Mar 25
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Oil price jumps as Rita heads to refineries

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Oil, natural gas, and gasoline futures prices are all rising in anticipation of the Hurricane Rita landfall on Friday. The market price for crude oil is rising about 1% a day, while gasoline futures rose 5% both Wednesday and Thursday. Natural gas prices are also rising, with NYMEX Henry Hub price index showing an increase of over 3.5% on Thursday. Oil refineries in the path of the storm, despite the pressure exerted by rising oil prices, are expected to increase their prices which in turn will be reflected at the pump.

The price for crude oil is expected to reach US$68 a barrel after reaching the all-time high in the U.S. at $70.85 on Aug 30, in fear of the landing of Rita along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Along the Texas gulf coastline, whose key U.S. oil production facilities were largely untouched by the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina onslaught three weeks ago, production and distribution facilities have been battened down.

Rita was downgraded to a Category 3 storm Friday as it neared the coast. The storm, packing sustained winds of 125 mph, appears headed for the border between Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane force winds extend up to 60 miles from the center, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm, currently, is the third-most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, just behind Gilbert in 1988 and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane.

Regions of Texas near where the storm is expected to land is home to the biggest concentration of U.S. oil refineries, accounting for 26 percent of the nation’s total capacity. After Katrina made its landfall in Louisiana last month, four damaged refineries in Mississippi and Louisiana were shut down, crippling 5 percent of the US capacity. Eighteen of the 26 refineries in Texas are located on the Gulf of Mexico with a combined distillation capacity of 4 million barrels daily.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for the Texas coastline, including Galveston, where the nation’s largest oil refinery belonging to Exxon Mobil Corp. is located.

“Some of those refineries in Texas, they’re at sea level. It’s a table top, it floods very easily, said Ed Silliere, vice president of risk management at Energy Merchant LLC in New York.

Plants have shut down as Rita advances. Shell Oil shut down its seventh-largest refinery in Deer Park, Texas. There is no date set for resuming production. Conoco Philips is shutting its Old Ocean, Texas, refinery. BP is pulling some workers from its Texas refinery and shutting parts of the fourth largest plants in US. Valero, the largest U.S. refiner, said it is closing its plants in Texas City and Houston, with the shutdown to be completed by midday Thursday.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed at its meeting in Vienna on Tuesday to effectively suspend its quota system for the first time since 1991 Gulf War to relieve the rising oil price by pumping an estimated additional 2 million barrels of oil a day, which will begin at Oct 1 and last for 3 months.

The head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (the statistical and analytical wing of the U.S. Department of Energy), Guy Caruso, criticized OPEC for constraining production to keep prices high after the 11-member oil cartel pledged to make available the additional 2 million barrels daily.

“Without question,” Caruso said Wednesday when asked during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing whether OPEC has contributed to soaring oil prices, “OPEC policy has been to constrain production and collude… Under the FTC definition of collusion and price-fixing, yes.”

According to OPEC, 62 percent in U.K., and 24 percent of fuel prices in the U.S. consist of taxes. Consuming nations have a responsibility to invest in refineries and to lower taxes if they want lower fuel prices, OPEC President Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah said. He is the oil minister of Kuwait.

Mar 25
Category:United States Geological Survey
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Category:United States Geological Survey

This is the category for the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a federal scientific agency of the US Government that studies landscape, natural resources, and natural hazards.

In most cases it is NOT sufficient, for inclusion in this category, that an article cite USGS for the magnitude of an earthquake. That’s routine statistics-gathering for USGS, and probably applies to a large fraction of all articles in Category:Earthquakes, so automatic inclusion of all such articles here would dilute the category, making it less useful for finding articles of particular relevance to USGS.

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Mar 24
Bomb blast kills at least eleven in Pakistan, over twenty wounded
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Bomb blast kills at least eleven in Pakistan, over twenty wounded

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pakistani police said today that a suicide car bombing has killed at least eleven people and wounded more than twenty others, in the latest attack in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Officials reported that the bomber set off the explosives at a police checkpoint, and added that two police officers are among the dead.

“At least eleven people have been killed and 26 others wounded,” said Sahibzada Anis, the Peshawar district administration chief, to the Agence France-Presse news agency.

According to the man in charge of the checkpoint, Malik Jehangir, he noticed a black car across the barrier and asked security officers to check it. “I saw that there was some argument between the driver and the policeman and suddenly a blast downed me with shrapnel piercing my shoulder,” he said, as quoted by Al Jazeera.

The bombing came a day after a suicide bomber struck the Peshawar office of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, killing ten people. That blast caused a large portion of the three-story ISI building to collapse.

Mar 23
Hidden treasure worth billions of dollars discovered in Indian temple
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Hidden treasure worth billions of dollars discovered in Indian temple

Monday, July 4, 2011

Officials announced that a treasure containing sacks of diamonds and gold coins as well as golden idols, jewelry and other riches has been discovered in the secret subterranean vaults of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, in the southwestern state of Kerala, India. Estimates of its worth have been rising and it is now thought to be worth US$20 billion.

