Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Wikipedia's $100 Million Dream 560

Posted by Zonk
from the omg-free-kermit dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Jimmy Wales recently asked the Wikipedia community to suggest useful, 'works that could in theory be purchased and freed' assuming a 'budget of $100 million to purchase copyrights.' He went on to say that he has spoken with a person 'who is potentially in a position to make this happen.' Ideas are being collected at the meta-wiki. Some early suggestions include, satellite imagery, textbooks, scientific journals and photo archives." So how about it? What works would you like to see wikified?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Wikipedia's $100 Million Dream

Comments Filter:
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:24PM (#16539652) Journal
    I think that this [amazon.com] would be a good target as far as literature is concerned. I know that this costs ~$8k on Amazon so the copyrights are probably worth a lot but I think that a lot of these titles are public domain. If they are, I think it would be worth making a proposition in the millions to Penguin for their editions to be made available on the Wiki. I'm a computer scientist so I don't know how realistic this would be. Of course, they could probably host Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org] for free if they wanted.

    As far as educational works go, I'm all for the textbooks. Grade school & high school, of course. But what I'd really like to see is the "Canonical works" of each field. I'm talking about the standard books that are used to teach each major in the United States. They could do a survey of books and then attempt to contact the authors & publishers to work a deal. Some titles I've seen on everyone's shelves are, of course, the Donald Knuth [amazon.com] series and this list [amazon.com] has a lot of standards I recognize just by the covers.

    The most important thing for them to do would to pay lawyers and literature experts to scan the internet for potential authors willing to put out books for free. I've seen some classic computer science books go up like this and I'm sure that if Wikipedia asked for permission to host, they would be able to with mild restrictions. Like the author having the final say on what is kept and removed from the Wiki page. I mean, look at O'Reilly's OpenBook Project [oreilly.com], don't you think they would allow Wikipedia to host that for a tiny one time fee? I'd bet that sales would increase if they even put a link to buy the book. I've heard a lot of authors argue for their books to be put online so that people will feel compelled to buy a hardcopy. Wasn't that the point of Google's textbook preview search?

    Other people they could target is an open invitation to any estates that own the rights of long dead authors to have their ancestor's works published. Dr. Suess, anyone? I mean, how do you license a loved one's works and continually soak up money for them? To me, the work of Disney in this respect is just plain rotten and ruined some good guidelines to release works to the public domain.

    I don't know, I just think that they should spend money over a period of time searching for permission to host books for free or nearly free. I have hope that this is done very very well and augments the OLPC project nicely.
    • by Extide (1002782) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:29PM (#16539700) Homepage
      I'd like to see some stuff like repair manuals for cars, exloded parts drawings, etc. That stuff can be hard to find sometimes, as its always copywrited. How would this work though, if they buy copywrited material is it just OK for them to post it up for free for everyone?
      • by BostonVaulter (867329) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:46PM (#16539880)
        "I'd like to see some stuff like repair manuals for cars, exloded parts drawings, etc. That stuff can be hard to find sometimes, as its always copywrited. How would this work though, if they buy copywrited material is it just OK for them to post it up for free for everyone?" They would be buying the copywrights, not juse a copywrighted work. Once they own the copywrights, then they control the work. So then they can post it up in it's entirety for the rest of the world to enjoy and learn from.
      • by Instine (963303) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:26PM (#16540228)
        These are great ideas (though I don't like the US bias :| ). But! $100M is a lot of money. It'll earn you a lot of annual interest. And academic books become dated quickly. Wouln't it be wize to buy updated copy each year, than as much as you possibly could all at once?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AuMatar (183847)
          No they don't. Calculus hasn't changed much in the past 20 years. Neither has basic college physics. Or chemistry. The really advanced stuff, yes. The bachellors level stuff, not really.
          • by Instine (963303) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:44PM (#16540382)
            You have a pedantic but note worthy point. yes it would be wasteful to do this, annually, for each field, without thought for the relevance of doing so. But to be equally pedantic, I'd disagree about physics. Its has actually changed a great deal, year on year, for as long as I've been paying it attention (20ish years). Even at bachellor level. At least thats the case here. Maths not so much though. You're right enough there. Chemistry likewise.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jahz (831343)

          These are great ideas (though I don't like the US bias :| ). But! $100M is a lot of money. It'll earn you a lot of annual interest. And academic books become dated quickly. Wouln't it be wize to buy updated copy each year, than as much as you possibly could all at once?

          Not really... Yes, academic books are constant being revised, but the information is generally VERY static. The publishers like to reorder chapters, question, etc so that poor university students like me have to purchase "new" versions of th

          • by JoGlo (1000705) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:45PM (#16541332)
            A nice cosy little world we live in. I had thought that Wikpedia was for the world's use, but i see now that I am wrong. By the flavour of the posts above, it is very much an American resource.

            Text books, for instance. Where countries have radically different curriculum at different years, and text books do change from year to year, and from location to location (economics, accounting, history, politics, botany, language, English, geography, medicine, pharmaceuticals, law, for example) ALL vary from year to year and from country to country.

            Reminds me of the story of the very eminent economist who went back to his alma mater for a visit, and saw the current examination papers.

            "Why, these are the self same questions I had to answer when I was here!" he exclaimed.

