Commons:Biodiversity Heritage Library

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The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is one of the largest collections of digitized illustrations of animals, plants and other forms of life (i.e. biodiversity) on the internet. This project hopes to facilitate a partnership between the BHL and the Wikimedia Commons to their mutual benefit. In order to convince the BHL to commit scarce resources to this task, we want to start by showing them the value of the Wikimedia Commons as a facilitator in making their content widely available and as a way to enhance their brand. A mailing list is available to discuss BHL/Wikipedia collaborations.

Use {{Biodiversity Heritage Library}} in the source field of Wikimedia Commons uploads to add them to the Files from the Biodiversity Heritage Library category, which currently has 304,334 items. This page also has advice on copyright tags to use for such content.

Completed work[edit]

A GLAM Dashboard is now available for files from the Biodiversity Heritage Library! The following reports are currently available:

Current tasks[edit]

Pending tasks for Biodiversity Heritage Library: edit this list - add to watchlist - purge
  • Process the 564 BHL files batch-uploaded to the Commons, including rename, metadata (preferably with the Information Art of Life template!) and categorization.
  • Write up step-by-step instructions on getting an image from BHL into Wikimedia Commons.

The Art of Life project[edit]

In March 2012, the Missouri Botanical Gardens received an NEH grant to fund the Art of Life project, one of whose goals is to automatically upload BHL illustrations in the public domain directly to the Wikimedia Commons. This will employ the Template:Information Art of Life template to provide metadata for the images. The BHL has made some test images available under the CC-BY image on Flickr, making it easy to use the Flickr upload bot to move those images directly onto the Commons. A proposal has been submitted to the Flickr batch uploading project.

Comparable projects include:

By size
Not yet on Wikipedia
  • The British Library's release of over a million photographs onto Flickr Commons: blog post


Many of its images are in the public domain (for instance, anything published in the US before January 1, 1929); others are currently available under a non-commercial Creative Commons license (i.e. CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0); unfortunately, non-commercial licenses cannot be imported into the Wikimedia Commons. As part of this project, we hope to lobby the BHL to convince its data providers to release more of their information in similarly open formats. BHL's copyright information is available online.

For BHL content you believe is in the public domain, use Help:Public domain to judge which BHL template to use. In many cases, if the author died over a hundred years ago (i.e. before 1924 CE), you can use {{PD-old-100}} as the license for your image. If the image appears to have been "touched up" after scanning, you may additionally use the {{PD-Scan}} template (see Commons:When to use the PD-scan tag for more information). Thus, the ideal tag for BHL images whose creator has died more than a hundred years ago is probably {{PD-scan|PD-old-100}}.

Note that you cannot use {{PD-Art}}, since that license is meant to be used of photographs of public domain images, not scans. Note also that the copyright status of unpublished content is extremely complicated, and should be treated carefully.

Images first published in the European Union[edit]

If all creators died over a hundred years ago, you can use the {{PD-scan|PD-old-100}} copyright tag to mark the image as being in the public domain in both the US and its country of origin. If any creator died less than 70 years ago, the image is not in the public domain and cannot be uploaded to the Commons without additional licensing! If a creator died between 70 and 100 years ago, you need to use both the {{PD-scan|PD-old-70}} and one of the non-US work copyright tags (probably {{PD-US-expired}}, if the image was first published before 1929). Both tags are needed, as the image needs to be in the public domain in both its country of original publication and in the US, where the Wikimedia servers are based.

A simplified key[edit]

  1. Did all creators die over a hundred years ago?
    1. If yes, use {{PD-scan|PD-old-100-expired}}
    2. If no, continue below.
  2. Was the image first published in the US?
    1. If yes, was the image first published before 1929?
      1. If yes, use {{PD-scan|PD-US-expired}}
      2. If no, check for copyright notice and then pick a copyright tag to use.
    2. If no, continue below.
  3. Was the image first published in the European Union?
    1. If yes, have all the creators died at least 70 years ago as of January 1 of the following year?
      1. If yes, was the image first published before 1929?
        1. If yes, use both {{PD-scan|PD-old-70}} and {{PD-US-expired}}
        2. If no, use en:Wikipedia:Non-U.S. copyrights to determine whether this image is in the public domain.
      2. If no, this image is not yet in the public domain!
    2. If no, continue below.
  4. Use Public domain to determine if the image is in the public domain.


  1. To show that uploading content to the Wikimedia Commons would be a valuable step for BHL to undertake, by creating a template (in the style of Template:KIT-license) which can be placed on Wikimedia Commons images already taken from the BHL.
  2. To identify content from BHL which would be of direct benefit to Wikipedia by matching requests for images on the English Wikipedia's requested photos of animals with illustrations in the BHL.
  3. To standardize the licenses of BHL images in the Commons, and to encourage new uploaders to use the correct licenses (for instance, by ensuring that BHL images are not erroneously tagged with {{PD-Art}}).
  4. Improve the most used BHL files. GLAMorous results for our category can help with this.
  5. To lobby BHL to lobby their book providers to release more content under CC-BY or CC-BY-SA licenses (instead of CC-BY-NC-SA, as is the current practice) so that they can be used in Wikipedia and its related projects.

Related category[edit]