Those Wacky (Slightly Hypocritical) Wikipedians

Our favorite lawsuit of the day comes from the National Portrait Gallery in London, which has demanded that Wikipedia remove more than 3,000 photographs of portraits it has downloaded from the gallery’s database.

Wikipedia administrator Derrick Coetzee took the 3,000 photos, converted them to hi-res and uploaded them to Wikimedia Commons, a repository for public domain and freely licensed works. Coetzee is represented by Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (and a perennial member of Lawdragon’s top 500 lawyers in America).

The gallery sayd it has an active copyright on the photos, as opposed to the paintings, whose creators long ago went to the Wikigraveyard.

There’s an interesting little side issue, however, that’s emerging about what we’ll call Wikipedia’s selective censorship. A few weeks back, the Sunday New York Times ran a fascinating column by The Public Editor on the cover-up of the kidnapping of Times reporter David Rohde by The Taliban. While much of Clark Hoyt’s discussion focused on the ethics of the Times’ witholding reports on the kidnapping, there were also some stunning disclosures about the complicity of other media – including Wikipedia.

User editors tried to submit entries about the kidnapping, but the entries were taken down. The Times reached out to a co-founder, Jimmy Wales, to ensure Wikipedia participated in the coverup. While taking down user posts, Wikipedia allowed a Times reporter to edit Rohde’s biography to portray him as sympathetic to Muslims and to remove the fact that he once worked for the Christian Science Monitor.

As one of America’s original publishers said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.”


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