            "Yes", replied the Dean, "But the answers are completely different!"

            Repair manuals is another area where geographic and periodic differences would render anything of this nature very transient.

            What is the average life of a model of car, or a model of washing machine, for instance. Not very long, if the marketers have any say about it. And not very geographically wide spread, either. In America, do you know what a 2006 Monaro, or Statesman, or even Falcon even look like? No, most of you, except for the car freaks probably say "No", and I'd say the same about your makes and models, too, of course.

            Gutenberg, atlases, ancient literature and history, and just aboiut any material that doesn't impact on our daily lives, with multiple interpretations would be fine for this, but manuals, text books, histories - only if you want to kill Wikpaedia off as an internationally reputable repository of information.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:33PM (#16539752)
      I know that this costs ~$8k on Amazon so the copyrights are probably worth a lot but I think that a lot of these titles are public domain.

      Homer, Virgil, Euripides, Sun Tzu, Chaucer-- yeah, I think a few of those might be off copyright already.

      • by AuMatar (183847) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:38PM (#16539804)
        Don't worry, Disney's trying to fix that.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:42PM (#16540368)
          Set up a holding company to buy shares in Disney and hold proxies for like-minded people who buy shares in Disney. Then change Disney's policies to be U.S. Constitution friendly with respect to copyright. That is, have Disney pay off the politicians to stop extending copyright and instead do the opposite.

          I would guess each year of "copyrighted" works from 1920's on holds a value in excess of $100 Million to society. It is time society got its purchase back (we paid for those copyrights to be enforced for over half a century). Getting the law changed to stop extending copyrights (unconstitutionally) would be a very good return on a $100 million investment.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nanio (937692)
            Well, Disney's market cap is $67+ billion. Kinda hard to buy influence there.
        • by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:10PM (#16541082)
          Which kind of reminds me, instead of purchasing works directly, this could a several magnitudes of an order more free stuff if the guy decides to "purchase" a few key senators and representatives to fix some of that legislation Disney&Co have pushed through over the years.....
      • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:02PM (#16540024) Homepage

        Homer, Virgil, Euripides, Sun Tzu, Chaucer-- yeah, I think a few of those might be off copyright already.

        No, they aren't. The texts of those works derived from manuscripts--in series like the Teubner texts or the Oxford Classical Texts--are often still under copyright, and many translations into English are still copyright. One is either dependent on Victorian-era stuff, or one has to translate the material himself (and distribute only the translation, since the text may be copyright).

        • by tverbeek (457094) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:27PM (#16540236) Homepage
          The most popular English translations of ye olde publishing standbye - The Holy Bible - are covered by copyright in various jurisdictions. The Revised Standard Version and New International Version (two pillars of the modern English market) are both new enough to be under copyright, as are all of the heavily-paraphrased versions (e.g. Living Bible). Even the King James Version is under crown copyright in the UK. The most "modern" translations in the Public Domain are generally deprecated versions such as the (un-Revised) American Standard Version.
      • by Petrushka (815171) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:03PM (#16540040)
        Homer, Virgil, Euripides, Sun Tzu, Chaucer-- yeah, I think a few of those might be off copyright already.

        The translations aren't. For out-of-copyright versions, you still have to go back to versions published a century ago, where the translations are uniformly full of "thou"s and "thee"s and written in bad verse more incomprehensible than the original languages. In fact even modern critical editions of the texts in their original languages are under copyright.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:45PM (#16539872)
      Textbooks is a really great idea. Currently I have to spend a lot of money on course books and I imagine there are lots of people that cant spend this kind of money on books (forexample, someone in africa). So free high-quality "mother of all" "books" in all possible fields/subjects is very important! Some kind of "complete collection of all human knowledge"-webpage. Released on the internet, with space for discussions next to each chapter (where visitors can help eachother understand the subject), wiki-articles on each chapter with FAQ:s, etc, translations done by the community, etc.

      Something else to go with these "books" would be high quality lectures by some of the best lecturers in respective field.

      Free "books" and lectures would allow anyone anywhere, that just have access to the internet, to learn whatever he/she want.

      (Another wish would be to "liberate" all papers ever written and put those on a nice website)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:06PM (#16540068)
      For sure there are plenty works still under copyrights that are almost monetarily worthless, yet have many years to go before falling into the public domain. They will remain where they are as there is no reason for the copyright holder to give them up.

      However..... if a copyright holder is made an offer for a given piece ($1,000, $10,000, whatever) - a very straightfoward commercial decision can be made; One free of copyright religion and politics. "Is the future returns on the copyright of this piece worth less than the offer."

      Someone who has a copyrighted item earning $12.50 per year might easily be swayed to release it into the public domain for $200. Almost *nothing* under copyright is actually earning any real money, and thefore may be liberated with a very modest purse.

      Perhaps if there was a simple online process in place, individuals could seach for their items of choice, pay up and free them.

      Most people that have the cash and some inclination simply don't have the time. If those who have the time could make this process trivial, everyone could win.

      Now please excuse me - I have to RTFA
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ssyladin (458003)

      As far as educational works go, I'm all for the textbooks. Grade school & high school, of course. But what I'd really like to see is the "Canonical works" of each field. I'm talking about the standard books that are used to teach each major in the United States.

