Commons:Essential information

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Any file uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons must be under a free content license or in the public domain, and should have as much information about its copyright status as possible. Specifically, besides the Copyright tag (sometimes called "License template), you should make sure that other people have enough information to verify the licensing claims by providing adequate source and creator data.


One of the existing license templates must be included on the file's description page in order to ensure that the file is freely usable under the Commons licensing criteria ("by anyone, anytime, for any purpose"). If the file's description page doesn't contain the license, then we can't be sure if and how this file can be properly reused. The copyright holder might not agree with our licensing criteria. Furthermore, it's important for potential reusers to know how to properly reuse the file. Some licenses, for example, require one to name who made the file ("attribution") and/or to license the file under the same license ("share-alike"). If this information isn't given, then reusers can't use them properly according to the license under which they're published. License information is usually placed below the Infobox template, like {{Information}} and above the category links. The text of the license is always displayed by a template to ensure that the licensing conditions are understandable in many languages and that licenses look consistent for easier recognition on sight. You can find a list of such templates under Commons:Copyright tags.


In order to make sure that the license is accurate, the file description page needs to mention where a file came from. This information allows others to verify if the license is true and the file meets the licensing criteria to be used by anyone, anytime, for any purpose. Without this information, it could simply be claimed that a file is freely usable when in fact it is not. To avoid this, information source needs to be given on the file description page. Source information should be mentioned in the "|Source=" field of the {{Information}} template, as this is the common place for people to look for this information. There are different ways of giving source information:

  • Files that you have fully created by yourself should be marked with {{own}} (a reference may be appropriate) or for photos with {{self-photographed}}. (Using this templates makes the string "Own work" understandable for reusers who don't speak English.)
  • If you are moving someone else's files from a Wikimedia project to the Commons, be sure to name them in the image description. This should usually be done in the form [[:xx:User:Example|Example]] from xx.wikipedia, with "xx" being replaced by the language code of the project.
  • For content which is in the public domain, it is important to know the date the content was created to judge whether its copyright has truly expired already. Information on the lifespan of the creator is also useful. In cases of art which is many centuries old, this is obviously less important than for, say, a 20th century photograph.
  • For images that come from a website, you should ideally name three links: a direct link to the image, a link to the page the image is displayed on, and a link to the term of usage of the site. Links to (a page showing) the image and the terms of usage are required.

What if a file doesn't have this information?

Some files on Commons don't yet have this information. Such pages should be marked as not having a license or source and the uploader should be asked to add this information to the file description page. This is done by two specific templates that are easily recognizable by reusers to see that a file might not be reusable under the conditions of using the file for any purpose, anytime, by anyone. If a file doesn't contain license information, it should be marked with {{subst:nld}} (nld meaning "no license data") and those with missing source information with {{subst:nsd}} (no source information). The uploader of a file should be informed by adding {{subst:image license|File:File name.ext}} --~~~~ or {{subst:image source|File:File name.ext}} --~~~~ (with "File:File name.ext" being replaced by the actual file name) to their talk page. There's also a tool called "Quick Delete" which automatically adds the appropriate template and informs the uploader. Registered users can use it by going to their preferences under "Gadgets," checking the button "Quick Delete: Adds useful links to tag files as missing source/license/permission or for deletion, and notify users accordingly (you can also define custom buttons). [talk] " and save their preferences.