Annual Report 2023/Story: Usage of Free Knowledge by Media

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Det här är en översatt version av sidan Verksamhetsberättelse 2023/Story: Användning av fri kunskap av media. Översättningen är till 100 % färdig och uppdaterad.

In this story, we report on our efforts to raise the awareness of Creative Commons licenses among journalists. The increasing number of news outlets turning to Wikimedia Commons is a welcome development, and we react when we come across cases of improperly attributed images. These efforts help to increase the understanding of the possibilities and limitations of reusing freely licensed material, which in turn helps to ensure that more material is published correctly and that the volunteers who contribute to the free media database get the recognition they deserve.

How to use files from Wikimedia Commons correctly – a video tutorial (in Swedish).

Wikimedia Commons, the free database of freely licensed media files, contains over 100 million files. They can be used not only in Wikipedia articles, but also elsewhere – in books, articles and websites. When the images are used, it not only makes the wider Wikimedia community happy but also the individual photographer; anyone whose images have been published in mainstream media knows the feeling. Images from Wikimedia Commons have been published in several Swedish news outlets, such as SVT, Göteborgs-Posten and Dagens Nyheter.

However, those of us who work to raise awareness of Wikimedia and its free content know that many people are unaware of the rules that apply when reusing files from Wikimedia Commons. Just because something is free doesn't mean that there are no rules to follow. In this case, when reusing images that have been released under Creative Commons licenses – such as CC-BY and CC-BY-SA – you have to state the source of the image, who produced it, as well as the license itself. In other words, you have to attribute the image correctly. While CC licenses do encourage reuse, these requirements are exactly that: requirements, not wishes. If you don't give credit where credit is due you commit a crime: copyright infringement.

In our experience, some reusers are very good at following the license requirements, while others need some help and guidance. Providing the name and source (i.e. the naming the photographer and Wikimedia Commons as the source of the image), as well as stating that the work was published under a CC license, is not only legally correct, but also an act of basic human decency towards the Commons photographer.

We are experts on open knowledge, and as such we are happy to help anyone who wants to understand Creative Commons licenses better. We offer courses on both how to use Wikimedia Commons and how to contribute to it yourself. In addition, in 2023, we started contacting journalists directly in response to seeing cases of poor attribution in media, and explaining to them how they can do it better. To make this work more effective, we developed a communication template and published a blog post, as well as a video tutorial.

All of this to make it easy for everyone to do the right thing. Our work has been met with many positive reactions and several errors have been corrected. In addition, a number of media outlets seem to have learned how to do things the right way in other contexts as well.

During the year we have also been in contact with SVT and discussed licenses in more depth. According to their previous policy, they only used images from Wikimedia Commons that were under a CC BY license, which requires attribution, but not CC BY-SA, which contains a share alike clause. The clause means that when you reuse the file - or in other words, when you remix, transform, or build on it in any form - you have to share the resulting modified file under the same license. However, this only applies if the result is not a new, independent work; a TV program counts as a new work. For example, if you're using a CC BY-SA licensed file in a documentary you're making, you can still claim copyright on your movie, as long as the CC licensed work is properly attributed.

After our input, SVT changed its policy and awareness of the meaning of the licenses increased in the state-owned news outlet. A win for everyone!