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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FAL 1.1. and FAL 1.2 not compatible with CC BY-SA[edit]

I received an email from Creative Commons saying that {{FAL-1.1}} and {{FAL-1.2}} are currently incompatible with any version of CC BY-SA, yet RP88 said in last month's discussion that any version of FAL allows a licensee to comply with one of later versions, like {{FAL-1.3}}. --George Ho (talk) 21:40, 10 April 2018 (UTC)

Are you confusing terms? Both "Only FAL-1.3 is compatible with CC BY SA 4.0" and "any version of FAL allows a licensee to comply with one of later versions" are true statements. All three existing versions of the FAL licenses contain the option to comply with the provisions of one of the subsequent versions and only FAL-1.3 is compatible with CC-BY-SA 4.0. When someone adapts a CC-BY-SA 4.0 work and applies the FAL to their contributions they can only choose FAL 1.3; FAL 1.1 or 1.2 can not be chosen as these licenses are not compatible with CC-BY-SA 4.0. —RP88 (talk) 23:25, 10 April 2018 (UTC)
Here is a little chart as an example to show the licenses that can be chosen for a modification to an original work licensed under a couple of licenses (this chart applies to adaptations, not unmodified distributions):
Original license Possible licenses for an adaptation
CC-BY-SA 4.0 CC-BY-SA 4.0, FAL 1.3
FAL 1.1 FAL 1.1, FAL 1.2, FAL 1.3, CC-BY-SA 4.0
FAL 1.2 FAL 1.2, FAL 1.3, CC-BY-SA 4.0
FAL 1.3 FAL 1.3, CC-BY-SA 4.0
RP88 (talk) 23:53, 10 April 2018 (UTC)
Hmm... not according to email from saying that, if FAL is un-versioned, an FAL-licensed work can be adaptable. Otherwise, implicitly, if versioned, that depends. If version is either 1.1 or 1.2, then the works with specific versions would not be adapted into CC BY-SA works.
In other words, based on emails received from ArtLibre and Creative Commons, the table would go like this:
Original license Possible licenses for an adaptation
CC-BY-SA 4.0 CC-BY-SA 4.0, FAL 1.3
FAL 1.1-only FAL 1.1
FAL 1.2-only FAL 1.2
FAL 1.3-only FAL 1.3, CC-BY-SA 4.0
FAL 1.1 or later FAL 1.1, FAL 1.2, FAL 1.3, CC-BY-SA 4.0
FAL 1.2 or later FAL 1.2, FAL 1.3, CC-BY-SA 4.0
FAL 1.3 or later FAL 1.3, CC-BY-SA 4.0
FAL (unversioned) FAL 1.x, CC-BY-SA 4.0
If you still believe I'm wrong, you can contact and then Creative Commons for questions and comments. George Ho (talk) 20:12, 11 April 2018 (UTC)
But if forwarding their emails to the Legal team is necessary, then I guess I must do so. --George Ho (talk) 20:25, 11 April 2018 (UTC)
ArLibre published the "FAL 1.1", "FAL 1.2", and "FAL 1.3" licenses. As far as I know ArtLibre has not published any licenses identified by the names of "FAL 1.1-only", "FAL 1.2-only", and "FAL 1.3-only". If you know of links to those licenses, I would appreciate it. For example, is "FAL 1.1-only" some sort of custom FAL 1.1 license with section 6 removed? With regards to versioning of FAL licenses, while both CC-BY-SA 2.0+ and the FAL provide an option to comply with later license versions, they differ in a significant detail. CC-BY-SA gives licensees the option to comply with a later version only when applied to an adaptation of the work. Unlike CC-BY-SA, the FAL gives licensees the option to comply with a later version of the FAL whether or not the work has been adapted. So, for example, if artist Alice creates a work “Artwork 1” and communicates it to artist Bob with the FAL 1.1 license, Bob may, under the terms of Section 6 of FAL 1.1, choose to use “Artwork 1” under the provisions of FAL 1.3. Now that Bob has elected to use “Artwork 1” under FAL 1.3, Bob can create a derivative work of “Artwork 1” (let’s call the derivative “Artwork 2”). Under the terms of section 2.3 of FAL 1.3 this derivative can be distributed under a compatible license. Since CC-BY-SA 4.0 meets the requirements of section 5 of FAL 1.3 (and CC extends reciprocity to FAL 1.3), it is compatible with FAL 1.3, so, Bob can distribute “Artwork 2” with the CC-BY-SA 4.0 license. —RP88 (talk) 23:27, 11 April 2018 (UTC)
As far as I understand this, -only in this context means that a work was published under FAL 1.x as the only license without the option of any later FAL versions and without parallel licensing under Creative Commons. De728631 (talk) 14:56, 16 April 2018 (UTC)

