Commons:Village pump/Copyright

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Welcome to the Village pump copyright section

This Wikimedia Commons page is used for general discussions relating to copyright and license issues, and for discussions relating to specific files' copyright issues. Discussions relating to specific copyright policies should take place on the talk page of the policy, but may be advertised here. Recent sections with no replies for 7 days and sections tagged with {{section resolved|1=~~~~}} may be archived; for old discussions, see the archives.

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File:WhatsApp screenshot rus.png[edit]

  • Recently, when I was surfing the files, I found File:WhatsApp screenshot rus.png, which was a Russian version of WhatsApp. I suspected the file is a fair use screenshot, but as the uploader has some seemingly OK reasons about that, I didn't use a speedy delete. After that, he give me some explanations, but looks like only effective on Russian Wikipedia. Could anyone who know well in copyright determine the situation?
  • The uploader's explanation:

The interface of this program consists exclusively of well-known elements and does not contain original author's work. According to the decisions of the courts for Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation and Lotus Dev. Corp. v. Borland Int'l, Inc., protected are only those elements of the program interface that contain the original author's work. Their mutual location, the scheme of construction and operation of copyright are not protected. In Russian Wikipedia, where I work, there is even a template named "trivial screenshot".

廣九直通車 (talk) 10:58, 18 April 2018 (UTC)

Are these photos "taken as part of that person's official duties"?[edit]

Camp Kaiser, Korea 1966-1970:

Are these {{PD-USGov-Military-Army}}? There are some pretty nice photos there, like and (somebody had seen Dr. Strangelove Face-tongue.svg) - Alexis Jazz 18:58, 18 April 2018 (UTC)

On tour, so no time there was time off. -- (talk) 19:12, 18 April 2018 (UTC)
I don't believe that's the rule. The question is, is it part of their official duties? If it's their own camera, their job title wasn't "photographer" or "journalist" or anything, and they kept the originals, I'd say it's almost certainly not PD-USGov. I've uploaded a couple of my father's Vietnam photos, and I'm completely under the impression that they are in fact still copyright by his heirs.--Prosfilaes (talk) 23:54, 18 April 2018 (UTC)
Yeah, would have to agree. If their job title was photographer, or even if they were just asked by their bosses to take pictures a particular day, that would be part of their duties and a USGov work. Photos they take with their own cameras of their own volition would be theirs, I think. Carl Lindberg (talk) 05:44, 19 April 2018 (UTC)
The opposite applies. On active duty on foreign soil in the 1960s, you would need permission to take photos. Unless released, all photographs would be subject to official government control or necessary censorship. The alternative would be chaotic, and put missions and military personnel at risk. -- (talk) 05:59, 19 April 2018 (UTC)
Even if you would need permission to take photos, it wouldn't make the photos part of your official duties. My father never mentioned needing to get permission, and I've never heard of it elsewhere. In theory, the photographs would have subject to necessary censorship. I suspect my father's photos were merely raw film until he got back to the States; trying to censor photographs by returning vets or completely stop them from using cameras was probably considered unhelpful to morale and pointless to security. In the case of Korea, the Status of Forces Agreement talks about dependents, which means it wasn't considered a war zone duty. Once you've got the point of bringing in cars (also mentioned) and families, do you really think they could have banned cameras?--Prosfilaes (talk) 06:37, 19 April 2018 (UTC)
Censorship would not affect copyright ownership. They may not have the right to publish, for a time, for reasons other than copyright. Once the period for censorship is over, just the copyright would be left. Much like if you take a photograph which violates privacy -- you still own the copyright to that photo, but other laws would prevent publication. But if you can create a derivative work which does not violate privacy, that would be OK, and still under the copyright owner's control. Carl Lindberg (talk) 02:24, 20 April 2018 (UTC)
Thanks everyone. I'll have to ask the photographers if they want to release the photos. And as the photographers (or not all of them) have control over that website I guess it will have to go through OTRS. - Alexis Jazz 22:30, 21 April 2018 (UTC)

Publish date issues[edit]

I knew there was a problem with this, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Commons:Help desk#old pictures made me look at it again and I think I see a problem now.

Some old pictures are found at For example made around the 1840s. For the sake of argument don't dig up facts about this particular picture and call it "solved" because my issue applies to millions of pictures. So we start looking at Commons:Hirtle chart.

