User talk:Mdennis (WMF)

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Legal status of photos of US defense installations[edit]

Hi Mdennis. Do you think you could ask WMF Legal for their general thoughts on a matter? There is currently a legal dispute at Wikipedia:Village pump (policy)#Images of Area 51 which concerns pictures like File:Wfm x51 area51 warningsign.jpg, in which there is a sign that clearly says "photography is prohibited" under this statute. The dispute revolves around the following questions:

  • Are File:Wfm x51 area51 warningsign.jpg and similar images legally produced photographs?
  • If they are not legally produced photographs, then is it unlawful for Wikipedia to disseminate them?

There are some who have argued that the photograph was taken outside of the boundaries of the defense installation and is therefore a legal photograph under freedom of panorama laws. However, some users have pointed out that the photograph includes areas that are within the boundaries. Others argue that even if the photograph was illegally produced, the law does not explicitly prohibit the photograph from being disseminated. In other words, the person who took the photograph would be liable, but not anyone who later uses the photo. Is there an official answer? Mz7 (talk) 21:20, 5 September 2016 (UTC)

Talk:Area 51#Illegal photos is another relevant page. Jo-Jo Eumerus (talk, contributions) 22:11, 5 September 2016 (UTC)
Hi Mz7 and Jo-Jo Eumerus. Maggie is travelling today, so she asked me to look in on this. I've reached out to our Legal brains about it and either Legal or I will get back to you here when we have an answer. Kbrown (WMF) (talk) 14:53, 6 September 2016 (UTC)
Hi Mz7 and Jo-Jo Eumerus, I've had a chance to take look into this a bit. Legal disclaimer first, the thing I can't do here is tell you whether it's okay to keep this specific image or not, you'll need to decide that on your own. What I can say is that I don't see any need for the Wikimedia Foundation to do a removal here. I think this is a really interesting area of the law. There are a couple statutes that are interesting here including both 18 U.S.C. §795 (which you've all been discussing in the article talk page) as well as the related 18 U.S.C. §797, and there's even a really old but still outstanding executive order (number 10104) that looks like it tackles the issue. This is also somewhat similar (but not the same) as our article about publishing classified documents under the espionage act. Overall, U.S. law does have some penalties for individuals who publish photographs of things designated as "vital" by the president, which includes classified installations and equipment. But while that makes it easy to figure out the obvious cases, it doesn't help with more ambiguous cases like establishing the borders of an installation or defining exactly what the terms covers. -Jrogers (WMF) (talk) 21:34, 8 September 2016 (UTC)
(talk page stalker) While there may be legal issues with some photos such as these, I suspect no judge would find you guilty of contravening the law for a photo taken outside the boundaries of this facility, The panel clearly states the terms but taking a photo from 1 foot inside would certainly be a legal issue. I have always understood that taking photo from outside the boundaries of a facility are permitted, so If anything "secret or restricted, or of vital military or naval installations" of a facility can be seen from the boundary then they have not placed their boundary at a suitable point to avoid photos from outside the boundary. However, I don't see a problem with the image in question: it's outside the defined boundary and shows nothing of any real interest, so neither we nor the photographer can be guilty of an offence under the legal orders mentioned above. ww2censor (talk) 23:25, 8 September 2016 (UTC)
Jrogers (WMF), thank you so much for your insight into this matter. Given the ambiguity of the case (i.e. it's not clear whether it is actually photographing classified installation or just the publicly accessible boundary of it), and that the Foundation does not find the legal issue egregious enough to warrant intervention, I am inclined to let the image I linked above stay. On the other hand, photos like File:Area51 Tikaboo Peak 07.2008.jpg and File:Groom Lake and Papoose Lake.jpg are a bit more concerning, however, since they seem to deliberately get up high and photograph the actual base with buildings, runways, etc. It would be especially problematic if we accidentally distributed a photograph of a classified military aircraft being tested at the base, so I would rather we didn't host such photos at all. Pictures of the base from outer space taken by satellites is something that I think isn't an issue, since most of them are actually distributed by the US government itself (i.e. NASA). I will think about the issue this weekend and may nominate some images for deletion on the Commons on Sunday. I'm interested in pinging Jakec, the editor who first brought the issue to our attention, for their thoughts. Mz7 (talk) 13:18, 9 September 2016 (UTC)

WP:OFFICE protection for terms of use verbiage[edit]

Hello, please see User_talk:Mpaulson_(WMF)#Terms_of_Use_notice. — xaosflux Talk 02:52, 9 September 2016 (UTC)

Prerequisites for viewing deleted content[edit]

I assume this is the right place (also asking Kbrown (WMF), since I don't know who is on "clinic duty"). At Wikipedia talk:Arbitration Committee/CheckUser and Oversight/2016 CUOS appointments#Must be an admin? the question has come up whether users with access to deleted content (which Oversighters and CheckUsers do on this project, per Special:ListGroupRights) need to pass a Wikipedia:Requests for adminship to receive such access. This has been stated here and here a fair amount of time ago but isn't documented anywhere. Thus I'd like to ask whether:

  1. Whether it's still true that such a policy exist.
  2. Whether a community consultation would satisfy such a requirement, rather than a RfA proper.
  3. That if such policies exist, they be documented somewhere on the Meta wiki - there are a few other projects where such considerations are relevant.

