Commons:Structured data/Modeling/Copyright

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You can help by working on guidelines and providing examples below. Visit the talk page to discuss this process in general.

Modeling of copyright information on structured data, for files on Wikimedia Commons, follows established principles of modeling copyrights on Wikidata, with special attention on distinction between a digital file, and a creative work shown/depicted in a file.

Modeling copyright for Wikimedia Commons files[edit]

Every file on Commons should have a copyright status. For this we use copyright status (P6216). In majority of the cases, the copyright status is either copyrighted (copyrighted (Q50423863)) or public domain (public domain (Q19652)), however in more complicated cases the different parts of the work can have different copyright statuses or copyright status can differ based on the jurisdiction or time period.


  • The file must have a copyright license (P275) statement. See licensing for details.
  • A file should always have an creator (P170), that could be a pseudnoym, but not an anonym
  • A file with CC-BY or CC-BY-SA license should have a way to describe the attribution text
  • With a qualifier we could describe why the file is copyrighted

What to do with multiple copyrights?

  • An image with a license of a building that is copyrighted but has a freedom of panorama.
  • Film with music
  • Film with fragments of other films (time coding of copyright)
  • pdf files with text and illustrations
  • A file could be copyrighted, but public domain in the US or the source country
  • Music where the original composer's copyright expired, but the recording is new

Two styles[edit]

On Commons we use this style to add copyright statements to copyrighted files:

copyright status
Normal rank copyrighted
0 references
add reference

add value
copyright license
Normal rank Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
0 references
add reference

add value

The Wikidata style should generally not be used here, but is supported:

The Commons style must be supported and the Wikidata style should be supported by tools interpreting copyright statements. I general the Commons style should be used in case of the simple statements where all we have is a single pair of copyright status (P6216) and copyright license (P275) statements, which is probably the majority of files on Commons. The Wikidata style can be used with complex copyright statements where we model different copyrights for different co-authors or model different copyrights for different part of the photo, or in different jurisdictions, time periods, etc.

Copyrighted, dedicated to the public domain by copyright holder[edit]

In many jurisdictions, works can be released to public domain by the copyright holders, but in other jurisdictions there are no laws allowing it. Over the years Commons, Flickr and other websites had different ways to release work to public domain. Below are some examples and how we should model them in structured data.

Cc-zero license[edit]

At present the best way to release your work to public domain is to release it under {{Cc-zero}} license on Commons, other Wikimedia projects, Flickr or other website

Case Example file Comment Statement (the same for both rows)
Own work released on commons under Cc-zero license Eissprossenzehner, Schloss Rothestein, Hessen, Deutschland, IMG 2430 31 32 33 34 35 36.jpg Source of the file should state "own" work or equivalent.
copyright license
Normal rank CC0
0 references
add reference

add value
Own work released on Flickr under Cc-zero license Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel by Henri Vidal, Tuileries Garden, 18 July 2017.jpg Source of the file should list the URL of the source page.

PD-self, PD-user and PD-author copyright tags[edit]

Since 2004, English Wikipedia and latter other projects used {{PD-self}} (Q6846209) copyright tag to release files to public domain. In case a file was modified or transferred to another projects, like Commons, than the copyright tag was changed to {{PD-user}} (Q6188601). {{PD-author}} (Q10729591) copyright tag was created for files found on the web with the statement from the copyright holder that it is in the public domain. It is also used for files where author confirmed the release through OTRS. Those three tags were created and used only on Wikimedia projects. {{PD-self}} is now superseded by preferred {{CC-zero}} license.

Case Example file Comment Statement (the same for all rows)
File tagged by the author with {{PD-self}} CANADAMIKE.jpg Statement creator (P170) should list the author who should be the same as the uploader and ideally copyright holder (P3931) should also be added.
File using {{PD-user}} after transfer from another project Tubal Pregnancy with embryo.jpg Statement creator (P170) should list the author of the original, not the uploader and ideally copyright holder (P3931) should also be added.
File using using {{PD-author}}, since it was posted as public domain on external website (in this case Gallica Digital Library) Armes de Brunehilde portées par Lucienne Bréval.jpg Source of the file should list the URL of the source page. Ideally the would also be {{Flickrreview}}, {{LicenseReview}} or similar template.
File using using {{PD-author}}, since it was posted as public domain on external website (in this case Flickr) Nearing C4 - Eyeball (36100033493).jpg Source of the file should list the URL of the source page. There should also be {{Flickrreview}} template in file description. Also on Flickr there might be public domain images which are in public domain because their copyrights expired or because it was work of US Government person. Such file should not use {{PD-author}} or this SDC statements.
File using using {{PD-author}}, since it was sent or confirmed through OTRS as public domain 2004-tsunami.jpg There should be {{PermissionOTRS}} template and Wikimedia VRTS ticket number (P6305) SDC statement.

Public domain[edit]

  • If the file is public domain, it must have appropriate qualifiers to indicate why it's in the public domain. See d:Help:Copyrights for details.
  • we have the rule that a file should be public domain in the US as well as in the source country.
  • so should a file have a country of origin (P495)?
  • for copyright we need to distingiuish between the first publication date and the creation date. Currently in Commons we don't do that, see Date for details

Modeling {{PD-Art}} copyright tags[edit]

{{PD-Art}} tag says "This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art" and than states why the original artwork is in the public domain. That is followed by the message: "The official position taken by the Wikimedia Foundation is that "faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works of art are public domain". This photographic reproduction is therefore also considered to be in the public domain in the United States. In other jurisdictions, re-use of this content may be restricted; see Reuse of PD-Art photographs for details.". We use this tag to explain why it is OK to ignore photographers copyrights in case of 2D artworks, and it should not be applied to photographs of objects which are not flat, so no paintings in frames, murals with windows and other architectural details, etc. In the past we sometimes applied the shadow test: if there are any shadows visible than {{PD-Art}} tag should not be used.

We model such statement in SDC using the following statements:

Caution: distinction between a digital file, and a creative work shown/depicted in a file[edit]

When a file on Wikimedia Commons shows/depicts a creative work, copyright information about the file and about the depicted work are usually very different.

When the creative work meets Wikidata's notability criteria, it is best to describe the creative work as an item on Wikidata and mark the Commons file as a digital representation of (P6243) the Wikidata item.

{{Art photo}} can record separate licenses for the depicted object and the digital file (see an example, with SDC data added by a Bot).

(further discussion)

Type of metadata Notes Wikidata property Status
Copyright status Copyrighted or public domain copyright status (P6216) Crystal128-configure.svg Work in progress
Copyright license License for re-use copyright license (P275) Crystal128-configure.svg Work in progress

General notes and remarks[edit]

  • ...