If such a picture was published before 1923 or a bit later without notice/renewal it's PD. Now assume we know absolutely nothing about the author and are unable to find proof of any publication before 1964. The author may be anonymous, or not, we don't know when they died. We don't have the resources or ability to find out. If it was first published in 1978 or later it would be PD anyway: the author is guaranteed to have been dead for 70 years and 120 years from creation have passed. So it doesn't matter if they are anonymous or not. If it was published 1923 through 1963 (published with notice and the copyright was renewed) we have to follow COM:RENEWAL. There are things that would be more fun to do, like taking out the garbage, but it's doable.

The problem is 1964 through 1977. (published with notice) The copyright of those works will expire 95 years from publication and this could include the 1840s image we started with. We can never prove it wasn't first published in this period. So we must assume that, possibly, it was. Putting the work into copyright until at least 2060. Any work for which there is no proof it was published before 1964 or proof that it couldn't have been published before 1977 would have to be assumed to still be possibly copyrighted and should therefore not be allowed on Commons. This also means that for many old works a lot more research is required to assert its copyright status.

This is clearly insane, but I've just lost this argument with myself. Please tell me I missed something. - Alexis Jazz 23:18, 21 April 2018 (UTC)

There's a few of technical issues; first, publication without permission doesn't count. Publishers that copied old enough images without permission didn't legally publish those images. (Technically, I think the only copy of an image ending up in an archive without publication is evidence the common law copyright had expired, since there was no federal statutory copyright on unpublished/unregistered works until 1978. But common law copyright is hairy.) Oh, look, we found this in an archive is not a legal first publication unless they contacted the copyright holder for permission to use it.
Secondly, works first legally published after 1977 and before 2002 by authors who died before 1977 are under copyright until 2048.
I also find falsifiability an inappropriate tool here; the philosophers have shredded cogito ergo sum, leaving us with basically nothing we can prove. When a photograph is from, where it was taken, when it was first published, that it is a photograph, none of that is ever "provable". We're always going on reasonable.
Yes, if you think there's a possibility that a work was first legally published 1923-2002 with any needed copyright formalities, you need to do a number of checks in the US, and if you don't know anything about the history of the work, that can make it nigh impossible. What about it?--Prosfilaes (talk) 02:06, 22 April 2018 (UTC)
I had misread the Hirtle chart, you are right, for 1978-2002 the earliest is 2048. So anything legally published in 1964 through 1977 with notice or 1978 through 2002. You are right some publications are not legal, I had touched that subject in COM:WORSTCASE, but that only helps to prove a specific publication is legally not a publication. But the problem is what we don't know. The author or their heir may have published a work somewhere in that 1964-2002 period. Maybe they gave permission to a local magazine to print it. Maybe they were interviewed on a TV show and they would show the work. Maybe they held a small-scale exhibition. We just don't know. Over a 38-year period that's not unreasonable to think and we could realistically never find out. Per COM:PRP we shouldn't upload them, effectively extending the copyright term for obscure works to infinity.
It now means I will no longer upload files that I used to upload. I would like it if the policy made a clear statement on this. Either the policy could say "PRP does not apply, we assume nothing was first published in that period unless proven otherwise" and/or we say "You have to look in places X, Y and Z. If you don't find it there, you can assume it was not published in that period". Or we pick a date: "everything before 18xx is assumed to be out of copyright". When I uploaded File:Carlsberg brewery fire 1867.png I assumed it would be either PD-unpublished or PD-1923 as its from 1867. Now I'm thinking it's certainly not impossible that it would have been first published in 1964 through 2002. So now I should nominate it for deletion? - Alexis Jazz 04:13, 22 April 2018 (UTC)

Hi, For old images (prior 1898), we should use {{PD-US-unpublished}} unless we know they were published. So all the cases you mention here should be fine. Paintings should be regarded as published. Regards, Yann (talk) 05:40, 22 April 2018 (UTC)

This would be fine with me (and also seems to be the common practice around here), but could this please be reflected in policy? - Alexis Jazz 16:11, 22 April 2018 (UTC)
If it seems reasonable to assume such files were published back in the day, I don't see a problem with it. If a copy ever ended up in someone else's hands other than the original author or his heirs, there is a good chance it was published. If there is documentation that a work remained in the author's family for decades, or that it was originally stolen or something, that would raise some significant questions and it would probably be best to assume it was not published until at least then. Outside of those though, COM:PRP is for significant doubts, not extreme theoretical doubts that rely on exquisite timing of publication (or similar actions) without any information to back up that belief. We upload lots of photos under a claim of "self taken" without any proof whatsoever that claim is accurate; like anything else we then delete if information contrary to that initial assumption comes to light. So I don't see much issue in assuming that very old works were published in their time, at absent any information to indicate otherwise. If something that old wasn't legally published before 1964 it probably wasn't legally published before 2003 either. Carl Lindberg (talk) 19:34, 22 April 2018 (UTC)