      Here here! I'm sick and tired of seeing editions 7 through 15 of the same calculus book, where the only "improvement" are the renumbering of the problems in a section, and maybe a few new ones. This subject matter is so standardized by now that

    • Good idea concerning The Penguin Classic Library, but the thing is, most of the titles in the collection are already 100% free from copyright restrictions, making purchasing the rights to them a foolish endeavor. Dickens? Shakespeare? Plato? That's all public domain stuff, and most of it is already available on Gutenberg. The $7,989.50 that you're charged is literally to defer the costs of printing and shipping to you 1,082 different paperback books.
    • Money over time... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NotQuiteReal (608241)
      I just think that they should spend money over a period of time

      Yes, $100 Million is a vast amount of wealth, which can be made more powerful if spent over time, as I assume any donor would require. I assume we are not looking for a one-time binge of purchases. The idea of spreading out acquisitions over time would prevent "bidding up the market". Philanthropic gestures can be very shrewd. "Free" money needn't be "easy-come-easy-go". If this idea catches on, a popular trust can attract more donations (so d

    • by westlake (615356) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:29PM (#16541208)
      ~$8k on Amazon so the copyrights are probably worth a lot but I think that a lot of these titles are public domain...I'm a computer scientist so I don't know how realistic this would be. Of course, they could probably host Project Gutenberg for free if they wanted.

      There is an old rule of thumb that a classic has to be re-translated and re-introduced in every generation to remain inviting and accesible to the student and general reader. Preserving the original texts is a trival problem in comparison.

      If you know Plato, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare only as assigned English reading you'll recognize the truth of this.

      Dr. Suess, anyone? I mean, how do you license a loved one's works and continually soak up money for them? To me, the work of Disney in this respect is just plain rotten and ruined some good guidelines to release works to the public domain.

      The truths about Disney that the Geek ignores is that the Disney archives remain intact and the Disney product remains accessible and to affordable. You want Bambi in pristine digital restoration? You'll find it at your corner drugstore selling for under $20.

      Bambi was filmed in three-strip technicolor. The matte paintings on glass survive. The pencil tests survive. Steamboat Willie was distributed on unstable nitrate stock with synchronized sound on phonographic disks. Conservation costs money. Restoration costs money.

      The skills required are rare and demanding.

      But you don't need Big Daddy Warbucks to "rescue" Mickey Mouse. The Mouse is still on stage.

  • by jZnat (793348) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:26PM (#16539674) Homepage Journal
    Maybe without that incentive, Disney will stop lobbying for copyright extensions? That way we can actually make use of all this material again.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Have Blue (616)
      I kinda doubt Disney would part with that particular work for any finite amount of money.
  • Book one. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:29PM (#16539696) Homepage
    o/^ Write for us a trilogy, a four- or five-book trilogy... o/^

    I wonder how many people might get drawn into reading sequels if the first book in a series or trilogy were made available for free?
  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quick Sick Nick (822060) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:29PM (#16539698)
    A history of Pornography would be very informative.
  • by Marcion (876801) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:29PM (#16539704) Homepage Journal
    You could generate new works under creative commons licences or other. I would start with a textbook for every subject and then spend the rest on 1000 new novels from every part of the world.
    • by xtal (49134) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:44PM (#16539858)
      Get the rights to the "best of breed" textbooks; I know there are clear favorites in Engineering and Mathematics. From there, use them as the base in wiki format to extend them. A good set of undergraduate texts would do lots of good for the developing world and poor students everywhere. Buying books is EXPENSIVE, and in most engineering related disiplines, a real waste, since the base mathematics has not changed in many years.
      • by polv0 (596583) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:51PM (#16540444)
        Consider the economics of it:

        3,860,567 = Number of 20 year olds (2000 census rough estimate based on 1/5th of 20-24 year olds)
        27% = Percent of population over 25 with a bachelor's degree (2000 census)
        25% = Percent of students taking the most popular/useful classes (estimate)
        50% = Percent of these students using the most popular textbook (estimate)
        5 = Years a textbook edition remains in print (estimate)
        6% = Risk free rate of return (estimate)
        $100 = Average textbook price (estimate)
        20% = McGraw hill net margin (per www.fool.com)

        The textbook company would sell 131,259 textbooks per year, for a net profit of $2,625,186 annually. Given the 5 year life span and 6% risk free rate, the textbook company would be willing to sell a textbook with the above expected sales for no less than $11 million. This means we could purchase roughly 9 of the most popular textbooks for $100 million. May be off by a fair margin, but it's clearly not going to be near 100 textbooks. Seems like there are much better uses of the money.
        • by grahamsz (150076) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:01PM (#16540508) Homepage Journal
          On my EE degree program, a couple of our professors handed out full photocopied sections of the pages we needed to save us from having to buy the books. Since they owned the copyright, they figured it was theirs to do with as they pleased. (Of course those were generally not the same professors that drove sports cars)

          I wouldn't be surprised if you could find academically minded authors who'd take a relatively small payoff and the feeling that they'd done good for the world.
          • by sbaker (47485) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:24PM (#16541994) Homepage
            Paying for things that already exist (even if copyrighted) is a waste. Books full of science can be read, summarised and written about with the existing rights we all have to that material. Paying to release the actual documents is unnecessary.

