Wikimedia Deutschland/Movement Reporting/Conditions for Free Knowledge

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*** This is Wikimedia Deutschland's 2018 midterm report to the Wikimedia Movement, covering the time period from January 1st - June 30th 2018. For the full-year report for 2018 please go to Wikimedia Deutschland Movement Report 2018. ***

Our teams in this field of action work towards creating conditions and environments that are supportive of free and open knowledge being shared by everyone. Here we work with communities and partners in politics, education, culture and science to create change in policy, institutions and people. We enable people in education, science and culture to share their wealth of knowledge, improve policies in their institutions, and connect with each other around our mission. We provide materials, training, dialogue and tools so that institutions and their people can become familiar and comfortable with sharing and opening up. In the political arena, we actively seek to influence policy making and legal frameworks that affect our communities and their ability to co-create free knowledge. Here we partner with allies in Brussels, Berlin and all across Germany and Europe, seeking to improve copyright laws and digital rights.

Highlight: Our Joint Fight for a Better Legal Framework on the Digital Single Market (by Dominik Theis)

Our poster describing our joint fight against (upload) filter.

On July 5, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) rejected the proposal of the Committee on Legal Affairs for an EU Copyright Directive that would have had detrimental effects to internet freedom, access to knowledge, and collaboration online. The day’s achievement was that the proposal will not be rushed straight through to the trilogue, the mediation committee of the EU institutions, without a transparent parliamentary debate. We, along with many other advocates, see too many weak spots in this proposal that endanger our vision for a free and open internet. Opening up the debate again means that we are able to continue suggesting changes to improve the proposal and fight against upload filtering and link-tax.

One of the weak spots in the proposal, for example, is the proposal for upload filtering. WMDE has been on the filtering topic since summer 2016. We want to prevent the internet from becoming a filtered environment by having all content first scanned for possible copyright infringements. Filtering and copyright concerns should not get in the way of free knowledge.

Our activities so far included: Numerous direct talks with politicians and government staff; moderating a background dialog meeting format with partner organizations (Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, FSFE and others); public awareness events, partly together with others like Mozilla, partly our own formats; talks at national conferences such as [ re:publica] and international ones such as RightsCon; publicity items such as interviews for media, press releases and press talks, blog posts and social media activity; we distributed coffee filters with printed info/slogans at a party convention, sent the filters in German and English to all MEPs; informed our 60k+ members by mass mailings; ran a banner on the WP:DE; and engaged our small community of policy-interested Wikimedians in individual ways.

Since the Copyright Directive “Digital Single Market” is a topic that needs to be discussed on the EU-level, of course our Wikimedians in Brussels have played a big role in this whole process. As spokespersons of the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU that unite the European Wikimedia chapters and communities, Dimitar Dimitrov and Anna Mazgal engaged in multitude of activities, events, and dialogues focusing on advocating for better legal frameworks at the European Union level.

In September, after the EU Parliament will have decided on either including individual amendments or drafting a whole new text, the proposal will go into negotiations with the Council of the EU and the EU Commission, into the so-called trilogue. Since that is a legislative procedure which meets under exclusion of the public, now is the last chance for everyone to get involved and participate. For more details, please see our blog post on that topic.

We had planned to clearly identify prejudices and myths around opening content, and to target them with correct information and/or tools at the level where the misunderstandings and uncertainties exist. While we continue to be convinced that such a proactive approach in advocacy holds much promise, the work around this goal had to be delayed. This was due to the need for intensified action around crucial policy-making processes, in particular the drafting of the EU Copyright Directive and the formation of a new coalition-based federal government in Germany. Some work under this goal has moved forward, however: We increased collaboration and information exchange with Wikimedia Foundation and Creative Commons regarding the issue of cease and desist requests related to content on Commons. We were also happy to see the translation of the Attribution Generator tool into Spanish and Portuguese, making it available to potentially 800M new users, generating more than 33k correct license attributions alone in the first half of 2018 (+79% vs. same period in 2017). We also initiated an open dialogue about education in an open digital society as part of our intiative Open Education Alliance, as described in detail below.

Highlight: An Open Dialogue about Education in a Open Digital Society - Forum Open:Education (by Dominik Theis)

On June 6, our policy network, the Open Education Alliance, along with edulabs, organized an Open Education Fair and a parliamentary evening on open and contemporary education and the potential of the digital transformation of education. The so-called Forum Open:Education was supposed to foster the debate on teaching and learning in modern times and deepened the exchange between civil society, educational practice and policy-makers with new and exciting ideas.