The Hindu temple was built in the 16th century by the kings of the then Kingdom of Travancore to serve as a royal chapel for the rulers of Travancore. The six vaults containing the treasure have been undisturbed for over a century. Assessment of the treasure began on June 27 after a lawyer concerned about the security of the treasure petitioned India’s Supreme Court, which then appointed a seven-member panel of experts to inventory the treasure. The panel does not have the power to determine to whom the treasure will belong. Estimates of the treasure’s worth are rising, provoking a heated debate as to how the treasure will be used in a country that has 450 million poverty-stricken people.

The chief minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, announced on Sunday the treasure would remain with the temple, and security matters would be decided in consultation with the Travancore Royal Family, the temple management, and the temple priest.

The gold was offered to the lord. It is the property of the temple.

“The gold was offered to the lord. It is the property of the temple. The government will protect the wealth at the temple,” Oommen Chandy said. Meanwhile, hundreds of armed police have been deployed around the temple to protect the treasure.

However, the view that the treasure should remain at the temple has been disputed. Among the dissenters is eminent jurist V R Krishna Iyer, who said the treasure should be put in a national trust for the peoples’ benefit. “God’s wealth belongs to the people, not to the king. It’s meaningless to say that it belongs to Hindus or any particular religious community,” said Iyer. “A mechanism should be devised to ensure that the benefits of it reach the poor and the needy and not the rich.”

Five of the six vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple have been inventoried.

God’s wealth belongs to the people, not to the king. It’s meaningless to say that it belongs to Hindus or any particular religious community.

On Saturday, reports leaked to the press revealed that the treasure, including a golden idol of Mahavishnu and a golden ‘anki’, were found in one of the vaults, estimated to weigh 30 kilograms, along with precious stones, silver, two coconut shells of pure gold and another golden idol as well as other jewels and valuable coins. The panel hopes to find more treasure when the sixth and final vault is opened, but the attempt was suspended on Monday because the iron door inside presented “technical problems” requiring further consultation before opening. This vault is thought to contain the bulk of the wealth.

Keralan officials in a preliminary estimate said that the treasure was worth over US$11.2 billion; those estimates have now risen to US$20 billion. Historians say that the temple’s location on a site through which passed lucrative trade routes support the higher evaluations.

“Traders, who used to come from other parts of the country and abroad for buying spices and other commodities, used to make handsome offerings to the deity for not only his blessings but also to please the then rulers,” said P.J. Cherian, the director of Kerala Council for Historic Research

Some suggest that the profit from the sale of the treasure would be enough to wipe out the entire public debt of Kerala and fund future Kerala projects such as seaports, airports and highways.

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Mar 23
Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal delayed further
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Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal delayed further
Buffalo, N.Y. Hotel Proposal Controversy
Recent Developments
  • “120 year-old documents threaten development on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, November 21, 2006
  • “Proposal for Buffalo, N.Y. hotel reportedly dead: parcels for sale “by owner”” — Wikinews, November 16, 2006
  • “Contract to buy properties on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal extended” — Wikinews, October 2, 2006
  • “Court date “as needed” for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, August 14, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal rescheduled” — Wikinews, July 26, 2006
  • “Elmwood Village Hotel proposal in Buffalo, N.Y. withdrawn” — Wikinews, July 13, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal delayed” — Wikinews, June 2, 2006
Original Story
  • “Hotel development proposal could displace Buffalo, NY business owners” — Wikinews, February 17, 2006

Friday, March 10, 2006

Buffalo, New York —The Common Council of Buffalo voted on Tuesday to send the Elmwood Village Hotel proposal “to committee for further discussion”, after citing the need for more public involvement.

The Elmwood Village Hotel is a development proposal by the Savarino Construction Services Corporation, a project designed by the architect Karl Frizlen of The Frizlen Group. The hotel would be placed on the southeast corner of Elmwood and Forest Avenues in Buffalo.

To make way for the project, at least five buildings located at 1109 to 1121 Elmwood Ave would be demolished. At least two properties on Forest Avenue could also be demolished. The Elmwood properties, according to Eva Hassett, Vice President of Savarion Construction, are “under contract”, but it is unclear if Savarino Construction actually owns the Elmwood properties. Hans Mobius, a former mayorial candidate, is still believed to be the current owner the properties. Mobius also owns 607 Forest Avenue.

The properties 605 and 607 Forest Avenue could also be included in the proposal according to Hassett.

“We would use a Special Development Plan to rezone 1119-1121 Elmwood and 605 Forest to a C-2 zoning category,” stated Hassett. It is possible that Savarino Construction may try to obtain a variance for 605 Forest, which would allow them to enforce eminent domain, should the hotel be allowed to go forward.

The building at 607 Forest was also discussed to be rezoned, but it is unclear what the plans would be for that property. During the February 28 Common Council meeting, Hassett stated that the properties 605 and 607 were “now off the agenda”.

Pano Georgiadis, owner of Pano’s Restaurant at 1081 Elmwood, owns the property at 605 Forest and attended Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.