            Let's pay for something new.

            I'm betting most academics don't earn much over $100,000 a year. Take the $100M and pay the thousand smartest people on the planet to each spend an entire year writing about everything and anything they feel is important for the future of humanity - with the stipulation that every word they write in that year goes immediately into the public domain.

            Think of the qualitative improvement in Wikipedia if we added tens of thousands of new articles by the smartest people in their fields.
        • by simpl3x (238301) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:24PM (#16540678)
          For 12 to 18 million dollars (US) you could create a complete reading program for the K through 6 grade levels, including teaching materials. I have worked on most of the major programs, which are $100M dollar programs. Without actual print products, there would be significant cost savings. For $100M a complete program across Spanish, Chinese, and English could be created. State specific materials could be tied to a subsciption model returning the significant portions of the money over several years. The best kind of philanthropy, profitable!

          An editorial team could be drawn from the very same people who have created the products currently in use. A full, usable set could be accomplished in 18 months or less. The quickest I've seen being 12 months requiring 3 writer/editors, a designer, and a production person per grade.

          n i c h o l a s [at] e d u k 8 . c o m
      • by bitt3n (941736) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:09PM (#16540582)
        the base mathematics has not changed in many years.
        putting the math textbooks on wikipedia would solve that problem rather quickly.
    • by supabeast! (84658) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:20PM (#16540188)
      You could generate new works under creative commons licences or other. I would start with a textbook for every subject and then spend the rest on 1000 new novels from every part of the world.


      Why assume that anything produced under such a scheme would be any good? It makes a lot more sense to buy existing works known to be worth the money than it does to spend it commissioning work that may very well not be worth anything to anyone by the time it's finished.
    • by Propaganda13 (312548) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:29PM (#16540256)
      I've got an idea for a new work that would require vast community input. I call it Rebuild the World project AKA In Case of Disaster. The idea is that you start with nothing (no tools, etc.) and bring the technology level back up to 1940's(or up to current levels). I'm talking everything from simple tools and shelters to finding ore and refining it to making automobiles and radios. The idea is way too big for one person to do.
      • by zytheran (100908) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:26PM (#16540692)
        As an engineer I am increasingly concerned about our loss of basic knowledge that is kept in non-electronic form.
        How many people could actually make a working windmill, water wheel or atmospheric engine to kick start any sort of failed society?
        How did we mine basic ores, make good charcoal and smelt them into metal?
        How did our first carts and harnesses work?
        How does one craft rock by hand?
        What about the basics of farming? Most people in the west now live in cities and have no clue about food production.

        This information needs recording permanently.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:27PM (#16541594)
          I agree generally with your premise (ie, that we are woefully unprepared for any sort of deep technological catastrophe), however it must be understood that knowledge is dynamic and our forms of recording it are not completely effective. For instance, to learn to farm using only primitive methods or to smelt metal requires apprenticeship under experienced persons. These methods were developed over long periods of time and can't be transmitted succinctly or easily in written form. Similarly, various martial arts and certain religious traditions have been transmitted person-to-person through thousands of years because writing systems cannot adequately convey the concepts involved.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by aethera (248722)
        You've basically described my plan to keep myself busy post-retirement. I'd like to start with nothing but some land and some flint and see how far I could get, creating stone tools, creating rope, digging and refining tools for copper and iron implements, cutting and dressing millstones, creating a waterwheel and using it to power a sawmill, etc etc. Basically building furniture and implements along the way as they would have been made with each period's technology. My end goal is to be able to build a sma
      • by bagsc (254194) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:02PM (#16541446) Journal
        1) Assuming the capital (factories, roads, dams, mines, ships, etc) will magically disappear isn't sound. You're assuming something of infinitessimal probability (destruction of all durable goods, but survival of hundreds of millions of humans, and our environment). Also, if all that capital were gone, who could read this project?

        2) Do you know how long it took us to do it the first time? The big problem of building the world isn't the technology - the problem is the shear cost of it all. It took something like 15,000 years to go from good stone tools to steam ships. That also required an increase in population from around 20 million to around 1 billion.

        3) If there were a "post-apocalypse," the cost minimization strategy wouldn't be about knowing about technology, but rather establishing institutions that would enable collective effort. Same reason Africa has modern technology, but the farmers can't afford steel hoes let alone GM crops and combine harvesters.

        If half of the world died, we'd have big problems. But half the coal miners, and half the geneticists and nuclear physicists, and half the politicians would likely survive. The shear numbers of these "specialists" in as large a population as we have on Earth would make the proportion of survivors roughly equal to the proportion of survivors in the general population.

        Additionally, if our national product was cut in half, we'd be living like they did in the 1984. If cut into a quarter, life would regress to 1962. If to one tenth, to 1940. If to one twentieth, 1915. If to 100th, to 1872. Assuming we get back to 1872 means (in general) 1% of our population, and 1% of our capital (assuming technology benefits and lack of new job experience cancel each other out).

