Proposed legislation in Argentina would retroactively increase the term of copyright on photographs from 25 years after creation and 20 years after publication to the photographer’s life plus 70 years, a 100+ year extension in many cases. More in English at EFF and Techdirt, in Spanish at Wikimedia Argentina and Fundación Vía Libre.
The graphic above is from the Fundación Vía Libre post, which includes a letter to opposing the retroactive extension signed by many civil society groups. Excerpt showing argumentation used (autotranslated):
It is well known that in most cases the owners of photographic works are not the authors, but publishers and media to the yield them. By extending the term monopoly on photographic works, the main beneficiaries are therefore the companies that own the rights. Thus, the project is unrelated to the objective of ensuring a decent standard of living creators.
The photographs bear a special public interest, as they realize the historical and cultural processes of society. Represent the customs of the past, set in the collective memory and historical events portrayed its main characters. The unavailability of the images of the past hinders the exercise of historical memory affecting the common interest of society.
If approved the bill, thousands of images of Argentina will be removed from the Internet and other places where they are available to the public, since the extension of the deadline operate retroactively. Failure to remove photographs, institutions and individuals who make them available could face civil and criminal prosecution.
Among the entities affected by the bill are museums, archives and public libraries and popular, more and more often they digitize their collections and make them available to the public on the Internet. Trapalanda projects such as digital library, the National Library and digitization efforts and made available to the General Archives of the Nation of Argentina will be severely affected by the measure and for removing large amounts of photographs of open and public access Internet.
Another initiative that will suffer most will be Wikipedia, encyclopedia and community nonprofit through which all current Free access knowledge and free. Thousands of photographs of Argentina encyclopedic articles that illustrate great importance must be eliminated, mainly affecting users who use Wikipedia every day for access to knowledge and learning.
Finally, the delay in the entry into the public domain of photographic works poses challenges for preserving them. To preserve photographs necessary to make copies and distribute them effectively, which under this bill will be impossible unless they have the express permission of the author. More than with any other form of work, photographs are especially prone to becoming orphan works, ie, it becomes impossible to locate the perpetrators. In light of this common difficulty extending the copyright term of 20 years post-publication to 70 years post-mortem imposed on preservation efforts a huge barrier.
In short, the current project will affect the access to culture and preservation of historical memory, difficult work of cultural institutions and instead to benefit photographers favor intermediary companies, real solutions neglecting workers cultural need.
It’s good to see Wikipedia prominently featured; presumably the argument would be much weaker without such a popular and prosocial venue that would be harmed. Although defensive actions excite me much less than agitation for commons-favoring policy, defensive actions which highlight harms to commons and leadership from commons-based projects still demonstrate the potency of growing commons-based production, which has the side effect of creating a somewhat concentrated interest group for the commons.
How could the argument be improved? Note: not intended as a criticism; all this takes work which must be prepared long before a defensive reaction is needed.
- The photos impacted (I’m fairly certain) on Wikimedia Commons could be linked to, making the case of Wikipedia harms more tangible: currently 10,661 photos, the vast majority of which it appears at a glance to not be old enough to qualify for life+70 freedom from copyright restrictions. Perhaps the link was left out because the presentation of a Wikimedia Commons category is not beautiful, nor easy to browse and search, other than by clicking through page after page of thumbnails. In the link I included activation of a gadget which helps a little.
- Beyond presentation of the images themselves, as far as I know there isn’t any UI for aggregated metrics on a category of images, for example how many are used in how many other Wikimedia projects [Update: up to here exists in the form of the GLAMorous tool, see first comment below] and how many pageviews articles using those images get, and also use on external sites. Such statistics would complement presentation of the images themselves.
- An estimate of the “value” of aforementioned uses; see Copyright and the Value of the Public Domain: An Empirical Assessment. This would powerfully complement non-fungible statistics above.
- Many more images. I don’t know whether 10,661 ought be impressive or not (above items would help clarify, perhaps), but presumably is a tiny fraction of the photos potentially useful in an encyclopedic setting that ought to be available in Wikimedia Commons under current Argentinian copyright law.
By the way, Wikimedia Commons images must be in the public domain in their country of origin and the U.S. The latter’s retroactive restrictions will make many more recent Argentinian photos unusable on Wikimedia projects even with no change in Argentinian law. All the more reason to focus on making born-free material culturally relevant, and mandating born-free status wherever possible.