“Having a hotel is a bright idea. We all love the idea of a hotel, but the way that it is presented, is wishful thinking. This hotel does not fit. It’s like putting two gallons of water in a gallon jug, it does not fit. At the last meeting, the architect admitted that they are planning to put the undergound parking lot and the hotel, right at the property line. If I open my window, I will be able to touch the wall, that goes fifty feet high”, said Georgiadis.

“There is a problem having a seventy-two room hotel and fifty-five parking spaces. That means that all the other cars will spill all over the neighborhood. The footprint is simply too small. If you have a bigger [parking] lot, and a smaller hotel, I will welcome a hotel. I have a parking lot at my own business, and I am chasing people all day long. Remember, the city says it has ‘zero tolerance [for illegal parking]’. Try telling that to the guy from Albany who came to see his kids, that are going to Buffalo State, who would get tickets totaling over a hundred dollars”, added Georgiadis.

The city’s Planning Board is scheduled to meet on March 14, 2006 at 9:00 a.m. about the proposal. Although a discussion will take place, no vote is expected to be taken.

At the moment, none of the properties are zoned for a hotel. Savarino Construction plans on asking for a C2 zoning permit. If that does not work, they plan to implement a new zoning plan called a “special development plan” which would allow for only a hotel on the site. That zone would not be able to be changed.

“This [project] justifies Mobius’s refusal to invest in any maitenance[sic] or improvements”, on the properties said Clarence Carnahan, a local resident. “Where were the Council persons over the years? Where were the city inspectors over the years, to make sure that he maintained and improved his properties? The government was supposed to be protecting, not being preditorial. I see a predatorial issue here when it comes to this hotel. Over the years: Why has the local government been disfunctional when it came to Mobius’s properties? Refusal to invest in improvements, doesn’t that sound like a slumlord? Maybe I am missing a point here, but what kind of messages does this send to other slumlords that havn’t[sic] been jailed or fined? It’s [the hotel] trying to be pushed through.”

Carnahan also presented signs for residents and or business owners who are opposed to the hotel, that could be placed in windows or on stakes in the yard. Some of the signs said, ‘No tell hotel’, ‘Hans off, no hotel’, ‘It takes more than a hotel to make a village’. and ‘Keep Elmwood free, no hotel’. Carnahan plans on making more signs for a protest to be held on Saturday March 18, at 2:00 p.m. (EST) on Elmwood and Forest. Some signs were given to individuals after the meeting.

“First things first, Hans is the problem, and I don’t think it has been addressed. Let’s roll back the clock on this project. What can we do with Hans? There is such thing as eminent domain, which could be of greater interest to the community, to seize the property at its lowest assessed value”, said Nancy Pollina, co-owner of Don Apparel with Patty Morris at 1119 Elmwood. “There are so many ideas that have not been explored and we are about to give this parcel away, to a big developer.”

Mobius has not returned any calls by Wikinews regarding the situation.

A freelance journalist writing for Wikinews has obtained a letter, exclusively, addressed to one of the five business owners from Hans Mobius stating:

There is a proposal to develop my property which you are currently renting. Because of opposition to this development, it does not look like it will happen. I will let you know if there any changes.

Despite the letter, there have been no plans or decisions made to end the proposal.

To date, none of the business owners or residents of 1119-1121 Elmwood have received an eviction notice.

Business owners and residents gave an indication of what they would like to see happen at the corner; a project similar to one done locally last year. There, developers renovated two buildings on Auburn and Elmwood Avenues, merging the buildings into one thus allowing for more shop space. Among some of the shops to move in after the development were Cone Five Pottery, The Ruby Slipper, and Abraham’s Jewelers. Prior to the renovation work, the left building in the picture was boarded up for several years. Many of the concerned locals would like to see a similar development on Forest and Elmwood.

Rocco Termini, a developer in Buffalo, proposed a similar design at the February 28 community meeting

In an interview after the February 28 meeting, Termini stated, “I will be willing to take a look at this myself, or I would be more than happy to be partners with Sam, Sam Savarino”, who is President and Chief Executive Officer of Savarino Construction Services Corp.

So far Savarino Construction has no plans to team up with Termini.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »
Mar 22
Venezuela provides discounted heating oil to Massachusetts
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Venezuela provides discounted heating oil to Massachusetts

Friday, November 25, 2005

Venezuela will provide heating oil at a 40% discount to low income families in Massachusetts this winter. According to an agreement signed on Tuesday Citgo, the Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, will provide 12 million gallons of discounted home heating oil. The oil will be distributed through two nonprofit organizations, Citizens Energy Corp. and the Mass Energy Consumer Alliance.

In August William Delahunt (D-Mass) met President Hugo Chávez in Caracas. The meeting between a member of Congress and a head of state so critical of the White House, sparked negotiations that led to the deal. Mr Delahunt said he was simply trying to smooth strained US-Venezuelan relations while helping low-income people in his home state.

Hugo Chávez says he is leading a Bolivarian Revolution and calls his program an act of justice for poor Americans, whom he says have been neglected by their government. Mr Chávez is one of Latin America’s harshest critics of U.S.-style capitalism, which he calls a major cause of poverty.Venezuela has been selling fuel on preferential terms to countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, extending low-interest loans and accepting partial payment in goods ranging from bananas to sugar.