        The worst known disease outbreak (smallpox in the Americas) killed about 95% over several centuries. Nuclear warfare between superpowers *might* be able to accomplish the same, but I personally doubt it. If both happened simultaneously and instantaneously, we'd be back to 1839. The amount of destructive effort necessary to take us back to before the Industrial Revolution is mind-bogglingly huge. Getting back to the stone-age is nigh impossible.
    • by mlinksva (1755) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:48PM (#16540874) Homepage Journal
      Strongly agree. Don't give money to the copyright industry. $100m could fund a huge amount of new and improved free culture and free software. Hopefully this would also make old copyrights less valuable and more easily purchased later. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:31PM (#16539714)
    Open content GIS data from around the world. It would make developing the next generation of location aware devices/webpages a reality
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by briancnorton (586947)
      100m is a drop in the bucket for geodata. I have seen plenty of data sets of small areas for $1mil plus. That doesn't go very far.
  • by Zocalo (252965) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:32PM (#16539728) Homepage
    If you are going to make a $100m philanthropic gesture, which I assume this is, then surely you would want to see the largest possible impact for your effort. Remove the copyrights from the books necessary to give the impoverised of the world free access to the materials required for a decent education and I'm sure that those with the necessary skills to translate those works into as many languages as required and teach it to those willing to listen will step forwards as well.
  • by abradsn (542213) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:32PM (#16539734) Homepage

    One book per academic subject.
    One for each kind of math.
    One for each kind of music.
    One for each kind of computer science.
    One for masonry, or automotive, or other trades.
    and so on...

    So, someone can go to the "tutorial" section of wikipedia and learn how to do whatever they would normally need textbooks or college to learn.

    Granted that you could likely only reach an ametuer level this way most of the time, it would be a great starting point for a lot of people into business and hobby.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MagicDude (727944)
      While an interesting idea, you have to wonder how much of these books will be outdated in 10 or 20 years, espically ones relating to rapidly evolving fields like computer science. While I don't want to say that making current events and scientific theories isn't important, one has to wonder whether there are better uses for the money that will be more lasting, like in making literature or music free of copyrights.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:31PM (#16540274)
        you have to wonder how much of these books will be outdated in 10 or 20 years, espically ones relating to rapidly evolving fields like computer science.

        My core computer science texts date back more than ten years. They are still perfectly relevant today. Core subjects in computer science have not changed in ages. Data structures, operating systems, networking, relational databases all go back more than two decades. And they are just as, if not more, relevant today.

        The key is to acquire texts on core concepts. These are things that should hold true forever. You would not want to waste money on Teach Yourself Java in 21 Days. For things like that, someone will write up a tutorial. Instead you would acquire works on the concepts of higher-level languages, virtual machines, design patterns, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BlueItalian (1016784)
      One of the greatest italian poets of all times, Giacomo Leopardi, achieved a perfect command of latin and greek just out of self study. Universities are greatly overestimated as knowledge source, even with the best professors, most of your knowledge always comes from self-study.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:32PM (#16539738)
    Gentlemen, the time to accomplish the long-expressed dream of Slashdot has come!

    With this funding, I believe that we may at long last be able to open-source Natalie Portman.
  • GIS + sat. images (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:34PM (#16539756)
    I would enjoy having access to public domain GIS data. I currently have access to lots of it (generated by the gov't no less) under restrictive licenses through my uni, but I can't do anything public with it without licensing it for commercial use.

    Think of all the nice free applications that could be built and integrated into wikipedia if we had public domain GIS data and sattelite imagery for the entire planet. I guess it will happen in my lifetime as copyrights and whatnot expire, but it would be nice if it was before my 80'th bd. (Fuck you Disney)
  • by v1 (525388) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:37PM (#16539790) Homepage Journal
    A few years ago I took a GPS that kicked out serial positioning data, and a laptop that I had used to suck overhead satellite potography from teraserver, and had a genuine james bond dashboard radar thing. Novelty, but fun anyway to watch the red dot move around on the satellite map and know it's you. Found some places and roads in town that I didn't know existed and that were not on any map.

    I had a hard time finding additional imagery after teraserver sold out. (to MS iirc?) I would like to have even been able to order it, but USGS charges a fortune for their quarter quads and you don't get the high resolution coordinates for each area on the map due to them not being photographed perfectly square. This is something that I would like to see opened up.

    One thing to bear in mind unfortuantely is that this information goes stale. google maps is about 15 years out of date for half my city. So this would have to be renewed occasionally to stay of value.
  • by bdesham (533897) <bdesham@MONETgmail.com minus painter> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:41PM (#16539822) Journal
    While there are plenty of things that could/should be wikified and added to Wikipedia's knowledge base, it would also be nice to help people use the things that are already present.

    Specifically, I'm talking about the open formats upon which Wikimedia insists, and the lack of support for those formats on Mac OS X. Audio must be Vorbis and video Theora, but there isn't any convenient way to play these. Sure there are ports of mplayer and other such tools, but the average OS X user isn't willing to use tools with non-standard UIs and flaky behavior. IMHO there should be an effort to create plugins for Quicktime that allows seamless playback of Vorbis and Theora content with iTunes and/or Quicktime Player. This would include playback on the iPod.

    I cringe every time I see a link to an audio or video file on a Wikimedia site, because I know that in order to view the content I'm going to need to fire up some program other than iTunes if I want to watch it. iTunes is well-designed and feels comfortable, and the third-party media players can't help but feel different—not to mention that it's impossible to play, say Vorbis music and iTS music with the same program.

