Commons:Watermarks/old draft

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A watermark is an identifying mark added to an image, usually after creation. Digital watermarks can consist of timestamps, names, digitally added signatures, text, or an image.

Types of watermarks[edit]

Historic captions and signatures[edit]

Artists' signatures on paintings, captions and signatures on historic plates etcetera are not considered watermarks and are not covered by this proposal. The information in the text should in most cases be repeated in the image description. There might be use for a version without the texts, but it should be uploaded under a separate name (see Commons:Overwriting existing files).

Image stamps or logos[edit]

Logos are generally not free (unless specifically released under a free license or too simple for copyright), and adding a logo as a watermark to an image makes it likewise unfree. If an unwatermarked version of the image is available, whether in your possession or from the source, it should be uploaded instead.

Images with unfree watermarks will either have their watermark removed or be deleted. You are welcome to upload an unwatermarked version, but as long as the unfree watermark remains in place the image cannot be hosted here on Commons.

See below for information on dealing with images from another source that contain logos or watermarks.

Signatures and photographer names[edit]

Adding your name directly to the photograph when uploading is strongly discouraged. It detracts from the quality of photographs, and generally the thumbnails used on pages are so small the text is not visible anyway. Your name should be located on the image description page, which is accessible when the thumbnail image is clicked on. You can fill as much information as you like in the "Author" field of the {{Information}} template.

If your image is uploaded several different places online and you have your watermark on other versions, please upload the unmarked version to Commons. When creating images it is advisable to save the original as well as the watermarked version, to avoid having to manually edit images to digitally remove the mark.

There is an exception to this for works of art by notable artists who conventionally sign their works, such as many old masters.

Website addresses[edit]

Sources should be added in the "Source" field of the {{Information}} template. Website addresses displayed on images amount to advertising or endorsement of the site, and go against Wikimedia Foundation guidelines and policies. Website addresses displayed on images also detract from the neutrality of images, which is a large problem on Wikipedia and other projects.

Please upload unmarked images, and place your information under the "source" or "author" section of the {{information}} template on the image page, which is accessible to people by clicking the image thumbnail on pages it is included in.

Images with website addresses will likely be deleted, unless the watermark can be removed. Images displaying website addresses tend to be considered advertising, and this is out of scope for the Commons.


Metadata displays the time images were taken, leaving physical timestamps on images unnecessary.

Timestamps are often added by cameras at the time the picture is taken. Digital cameras add image creation time to the metadata of the image, but if the option to add timestamps is turned on, a visual stamp is also added to the image. These cannot be removed afterwards except by manual digital editing, which is time-consuming and often produces unsatisfactory results. Cropping can remove information or sections of the image that are desired.

Please turn the timestamp setting on your camera off when taking photographs. Timestamps are often visually distracting, and detract from the quality of images used for encyclopedic purposes. Consult your camera manual for information on how to change this setting if you are unsure how.

Reasons not to upload watermarked images[edit]

  • Watermarks can be unfree, if they feature a logo or any copyrighted image.
  • They may contain copyright statements, which affect the reuseability of the image.
  • They detract from the quality of images
  • They can negatively influence the neutrality of images, or be considered advertising, and cannot be used on certain projects
  • Images with watermarks are far less likely to be used
  • Watermarks will be, in most cases, removed anyway by image editors - uploading a watermarked version only creates a lot of extra work for other volunteers

Dealing with watermarked images[edit]

Your own images[edit]

A new version of an image can be uploaded by clicking the "Upload a new version" button

If you own an unwatermarked version of your image, please upload it over the existing version of the image by clicking the "upload a new version" button located under the File History section. If you don't have the original version of your image, consider cropping the watermark if it is small and against an edge of the image where cropping won't remove useful parts of the image. If cropping is not possible or would affect the quality of the image, tag it with {{watermark}}; if you are able to successfully edit it yourself to inconspicuously remove the watermark, do so and upload your version over the original.

Images from other photographers[edit]

If you manage to get a photographer to release their image under a free license, specifically request an unwatermarked version. If they've released a version with watermark, let them know that Commons prefers unwatermarked versions and request the original, or point them here.

If an unwatermarked version is not available at all, either remove the watermark yourself if you are able to do so in a high-quality way or, if not, upload the watermarked version (or a version with the least conspicuous watermark) and tag it with {{watermark}}.

Images from websites, companies, or organizations[edit]

If a company, organization, or website releases an image under a free license, request an unwatermarked version or the original image. If they release an image with a logo it should be brought to their attention that logos are not free, and the image will not be useable on most projects. If they watermark the image with a website address or other information, inform them that this information will be added to the image description page where it will be visible to all who click the image, and that the original image without a watermark is requested.

Does the Creative Commons license compel Wikimedia Commons to retain watermarks?[edit]

Authors who are concerned about attribution will often be alarmed when visible watermarks are removed from their images. In the past, some of them have claimed that Creative Commons licenses explicitly forbid the removal of these watermarks, since they are a form of attribution. The community has explicitly rejected this interpretation of the license, adopting instead the interpretation that attribution statements can be re-located to the image description page and/or image metadata while remaining in compliance with the license. See Commons:Deletion requests/Template:CC-Dont-Remove Watermark.

See also[edit]