Critics said Delahunt should not be working so closely with Chávez, an outspoken leftist. Steve Johnson, a Latin American specialist at the conservative oriented Heritage Foundation, said “Meeting with the leader who calls himself a revolutionary populist is not something I’d like my congressman to be doing.”

Representative Delahunt said “This is a humanitarian gesture,” and that his constituents’ needs for heating assistance trump any political points the Chavez administration can score. Asked if he was subverting State Department policy toward Chávez, Mr Delahunt said, “I don’t work for Condoleezza Rice. I don’t report to the State Department. I report to the people who elected me in the state of Massachusetts. I belong to an independent branch of government.”

Over 10 percent of US oil imports come from Venezuela, and while Mr Chávez seeks to diversify his markets, the US remains his leading trade partner.

When the discounted oil arrives early December Citizens Energy will determine suitable recipients with the help of local organizations that serve the poor. 350 local dealers will then distribute three-fourths of the oil to local families.

The remaining quarter will be distributed or sold to homeless shelters, food banks, and low-income housing groups by MassEnergyConsumer Alliance. Larry Chretien, the nonprofit group’s executive director says home heating oil prices are expected to increase by 30 percent to 50 percent this winter because of rising oil prices. The CITGO agreement could help ease the crunch on some families.

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Mar 21
News briefs: February 20, 2014
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News briefs: February 20, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

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Mar 20
Canada’s Astral Media Inc. to aquire Standard Radio
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Canada’s Astral Media Inc. to aquire Standard Radio

Monday, February 26, 2007

Canadian Astral Media Inc. will buy out Standard Radio Inc., which runs many radio stations in Canada. Standard Radio Inc. is the largest privately owned multimedia company in Canada.

Montreal based Astral Media Inc. will buy all of the assets from Standard Radio Inc. for about CAN$1.2-billion. Standard Radio Inc.’s 52 radio stations, and Astral’s 29, will be brought together by Astral Media Inc. This will give Astral 81 radio stations in total. This makes Astral the largest radio operator in Canada of FM and AM radio.

“With the acquisition of Standard Radio, Astral Media will not only be acquiring the best performing radio stations in the country, we will at the same time acquire a company with similar values and culture. said Ian Greenberg, President and CEO of Astral Media.

“Over the past four decades the Slaight family has built a remarkable collection of strong radio brands and has contributed meaningfully in shaping the Canadian radio industry as we know it today. We are delighted with the prospect of welcoming Standard Radio’s employees into our team.”

Gary Slaight, President and CEO of Standard Radio also commented on the deal.

“We are looking forward to becoming a part of the Astral Media family,” said Gary Slaight, President and CEO of Standard Radio. “We are pleased to see our legacy live on with a company such as Astral that has such a strong track record and commitment to its employees and to the Canadian radio and television industries.”

All of Astral’s radio stations are run in Quebec and Atlantic Canada and it also runs various television stations across Canada. Astral also has two french channels that broadcast on Sirius satellite radio Canada.

The company hopes to finalize the deal in or before April.

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Mar 19
When And Why To Hire Roofing Contractors In Idaho Falls

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byAlma Abell

Some issues that may occur with the roof of a home may be handled by the homeowner. But when it comes to the need for serious repairs or a replacement, Roofing Contractors Idaho Falls are the sensible option to complete them. Many different Roofing Contractors in Idaho Falls are available, so it’s important to perform some research in order to find out which one is best suited to fit one’s needs. Of course, you can always start with the advice and recommendations of family and friends, but there’s a lot more to check into to make the right choice.

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Roofing Contractors in Idaho Falls are businesses, and as such, they must professionally conduct the affairs of the companies. Contractors need to be licensed to perform the work. In addition, insurance must be carried by them. You don’t want to hire a contractor that doesn’t have the minimum liability insurance. Accidents can happen, and roofing work is subject to injury. If someone is hurt on your property, you need to be covered from financial responsibility. It is easy to verify this information, so make sure this is done instead of accepting it at face value.

A bonded company is also a good idea. Bonds help to assure that the work will be completed on time and as agreed. If for any reason bonded Roofing Contractors in Idaho Falls cannot finish the repair or replacement of a roof, a bond will make sure that a substitute contractor will be paid to do the job. In order to receive the best possible roofing work, it is helpful to do some asking around about how a contractor conducts business.

You may want to see other sites where the company had performed work in the past. The contractor should also provide you with some references if you ask. Pay attention to any association memberships that are maintained by the company. For instance, those who are members of a roofing trade association or a chamber of commerce are likely to be invested in the community, and as such, these companies seek to maintain an excellent reputation.

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Mar 19
U.K. National Portrait Gallery threatens U.S. citizen with legal action over Wikimedia images
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U.K. National Portrait Gallery threatens U.S. citizen with legal action over Wikimedia images

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The English National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London has threatened on Friday to sue a U.S. citizen, Derrick Coetzee. The legal letter followed claims that he had breached the Gallery’s copyright in several thousand photographs of works of art uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons, a free online media repository.

