikimedian in Residence at UNESCO), and Wikimedia Ukraine.

John Cummings, Wikimedian-in-Residence at UNESCO

The views expressed in this post are not necessarily those of the Wikimedia Foundation or Wikipedia; responses and critical commentary are invited in the comments section below.

2016 Strategy Consultation

May 9th, 2016 by John Lubbock

Volunteer strategy gathering, Brimingham, 2014 – CC BY 3.0 Brian McNeil

Over the past year we’ve gone through a number of changes in the way we work and are organised. We want this process to be as open as possible to input from our members and volunteers. Following a board meeting to plan the strategy and business model for the charity over the next three years, we would appreciate any input from our community on whether the direction the board is proposing is acceptable to you.

Please take a look at the page for the 2016 Strategy Consultation and the linked documents laying out the draft plan and accompanying notes from the board. If you have any suggestions, criticisms, advice or any feedback at all, please respond to the suggested questions on the talk page or by emailing our Chief Executive on the email provided.

I’ve lived in the UK for 9 years but the government wants to deport me

April 19th, 2016 by John Lubbock

Ally Crockford at Wikipedia UK board meeting, 2013 (Image by Katie Chan via Wikimedia Commons)

By Ally Crockford, former Wikipedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland

I have lived in the UK for what will be 9 years in September. I studied for 5 of those years and worked for four. I completed a PhD, organised international conferences, published papers, spoke across the UK and internationally, and taught for about 7 years. I was also the first Wikimedian in Residence in Scotland, and must have done a reasonably good job at it as my contract was extended several times and I was invited to speak about the work I was doing around Scotland and in Europe.

But this year the UK government brings into law a salary threshold test which means that non-EU workers must earn over £35,000 a year after 5 years of working in the UK or be deported. Read the rest of this entry »

The Shiver: communion with the past in a digital age

April 11th, 2016 by Martin Poulter

Bodleian Library School of Divinity (Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0)

This post is adapted from a text originally published in the CILIP November 2015 update.


Bodleian Wikimedian Martin Poulter says that although the digital world finds it hard to capture the intimacy of being in the presence of historical objects and texts, it can play an important role in adding value to the collections of museums, libraries and galleries which do provide that experience.


While working at the Bodleian, I’ve experienced what I call ‘the shiver’ many times. I had it when I realised I was reading Charles Darwin’s handwriting, or when shown a book that had been studied by Henry VIII. I saw it happening at the Marks of Genius exhibition when people encounter a Gutenberg Bible or a First Folio of Shakespeare.

The shiver is a realisation of a tangible connection to the past. It comes from authenticity, physicality and uniqueness. As such, it may seem irrelevant to digital information, which is endlessly reproducible and independent of physical location. However, when we think of how libraries can involve more people in that authentic experience, that digital world turns out to be crucial. Read the rest of this entry »

Awaken the Dragon breathes fire into the sails of Wikipedia in Wales

April 7th, 2016 by John Lubbock

CADW / Visit Wales

WikiProject Wales has been running a competition aimed at targeting core articles for Wales and getting them up to Good Article status. At the same time it is aiming to dramatically reduce the number of stub articles on wikipedia and encourage quality new content creation. You can see the scoreboard here, where User:Cwmhiraeth is currently leading the competition.

Awaken the Dragon follows on from the successful 20-20 Vision of Wales competition back in 2014. There is a £100 Amazon voucher prize for the overall winner, £50 for the runner up and another £100 divided between weekly winners and other special prizes. The prizes themselves are further intended to encourage positive creation and improvement on Wikipedia by encouraging people to buy their own books for future articles. Read the rest of this entry »

Hello from John, WMUK’s new comms person!

April 5th, 2016 by Stuart Prior

Photo by Adam Novak

My name is John Lubbock and I’m the new communications coordinator at Wikimedia UK. I’m really pleased to be working with the team, some of whom I already know from volunteering at the 2014 Wikimania London conference (that’s me in the middle in red and purple), and I hope that I’ll be able to help raise awareness of the work WMUK does to support open knowledge in the UK.

Why Wikimedia?

For an organisation that runs one of the biggest websites in the world, Wikimedia maintains an ethical commitment to education and free access to knowledge that is truly admirable. The goal of giving every human being access to the sum of the world’s knowledge in their own language is a noble and ambitious human endeavour which shows what the incredible invention we call the internet can do at its best. Read the rest of this entry »

#WhereIsBassel – A global protest against unfair detention and disappearance of Bassel Khartabil

March 16th, 2016 by Richard Nevell

Bassel Khartabil has been imprisoned in Syria since 15 March 2012.

The Jimmy Wales Foundation invites you to join the global protest for the #WhereIsBassel campaign on the 19th March in London (Marble Arch at 2pm), Paris, Berlin, Boston, San Francisco and more.

Bassel Khartabil has been imprisoned in Syria since 15 March 2012. A passionate advocate of free-knowledge, he worked as the lead of Creative Commons Syria, and a major contributor to Mozilla. He was also an editor of the Arabic Wikipedia.
His latest open-knowledge project has been an effort to preserve the cultural heritage of Syria, in the city of Palmyra. Currently under threat of groups like ISIS, who have been destroying ancient structures despite reassurances that they would be spared, #NEWPALMYRA hopes to use 3D modelling, and free media to recreate what is being destroyed.
Following Bassel’s arrest in Damascus in 2012, he was charged by the government of Syria with “harming state security”. Bassel was put on trial without legal representation and was subjected to torture. In October 2015, reports emerged that Bassel disappeared from his prison cell. Rumours suggested that Bassel had been sentenced to death.
As volunteers for Wikimedia UK it can be easy to forget that we are afforded certain luxuries. GLAM institutions welcome editors and Wikipedian’s in Residence. We enjoy balanced coverage of our endeavours. And though we may not always be happy with the results, public officials can & will still engage freely with Wikimedia at large.
There are also the twin foundations of Creative Commons and open software, both of which Bassel has contributed so much to, and without which none of our work could be possible.
So we are asking you to please join us when we stand at Marble Arch this weekend to ask #WhereisBassel? We will all wear face masks with Bassel’s image on them and demand justice for a wronged free knowledge advocate.
To help with #NEWPALMYRA see:

Get involved