We at Wikimedia Ukraine are deeply worried by the amendments of a number of laws recently proposed by the State Office of Intellectual Property of Ukraine. We think that the proposed bill contains a number of dangerous flaws that may significantly hinder natural functioning of Internet communities that are based on the principle of open participation and free editing of content by visitors.
Indeed, copyright is a very important aspect for users and editors of such Internet projects as Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia, Wikisource, a free collaborative library or Wikimedia Commons, a freely-licensed media files collection. Participants of these projects volunteer their time to create or seek materials that are legally free to use and distribute by anyone thanks to free licenses such as the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. However, the proposed bill may hinder such projects, including Wikipedia which pages are viewed 80 million times each month.
We find it dangerous that the proposed bill makes it obligatory for hosting providers and/or domain name registrators (entitled “service operators” in the bill) to block access to web-sites without a court order under certain conditions. If the service operator receives a complaint which states that a website infringes the complainer’s copyright it should forward the complaint to the website owner. If the website owner doesn’t respond in two days (48 hours), then the service operator is obliged to block the website that is reported in the complaint.
Further, the accuracy of information in the complaint is not verified in the procedure and the service operators are forced to block websites even if the complaint may be a false report.
Additionally, not only direct copyright infringement are supposed to be blocked by the service operators, but also any information about circumventing copyright protection measures or even links to copyright infringement.
Such rules create a possibility of abuse of the procedure when it may be used by certain interested parties or just by error by parties who don’t have a complete understanding of copyright, especially in the domain of free and copyleft licenses.
The bill also doesn’t define the term “website owner” nor does it define procedure for cases when the “website owner” is responsible for hosting a site without an external “service provider”. This is especially concerning in the context of open and volunteer-based Internet communities like Wikipedia which allows any visitor to edit their content. Even administrators of Wikipedia are volunteers elected by the community.
In such conditions we think there might be a possibility of pressure on Wikipedia editors and/or administrators from external parties in order to remove unwanted content.
Wikipedia community pays serious attention to copyright and constantly works on removing copyright violations any time they happen to be uploaded. Strict adherence to copyright is laid out in the official policies of the project. But administrators and editors shouldn’t be made legally responsible for the actions of a random visitor.
Therefore Wikimedia Ukraine with the help of Ukrainian Wikipedia community compiled an official letter to the State Office of Intellectual Property of Ukraine with their concerns about the bill and sent it to the Office on Friday 10th of January.
Yury Bulka, member of the Board of Wikimedia Ukraine; Sergii Petrov, the Head of the Press service of Wikimedia Ukraine
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