User:LX/Commons:Copyright policy

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This is not official Commons policy (yet). This page is part of a draft for a proposed restructured version of Commons:Licensing.


Copyright protection means that the copyright holder of a work has the right to decide who may use the work and how they may use it. The copyright holder is usually the work's author, which means the person who created the work, such as a photographer or painter. Normally, recently created works such as photographs, drawings and videos are protected by copyright. A copyright notice is not needed for a work to be protected by copyright.

Accepted content[edit]

It is one of the founding principles of Wikimedia that its content should be freely usable by anyone. Therefore, Wikimedia Commons accepts two kinds of content with respect to copyright:

  1. Content that has been published under a free license
  2. Content that is in the public domain

Fair use content is not accepted[edit]

Main policy: Commons:Fair use

Fair use is a copyright law principle that enables the use of copyrighted content in a limited set of contexts without needing permission from the copyright holder. Fair use content falls into neither of the two categories of accepted content and is therefore not accepted at Wikimedia Commons.

Some Wikimedia projects, such as the English Wikipedia, rely on fair use to locally host and include album covers and other non-free content in the specific context of certain articles. Because fair use only applies in a limited set of contexts, it does not extend to collection of content in a general media repository such as Wikimedia Commons. Therefore, Wikimedia Commons cannot legally accept fair use content.

Content published under a free license[edit]

Main policy: Commons:Licensing policy

The copyright holder can use a copyright license to specify who may use their work and how they may use it. Only the copyright holder can grant a license.

In order for Wikimedia Commons to accept works covered by a particular copyright license, that license must have certain properties. There are certain freedoms that the license must grant, there are certain requirements that the license may grant, and there are certain restrictions that the license must not impose. A license that has the required properties is called a free license.

A free license

  • must allow anyone to use and redistribute the work in modified or unmodified form for any commercial or non-commercial purpose
  • may require attribution of the author(s), may require modified versions of the work to be covered by the same license and may require the use of open file formats free of digital restrictions management (DRM)
  • must not impose restrictions prohibiting modifications or commercial use, must not require the copyright holder to be notified of any uses and must not be revocable.

Wikimedia Commons accepts copyrighted works if they are covered by a free license. Commonly used free licenses include Creative Commons Attribution Attribution ("by") icon and Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Attribution ("by") iconShare-Alike ("sa") icon without Non-Commercial Non-Commercial ("nc") icon or No-Derivatives No-Derivatives ("nd") icon restrictions. As an alternative to granting a copyright license, the copyright holder may choose to waive all their rights to the work and release it into the public domain.

You may upload works that you have created entirely yourself if you are willing to allow them to be used freely. You may also upload copyrighted works created by others if you can show that they have explicitly agreed to publish the work under a free license. Please see the full policy on licensing for details.

Content in the public domain[edit]

Main policy: Commons:Public domain policy

Content that is not protected by copyright is said to be in the public domain.

Content may be in the public domain if

You may upload works that you have created entirely yourself and that you wish to release into the public domain. You may also upload public domain works created by others by explaining why the work is in the public domain and providing enough information to enable others to verify your claims. Works must generally be in the public domain both in the United States and in the country where it was first published. Please see the full policy on public domain works for details.

Required information[edit]

To ensure that every file hosted by Wikimedia Commons is free, uploaders must provide information about every file that they upload. The information must be sufficient for others to verify that the file is free. In many cases, this information is also required by copyright licenses and copyright laws involved. False or insufficient information is grounds for deletion.

When uploading files to Commons, you must provide

You should also provide a description of the content, the date of creation or publication, and categories. In cases where the work is in the public domain because the copyright has expired, the date of creation or publication is often required information.

The best way to provide the required information is to use the {{information}} template. This will be added automatically by most upload methods available at Wikimedia Commons using the information you provide.