File:Nakula Samanta Sinhara Logo 01.jpg[edit]

Not sure what to make of this file. It looks like it's something the uploader (or somebody) created using multiple images, so it might be a COM:DW. However, there's nothing about the copyright status of each of the individual elements. There's also a copyright notice/watermark at the bottom right of the image. The same image seems to have also been uploaded as File:IPiccy-Design.jpg and possibly also as Commons:Deletion requests/File:Nakula Samanta Sinhara 1.png. Can Commons keep this as licensed? -- Marchjuly (talk) 12:04, 22 April 2018 (UTC)

✓ Done Both deleted, as poor quality logos copied from the Internet. Yann (talk) 12:39, 22 April 2018 (UTC)
Thank you for checking on these Yann. -- Marchjuly (talk) 00:02, 23 April 2018 (UTC)


What are other people's thoughts in what appears to be a mistake in licensing on MSNBC's YouTube channel? Specifically, videos like File:How will Rick Gates' Guilty Plea Impact Paul Manafort- - Velshi & Ruhle - MSNBC.webm. Looking into the archive it does appear that the video was listed as Creative Commons when it was originally uploaded but has since been changed back to the Standard YouTube license. All of their videos are now the standard YouTube license and I'm going to assume here that the creative commons listing was done by accident. There is some precedent where mistaken releases like this were deleted, specifically in cases of individuals not understanding what a CC license means, and from what I can tell there are only 11 files that would be affected. But I wanted to get some other takes on it before I did anything with them. --Majora (talk) 21:50, 22 April 2018 (UTC)

On first thoughts I would say that since licensing something as CC on YouTube requires one to change from standard to the CC-license, it is an active choice regardless of their knowledge what that means. Most Wiki*edia newbies don't know either when they upload/write something. However, in most cases, the person uploading a video to YouTube does not own that company's copyright and does in most cases not hold the rights to license away those rights. But, since it is their official YouTube-page, it is as if the company itself licensed them. Not an answer, just reflections. --Jonatan Svensson Glad (talk) 22:17, 22 April 2018 (UTC)
Right. And for the most part we take official youtube account uploads as a sign off from the company itself. The switch back to the standard license seems to indicate that the company didn't know what the uploader was doing though. The archive only has one version of the example file I mentioned above so I'm unable to tell when the license was switched back but it lasted for at least a few days as CC (based on the Commons upload and assuming it was correct at the time) and was changed back when I looked at it today to do the license review. The question is, since it was originally uploaded as CC do we take that as a company sign off? Even if it was switched back? --Majora (talk) 22:27, 22 April 2018 (UTC)
CC licenses are irrevocable. And if they would upload CC videos and not change them back we would certainly accept it. Maybe they released videos as CC for a legitimate reason (like allowing users to share them across social media or use them in compilations) but the decision was reversed when upper management heard about it. When tradebots wasted millions of dollars on Wall Street due to a bug, those transactions were not undone. Legally I doubt we would have to remove them. But like Josve05a: not an answer, just reflections. - Alexis Jazz 22:42, 22 April 2018 (UTC)
I'm fully aware that CC licenses are irrevocable. This isn't my first rodeo. But they are only irrevocable if they were properly done in the first place. Playing both sides here, from the evidence it would seem that the idea that they weren't done correctly originally is a plausible explanation. --Majora (talk) 22:46, 22 April 2018 (UTC)
we routinely keep flickr images where the license is changed. why should this be different? is MSNBC a super-user where their wishes trump the express language of the license? maybe you should email them, so you can elicit a sternly worded lawyer letter, and then nominate "because OTRS"? 16:17, 23 April 2018 (UTC)
If a file was only briefly tagged with a free license on Flickr, and given a lot of people's inexperience in copyright matters we do sometimes decide that the original license was a mistake and not the actual intention, so if fixed quickly we will accordingly delete under the presumption it was never really offered under that license. For a work where it was licensed freely, and the author later changed their mind, correct, that does not invalidate the license. Unsure in this case how long the videos were marked as CC-BY on the MSNBC site, and whether it was a short-term experiment (i.e. intentional) or a staffer mistake. And even if it was a mistake, it could still potentially be legally licensed, especially given that a content creator like MSNBC should not have any confusion about what a copyright license like that really means. More of a gut feel and consensus situation, it seems to me. Could see it going either way -- could be reasonable to assume a mistake, or go with the posted license and revisit if MSNBC complains or offers any clarifying information. Carl Lindberg (talk) 16:58, 23 April 2018 (UTC)
Agree: There's a difference in how we handle cases where the rights holder appears to have consciously released works under a free license first, and later changed their mind, and cases where it appears that a release under a free license was never intended and it was a mistake (by creators, or, in the case of large companies, maybe by some "social media" employee without actual authorization to release content under a free license). In the case discussed here, I think I share Majora's assessment. Gestumblindi (talk) 20:53, 23 April 2018 (UTC)
Just to be clear, I didn't say we should absolutely keep it. Even if they released it consciously and changed their mind we can decide to be nice towards them and remove it if they want that. And because such material is "tainted" (no matter if it was released consciously or not), it may not be fully safe for re-use so that could be sufficient reason to take it down. But should we? I'm not sure. - Alexis Jazz 22:51, 23 April 2018 (UTC)
Pictogram voting comment.svg Comment File:How will Rick Gates' Guilty Plea Impact Paul Manafort- - Velshi & Ruhle - MSNBC.webm is from 23 February 2018. is from December 11, 2017 and refers to What Do The Roy Moore Allegations Say About GOP? | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC. Al Sharpton On MLK: He Had A Vision Beyond His Time | Hardball | MSNBC is CC-BY right now. (somebody import it! Face-tongue.svg) This is no temporary experiment. And you really can't say they don't know what they are dealing with: - Alexis Jazz 22:51, 23 April 2018 (UTC)
yeah, let's all get the Ouija board out and read the minds at CNBC - they did not really mean to use an irrevocable license: they meant to use PDM. the genuflecting before corporations is instructive, it's as if you work for authors guild. too bad you cannot extend the same courtesy toward the Prado.[1] Slowking4 § Sander.v.Ginkel's revenge 03:01, 25 April 2018 (UTC)

