Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag/Straw Poll

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This poll is now closed and archived. Please do not modify it or add new votes.

Final Results:

  • A1: 0
  • A2: 54
  • B: 3
  • C: 4

Introduction: What is this all about?[edit]

This is about photographs that are intended to be faithful reproductions of old, public domain 2D works of art such as paintings. In the United States and some other countries, all such photographs are themselves considered to be in the public domain, in other words the photographer does not get any new copyright in the photograph. The tag {{PD-Art}} is used to indicate that situation. Unfortunately, under the local laws of some countries, notably the UK, Spain and the Nordic countries, such photographs may be entitled to copyright protection, either because local law considers them 'original' or because it allows a special type of "simple photograph" copyright. Current Commons policy is that photographs taken/published in those countries cannot make use of the {{PD-Art}} tag, and hence have to be deleted from Commons.

The WMF Board has stated its opinion as follows :

To put it plainly, WMF's position has always been that faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works of art are public domain, and that claims to the contrary represent an assault on the very concept of a public domain. If museums and galleries not only claim copyright on reproductions, but also control the access to the ability to reproduce pictures (by prohibiting photos, etc.), important historical works that are legally in the public domain can be made inaccessible to the public except through gatekeepers.
WMF has made it clear that in the absence of even a strong legal complaint, we don't think it's a good idea to dignify such claims of copyright on public domain works. And, if we ever were seriously legally challenged, we would have a good internal debate about whether we'd fight such a case, and build publicity around it. This is neither a policy change (at least from WMF's point of view), nor is it a change that has implications for other Commons policies. --Erik Möller 01:34, 25 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Current policy is set out at Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag.


Since our de facto and de jure policies are not in agreement, we need to figure out how to move forward. (Unless we want to revisit this issue every time a PD-Art image is nominated for deletion.) As we have already had rather exhaustive discussions at Commons talk:When to use the PD-Art tag, I would like to take this opportunity to see where the community stands. Please indicate which of the proposals below you most agree with. Each user may support only 1 option, and only in the affirmative (to keep the tallying straightforward). If you have additional points to discuss, please use Commons talk:When to use the PD-Art tag and keep the arguments here to a minimum. This poll will be open until 23:59 UTC, 15 August 2008

A. Make the PD-Art policy less restrictive[edit]


  • Supported by the Foundation (Jimbo, Erik Moller, and Mike Godwin have all indicated support)
  • Will make moving images between and commons more straightforward
  • Reduce the number of difficult deletion requests
  • Get to keep hundreds of important images
  • Take a stand against the erosion of the public domain


  • May increase liability for re-users, uploaders, and the Foundation
  • We would likely be breaking the law according to some countries
  • We would be creating an exception to our licensing policy (public domain in U.S. and country of origin)

A1. Only create an exception for UK images for now[edit]

vote below:

A2. Allow PD-Art images to be accepted from any country (with warnings)[edit]

vote below:

