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02 February 2010, 17:20

UK museums open up to Wikimedia

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Britain Loves Wikipedia The Britain Loves Wikipedia scheme will see UK museums and galleries opening up to the free online encyclopaedia. Throughout February, volunteer authors can take part in special tours to document artworks and natural treasures at a total of 20 institutions.

The scheme allows photographs to be taken for Wikipedia which would otherwise not be permitted. Staff at Manchester Museum, for example, will be fetching exhibits from showcases and archives to allow them to be better documented by volunteer Wikipedia photographers. The museum hope that the scheme will act as free advertising for their exhibitions. In return, Wikimedia will get free photographs for Wikimedia Commons, a multimedia archive which now encompasses more than six million files.

In August 2009, the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London threatened legal action because a British Wikipedia user had downloaded every image of the gallery's collection from the NPG website and uploaded them to Wikimedia Commons without permission. The dispute is not entirely resolved – in response to an enquiry from The H's associates at heise Open, a museum spokesperson stated that "We had a constructive discussion in December and are now considering how best to come to an agreement." Copyright regulations for historical artworks vary widely between countries – under UK law, museums and galleries are granted copyright to scans of historical works.

The Wikimedia Foundation has also recently announced a partnership with Spanish telecoms company Telefónica. The company wants to include Wikimedia content in its own products and, in conjunction with the foundation, explore new ways of better integrating content on mobile devices. In return, the company will receive privileged access to Wikimedia servers and be permitted to use Wikimedia trademarks, but will not have any control over content.

The scale of the company's investment in the project has not been revealed. According to Wikimedia's current budget, the foundation this year hopes to raise a total of $1.3 million from this kind of partnership. Wikimedia last year concluded a similar agreement with French mobile phone operator Orange.

(Torsten Kleinz)


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