US license needed[edit]

File:City Theater of Tehran - 1971.jpg needs a US license but I'm not sure which one. - Alexis Jazz 04:34, 23 April 2018 (UTC)

Iran has no copyright relations with the U.S. so there is no US copyright on it. It will presumably be PD-1996 when/if Iran joins the Berne Convention (as their URAA date will be in the future), provided that Iran does not retroactively restore copyrights before they do so. Carl Lindberg (talk) 16:46, 23 April 2018 (UTC)
The correct template, Alexis Jazz, would be {{Copyright notes|Iran}} --Majora (talk) 20:30, 23 April 2018 (UTC)

File:Martin bareš-masaryk university campus.jpg & File:Petr Pleva – Správní rada Masarykovy univerzity má nového předsedu.jpg[edit]

Can someone who can read Czech determine if these images are free? I do not see a license for it at the source but I don't read the language. If it is not free, feel free to launch a Deletion Request. Kind Regards, --Leoboudv (talk) 08:01, 23 April 2018 (UTC)

Dominican Republic copyright[edit]

We don't appear to have any copyright templates for the Dominican Republic, such as {{PD-Dominican Republic}}. It could be based on this WIPO document where most copyright is for 50 years pma or 50 years after publication for anon works. Several older stamps have been uploaded and the uploaded has claimed a Creative Commons license and I was trying apply an accurate template for the slavish copies that these images are. Can someone please create this for us? Then ping me and Jacquesverlaeken please. Ww2censor (talk) 14:29, 24 April 2018 (UTC)

Old Public Records - Plat images[edit]

(Question previously misplaced on w:Wikipedia:Media copyright questions.)

I am checking whether public records filed with county government are public domain and free to upload to Commons, especially those filed before 1923. My specific item is a 1907 town plat hosted by City of Hays/Ellis County Geospatial Data Portal:

Plan of Yocemento, Mill and Grounds. See w:Yocemento, Kansas (Vacated town relevant to the geologic history of western Kansas).

Some content of the item is public record statements from 1997.

I have received an email from Eamonn Coveney, GIS Specialist with City of Hays / Ellis County stating "I have verified that all of the materials on the hosting website are public domain, and do not claim any rights."

Am I good upload?

Does it impact the question if I redact the 1997 content?

What Copyright tag should I use in generally from this source? Not all of the public content is pre-1923. IveGoneAway (talk) 17:48, 24 April 2018 (UTC)