    The contribution of money towards a Quicktime component—or even to Apple, as that's where iPod changes would have to come from—might not be a frivolous use of a $100 million grant.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BrokenSegue (895288)
      A solution to your troubles is already in the works and thus the money can be safely placed elsewhere. Currently the developers are working on an embedded-media implementation of ogg theora. You can read more about the development effort at media-wiki [wikimedia.org].
    • by fieldmethods (620984) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:59PM (#16539992) Homepage
      Why should Wikimedia invest in extensions to iTunes to support free formats? Apple doesn't _like_ free formats. So what guarantee is there that such extensions would have a shelf life at all?

      Media is a pain in the ass on every platform. Linux users cringe every time they see a Quicktime file, a Flash file, etc, etc, etc.

      Given that state of affairs, it doesn't make sense for an organization that supports freeing information to invest in software from a company that's exacerbating the problem in the first place.
  • Dictionaries (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Laz10 (708792) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:42PM (#16539842)
    English isn't my first language and I often spend good time searching for the right words to translate some term one way or the other.

    Wikipedia could be a great platform to host dictionaries on. Every article/term should have an option to translate the term.
    I know that the feature is half-way there already in the way that you can find the same article in a different language, but that doesn't work that great as a two way dictionary.

    Buy a good base of dictionaries translating criscross between all (ok most of) the languages on wikipedia.
  • by mcelrath (8027) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:45PM (#16539876) Homepage
    First, $100M will buy a lot of lawyers, lobbyists, and bureaucrats. These people should then work with congress to return our copyright system to a reasonable state, with a functioning public domain. If the media on which works are recorded is degraded by the time they enter the public domain, then the public domain does not exist in any functional sense. Buying the works themselves within a broken system is only a short-term band-aid and would only work as long as there is money for it. Entering the public domain should be automatic for any work that is not being sold anymore by the copyright holder, or whose copyright holder has died. But in case the person with money doesn't like lawyers or congress, here are some other ideas:
    1. The Lexis Nexis database
    2. All scientific works ever written. This is work done by scientists for the betterment of mankind and to have it locked away from the public behind electronic library access fees is absurd. The public has a right to academic works, not just academics.
    -- Bob
    • by StupendousMan (69768) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:21PM (#16540202) Homepage
      All scientific works ever written. This is work done by scientists for the betterment of mankind and to have it locked away from the public behind electronic library access fees is absurd. The public has a right to academic works, not just academics.

      When "the public" pays me to referee papers by other astronomers, and "the public" pays the page charges for the papers I write ($110 per page, by the way), and "the public" pays the editors and typesetters of the journals, then "the public" might assert a right to those papers.

      Just to forestall the inevitable responses, no, the federal government is not paying my salary, and no, it hasn't paid for the page charges of my most recent publications. The NSF and NASA do support a great deal of research in astronomy, of course, and grants from those agencies do pay for good fraction of the publications in this area.

      On second thought, almost all recent work in astronomy and physics is freely available to public at the LANL preprint archive site [lanl.gov], so maybe this whole discussion is moot....

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The Lexis Nexis database

      Nice try. But I don't think you're aware of how much Lexis Nexis is worth. It dumps nigh on THREE BILLION /every year/ in revenue to its parent, Reed Elsevier (http://www.reed-elsevier.com/media/pdf/t/2/RE_Int erim_FINAL_27July06.pdf [reed-elsevier.com]) - I suspect they'd get an offer of $100M for copyright to their database and, well, laugh...

  • Bank notes! (Score:5, Funny)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:51PM (#16539916) Journal
    I always wanted to print my own copies. :-)
  • Journals! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by autophile (640621) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:51PM (#16539918)
    I'd like to take all of the IEEE journals and other scientific journals, plus the scientific works from Springer-Verlag, and put them on wiki. Of course, I would also like that to be continuous as well, so that new papers are also freed.

    --Rob

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:55PM (#16539948) Homepage

    How much did it cost Disney to buy the senators and congressmen who voted for the latest copyright extension?

  • by Wills (242929) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:55PM (#16539952)
    I would suggest the money should be used instead to support a powerful well-funded lobbying effort for copyright reform, perhaps helping any number of the existing organisations such as Union for the Public Domain [public-domain.org]. There are many issues - the unnecessarily huge and increasing length of copyright terms, the inaccessibility of orphan works whose copyright owners cannot be traced, questions of balance between just rewards to creators and fair use/dealing for consumers, non-expiry of DRM even after nominal copyright expiration, etc. Spending USD 100m on a number of popular copyrights is very generous, but copyrights can be extremely expensive, and USD 100m is a tiny bit of the total value of all the still current copyrights. Reforming copyright, however, would change the future for all copyright works, something which could be of greater long-term value to society, commerce and industry including the copyright holders.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chabil Ha' (875116)

      I would suggest the money should be used instead to support a powerful well-funded lobbying effort for copyright reform...

      I disagree. While $100 million is no laughable chunk o' change, its effectiveness is somewhat doubtful. Buying the rights to publish copyrighted works for all to use would have the most immediate (and gauranteed) benefit to those not just in the US, but all around the world.