In a letter from their solicitors sent to Coetzee via electronic mail, the NPG asserted that it holds copyright in the photographs under U.K. law, and demanded that Coetzee provide various undertakings and remove all of the images from the site (referred to in the letter as “the Wikipedia website”).

Wikimedia Commons is a repository of free-to-use media, run by a community of volunteers from around the world, and is a sister project to Wikinews and the encyclopedia Wikipedia. Coetzee, who contributes to the Commons using the account “Dcoetzee”, had uploaded images that are free for public use under United States law, where he and the website are based. However copyright is claimed to exist in the country where the gallery is situated.

The complaint by the NPG is that under UK law, its copyright in the photographs of its portraits is being violated. While the gallery has complained to the Wikimedia Foundation for a number of years, this is the first direct threat of legal action made against an actual uploader of images. In addition to the allegation that Coetzee had violated the NPG’s copyright, they also allege that Coetzee had, by uploading thousands of images in bulk, infringed the NPG’s database right, breached a contract with the NPG; and circumvented a copyright protection mechanism on the NPG’s web site.

The copyright protection mechanism referred to is Zoomify, a product of Zoomify, Inc. of Santa Cruz, California. NPG’s solicitors stated in their letter that “Our client used the Zoomify technology to protect our client’s copyright in the high resolution images.”. Zoomify Inc. states in the Zoomify support documentation that its product is intended to make copying of images “more difficult” by breaking the image into smaller pieces and disabling the option within many web browsers to click and save images, but that they “provide Zoomify as a viewing solution and not an image security system”.

In particular, Zoomify’s website comments that while “many customers — famous museums for example” use Zoomify, in their experience a “general consensus” seems to exist that most museums are concerned with making the images in their galleries accessible to the public, rather than preventing the public from accessing them or making copies; they observe that a desire to prevent high resolution images being distributed would also imply prohibiting the sale of any posters or production of high quality printed material that could be scanned and placed online.

Other actions in the past have come directly from the NPG, rather than via solicitors. For example, several edits have been made directly to the English-language Wikipedia from the IP address 217.207.85.50, one of sixteen such IP addresses assigned to computers at the NPG by its ISP, Easynet.

In the period from August 2005 to July 2006 an individual within the NPG using that IP address acted to remove the use of several Wikimedia Commons pictures from articles in Wikipedia, including removing an image of the Chandos portrait, which the NPG has had in its possession since 1856, from Wikipedia’s biographical article on William Shakespeare.

Other actions included adding notices to the pages for images, and to the text of several articles using those images, such as the following edit to Wikipedia’s article on Catherine of Braganza and to its page for the Wikipedia Commons image of Branwell Brontë‘s portrait of his sisters:

“THIS IMAGE IS BEING USED WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER.”
“This image is copyright material and must not be reproduced in any way without permission of the copyright holder. Under current UK copyright law, there is copyright in skilfully executed photographs of ex-copyright works, such as this painting of Catherine de Braganza.
The original painting belongs to the National Portrait Gallery, London. For copies, and permission to reproduce the image, please contact the Gallery at picturelibrary@npg.org.uk or via our website at www.npg.org.uk”

Other, later, edits, made on the day that NPG’s solicitors contacted Coetzee and drawn to the NPG’s attention by Wikinews, are currently the subject of an internal investigation within the NPG.

Coetzee published the contents of the letter on Saturday July 11, the letter itself being dated the previous day. It had been sent electronically to an email address associated with his Wikimedia Commons user account. The NPG’s solicitors had mailed the letter from an account in the name “Amisquitta”. This account was blocked shortly after by a user with access to the user blocking tool, citing a long standing Wikipedia policy that the making of legal threats and creation of a hostile environment is generally inconsistent with editing access and is an inappropriate means of resolving user disputes.

The policy, initially created on Commons’ sister website in June 2004, is also intended to protect all parties involved in a legal dispute, by ensuring that their legal communications go through proper channels, and not through a wiki that is open to editing by other members of the public. It was originally formulated primarily to address legal action for libel. In October 2004 it was noted that there was “no consensus” whether legal threats related to copyright infringement would be covered but by the end of 2006 the policy had reached a consensus that such threats (as opposed to polite complaints) were not compatible with editing access while a legal matter was unresolved. Commons’ own website states that “[accounts] used primarily to create a hostile environment for another user may be blocked”.

In a further response, Gregory Maxwell, a volunteer administrator on Wikimedia Commons, made a formal request to the editorial community that Coetzee’s access to administrator tools on Commons should be revoked due to the prevailing circumstances. Maxwell noted that Coetzee “[did] not have the technically ability to permanently delete images”, but stated that Coetzee’s potential legal situation created a conflict of interest.

Sixteen minutes after Maxwell’s request, Coetzee’s “administrator” privileges were removed by a user in response to the request. Coetzee retains “administrator” privileges on the English-language Wikipedia, since none of the images exist on Wikipedia’s own website and therefore no conflict of interest exists on that site.

