Judges love Wikipedia, too

US courts have cited Wikipedia in more than 100 judicial rulings since the first such example in 2004, writes the New York Times. Wikipedia is fantastic, but should judges rely on it as a source for court decisions? Hm. That seems lazy. And as is pointed out in the story, at least there’s an inherent issue with the web that must be thought through when any web page is quoted as source: The contents of the page might change. With Wikipedia, it’s almost certain that it will change, on the other hand Wikipedia has a defining feature that the NYT story doesn’t explore – strangely. That’s the history page for each entry, where you can permalink to the version of the entry you prefer.

(Note by the way the new (?) NYT feature “Share” among the article tools, where you find the permalink to the NYT article, a link that will work after the story disappears into the pay-wall archive. Use this for blogging!). UPDATE: I misunderstood this feature. You should NOT use that permalink feature, because it results in the opposite – the story disappears behind the pay-wall! Instead, use the NYT link generator. I’ve corrected the link above.

Utter copyright confusion

Photo: Kåre Sandvik

This must be what the Germans call a “Lehrstück”: A photo taken by a German photographer is copied from Flickr and printed on the cover of a magazine published by a political youth organization in Norway. The photographer is not asked for permission or paid. Kåre Sandvik who lives in Bergen comes across the magazine and recognizes the photo from Flickr, snaps a picture of the cover with his cameraphone and uploads it to his own Flickr page. He informs the photographer Mareen Fischinger and the local paper writes up the story, here translated and photographed by Kåre. And Frau Fischinger sends the young conservatives at Unge Høyre a big bill.

No doubt Unge Høyre violated her copyright. The Flickr page states “© All rights reserved”, though that warning could definitely be more easily visible. But as Jon points out, there are lots and lots of photos on Flickr that are published with a Creative Commons license (Kåre’s photo republished on this entry is an example – he used the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license). You can search specifically for these CC-licensed photos and other CC material on Creative Commons search. At the web magazine Vox Publica we have some experience now with finding and publishing such photos – here’s one example. We can do that because the magazine is non-commercial. It works OK when you get some experience, but the process of crediting the photographer is still much too tedious and manual. It would be excellent if it could be automated. That way maybe we could also start generating statistics of the use of such photos in this growing, non-commercial cultural scene.

Considering the Fischinger story, I couldn’t help but wonder if Bergens Tidende had cleared the republishing of her photo in print and on the web with her. Or do they think that the republishing can be justified as a “quotation” in a news story”? At least there’s no such information on the web article. If they had done that, it would have helped clear up some of the public confusion about copyright.

Knowledge, journalism and Russia

Norway’s political and business elites are engaged in a strategic game with Russian interests, with high stakes. Although so different in size, both countries are energy giants. Today it’s revealed that Gazprom is interested in buying into Aker Kværner, the biggest private oil engineering group. State-controlled Statoil and Hydro are in the process of merging, and both have been trying for years to become partners in the big Russian Shtokman gas field. There are some questions emerging from this intensive alliance-building at the state level with Putin-dominated Russia. How close can the alliance and the ties become before it starts to be a problem? How bad can the human rights situation in Russia become before it starts to become intolerable for a self-proclaimed human rights champion like Norway?

Voices sounding warnings are coming from the independent fringes – such as the blog document.no and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. Contrast this with the media. There’s not a lot of forceful, investigative reporting from Russia. Could it be that the media are also a bit fascinated with the strategic game going on with Putin’s men? So much so that a highly interesting figure like Garry Kasparov and his work with “The Other Russia” is dramatically under-reported. In an interview (subscription required) with the Wall Street Journal today, Kasparov lays out his plans for a left-right alliance of anti-Putin parties with the goal of finding an alternative candidate to beat Putin’s – or Putin himself – in the 2008 presidential election:

It is composed of groups that would normally be at political odds — democrats like Mr. Kasparov, nationalists, socialists, even Bolsheviks. Mr. Kasparov predicts that the Communist Party will join up before the end of the year. “There’s still a lot of distrust,” he says, with more than a modicum of understatement. “It’s a problem, but I don’t think it’s insurmountable. The big advantage of the Other Russia, and I think it’s our biggest accomplishment, is that we’ve established the principle of compromise, which was not yet seen in Russian politics. It was always confrontation. It was a mentality of a civil war. We eliminated it.”

The principle of compromise, so indispensable to democracy. And listen to what he says about what will happen if the “other” candidate wins:

The victory of the Other Russia candidate destroys the legacy of any institution built under Putin. You have to start from scratch. You have to call new [parliamentary] elections. You have to introduce new laws. You have to undergo judicial reform. You have to destroy censorship.” In short, you have to start over, back to where Russia was before Mr. Putin took over, building democracy, block by block.

In such a scenario, what will be the options for an official Norway “married” to the Putin system through Gazprom & co?

Partly this is a classic knowledge problem. Do we have the knowledge in Norway – in academic institutions, in the media, in companies – to deal with today’s Russia at this level? Does the general public and the political system get enough substantial information from the media and other sources to be able to understand enough of what’s going on? Certainly I don’t have the answers, but the questions should be debated.

Returning to Kasparov, how is “The Other Russia” going to get its message across when the media are so tightly controlled by Putin?

“The role of Internet is growing,” he says. “Mobile telephones are not unique anymore, not even in rural villages.” But — and the master chess player may have too much confidence in the analytic abilities of ordinary Russians here — “more important is growing malcontent. People are getting really unhappy. And if they’re unhappy, they’ll listen.”

Bingo world

What is it about bingo, now? Suddenly references to obscure bingo-style entertainment pops up left and right. How about Foreign Policy’s State of the Union Bingo? And then in a comment to a discussion about PowerPoint Karaoke (!), here’s Presentation Bingo:

Just as you stand up to take the stage for your presentation at a conference or whatever your colleague / friend / irritating co-worker hands you a 3×5 card with five random words. If you can smoothly integrate all five words into your presentation the players in the audience jump up and yell bingo!

120 concrete ways to improve the media

Very ambitious headline for this upcoming conference in Kalmar, Sweden in March. I’m looking forward to participate, and I guess the goal must be to contribute one of those 120 ways! I think it makes sense, as the organizers have done, to include blogging – and other genres of user-controlled publishing – as one distinct way among many to increase media accountability. For me, it will be exciting to learn about other tools for achieving the same end.

Obviously bloggers are influencing the media already: Correcting factual mistakes, protesting against perceived bias, holding the media responsible for breaches of ethics – but the potential is much larger than what we have seen so far. Established media who systematically combine the different tools of media accountability (public editors, for example) with an an active, real dialogue with users with, can come a long way. But how many media really do that today?