  1.  Support This would make our policies most compatible with other projects and most in line with the goals and wishes of the Foundation. Kaldari (talk) 20:20, 25 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  2.  Support. Since the WMF Board does not want to engage with the country-by-country legal issues but prefers to issue statements purely at the ideological level, this is I think the best of the options available to us. It complies with the wishes of the Board while keeping Commons as open as possible. --MichaelMaggs (talk) 21:25, 25 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  3.  Support Chaddy (talk) 21:32, 25 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  4.  Support ACK, Kaldari and MichaelMaggs. At first, I thought we can simply keep our policies by assuming that the UK law situation is still inconclusive. This would have allowed us to keep, for example, the National Gallery portraits without giving up our policies. At that time I did not consider the law in the Nordic countries which I am not familiar with. I am not entirely happy to enter a situation where we openly ignore the law at the country of origin but at the end I concur with WMF's visions and policies. --AFBorchert (talk) 22:14, 25 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  5.  Support This is what we're basically doing already, it's time to bring our practice and policy in sync and this seems the only viable way to do that for the time being. Haukurth (talk) 23:01, 25 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    That is simply not true. We are deleting and we have deleted many images in accordance to current written policy at Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag. It's ok to have different views on what ought to be, but let's not distort the facts of what is. Samulili (talk) 07:04, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    My own attempts at such deletion nominations have a 0% success rate but of course I don't know everything so I welcome you providing examples of deletion discussions like that. Haukurth (talk) 21:00, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    An example of such a deletion request is Commons:Deletion requests/Images of Jorunn (uploaders request). Haros (talk) 23:32, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Yes, that's the only one I know and it's something of a special case because the uploader requested deletion. In cases where the uploader becomes worried about their own legal situation I think there is a case for us honoring their requests. Haukurth (talk) 07:27, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  6.  Support. Marcus Cyron (talk) 00:22, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  7.  Support. ChristianBier (talk) 02:49, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  8.  Support --Parpan (talk) 06:20, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  9.  Support --Anghy (talk) 06:57, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  10.  Support --Fb78 (talk) 10:30, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  11.  Support --Andim (talk) 14:22, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  12.  Support --Jodo (talk) 15:10, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  13.  Support --Herbert Ortner (talk) 18:10, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  14.  Support --Tohma (talk) 18:49, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  15.  Support --Mbdortmund (talk) 19:12, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  16.  Support --Historiograf (talk) 20:13, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  17.  Support --Joergens.mi (talk) 20:15, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  18.  Support --Cherubino (talk) 20:36, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  19.  Support -- Mutter Erde (talk) 20:37, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  20.  Support. While I prefer to keep our (re)users on the safe side the general goal of liberating knowledge for mankind makes some ideological decisions necessary. By now the Wikimedia foundation should have enough weight to withstand any attack by the copyfraud lobby (to use Histo's terminology) and turn it into a publicity nightmare. --Dschwen (talk) 20:43, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  21.  Support --Paulis (talk) 20:56, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  22.  Support --Voyager (talk) 21:56, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  23.  Support --Catrin (talk) 22:08, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  24.  Support --Marcela (talk) 02:01, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  25.  