Thanks in advance, Jo-Jo Eumerus (talk, contributions) 17:41, 9 September 2016 (UTC)

@Jalexander-WMF, Kbrown (WMF), and Jrogers (WMF):, since I picked the wrong template. Jo-Jo Eumerus (talk, contributions) 17:42, 9 September 2016 (UTC)
Hi @Jo-Jo Eumerus:, this has come up as a question occasionally and overall we're ok with non-admins being appointed by arbcom to CU/OS in the current system. The important part here is a good method of vetting and in this case we feel that happens both in the feedback garnered from the community and the arbcom's own election process where they become representatives of the community in this regard. This is also reflected in the Checkuser and Oversight policies on meta which is why they allow selection to be done either by a community election (with 70-80% support including at least 25 supporters) or by Arbitration Committees "whose members have been elected with the support of at least 25-30 members of the local community" . (cite). Jalexander--WMF 02:46, 10 September 2016 (UTC)
Thanks, Jalexander-WMF. Can this be documented somewhere on the Meta wiki, so that it doesn't keep coming up? Also notifying @Rschen7754 and Ajraddatz: as they commented on the question in the other discussion. Jo-Jo Eumerus (talk, contributions) 09:48, 10 September 2016 (UTC)
Also helpful would be an explanation as to why viewing deleted content requires a good method of vetting. --Guy Macon (talk) 15:28, 10 September 2016 (UTC)
WMF legal has predicted that a community vetting process of some kind will prevent a certain percent of legal complaints related to admins+. I'm not sure if I am comfortable with that logic myself; surely if they wanted to reduce complaints about admins, the answer is to make them less anonymous and have a more in-depth review process rather than just make them one-time elected by the community. -- Ajraddatz (talk) 16:20, 10 September 2016 (UTC)
This is a bit of a departure from past WMF statements, i.e. those made by Philippe - does this reflect a change of policy? --Rschen7754 16:59, 10 September 2016 (UTC)
I don't think that this is a departure from Philippe's previous comments, or from anything that the WMF has told us during the last decade. There must be community vetting in some form. It need not be the exact method used at this particular wiki (e.g., it can equally be the method used by the German Wikipedia or by or any number of other wikis), but there must be some form of community vetting that determines whether that local community trusts and accepts that person. What makes you think that this is a new idea? WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:24, 10 September 2016 (UTC)
@WhatamIdoing: virtually every other comment Philippe has made on the matter, including: [1], [2]. --Rschen7754 23:46, 10 September 2016 (UTC)
I would agree that it is a departure, from for example (in Rschen7754's first link), I apologize to the committee and the community for not doing that earlier, and want to express my apologies to any non-admins who may have applied for this permission this time or in the past, when the Foundation really should have stepped in to prevent that. Where Phillipe effectively apologized for not making it clear that one had to be an admin in order to be a functionary. Now James is saying that a community process with 75% support of at least 25 people or an arbitration process (where the members were elected by at least 25 people) is RfA-identical-enough process for a non-admin to be a functionary. Noting that on en.wikipedia we do not use a community election process, we use an arbitration appointment process, with a community consultation. Yes, this does seem to be a departure from past statements. --kelapstick(bainuu) 00:26, 11 September 2016 (UTC)
...though it finally brings WMF staff perspective in-line with global policies approved by the Board and community. As such, I think they are to be commended for their change of opinion. -- Ajraddatz (talk) 00:54, 11 September 2016 (UTC)
I have always interpreted Philippe's statement that an RFA or an RFA-like process as meaning adminship itself is not strictly necessary, so long as access was granted through an RFA-like process. I cannot think of any possible interpretation of phrases such as "or an RFA-like process" that mean "must have been exactly RFA itself, and nothing similar is good enough". (The apology was specific to the confusion around the single process in question, which is not sufficiently RFA-like. It was not an apology about all non-admins applying through all processes everywhere.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 09:23, 11 September 2016 (UTC)



Do you know if this warning by Philippe should also be applied to other languages (e.g. ptwiki)? Helder 01:17, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

FYI, the much bigger 'warning' is at Template:Editnotices/Page/MediaWiki:Wikimedia-copyrightwarning. — xaosflux Talk 03:04, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
Hello, Helder and xaosflux. :) It certainly wouldn't hurt - anything we can do to prevent people inadvertently changing the copyright notice to introduce errors or ambiguities can protect the movement, our reusers and our contributors. We've seen some communities that have added variations that have caused unfortunate problems. :) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 12:46, 23 September 2016 (UTC)
Ok, thanks!
BTW: is there any problem in linking to the translation which is at instead of the (official?) English version which is at Helder 15:39, 23 September 2016 (UTC)
I do not know of any, Helder, but I will double check with legal. :) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 18:13, 25 September 2016 (UTC)
@Helder: There is no problem linking to a translation of the summary of the license (and doing so is a good idea!). Be sure that it's a translation of the unported license summary, though, and not a version of the license that has been ported to a particular jurisdiction. –CRoslof (WMF) (talk) 23:28, 28 September 2016 (UTC)
Oh, right! It is all good then. Thanks for clarifying! Helder 01:48, 29 September 2016 (UTC)