Representatives of the German Parliament Marja-Liisa Völlers, Tankred Schipanski, and Gabriele Lonz from the Ministry of Education of Rhineland-Palatinate entered into a dialogue with teachers and volunteers from the field of open education. For the open education community in Germany, Markus Neuschäfer (Open Knowledge Foundation Germany) spoke about their ideas of open education and their demands directed to politics. Of particular importance was the question how education can succeed for an open, digital society.

Together with edulabs, the Alliance for Free Education organized an Open Education Fair, a fair for free education, and a parliamentary evening including a panel discussion on open and contemporary education and the potential of the digital transformation of education.

This forum was a starting point for the open education community in Germany to increasingly engage in a dialogue with policy-makers on the topic of open education. Now, it will be crucial to continue this dialogue publicly and to advocate actively for the implementation of the demands.

For Wikimedia Deutschland, the Open Education Alliance continues to be important for cultivating and maintaining exchanges with decision makers at the national and regional level such as the Forum Open:Education. Which is why we will continue the work within the alliance to issue joint political recommendations. We look forward to continuing on this path together with our members, allies and policy-makers.


We assure that the most impactful prejudices around open content receive tailored rebuttals that reach those at the center of the misunderstandings. This leads to a less negative attitude among the targeted multipliers, as evidenced by pre/post documentation of changes in messaging, improved policies, followed by qualitative analysis of efforts.

Outcome (Q2):

Work on this objective was deprioritized because resources shifted towards the ongoing fight around the European copyright directive.


We create new and improved tools for the correct handling of rights and regulations around attribution, public domain, and general personality rights. These contribute to a decrease in uncertainty when operating with open content, as evidenced by a significant demand for the tools by the relevant groups.

Outcome (Q2):

Preparations for a flow chart regarding rights to publish digitized content by GLAM institutions are nearly finished (layout & distribution in Q3)

Revision of the ABC of Openness publication nearly completed

On track
Poster of our public event at the WMDE General Assembly in Karlsruhe on the issue of art ownership in our contemporary world.
Poster of our public event at the WMDE General Assembly in Karlsruhe on the issue of art ownership in our contemporary world.

Our policy teams have been working on establishing contacts with policy makers at the federal level, which was delayed by the lengthy formation of the German government. We still have to determine which are the best strategies and routes to affect changes in laws and policies on public works and photographic works. We have been reaching out to new allies around these issues. Finally, our success in working at the EU level around public domain works will be a crucial determinator on how legislation in Germany is shaped.

Much also hinges upon the final outcome of the Reiss-Engelhorn case, which is expected to be heard before the highest federal court in October of this year. Here Wikimedia Deutschland is fighting for the rights of Wikimedians and others to publish their photos of public domain art under an open license on Commons. The decision will set a crucial precedent and guide future legislation on this issue.


The legal committee of the German Parliament actively deals with adjustments to the rules around public works and digital versions of works in the public domain, as evidenced by staff drafts.

Outcome (Q2):

Established working contacts with almost all relevant national level decision-makers.

Assured the inclusion of a compromise proposal regarding “safeguarding the public domain” (see also: case of the Reiss-Engelhorn museum) in the draft EU Copyright Directive. If approved, it will be guiding for national law-making.

On track

New alliances with partners (including trade associations and public entities) are formed for this initiative, we identify joint positions and start publicly visible activities.

Outcome (Q2):

Alliances with new partners are especially needed to strengthen efforts around public works. First conversations with potential allies in this area have started (e.g. with trade associations).

On track

Work on this goal has likewise been determined by the pace of EU Copyright Directive in Brussels, and the slow process of forming a German government. In general, we are fighting against the establishment of property rights on data, to assure that people active in sharing open knowledge can still use non-personal data sets.

We were successful in so far as text and data mining is now addressed in the draft EU Copyright Directive. The Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU also provided input to the consultation on the EU Database Directive, and provided statements at a variety of meetings and public discussions in Germany.  Even though there is a joint understanding among the general public and expert communities that data cannot be owned, some political and economic players continue using the term data ownership. It is becoming clearer that our best chance of preventing data being seen as property is a redirection of the discussion. We will try to focus the dialogue on the social responsibility of the data-driven economy in order to avert this nonsensical and harmful reinterpretation of data protection.


EU institutions work on abolishing the sui-generis database (makers’) right or restructuring it into a register-based right, as evidenced by related EU Commission documents.

Outcome (Q2):

Successful placement of the ‘register-based right’ concept on various levels, e.g. in direct conversations with DG Connect's data unit, which is in the lead for this topic on EU level.