Legally, the central issue upon which the case depends is that copyright laws vary between countries. Under United States case law, where both the website and Coetzee are located, a photograph of a non-copyrighted two-dimensional picture (such as a very old portrait) is not capable of being copyrighted, and it may be freely distributed and used by anyone. Under UK law that point has not yet been decided, and the Gallery’s solicitors state that such photographs could potentially be subject to copyright in that country.

One major legal point upon which a case would hinge, should the NPG proceed to court, is a question of originality. The U.K.’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 defines in ¶ 1(a) that copyright is a right that subsists in “original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works” (emphasis added). The legal concept of originality here involves the simple origination of a work from an author, and does not include the notions of novelty or innovation that is often associated with the non-legal meaning of the word.

Whether an exact photographic reproduction of a work is an original work will be a point at issue. The NPG asserts that an exact photographic reproduction of a copyrighted work in another medium constitutes an original work, and this would be the basis for its action against Coetzee. This view has some support in U.K. case law. The decision of Walter v Lane held that exact transcriptions of speeches by journalists, in shorthand on reporter’s notepads, were original works, and thus copyrightable in themselves. The opinion by Hugh Laddie, Justice Laddie, in his book The Modern Law of Copyright, points out that photographs lie on a continuum, and that photographs can be simple copies, derivative works, or original works:

“[…] it is submitted that a person who makes a photograph merely by placing a drawing or painting on the glass of a photocopying machine and pressing the button gets no copyright at all; but he might get a copyright if he employed skill and labour in assembling the thing to be photocopied, as where he made a montage.”

Various aspects of this continuum have already been explored in the courts. Justice Neuberger, in the decision at Antiquesportfolio.com v Rodney Fitch & Co. held that a photograph of a three-dimensional object would be copyrightable if some exercise of judgement of the photographer in matters of angle, lighting, film speed, and focus were involved. That exercise would create an original work. Justice Oliver similarly held, in Interlego v Tyco Industries, that “[i]t takes great skill, judgement and labour to produce a good copy by painting or to produce an enlarged photograph from a positive print, but no-one would reasonably contend that the copy, painting, or enlargement was an ‘original’ artistic work in which the copier is entitled to claim copyright. Skill, labour or judgement merely in the process of copying cannot confer originality.”.

In 2000 the Museums Copyright Group, a copyright lobbying group, commissioned a report and legal opinion on the implications of the Bridgeman case for the UK, which stated:

“Revenue raised from reproduction fees and licensing is vital to museums to support their primary educational and curatorial objectives. Museums also rely on copyright in photographs of works of art to protect their collections from inaccurate reproduction and captioning… as a matter of principle, a photograph of an artistic work can qualify for copyright protection in English law”. The report concluded by advocating that “museums must continue to lobby” to protect their interests, to prevent inferior quality images of their collections being distributed, and “not least to protect a vital source of income”.

Several people and organizations in the U.K. have been awaiting a test case that directly addresses the issue of copyrightability of exact photographic reproductions of works in other media. The commonly cited legal case Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. found that there is no originality where the aim and the result is a faithful and exact reproduction of the original work. The case was heard twice in New York, once applying UK law and once applying US law. It cited the prior UK case of Interlego v Tyco Industries (1988) in which Lord Oliver stated that “Skill, labour or judgement merely in the process of copying cannot confer originality.”

“What is important about a drawing is what is visually significant and the re-drawing of an existing drawing […] does not make it an original artistic work, however much labour and skill may have gone into the process of reproduction […]”

The Interlego judgement had itself drawn upon another UK case two years earlier, Coca-Cola Go’s Applications, in which the House of Lords drew attention to the “undesirability” of plaintiffs seeking to expand intellectual property law beyond the purpose of its creation in order to create an “undeserving monopoly”. It commented on this, that “To accord an independent artistic copyright to every such reproduction would be to enable the period of artistic copyright in what is, essentially, the same work to be extended indefinitely… ”

The Bridgeman case concluded that whether under UK or US law, such reproductions of copyright-expired material were not capable of being copyrighted.

The unsuccessful plaintiff, Bridgeman Art Library, stated in 2006 in written evidence to the House of Commons Committee on Culture, Media and Sport that it was “looking for a similar test case in the U.K. or Europe to fight which would strengthen our position”.

The National Portrait Gallery is a non-departmental public body based in London England and sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Founded in 1856, it houses a collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people. The gallery contains more than 11,000 portraits and 7,000 light-sensitive works in its Primary Collection, 320,000 in the Reference Collection, over 200,000 pictures and negatives in the Photographs Collection and a library of around 35,000 books and manuscripts. (More on the National Portrait Gallery here)

The gallery’s solicitors are Farrer & Co LLP, of London. Farrer’s clients have notably included the British Royal Family, in a case related to extracts from letters sent by Diana, Princess of Wales which were published in a book by ex-butler Paul Burrell. (In that case, the claim was deemed unlikely to succeed, as the extracts were not likely to be in breach of copyright law.)

