Commons:Project scope/Summary

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This is a summary of the full project scope policy.

Wikimedia Commons (this site) is a repository of free, educational media files used by Wikipedia, other Wikimedia projects, and others. The free part is very important – it's a founding principle of Commons that we should only host content that can be used by anyone for any purpose.

Commons does not host fair use content or other non-free content, such as most content published on the Internet and elsewhere. Commons does not host encyclopedic articles or other non-media content. We also don't host content unless it has educational value.

For a file to be welcome on Wikimedia Commons it must meet the following criteria:

Must be freely licensed or public domain[edit]

It's a founding principle of Commons that we should only host content that can be freely used by anyone for any purpose. Therefore, Commons can only accept two types of content:

  1. Content whose copyright holder has explicitly agreed to allow anyone to use it for any purpose
  2. Content that is not protected by copyright

Recently created works such as photos, drawings and videos are almost always protected by copyright – even if there is no copyright notice. Copyright protection means that the copyright holder has the right to specify who may use the work and how they may use it. One way to specify this is by using a copyright license. Only the copyright holder can grant a license. The copyright holder is usually the person who created the work, such as a photographer or painter. Wikimedia Commons only accepts copyrighted works if they are covered by a license that allows anyone to use them freely for any purpose.

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, but there are also other accepted licences.

Common examples of licenses that are not accepted on Commons include all Creative Commons licenses with Non-Commercial Non-Commercial ("nc") icon or No-Derivatives No-Derivatives ("nd") icon restrictions.

Content that is not protected by copyright is said to be in the public domain. Public domain content is accepted at Commons, but you must be able to explain why the content is in the public domain. Common reasons include that the content is too simple to be protected by copyright, that the copyright expired or that the copyright holder explicitly released it into the public domain. Merely making a work accessible to the public does not mean that it is released into the public domain.

Copyrighted content without any indication of a free license is not accepted, even in the absence of a copyright notice. Content explicitly marked as non-free, including content with All Rights Reserved or fair use notices is not accepted.

Must be realistically useful for an educational purpose[edit]

Wikimedia Commons only hosts content that is useful for educational purposes. This means content that could be used by Wikipedia, other Wikimedia projects, or other projects that provide knowledge, instruction or information. Files don't have to be in use on any other project to be hosted here, but they must have a reasonable potential use.

Examples of content that is not realistically useful for educational purposes in most cases:

  • Private image collections such as private party photos, photos of yourself and your friends and holiday snapshots. A small number of personal images used on Wikimedia project user pages are allowed per user.
  • Self-created artwork without obvious educational uses
  • Files created or uploaded for purposes of vandalism or attack
  • Advertising or self-promotion
  • Low-quality content that does not add value beyond our existing coverage of the same topic

For details, see the full project scope policy.

Must be a media file[edit]

Commons only hosts media files such as photographs, scanned images, diagrams, animations, audio (e.g. music or spoken word) and video clips.

Commons does not host encyclopedic articles or other plain-text content, and it does not host computer programs in any format (including executable files and source code).

Must be an allowable free file format[edit]

Currently, the following formats are allowed:

  • Images: SVG (for vector graphics), PNG (lossless format), JPEG (for photographs), GIF ("semi"-lossless format, but PNG is preferred), TIFF (lossless format, but PNG is preferred), WebP (lossy and lossless format, but JPG is preferred), XCF (allows layers and text).
  • Audio: Ogg-container (using FLAC, Speex, Opus or Vorbis codecs with file extension .oga), MIDI, WAV (16-bit PCM format and 32-bit IEEE uncompressed format), FLAC (.flac), MP3 (.mp3) or Opus (.opus).
  • Video: WebM using the VP8/VP9 video codec with Vorbis for the sound, or Ogg using the Theora video codec. New software supports file extension .ogv for Theora video without or with Vorbis audio, RFC 3534 .ogg is still usable instead of RFC 5334 .ogx for Theora video with other Ogg audio codecs - Help:Converting video.
  • Animation: GIF, APNG, Animated SVG.
  • Multipage documents (books, journals, magazines, etc.): PDF and DjVu.
  • 3D structures: STL.

Currently disabled[edit]

While SXW, SWC, SXD, and SXI ( 1.x), as well as ODT, ODS, ODG, and ODP (OpenDocument) are theoretically permissible under the similar provisions to Commons:Scope: PDF and DjVu formats these formats are currently disabled because we are currently unable to prevent people from hiding harmful or otherwise impermissible content inside OpenOffice's ZIP-based container format.

For a longer list of unsupported file types, see Commons:File types (Unsupported file types).


If you have questions about whether a certain file is within the project scope of Commons, you can ask at the help desk.

See also[edit]