On track

The needs of free knowledge projects around data mining of non-personal data are appropriately considered in parliamentary committee deliberations, as evidenced by explicit references in committee documents.

Outcome (Q2):

In the context of the EU copyright debate - besides the very problematic mandatory barrier for text and data mining (Art. 3) - an additional, optional regulation (Art 3a) has been brought through the EU Legal Committee, allowing member states to use text and data mining more liberally.

On track

Important sections of the expert communities publicly reject the departure from the approach of informational self-determination (data protection) towards the establishment of property right in data, comparable to intellectual property or ownership of things.

Outcome (Q2):

Expert communities regularly reject ‘property rights in data’ as inappropriate. In exchange with the responsible unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, as well as with foundations and MPs, WMDE clearly articulated opposition to the concept.

On track

Many of our activities with partners in the three fields over the first six months have proven that institutions are increasingly interested in contributing, and actively engaged in joint activities. Through collaborative ventures with us and other partners, they gain opportunities to show their engagement for free knowledge publicly. Some partners also begin to show their own engagement, such as a new large Open Science program initiative by the Stifterverband (our partner for the Open Science Fellows Program), as well as data ‘donations’ and institutional policy changes. WMDE and its partners are also close to finalizing a contract with the federal culture foundation (Kulturstiftung des Bundes) around jointly scaling and funding the Coding Da Vinci hackathon over a period of four years. This will mean that this large, traditional governmental institution with the mission of funding cultural projects all over Germany will be actively promoting open cultural data, open access and open source coding for the first time.

We do get a sense that there is still much need for guidance, consultation and tools from organizations and institutions. To address this, we conducted workshops, such as the three-day training for the Open Science Fellow Program, supported the first four stations of the 2018 round of GLAM on Tour, and another Wikiversum World Cafe, this time for archival professionals in Bremen.

Also, the topic of Open Educational Resources (OER) has been a very good entry point for working with big, established institutions such as UNESCO or the Association of Chambers of Commerce in Germany. Our team prepared and published a brochure on open educational resources for vocational training programs (see below) with the Association of Chambers of Commerce. According to the definition of the UNESCO, Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation.

Highlight: Opening up vocational training - A guide for digital teaching and learning with Open Educational Resources (OER) (by Christina Rupprecht)

The brochure "Open Educational Resources (OER): A Guide to Digital Teaching and Learning"

"Lifelong learning is becoming increasingly important in the educational biography of adults as it is one of the major chapters/most significant components in the education chain. Besides working population's demand for training and further education keeps growing. Digitally-led training measures are more and more taking place, independent of time and space. In addition, adults continue to learn individually and independently regardless of their age or educational prerequisites/background. Free and open access for all to these education formats makes an important contribution to educational equality in our society. In this context, the new opportunities created by the digital transformation will act as an important bridge to learners and will require greater cooperation from all stakeholders."

This excerpt from the strategy paper of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) points out the importance of vocational training for education and society but also of free and open access through education (formats).

Yet in practice things are different: Learning and teaching are changing in the digital world. Learning becomes increasingly individual, situational and independent from time and place and thus vocational training practices need to adapt too. Vocational training is a very heterogeneous educational sector with a large number of freelance trainers, instructors and teachers. In Germany the majority of teaching material is created by these freelancers or is provided by various chambers and associations such as the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce e. V. (DIHK). In short: Free and open access for all through free content, sharing, co-creation and collaboration remains a bit of wishful thinking.

So how can trainers benefit from these “new opportunities created by the digital transformation” for example by sharing, modifying or updating others' (digital) content without violating copyright? While teachers at schools and universities are increasingly able to access a variety of free and open educational materials, the pool of open content in the field of vocational training makes up a relatively small share. However, OER can - due to their particular characteristics (shareable, modifiable, reusable) - facilitate and even intensify the exchange between the different education sectors: content developed for other educational contexts can easily be adapted and reused for/in vocational training practices.

The brochure "Open Educational Resources (OER): A Guide to Digital Teaching and Learning" is the result of a cooperation between the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce e. V. (DIHK) and Wikimedia Deutschland. The publication is aimed at vocational training instructors and trainers, teachers and lecturers who are interested in using OER in their own teaching practice. It addresses key issues regarding OER and explains principles of copyright and free licenses. This basic information is enriched with an overview of the current status of OER in the vocational training sector, practical tips for finding, using and creating OER as well as references on how to further deepen knowledge on the topic. Almost 1000 copies have been ordered since the publication of the brochure’s print version in January 2018.

