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Decision matrix for determining if a screenshot is appropriate for upload to Commons. If either condition is satisfied, that A) the software is freely licensed by the owner, or B) the screen shot is freely licensed by the owner of the software, then the image is appropriate for Commons so long as it is within scope. If both conditions are not satisfied, then the image is non-free and not yet appropriate for upload to Commons.

Screenshots are derivative works and as such subject to the copyright of the displayed content, whether it be a video, television program, or a computer program.[1] Thus, screenshots must not be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons unless all content in them is under a free license or in the public domain.

If you do not own the copyright to a piece of software, you may publish a screenshot under a free license only if all the content shown itself has a free license. If a screenshot contains icons or content that is non-free, it is normally also not free,[2] but an exception can be made where the content is de minimis.

If all content shown is in the public domain, then the screenshot is also, because there is no creative contribution added when creating a screenshot. This may not be true in all jurisdictions, but holds at least in the U.S. (due to Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp.), in Germany (see Bildrechte:Schutz für Reproduktionen in German Wikipedia), and probably all other countries of the European Union.

If the copyright holder(s) (usually the programmers, software company, producer, or broadcaster) do not agree to publish the program under a free license, then screenshots are normally only free if they explicitly license the screenshot (or all screenshots) under a free license.

Audiovisual works

Screenshots from "Elephants Dream", and even the entire film itself can be uploaded here because it is a freely licensed work.

Screenshots from audiovisual works (such as films, television broadcasts, video clips) are often the property of its producer or creator and they may not be uploaded to Commons unless the work itself is in the public domain or released under a free license or unless the copyright holder is willing to release the screenshot under a free license.


Screenshot of the Free Software program Firefox Developer Edition licensed under the Mozilla Public License 2.0, running on KDE with window titlebar theme licensed under GNU GPL, and showing public domain LibriVox web page.

In most cases, screenshots of computer software (which include programs, video games, operating systems) cannot be uploaded to Commons unless the software is released under a free software license that complies with the Commons licensing policy (software released under licenses that meet the OSI definition of "Open Source" will meet the requirements), or there is formal permission.

Note that free programs generally are not free of intellectual property protections. Just as websites may be free to access, but still covered under copyright, simply because a software is free to download, run or play, does not mean that it is in the public domain or freely licensed in a way that is compatible with Commons. For those that are under a free license, you must still conform to the terms of the particular licence, which usually means you must publish your derivative work under the same licence, and correctly attribute the original authors or owners. However, screenshots of programs with a command-line interface may fall into public domain. See {{PD-text}} for more information.

Note, this does not prevent you from uploading works created using non-free software, it is not subject to the copyright of the software itself in most cases. This is especially true for fonts, which in some cases are considered programs.

To create a free screenshot

  • Use a free program with a completely free skin. (A KDE Program using Breeze theme is an example.) If you are using an operating system with a non-free theme (like Windows), make sure it fits something like {{PD-ineligible}}, e.g. has only flat-colored backgrounds and buttons and no complex icons. See Commons:Threshold of originality for examples of images, or image modifications or other actions considered trivial or non-trivial in different countries.
  • Cut away all possibly non-free elements. Only show the relevant content.
  • The content of the screenshot must be free too. Make sure the screenshot does not contain non-free text or images.
  • If the screenshot contains photos or other works (e.g. a shot of Wikipedia's main page), be sure to mention and follow the terms of each license.
  • Save the file as a PNG.

Please tag screenshots that show only free content with {{Free screenshot}} in addition to an appropriate copyright tag. You must also indicate the free software license under which the program has been published.



Microsoft products


Microsoft's guidelines do not allow derivative works,[3] so screenshots of Microsoft products would go against Commons policy. The Windows operating system itself is a Microsoft product, and the precise appearance of standard operating system widgets in some themes may or may not be copyrightable, as they are purely geometric.

Software as art

Screenshot of a demo program that was released under CC-BY-SA by its authors

In some cases the program itself is a work of art—an example would be a demoscene (such as one that is illustrated with the panda). Screenshots of such works are free if and only if the program itself is free. An exception to the rule is if the copyright holder of a non-free program wishes to freely license a screenshot of it. To do this, the user must have the rights to all visible non-free objects—the interface, the graphics, the text, everything. Before doing this, please consider all that it entails. Any design elements or logos appearing in the screenshot will irrevocably be placed under a free license. Also, be sure to make it explicitly clear that the software itself is not free.

Web browsers


Common proprietary web browsers include Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera and Microsoft Edge. Screenshots of these are never permissible on Commons if they show the browser's user interface.

Freely licensed GNU IceCat icon

Common free web browsers include Mozilla Firefox, Chromium, Konqueror, and GNOME Web. Screenshots of these browsers displaying free content should be permissible, so long as they do not include copyrightable elements of a proprietary operating system, other proprietary software or non-free user interface customizations. The Firefox icon before Firefox 3.6 is non-free, so it must not be included in screenshots (internal logo files from Firefox 3.6 to 12 are under the Mozilla tri-license and from Firefox 13 are under Mozilla Public License 2.0, although trademarked, so are acceptable where hard to avoid). GNU IceCat, a rebranded Firefox-based browser, is unencumbered by this problem, but may show small non-free logos under certain configurations, which should be replaced.

Google Chrome has caused conflicts; even though, besides its logo, there are no immediately visible differences between Chrome and its open source arm Chromium, it has been asserted that Google Chrome itself is non-free because its official binaries are subject to a non-free Google Chrome Terms of Service which overrides the open source terms of its base source code. Deletion discussions have gone both ways.

Screenshots of web browsers displaying web sites, images, videos or other copyrighted content which is not under a free license are not permissible.

Although Wikipedia is often a component of free screenshots, there have been issues.

  • Most Wikimedia logos were previously subject to a proprietary license, but this changed when they were freed, in 2014.
  • If the screenshot contains images or icons with free licenses with requirements, you have to honor them, such as by listing them and their authors and licenses, which may be other than Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike.



Although much of Android is open source software, this does not apply to Google software or their icons. Additionally, many smartphones do not include the "stock" Android user experience, but one specific to the company (such as Samsung Experience/One UI, previously TouchWiz and Huawei EMUI). These aspects are copyrighted by the maker of the phone, and screenshots showing portions of these interfaces (such as home screens) are not free.

Screenshots of "stock" Android can be tagged with {{Apache}} with copyright credit to "The Android Open Source Project".

As for the Apple iOS, per this failed undeletion request, the iOS software license agreement doesn't allow you to use {{APSL}} or other free licenses, hence unless if developers of a particular iOS app said to use their own free license (even so, you should cut the Apple-designed GUIs, i.e. drop-down list items, the "Home" buttons (either float or machinery)), they're violating our License policy.



See also