Archive for the ‘Creative Commons’ category

What is Wikimedia Commons all about?

18 January 2011

Most of us do not know enough about the free resources of the digital world available to us,  such as Wikimedia Commons!  This article, originally written to expound the philosophy of WikiPuneri, a Facebook group of people wanting to make a difference, has been added here for the greater public to read.

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Before I explain what WikiPuneri group does, I would like to explain in short about Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Commons is not an encyclopaedia, it is a media repository. Wikipedia, as you all know, is the free online encyclopaedia which anyone can edit. There are a total of 278 Wikipedias in the world, each in a different language. The English Wikipedia is the largest with 3,528,428 articles. As of now there are twenty wikipedias in Indian languages – including in Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, blah, blah and blah. Of these Marathi Wikipedia is the third in size with over 30,000 articles. In addition there are twenty more wikipedias in other Indian languages in the process of being developed.

Now why I have mentioned this is because all of these use photographs, video clips and sound files. Now, it is a waste of space for each Wikipedia to load its images exclusively for itself. Hence the Wikimedia Foundation has created another project called as Wikimedia Commons or in short just Commons. Commons is the media repository. All photos, video clips and sound files are uploaded here just once and they immediately become available to all wikipedias.

The number of images on Wikimedia Commons about an important subject say Pune city is important. That is because all the images on Commons are free. When I say free, I mean free as in free speech as well as in free beer. You are free to use them as you wish, even commercially, as long as you attribute whose image you have used and as long as you make the material available under a free license. These images on Commons are placed under one of a variety of licenses that give you these rights and permissions – this kind of license is called a free license, which allows you to use the images as you wish, as long as you attribute and give free license to people to use your work in turn. The most common free license used around the world is the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.

The full text of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License is given here.

But to explain it here is a more easily understood diagrammatic version of the same below :

 

The crux of the Creative Commons 3.0 Unported License

Why? Why this talk about free licenses?

Because images are usually copyrighted with all rights reserved by the creator. Because a person who is going to break the law and steal or illegally use your image will not bother about whether image is copyrighted or free to use. But the law abiding person can neither use a copyrighted image whose creator has kept all rights for himself without breaking the law nor can he afford it.

Usually you have to pay a fee ranging from a hundred to tens of thousands of rupees to use a photograph commercially per image. Poor people cant afford that, even if the cause is noble or good for society. Many people agree to permit use of their photos free for a good cause, but it is difficult or sometimes impossible to contact people who have good images on Flickr, Picassa or web ste. So a repository of free images is required. Wikimedia Commons is exactly that – it not only stores images for Wikipedias but also makes them available for everyone in society to use, even commercially.

Imagine a person, Mr Patil, who has knowledge which he wants to share with the world. Suppose he wants to write a very economically priced book on Butterflies Of Maharashtra in Marathi for all the children of Maharashtra to read. To illustrate it he will need over three hundred images. If he buys the images, the book will be extremely costly and not free or cheap. But he can take the images from Commons and use them to illustrate his book. He will have to do only two things – acknowledge the person whose photos he has used and publish it not under copyright with all rights reserved but with free Creative Commons license I mentioned to you. Mr Patil can use these images, print the book cheaply and even make a small honest profit.

The free license allows people to use Mr Patil’s book in a constructive manner. They can make derivatives. A biology teacher takes material from his book and makes a chart of common butterflies for display in class rooms. He acknowledges at the bottom of the chart that the information is taken from Patil’s book, mentions the authors of images used and publishes the chart under a free lisense. Another person thinks that the book and chart are valuable educational resources and translates it into English, Hindi, and other Indian Languages. The free license permits them to do so. And so on. The information and images get re-used freely, the contributions of all people are acknowledged and same freedoms are passed on by means of the license.

In such a context, it is important that enough free images are available on Commons to empower our people. If you check Wikimedia Commons today, you will find very few images of Pune. For example, there are more than 500 historial places such as temples, wadas, buidings etc in Pune city alone but only five such places are covered in Commons. There are images of front gate of Shaniwarwada but none of the many wonders inside.

So some photographers of Pune have decided to remedy this by starting a programme to add images of historical monuments of our city onto Commons. We have formed a group of like-minded people on Facebook and Flickr who are keen to further this noble cause to help society. We call this group “WikiPuneri”. We have already started with our first focus being Shaniwarwada the landmark symbol of Pune city which we photographed last Sunday. In coming weeks we will add many more images of Pune and Maharashtra so that hopefully by the time Wikipedia becomes 11 years of age, all of Pune’s monuments are photographed.

 

One of the images uploaded. - the Shaniwarwada gate - (Image:Ashok Bagade)

The other thing we will do is that we will ensure that both Marathi and English Wikipedias have articles on all these monuments and landmarks. In this way, our exposure of our beloved Pune will increase. People can get all the important information about Pune that they need from Wikipedia and images from Wikimedia Commons.

On the function on 15th January 2011, as a symbolic gesture, we will be have uploadinged in front of everyone for the first time an image which we have taken and contributed to Wikimedia Commons. Hopefully that will be followed by many, many more!

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THIS TEXT LICENSED UNDER CREATIVE COMMONS 3.0 UNPORTED (See link in main article)

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