Support One county should not ruin it for the rest of us (U.S. being an obvious exception) just because it happens to be the source country. Wikimedia projects come before outside reusers. This restriction doesn't help anything and it's sad that the English Wikipedia is becoming Commons II. And why does this only apply when it's the source country? We don't care if it's not free in some country as long as it's not the source (or the U.S.). What sense does that make? The rule never had consensus. People tend to defend it without actually thinking about it. Yes, it makes us slightly less free to a very small percentage, but so does allowing GPL/GFDL-licensed material instead of just public domain. It's about balance, and this rule does way more harm than good. Rocket000 (talk) 03:29, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  26.  Support --Michail (talk) 10:11, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  27.  Support --Balû (talk) 10:26, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  28.  Support -- Timo Müller Diskussion 10:55, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  29.  Support Raymond Disc. 12:48, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  30.  Support -- I am sick and tired of PD-Art related nukes. I'm going to design a little "additional" warning tag design similar to the FOP tag for this. ViperSnake151 (talk) 17:04, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  31.  Support -jkb- (cs.source) 18:40, 27 July 2008 (UTC), yes I support thisReply[reply]
  32.  Support -- Zef 12:54, 28 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  33.  Support --Julius1990 (talk) 14:04, 28 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  34.  Support --Concord (talk) 17:21, 28 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  35.  Support following Rocket000's argument --Cethegus (talk) 22:27, 28 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  36.  Support -- Sozi (talk) 10:57, 29 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  37.  Support -- Kolossos (talk) 15:00, 29 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  38. --Noddy93 (talk) 09:34, 30 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  39.  Support --Ikiwaner (talk) 20:14, 30 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  40.  Support ~ JohnnyMrNinja 17:43, 31 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  41.  Support This seems like a case of contradictory 'copyright logic'. Strictly speaking, Commons is subject only to US laws because that is where the servers are. Legality in other countries applies to people creating, uploading, or re-using images in those countries... not to Commons itself. However, we allow 'freedom of panorama' images like Image:Big bird.jpg which are not public domain under US law, but don't allow PD-Art images which are public domain under US law. We should allow these and just have a 'warning notice' template for PD-Art images that links to a page listing jurisdictions where the law differs. --CBDunkerson (talk) 19:16, 31 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  42.  Support - BanyanTree 01:04, 1 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  43.  Support - WMF is larger than Lithuania, we will continue to move forward on the global stage when we begin following our own decrees and making internally-consistent judgements, not when we tie ourselves in knots trying not to step on a single toe. Sherurcij (talk) 17:46, 1 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  44.  Support - I defer to the Foundation where legal policy is concerned.--Father Goose (talk) 20:57, 1 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  45.  Support -- Hesperian 00:27, 2 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  46.  Support Mr.Z-man (talk) 16:17, 2 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  47.  Support - as long as the foundation is supporting --Hei ber (talk) 17:27, 2 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  48.  Support, it's the courageous way to go. Eclecticology (talk) 23:34, 2 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  49.  Support Why should we be more restrictive than the WMF legal experts? --ChrisiPK (talk) 14:29, 3 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  50.  Support As per ChrisiPK and others. Yann (talk) 11:43, 4 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  51.  Support As I've been suggesting for several years; good to see we're finally moving forward. James F. (talk) 07:43, 5 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  52.  Support It's unrealistic to expect contributors to learn another set of rules and another user interface. -- Philcha (talk) 12:53, 5 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  53.  Support --Jeremyb (talk) 02:31, 6 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  54.  Support With Bridgeman v. Corel (1999), mere reproduction of 2-D works makes no new creativity in the USA. Let us improve the warning message that other countries may say otherwise, especially when copies were made outside the USA. We already have so many works PD in the USA even if still copyrighted in certain other countries. If copies were made in the USA, other countries accepting the rule of the shorter term will not copyright them. If right here we could only host works PD worldwide, we would have to apply the "rule of the longest term".--Jusjih (talk) 02:56, 6 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