Farrer & Co have close ties with industry interest groups related to copyright law. Peter Wienand, Head of Intellectual Property at Farrer & Co., is a member of the Executive body of the Museums Copyright Group, which is chaired by Tom Morgan, Head of Rights and Reproductions at the National Portrait Gallery. The Museums Copyright Group acts as a lobbying organization for “the interests and activities of museums and galleries in the area of [intellectual property rights]”, which reacted strongly against the Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. case.

Wikimedia Commons is a repository of images, media, and other material free for use by anyone in the world. It is operated by a community of 21,000 active volunteers, with specialist rights such as deletion and blocking restricted to around 270 experienced users in the community (known as “administrators”) who are trusted by the community to use them to enact the wishes and policies of the community. Commons is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, a charitable body whose mission is to make available free knowledge and historic and other material which is legally distributable under US law. (More on Commons here)

The legal threat also sparked discussions of moral issues and issues of public policy in several Internet discussion fora, including Slashdot, over the weekend. One major public policy issue relates to how the public domain should be preserved.

Some of the public policy debate over the weekend has echoed earlier opinions presented by Kenneth Hamma, the executive director for Digital Policy at the J. Paul Getty Trust. Writing in D-Lib Magazine in November 2005, Hamma observed:

“Art museums and many other collecting institutions in this country hold a trove of public-domain works of art. These are works whose age precludes continued protection under copyright law. The works are the result of and evidence for human creativity over thousands of years, an activity museums celebrate by their very existence. For reasons that seem too frequently unexamined, many museums erect barriers that contribute to keeping quality images of public domain works out of the hands of the general public, of educators, and of the general milieu of creativity. In restricting access, art museums effectively take a stand against the creativity they otherwise celebrate. This conflict arises as a result of the widely accepted practice of asserting rights in the images that the museums make of the public domain works of art in their collections.”

He also stated:

“This resistance to free and unfettered access may well result from a seemingly well-grounded concern: many museums assume that an important part of their core business is the acquisition and management of rights in art works to maximum return on investment. That might be true in the case of the recording industry, but it should not be true for nonprofit institutions holding public domain art works; it is not even their secondary business. Indeed, restricting access seems all the more inappropriate when measured against a museum’s mission — a responsibility to provide public access. Their charitable, financial, and tax-exempt status demands such. The assertion of rights in public domain works of art — images that at their best closely replicate the values of the original work — differs in almost every way from the rights managed by the recording industry. Because museums and other similar collecting institutions are part of the private nonprofit sector, the obligation to treat assets as held in public trust should replace the for-profit goal. To do otherwise, undermines the very nature of what such institutions were created to do.”

Hamma observed in 2005 that “[w]hile examples of museums chasing down digital image miscreants are rare to non-existent, the expectation that museums might do so has had a stultifying effect on the development of digital image libraries for teaching and research.”

The NPG, which has been taking action with respect to these images since at least 2005, is a public body. It was established by Act of Parliament, the current Act being the Museums and Galleries Act 1992. In that Act, the NPG Board of Trustees is charged with maintaining “a collection of portraits of the most eminent persons in British history, of other works of art relevant to portraiture and of documents relating to those portraits and other works of art”. It also has the tasks of “secur[ing] that the portraits are exhibited to the public” and “generally promot[ing] the public’s enjoyment and understanding of portraiture of British persons and British history through portraiture both by means of the Board’s collection and by such other means as they consider appropriate”.

Several commentators have questioned how the NPG’s statutory goals align with its threat of legal action. Mike Masnick, founder of Techdirt, asked “The people who run the Gallery should be ashamed of themselves. They ought to go back and read their own mission statement[. …] How, exactly, does suing someone for getting those portraits more attention achieve that goal?” (external link Masnick’s). L. Sutherland of Bigmouthmedia asked “As the paintings of the NPG technically belong to the nation, does that mean that they should also belong to anyone that has access to a computer?”

Other public policy debates that have been sparked have included the applicability of U.K. courts, and U.K. law, to the actions of a U.S. citizen, residing in the U.S., uploading files to servers hosted in the U.S.. Two major schools of thought have emerged. Both see the issue as encroachment of one legal system upon another. But they differ as to which system is encroaching. One view is that the free culture movement is attempting to impose the values and laws of the U.S. legal system, including its case law such as Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., upon the rest of the world. Another view is that a U.K. institution is attempting to control, through legal action, the actions of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.

David Gerard, former Press Officer for Wikimedia UK, the U.K. chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, which has been involved with the “Wikipedia Loves Art” contest to create free content photographs of exhibits at the Victoria and Albert Museum, stated on Slashdot that “The NPG actually acknowledges in their letter that the poster’s actions were entirely legal in America, and that they’re making a threat just because they think they can. The Wikimedia community and the WMF are absolutely on the side of these public domain images remaining in the public domain. The NPG will be getting radioactive publicity from this. Imagine the NPG being known to American tourists as somewhere that sues Americans just because it thinks it can.”

Benjamin Crowell, a physics teacher at Fullerton College in California, stated that he had received a letter from the Copyright Officer at the NPG in 2004, with respect to the picture of the portrait of Isaac Newton used in his physics textbooks, that he publishes in the U.S. under a free content copyright licence, to which he had replied with a pointer to Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp..