The brochure is licensed under Creative Commons License CC-BY SA 4.0 and can be downloaded free of charge from Wikimedia Commons.

Highlight: UNESCO calls for participation: Recommendations on Open Educational Resources (by Christian Friedrich)

Until June 1st 2018, UNESCO invited comments on its first draft recommendation to its member states on Open Educational Resources online. The following briefly introduces Wikimedia Deutschland’s comments.

The UNESCO recommendations are not required to be ratified 1:1 by the member states, but are intended to serve as an instrument that informs the policies of member states (see also the introduction of UNESCO on their various instruments). UNESCO invited individuals and organizations from all over the world to comment on the initial draft of its OER recommendations and to share their perspectives and assessments with UNESCO in order to shape the future development of the recommendations.

Why is it important?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are free-licensed educational materials, meaning that their retention, reuse, revision, remixing, and redistribution are explicitly permitted. And contrary to most other educational materials, which are only available within educational institutions such as schools or colleges, free-licensed OER are usable and customizable as free knowledge for everyone – fundamental values that Wikimedia Deutschland has been promoting for years.

Although UNESCO recommendations are not binding, UNESCO member states are required to regularly report back on the current status of the topic to which a recommendation pertains; concrete guidelines can be found on the UNESCO website. Once the UNESCO recommendations on OER are approved, every member state will also be required to make their current developments in relation to OER transparent and to comment on them. This has the effect of strengthening the general conditions for OER, and thereby for free knowledge. Therefore, it is all the more important to make sure that the measures of the UNESCO OER recommendations are described in clear detail.

How does Wikimedia Deutschland contribute to the design of UNESCO?

Words on a Wall.jpg

We have prepared comments on the UNESCO draft and submitted them online. Here’s an excerpt of our recommendations (each comment is marked with the corresponding chapter number):

I. Definition and Scope

1 We encourage UNESCO to explicitly include not only the term “teaching, learning and research materials” in the definition of OER, but to also acknowledge software and data and possibly even hardware to work on as OER.

3 For them to reach their potential regarding equitable and inclusive access, OER should not only be openly licensed but also distributed in open and editable formats. This fact can and should be pointed to in this section.

II. Aims and Objectives

6 With regards to costs of educational materials, UNESCO is highly encouraged to point out the usefulness of the argument that publicly funded resources should reside in the public domain or should be accessible under an open license.

8 We encourage UNESCO to point out that these global processes of co-creation should not be one-directional (resources from the Global North are adapted in the Global South) but that a multidirectional approach of co-creation is an opportunity to foster diversity in educational contexts all over the world.

III. Areas of action

12(a) UNESCO is encouraged to advise member states to ensure that the handling of OER is firmly integrated into the training of anyone teaching others, including but not limited to, formal teaching and study programs.

12(d) Following up on our recommendation in I., we encourage UNESCO to include Open Software and Hardware in the list of policies to adapt and align.

13 & 15 We propose to add a section addressing potential asymmetries in the creation and the use of resources between the Global North and the Global South in order to highlight this problem.

14 We highly encourage UNESCO to include a recommendation arguing that public funds should lead to publicly available and openly licensed goods and resources.

The full list of our recommendations can be found in the original article which was first published on the WMDE blog on May 31, 2018.

This video (in German) explains the concept of Open Science and is part of Wikimedia Deutschland's initiative to strengthen the idea of free knowledge as scientific institutions, so that more people have free access to and benefit from scientific research.

Our partners in all collaborative projects act publicly as role models. They do this by sharing the free knowledge experience through their communication channels and expert publications

Outcome (Q2):

All but one partner engaged actively in sharing their experiences from our collaborative projects.

Some highlights were:

On track

Ten institutions that already work with Wikimedia Deutschland demonstrate new ways to advocate for free knowledge with our support, thus sustaining their engagement.

Outcome (Q2):

8 collaborating institutions sustained their engagement and demonstrated new ways to advocate for free knowledge


On track

The activities we provide to transfer knowledge and skills to people working in institutions are evaluated as helpful by 80% of participants, and are continuously improved on the basis of the feedback received.

Outcome (Q2):

93% of the participants evaluated the activities as helpful (n=43)

On track

All fellows engaged in the Fellow Program Open Science 2017/18 cycle pass on the newly acquired knowledge about open science and/or the Wikimedia projects to their own or other science institutions.

Outcome (Q2):

After conclusion of the 2nd cycle of our Open Science Fellows Program in June, analysis and reporting has just started.

All fellows engaged actively in sharing their experiences in lectures and workshops (e.g. see here)

On track