I didn’t mean for this blog to be all about copyright, and the blind fumbling through its labyrinthine corridors that is the lot of Wikimedians, but looking at my little tag cloud gadget, copyright is clearly the most common topic so far. It’s going to get more common in the near future.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really understand copyright law. Like many Wikimedians, I am an amateur enthusiast just trying to get the project I like to run properly. It is definitely an area fraught with problems, however.

For example, I have been accused of practising law without a licence just because I listed the years when some of Robert E. Howard’s works would drop out of copyright and therefore which were still protected. All this involved was adding Wikisource’s “copyright until” template, which shows an end date for an item and converts itself to a wikilink at that time. I thought this would be useful, especially as some of his still-copyrighted works were getting uploaded now and again by good-faith users, and it only involves looking up conditions on a table and adding some numbers together. It shouldn’t be controversial to share basic information like that, but here we are. (Howard is my favourite author but I’ve had some of his works deleted from Wikisource when they turned out not to be in the public domain after all.)

Nevertheless, I’ve picked up a few bits and pieces in my time on Wikisource and it’s interesting to find all the little quirks in what should be a simple binary choice (either still-protected or public-domain).  So here starts a brief series of posts on the random foibles and oddities I’ve encountered so far.