The Wikimedia Foundation takes a similar stance. Erik Möller, the Deputy Director of the US-based Wikimedia Foundation wrote in 2008 that “we’ve consistently held that faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works which are nothing more than reproductions should be considered public domain for licensing purposes”.

Contacted over the weekend, the NPG issued a statement to Wikinews:

“The National Portrait Gallery is very strongly committed to giving access to its Collection. In the past five years the Gallery has spent around £1 million digitising its Collection to make it widely available for study and enjoyment. We have so far made available on our website more than 60,000 digital images, which have attracted millions of users, and we believe this extensive programme is of great public benefit.
“The Gallery supports Wikipedia in its aim of making knowledge widely available and we would be happy for the site to use our low-resolution images, sufficient for most forms of public access, subject to safeguards. However, in March 2009 over 3000 high-resolution files were appropriated from the National Portrait Gallery website and published on Wikipedia without permission.
“The Gallery is very concerned that potential loss of licensing income from the high-resolution files threatens its ability to reinvest in its digitisation programme and so make further images available. It is one of the Gallery’s primary purposes to make as much of the Collection available as possible for the public to view.
“Digitisation involves huge costs including research, cataloguing, conservation and highly-skilled photography. Images then need to be made available on the Gallery website as part of a structured and authoritative database. To date, Wikipedia has not responded to our requests to discuss the issue and so the National Portrait Gallery has been obliged to issue a lawyer’s letter. The Gallery remains willing to enter into a dialogue with Wikipedia.

In fact, Matthew Bailey, the Gallery’s (then) Assistant Picture Library Manager, had already once been in a similar dialogue. Ryan Kaldari, an amateur photographer from Nashville, Tennessee, who also volunteers at the Wikimedia Commons, states that he was in correspondence with Bailey in October 2006. In that correspondence, according to Kaldari, he and Bailey failed to conclude any arrangement.

Jay Walsh, the Head of Communications for the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts the Commons, called the gallery’s actions “unfortunate” in the Foundation’s statement, issued on Tuesday July 14:

“The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. To that end, we have very productive working relationships with a number of galleries, archives, museums and libraries around the world, who join with us to make their educational materials available to the public.
“The Wikimedia Foundation does not control user behavior, nor have we reviewed every action taken by that user. Nonetheless, it is our general understanding that the user in question has behaved in accordance with our mission, with the general goal of making public domain materials available via our Wikimedia Commons project, and in accordance with applicable law.”

The Foundation added in its statement that as far as it was aware, the NPG had not attempted “constructive dialogue”, and that the volunteer community was presently discussing the matter independently.

In part, the lack of past agreement may have been because of a misunderstanding by the National Portrait Gallery of Commons and Wikipedia’s free content mandate; and of the differences between Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation, the Wikimedia Commons, and the individual volunteer workers who participate on the various projects supported by the Foundation.

Like Coetzee, Ryan Kaldari is a volunteer worker who does not represent Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Commons. (Such representation is impossible. Both Wikipedia and the Commons are endeavours supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, and not organizations in themselves.) Nor, again like Coetzee, does he represent the Wikimedia Foundation.

Kaldari states that he explained the free content mandate to Bailey. Bailey had, according to copies of his messages provided by Kaldari, offered content to Wikipedia (naming as an example the photograph of John Opie‘s 1797 portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft, whose copyright term has since expired) but on condition that it not be free content, but would be subject to restrictions on its distribution that would have made it impossible to use by any of the many organizations that make use of Wikipedia articles and the Commons repository, in the way that their site-wide “usable by anyone” licences ensures.

The proposed restrictions would have also made it impossible to host the images on Wikimedia Commons. The image of the National Portrait Gallery in this article, above, is one such free content image; it was provided and uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licence, and is thus able to be used and republished not only on Wikipedia but also on Wikinews, on other Wikimedia Foundation projects, as well as by anyone in the world, subject to the terms of the GFDL, a license that guarantees attribution is provided to the creators of the image.

As Commons has grown, many other organizations have come to different arrangements with volunteers who work at the Wikimedia Commons and at Wikipedia. For example, in February 2009, fifteen international museums including the Brooklyn Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum established a month-long competition where users were invited to visit in small teams and take high quality photographs of their non-copyright paintings and other exhibits, for upload to Wikimedia Commons and similar websites (with restrictions as to equipment, required in order to conserve the exhibits), as part of the “Wikipedia Loves Art” contest.

Approached for comment by Wikinews, Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, said “It’s pretty clear that these images themselves should be in the public domain. There is a clear public interest in making sure paintings and other works are usable by anyone once their term of copyright expires. This is what US courts have recognised, whatever the situation in UK law.”

The Digital Britain report, issued by the U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media, and Sport in June 2009, stated that “Public cultural institutions like Tate, the Royal Opera House, the RSC, the Film Council and many other museums, libraries, archives and galleries around the country now reach a wider public online.” Culture minster Ben Bradshaw was also approached by Wikinews for comment on the public policy issues surrounding the on-line availability of works in the public domain held in galleries, re-raised by the NPG’s threat of legal action, but had not responded by publication time.

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