PD-US-unpublished confusion[edit]

Compare {{PD-US-unpublished}} to {{PD-old-auto-unpublished}}. PD-US-unpublished requires only one of the three conditions to be met. PD-old-auto-unpublished requires the author to have died before 1948 and for the work to have never been published before 2003.

? - Alexis Jazz 01:44, 15 April 2018 (UTC)

PD-US-unpublished says "This work was never published prior to January 1, 2003, and is currently in the public domain in the United States because it meets one of the following conditions: its author died before 1948; ..." I don't see the contradiction.--Prosfilaes (talk) 02:12, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
The contradiction is that, apart from the publication date, the author having died before 1948 is the only and mandatory condition at {{PD-old-auto-unpublished}} while PD-US-unpublished requires one out of three possible conditions. De728631 (talk) 02:25, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
Right, I overlooked that. (and I made some mistakes in that case) They still differ though as pointed out by De728631. These templates should look the same. So does {{PD-old-auto-1923}} also apply when a work wasn't published in the U.S. before 1923 but only in the home country? - Alexis Jazz 02:56, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
No, they shouldn't look the same. A template that requires the deathyear cannot and should not look like one that include anonymous works.
Yes, PD-old-auto-1923 applies when a work was published before 1923 anywhere.--Prosfilaes (talk) 03:42, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
@Prosfilaes: Okay, but they should look the same in terms of the layout. I made a suggestion at User:Alexis Jazz/sandbox. What do you think? - Alexis Jazz 04:44, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
Disagree. PD-old-auto-unpublished is not a US-specific template, it should not have a "PD-US" prefix. Like PD-old-auto-1923 and PD-old-auto-1996, it is a combination tag for an arbitrary country of origin combined with a common US PD reason. I think the formatting of those seems fairly consistent (see {{PD-old-X-1923}} and {{PD-old-X-1996}}). The unpublished situation means though that the US term will likely match the country of origin term (if at least 70pma), so the terms are no longer completely separate like the other two tags. I don't see any problem the way they are. Carl Lindberg (talk) 17:05, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
@Clindberg: So you disagree with the way it is now? Template:PD-old-auto-unpublished/core embeds {{PD-US-unpublished-text}}. - Alexis Jazz 18:46, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
I think the templates are fine (and completely accurate) as-is. I think I was more referring to the proposed name on your sandbox page. Carl Lindberg (talk) 19:48, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
@Clindberg: please tell me which name I proposed. I'm not aware of proposing any new names. - Alexis Jazz 01:17, 16 April 2018 (UTC)
OK, maybe I misunderstood. But I still don't see the problem you're trying to fix. Carl Lindberg (talk) 02:53, 16 April 2018 (UTC)
@Clindberg: I initially completely missed the 2003 date requirement on {{PD-US-unpublished}} because the order of the sentence is not logical. I have further clarified my suggestion and moved it to User:Alexis Jazz/PD-US-unpublished suggestion. Its largely housekeeping really. The current licenses are legally not a problem, I'm just trying to make them easier to read. - Alexis Jazz 14:07, 16 April 2018 (UTC)
One is a US-only template, which combines the 2003 unpublished requirement with the ways that unpublished works become PD in the US. The other one is a combined US and PD-old-70 tag, based on an author's known death year, where only one of the three unpublished conditions from the other tag makes sense. Otherwise they are the same. Carl Lindberg (talk) 03:52, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
As for the publication question, in general if something was published anywhere in the world, it was considered published in the US. There could be edge cases on the technicalities of what constitutes publication I suppose, where it would meet one country's definition but not the US (or vice versa), but for the most part a work is first published just once, and that is it. The tag is mainly for situations where something was long unpublished anywhere, and expired due to PD-old-70 in its country of origin and via the unpublished limits in the US (which is the only situation where the 70pma term is relevant today, expiration-wise, in the US). Carl Lindberg (talk) 03:59, 15 April 2018 (UTC)