      I think reforming copyright is a futile effort at the present time. This isn't to say that it isn't worth

  • Create a Non-profit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rotenberry (3487) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:56PM (#16539962)
    "Create a non-profit that researches 'orphaned' works for copyright status. A large percentage of works published post-1923 are eligible for public domain status but it requires time and work to track down the copyright holders."

    This suggestion is already in the list, and it is far and away the best suggestion I have seen.

  • by ettlz (639203) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:57PM (#16539970) Journal
    • The Feynman Lectures
    • Weinberg, volumes 1-3
    • Landau and Lifschitz
    • Zinn-Justin
    • Wald
    • Kleinert
    to name but a few.
  • by eclectro (227083) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:58PM (#16539974)
    Our founding fathers never intended for copyrights to last FOREVER as the do now, but for "limited times.' I think a little peace of that 100 million should be used to get copyright abuser enablers out of office. For one, find a another republican (red state Utahns will never vote for a democrat on principle alone) to replace Orrin Hatch PLEASE.

    He was a big sponser of the Copyright Term Extension Act, DMCA, the patriot act II on steroids, FBI carnivore, extended wiretapping, and his office wanted to get the Claritin patent extended because he was using their jet when running for president.

    Anything to get this IP black hole out of office will reap a 10x benifit in the future, and not just for better copyright law.

    Once that is done, get a repeal of the bastard CTEA law (it won't happen while he is in the senate). In fact, bet on a CTEA II to come down the pike to protect that nasty rodent [wikipedia.org]
  • Happy Birthday (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mccalli (323026) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:58PM (#16539984) Homepage
    It's my son's first birthday on Tuesday and I'll be singing Happy Birthday to him. That's a copyrighted song, with royalties payable on public performance I believe.

    Would be a nice touch to put that one into the public domain.

    Cheers,
    Ian
    • Re:Happy Birthday (Score:4, Insightful)

      by slothman32 (629113) * <`moc.rr.retsehcor' `ta' `5oskcajp'> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:40PM (#16540798) Homepage Journal
      I actually wouldn't want it public.
      Same with MLK's speech.
      As both are copywritten they would be a good test of civil disobedience.
      What would people think if you sung a "obviously" public song and got fined or jailed.
      Maybe then people would want more public and less greed.
      Or at least stuff in which the author has passed away, both true I believe, is public.
    • Re:Happy Birthday (Score:5, Interesting)

      by debrain (29228) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:21AM (#16542382) Journal

      It's my son's first birthday on Tuesday and I'll be singing Happy Birthday to him. That's a copyrighted song, with royalties payable on public performance I believe.

      Would be a nice touch to put that one into the public domain.


      I completely disagree. There is no better spokesperson for the absurdity of our copyright laws than example, and this is the best example of absurdity that I can imagine.

      When you tell someone they are infringing on copyright and have to pay royalties for singing Happy Birthday, they clue into the ridiculous laws that have been imposed on them. This awareness is the first step to creating momentum for reform.

      The more absurd examples we can provide that the general public understands, the better armed activists are to achieve reform.
  • by Brento (26177) <brento.brentozar@com> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:00PM (#16540000) Homepage
    Think about this in conjunction with the one-laptop-per-child project: what if third world countries suddenly had access to Wikipedia? Where would you put your hundred million bucks to buy content that would make the human race better off simply by having access to this knowledge?

    I understand why people are suggesting basic textbooks, but they're taking too much for granted.

    Start by acquiring the best English skills courses so that these billions of third world kids will be able to understand first world content.

    Giving a kid a laptop only gets them so far: they have to be able to understand what they're viewing. That's where the $100 mil could really leverage all of Wikipedia's existing content. Make it easy for these kids to learn English, no matter which language they're starting from.
  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:04PM (#16540048) Homepage Journal
    They shouldn't have been so vocal about this. Now everyone knows they have a $100 million budget, and every rightsholder they approach is going to put his pinky to his lips and do his best Dr. Evil impression.
  • Classic Games (Score:5, Interesting)

    by popo (107611) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:07PM (#16540092) Homepage
    I don't know if "wikified" is the right term, but I've always thought that
    classic "no-longer-for-sale" games should be handed over to the public domain.

    The intellectual property for future projects and sequels should of course
    remain in the hands of the copyright holder. It seems to me that this is a win/win
    for publishers since the properties would gain a new lease on life.

    Really, I just want to be able to download M.U.L.E., some Infocom titles
    and Master of Orion (although I'm not sure I need another addiction in my life
    right now).