B. Keep the current PD-Art policy and enforce it[edit]


  • We keep the liability of our re-users, uploaders, and the Foundation to a minimum
  • We adhere to the letter of the law (as we can best interpret it)
  • Our licensing policy stays consistant


  • Not supported by the Foundation (they have indicated they would prefer we keep the images)
  • We still have to deal with people moving unacceptable PD-Art images from the English Wikipedia to Commons
  • We'll have a lot of difficult and contentious deletion debates to go through
  • We will probably lose hundreds of important images

vote below:

  1.  Support as the legal consequences and risks for uploaders and other users haven't been clarified yet I feel the current policy has to be maintained and enforced.--Caranorn (talk) 21:41, 25 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  2.  Support - we should not pick and choose which laws we follow. Either we follow the laws, or we give up with this entire project as our position will be untenable. -mattbuck (Talk) 15:56, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Actually we do pick and choose. We choose to follow laws of other countries (which mean absolutely nothing when you're talking about servers outside those jurisdictions) only when the material comes from that country. Not the other 98% of the time when it comes from a country that's not the source. This arbitrary rule just makes things worst. Rocket000 (talk) 03:38, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  3.  Support Adambro (talk) 18:06, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

C. Blank/Other[edit]

  1. While some have claimed that the Foundation only wishes that UK photographs of old paintings are PD, I actually read Godwin's statement as a legal opinion that NPG is wrong in claiming copyright and that these image are PD both in US and the source country. Therefore these images do not form an exception but follow the rule. Samulili (talk) 22:29, 25 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    That is not a legal opinion on the law within the UK, but a view on the risks run by the Foundation in the US. --MichaelMaggs (talk) 06:20, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Well, I have differing view. Maybe you should ask Godwin more precisely. Samulili (talk) 06:56, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  2. Resorting to a vote when an active discussion isn't heading in the direction you want is not how things are traditionally done around here. LX (talk, contribs) 22:41, 25 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Are you serious? First I supported deleting the pictures, but lots of people (including the foundation) objected. Then I supported creating an exception for the UK, but people said it was wrong to create an exception for one country. Then I supported creating an exception for all countries, but people didn't like that either. What do you suggest I do. Just say forget it and let all this stuff exist in limbo forever, always in danger of someone deciding to actually enforce the policy? No, that is rediculous. Either we're going to move all this stuff to the English Wikipedia and delete it from Commons or we're going to change our policy. If holding a poll is the only way to move forward, then that's what I'm going to do. Kaldari (talk) 19:24, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I suggest you temper your language, and temper your temper. When a discussion is ongoing and fruitful it is customary to continue to work towards consensus in that vein rather than skip ahead to a straw poll.  — Mike.lifeguard | @en.wb 00:01, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    In my opinion, discussion thusfar was not fruitful. I tried my best to work towards consensus, any consensus (even pleading with people on their talk pages), but some editors were not willing to change their views and no solution was actually moving towards consensus from what I could tell, even my compromise proposal. At least this poll will let us know which options are worth discussing and how much relative support each one has for now. In case you aren't aware, there is a deletion discussion ongoing, so deciding this issue in a timely manner would be nice. I'm sure that's not realistically possible, but I'd like to continue to keep this debate rolling towards a conclusion if we can. Kaldari (talk) 17:30, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  3. Keep it simple, silly. I would prefer only caring about U.S. law for all images, not only for PD-art. --Kjetil_r 20:34, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    That would be my first choice too and I suppose that should have been an option in the poll. Haukurth (talk) 21:01, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Should I (or you?) be bold and create such an option? --Kjetil_r 21:04, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Perhaps - but I think it will look less popular than it actually is since many people have already expressed their opinion and may not revisit the page. Haukurth (talk) 23:17, 26 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  4. LX says it well. To those directly above me, please don't add it to the poll. Start a discussion if you're serious about it and can justify your belief. —Giggy 09:16, 27 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Auf Commons gewinnt, wer am meisten nervt wie LX, wer also hartnäckig in der Lage ist, lange englische Ausführungen immer wieder vorzubringen und seine spärlichen Argumente sprachlich zu variieren. Dass viele deutschsprachige Nutzer nicht dazu in der Lage und willens sind, bringt sie ins Hintertreffen. Sie bringen ihre Position zum Ausdruck, was ihr gutes Recht ist, werden dann aber von Maggs und Konsorten diffamiert, weil es hier nicht um eine Abstimmung gehe. Wie bitteschön soll das Meinungsbild einer Community anders erhoben werden, wenn viele hier einfach Sprachprobleme haben? --Historiograf (talk) 17:25, 28 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There's something to that - ideally when there are important decisions to be made we should try to at least summarize the main arguments in German. Still, people who disagree with what's going on but don't really understand it would do well to ask for explanations. Haukurth (talk) 18:32, 28 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ich kann diese Bedenken gut nachvollziehen. Es spricht aber überhaupt nichts dagegen, Kommentare auch in deutscher Sprache hinzuzufügen, wenn dies bequemer erscheint bzw. leichter fällt. Dies ist nicht allzu selten vorzufinden, u.a. auch auf Meta. Nebenbei: Hättet Ihr etwas dagegen, wenn wir diesen Diskussionsfaden auf die Diskussionsseite verschieben, weil dies streng genommen mitten in der Abstimmung nicht wirklich hingehört? --AFBorchert (talk) 21:00, 28 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Noch eine kleine Nachbemerkung, Histo: Mir ist bislang MichaelMaggs nicht als jemand aufgefallen, der andere diffamiert. So wie ich ihn bislang erlebt habe, ist er immer sachlich, auch dann, wenn er anderer Meinung als wir beide sind. --AFBorchert (talk) 21:06, 28 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
ich fände das klasse, wenn ich hier auf deutsch schreiben könnte, denn ich kann zwar englische Sätze dem Sinn nach verstehen, sie zu schreiben überfordert meine Kenntnisse jedoch.--Anghy (talk) 11:48, 1 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It looks as if it is possible to see which way this poll is going. There are clearly no problems for the foundation in this, the potential problem resides with the uploader and the reuser. The solution for the reuser is usually simple, take down the web-page. (Someone careless enough to publish a book without doing proper research is a different case.) That leaves the uploader. I'm sure that an uploaders request for deletion of such pictures will be looked upon with sympathy, but is that sufficient? Should Commons have a policy supporting uploaders right to take down ones own uploaded pictures in those cases where a (possible) legal problem is discovered after uploading? Haros (talk) 10:04, 2 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Such images should just be downloaded, removed and re-uploaded by a willing user/administrator - something that could easily be handled through Commons:Deletion requests. Sherurcij (talk) 18:49, 2 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]