This picture of a pamphlet seems to be a blatant copyvio. Am I missing something? 14:03, 15 April 2018 (UTC)

I don't see anything wrong there. Did you read the licence template? It says that "... it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 without a copyright notice". The pamphlet is from the 1950s (see description) and there is no copyright sign or notice, so it was never eligible for copyright. De728631 (talk) 14:59, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
I should add, that in the US copyright was not granted automatically until 1989. You had to fulfill some formal requirements such as attaching a copyright notice to make your work copyrighted. See also COM:Hirtle chart. De728631 (talk) 15:05, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
It isn't clear from that image if it is a complete representation of the pamphlet. There could be a copyright cropped out of the image, or the copyright could appear on another page if there is more to this tan just what is shown. The line around the image indicates to me that the source of this was likely a book and not a copy of the pamphlet itself. It is not safe to assume from this that it is not copyrighted. World's Lamest Critic (talk) 22:31, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
You're right that it was a booklet of sorts, namely a pamphlet of six pages . It was apparently written by Myron C. Fagan and first published in 1959 (see No. 24), but even if there was a copyright, it wasn't renewed in the 1980s [1]. {{PD-US-not renewed}} De728631 (talk) 23:17, 15 April 2018 (UTC)
Thanks, De728631. That clears up any concerns I had. World's Lamest Critic (talk) 14:22, 16 April 2018 (UTC)

en:Maymie de Mena[edit]

I am wondering if Mayme de Mena’s photo could not be transferred to commons. How one does that I have no clue, but, the photo is labeled 1925 visa photo, thus it falls within the dates of 1923-1978, i.e. {{PD-US-no notice}} – published in the U.S. between 1923 and 1978 but without copyright notice. It is highly unlikely, as a visa photo that a copyright existed, and it would have been invalid as an id after 5-10 years anyway. Surely posting an image on a passport is “publishing” it? (And the author is unknown) The image is 93 years old and she died 65 years ago. I am unsure of what her citizenship was at the time of her death, probably British, but at the time the photo was taken, she was Nicaraguan by marriage. SusunW (talk) 18:11, 17 April 2018 (UTC)

Several problems: 1) copyright attaches upon creation ("It is highly unlikely, as a visa photo that a copyright existed" is entirely incorrect); 2) publication has a technical meaning in copyright law ("the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending"); mere appearance of an image in a passport is not publication; 3) even if this were published, {{PD-US-no notice}} applies only to works first published in the US (it is unclear whether this is from a US, British or Nicaraguan passport); 4) in the US (works on the Commons must be free in both the US and country of origin, if different, so US law serves as a first "hurdle"), unpublished works with known authors have a term of life of the author + 70 years (the age of the subject is not relevant) and unpublished anonymous and pseudonymous works have a term of 120 years from date of creation (or 1.1.2046 in this case); 5) that this is embossed may mean the photographer of the passport photo (i.e., the creator of the derivative) may also have a copyright which would need to be considered. This currently could not be transferred to the Commons. Эlcobbola talk 18:34, 17 April 2018 (UTC)
Thank you for your help. I am baffled by all the technicalities, so always prefer to ask first. SusunW (talk) 19:36, 17 April 2018 (UTC)

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)

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)