  • the obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TRRosen (720617) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:13PM (#16540132)
    Call up novell and buy Unix and open source it all. beyond that standardized k-12 textbooks with interactive test databases so teachers can make custom exams. and make the whole thing available as a turnkey server schools could just plug-into their network and supply copies on DVD or BlueRay that would hold every single text. Imagine little Jimmy being issued a laptop containing every textbook he will every use. Hey we might even save enough money to hire more than one teacher for every 50 students
  • Physics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SleepyHappyDoc (813919) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:17PM (#16540168)
    I'd love to see them acquire The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Opening up a classic resource for 'normal' people, to everyone, would be huge.
  • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <slashdot@NOSPaM.deforest.org> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:24PM (#16540216)
    Most of these are owned by private entities, making it quite difficult to access the information -- for example, a copy of the California building codes costs close to $500 in three-ring binder form. Most jurisdictions incorporate the copyrighted documents into law by reference only, trying to sidestep the problem that the law of the land is not copyrightable.
  • by felipecs (535825) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:39PM (#16540334) Homepage
    JSTOR has back issues of several hundred well known journals, dating back to 1665. The bulk of scientific knowledge is in there. Web of Science is an index of basically every scientific paper that has ever been published. I belive that puting these resources in the public domain would accelerate the creation of scientific knowledge. Imagine the millions of intelligent people that today can't access these sources because they are expensive. Also, making scientific knowledge available for public scrutiny would make scientists more accountable for their work.
  • Finnegan's Wake (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gracenotes (1001843) <wikigracenotes@gma i l . com> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:43PM (#16540372)
    There already is a wiki for James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake [finnegansweb.com]. It takes advantage of WikiMedia formatting and thus is "wikified." Every two or three words, there's a link to some obscure reference that good ol' Jimbo [Joyce] made, so you can understand the novel, if you really really want to.

    There is a drawback to this, though. James Joyce did not intend that the novel be understood. It was meant to model a dream -- albeit a boringly long one -- and if someone wakes you up every two seconds to tell you what something means, it's not as fun. Annotated, it's like reading Nabokov's version of Eugene Onegin, and if given the choice, I would not have that one wikified, with all due respect to that Lolita guy.

    While the Wake wiki is good for comprehension and finally understanding what that huge word in the second paragraph was, the addition of technology makes it inferior to the original. Obviously, you can ignore the links, but in several other cases with e-books, reading a book is made more inconvenient by wikifying it. There is no real electronic substitute for "flipping through a book", and the simple format of a single finite page, as opposed to turtles all the way down. (Just check out an e-book: most of the time, the webpages are huge.)

    Oh, and Gutenberg [gutenberg.org]? If anything, have Wikipedia partner with them, if the two are not in cahoots already. No use forming a needless schism in the world of free online e-books.
  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:03PM (#16540530)
    Keep in mind that the University of California system payed $8 million to one publisher (Elsevier), just for access (not rights) to that publisher's journals for only two years. Those journals make up only 25% of the journal subsciptions in the UC system.

    Getting broad rights to scientific articles across many fields would be nearly impossible in the current culture of journal price-gouging. Support of one of the many attempts to break this business practice would be great.
  • by sokoban (142301) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:19PM (#16540640) Homepage
    For $100 million dollars, a lot of people have talked about buying existing textbooks for education, but what about using the money to start the creation of new ones that are designed from the ground up in the wiki format.

    I think it would make sense to hire professionals to perform edits and create base models for textbooks for classes in specific fields which could then be edited as needed perhaps with keeping some sort of professional editorial oversight.
  • by binarybum (468664) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:22PM (#16540660) Homepage
    seriously, I imagine printed material from Hustler magazine and the like are a lot cheaper thanks to the contributions of the interweb.

        I would still swear I read wiki for the articles though.
  • by bunions (970377) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:35PM (#16540772)
    And fix the root of the copyright problem.
  • by Andy_R (114137) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:42PM (#16540820) Homepage Journal
    Reasoning that:

    a) It's better to buy newer copyrights, because 'nearly expired' copyrights will run out soon, and taking an optimistic stance that common sense will prevail over the Disneys of the world and reduce the length of copyrights in future.

    b) It's going to be cheaper to buy things before they are successful rather than after

    and

    c) Authors of copyrighted works will object to thier income supply being turned off

    I suggest investing in new talent.

    Offer musicians the following deal:

    1) We'll press your music onto CDs, and sell them to anyone in the world for $10 each. You get 80% of any profits.
    2) We'll sell mp3s, and lossless files at $0.99 a track and give you 80% of the profits
    3) 5 years from the day we make it available, it goes into the public domain.
    4) Here's a community of freelance record producers, cd-inlay designers, marketing organisations, tour managers etc. who are willing work for a percentage if they like your music. Do anything you like with them, but we get the rights, and it all goes into the public domain after 5 years.
    5) We pay an advance or do marketing based on peer-review of your work, if your music is really good, you'll get a big advance against future earnings from our $100m.
    6) We charge $0 per play for radio and TV performances.

    That's a whole load better than any RIAA company will do, any major artist at the end of a contract would jump at it, and radio/TV stations will love it too.
  • by jwkane (180726) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:58PM (#16540980) Homepage
    Taking away the last line of defense by digitizing our schoolbooks is just not acceptable. You thing that e-book is going to be stopping bullets?

    http://www.cnn.com/2006/EDUCATION/10/20/school.sho otings.textbooks.ap/index.html [cnn.com]
  • Machinists Handbook! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DoninIN (115418) <don.middendorf@gmail.com> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:10PM (#16541078) Homepage
    The universal cookbook for toolmakers, engineers and everyone else involved in manufacturing. They're like $70 a piece and even more for the electronic version, the single most useful book I've ever owned... (Of course, if you're not a machinist it's not that useful, but hey, we are still a manufacturing country aren't we?)

Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don't add up.

Working...