Damian Lillard’s amazing shot: will we see it on Wikipedia?

Portland's Damian Lillard. Photo by Mikalan Moiso, licensed CC BY-SA.

Portland’s Damian Lillard. Photo by Mikalan Moiso, licensed CC BY-SA.

Are you a basketball fan? If so, you’ve probably seen the incredible shot Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers just hit, with under one second of playing time remaining, to win the first seven-game series of the NBA 2014 playoffs. But if not, you may find this interesting anyway — I’d like to talk about an important standard Wikipedia applies to including historic video footage. (Here’s a little background if you’re just catching up.)

The NBA, of course, provides amazing and historic footage of this feat (the first video clip below — I’ll come back to the other two in a moment.) But you will never see that footage on Wikipedia articles like 2014 NBA Playoffs, Damian Lillard2013-14 Portland Trail Blazers season, or History of the Portland Trail Blazers.



This may seem strange — after all, this video clip is all over Facebook, Twitter, sports blogs, TV coverage, etc. So why wouldn’t Wikipedia — which aims to document historic events — publish it? The answer is a little complex, but it’s based on very simple principles, and highlights both the value of Wikipedia and its unique approach, and a kind of opportunity Wikipedia offers to all citizens, to help build lasting and independent historical documents.

For starters, the NBA (and its media and sponsorship partners — like almost all big businesses) are sometimes — and selectively — aggressive in defending their copyright. They published that clip under the “Standard YouTube License,” which doesn’t assert any kind of rights for other people to republish it. For instance, if at some point in the future they decide that a news site like Mashable shouldn’t be able to run that clip, all they have to do is file a simple takedown notice. While it’s possible that Mashable would have a legitimate claim on using the file under Fair Use, that would involve lawyers getting called in, and things would start getting very expensive, very time consuming, and — most significantly — very uncertain.

In this case, of course, it’s very unlikely that the NBA, or Taco Bell, or ESPN would move to suppress the video. But Wikipedia’s policies aim to apply to all situations. And it’s hardly uncommon, in modern society, for corporate or government institutions to object to the existence of video footage. So Wikipedia takes a strong stand: except in very limited circumstances, it will only publish media that is in the public domain, or released under a certain set of free licenses.

So if we want this dramatic moment to be placed in its proper historic context, in the most widely read general information resource in human history — Wikipedia — what can be done? That part is pretty simple: the copyright holder of any of the three videos above could choose to release it under a free license, and have it uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and embedded in the relevant Wikipedia article(s). The NBA is unlikely to do so — but how about the two fans who happened to catch the footage on their own? (Shown above.) They might not have the time or the technical know-how to do the whole thing, but no matter — there are plenty of volunteers who’d be happy to help out. (I’m one.) For a highly desirable video clip like this, all they really need to do is:

It would also help a great deal to change the license they’ve chosen for that particular file in their YouTube settings; here’s a video that discusses how to do that.

Of course, if you own the copyright to something like this, and want to do it all yourself, it’s entirely possible — but I can’t cover all the details in one blog post. Let me know in the comments below (or on our contact page) if you’d like to read more on this topic.

Further reading:

About Pete Forsyth

Pete Forsyth is the principal of Wiki Strategies, and a Wikipedia expert. Full bio here: wikistrategies.net/pete-forsyth
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