Interview | Katherine Maher: The Monkey Selfie, Public Domain, Freedom of Panorama, the EU Copyright Directive, Remix Culture, & the 20th Century Black Hole

Katherine Maher, advocate for free and open societies, is the former CEO and Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. Her background is in the field of information and communications technology, and she works at non-profits in the international sector, focusing on the use of technology enabling human rights and international developments. She reflects on the ‘monkey selfie’ and its role to help educate people on the public domain, as well as on the complexity to push issues such as freedom of panorama. Katherine looks at how the EU copyright Directive played out, her early encounter with remix culture, and the difficulty of unlocking contemporary art and the 20th century black hole. She closes off by emphasising the need to make the legalistic copyright debate less daunting for citizens to grasp.

Do you prefer watching our passionate interviewees talking about the 21st-century walls blocking access to culture? Then check out the vlog below.

Video highlights with timestamps:

00:00 Intro

01:42 Katherine talks about Wikimedia’s stance on the ‘monkey selfie’ controversy from a copyright perspective and questions if there wasn’t more behind the photographer’s initial story

04:08 Katherine explains how Wikimedia approach the case from a US perspective, being a US based entity that hosts its content under US jurisdiction

07:08 Katherine reflects on how the ‘monkey selfie’ became an avenue to educate people on the public domain and to move away from the dominant perspective of copyright and IP rights

11:30 Katherine explains the issue of freedom of panorama, with the Eiffel Tower’s light show and the Brussels Atomium as examples, and observes that the EU copyright Directive didn’t turn out as hoped

16:58 Katherine talks about remix culture and shares a particular moment when she felt she hit the copyright wall and realised that something needed to change

21:52 Katherine notes that the opportunities to shape the copyright framework are rare, such as the EU copyright Directive debate, and have a long lasting impact. She is however hopeful to see the free knowledge movement thrive in the decade ahead

26:46 Katherine explains how creators can put their work in the public domain through the use of Creative Commons licences

28:30 Katherine emphasises the important values of sharing and crediting that shape the Creative Commons model

30:51 Katherine highlights how copyright can feel daunting for people due to the overly legalistic nature of the discourse that surrounds it

Picture of Katherine Maher by VGrigas (WMF)Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link