Commons:WikiProject Public Domain/Usage guidelines for public domain works

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This page is about the possible adoption on Commons of a guideline concerning the contextual uses of cultural works of any copyright status, somewhat in the spirit of the Europeana usage guidelines for public domain works. It would, however, apply to both copyrighted and public domain material.

Importantly, such a guideline is not legal contract or an attempt to "enclose" the reuse of public domain cultural works; but would indicate a "polite" and informed way to deal with these works in their cultural context. If these principles prevents you from improving Wikimedia projects or sharing cultural heritage, ignore it.

See also Ignore All Rules

Give attribution[edit]

Please credit the original author or creator as well as any creators of intermediate/derived works. Even though attribution is not a legal requirement in Public Domain works, giving attribution makes it easier for your audience to trace the provenance of the work.

Related policy/guideline : Credit line

Give credit[edit]

When applicable, please also credit the institution (such as the archive, museum or library) that holds the original work. This makes it easier for people to continue their research, find related materials and encourages the institution to put more public domain works online.

Related policy/guideline?

Show respect[edit]

Please do not use the work in any way that is misleading or implies the consent/endorsement of the original creator. If you modify a Public Domain work any changes made to the original should be clearly indicated and you should not attribute the changes to the creator or the provider of the original work. You should label the work to show you have changed it, so that other users can attribute you correctly.

Related policy/guideline?
See also the legal code of Creative Commons licenses (e.g. part 'b' of CC-by) which states "...You may not implicitly or explicitly assert or imply any connection with, sponsorship or endorsement by the Original Author..."


If you use a Public Domain work to generate new work please share as much of your new intellectual property under a free license (such as CC-O, CC-By or CC-By-SA). If you have additional metadata or contextual information about the original work please share your knowledge. That may include adding comments or information here in Commons or, when applicable, informing the institution that holds the original object.

Related policy/guideline?
See also "Image restoration leads to new discovery"

Be aware[edit]

Take care when using content from cultures where you are unfamiliar with their sensitivities. This includes not changing or use these in ways that might be offensive to that culture.

Related policy/guidelines:' Commons:Photographs of identifiable people and Principle of least astonishment
See also Indigenous intellectual property or more generally Taboo


Users of a Public Domain work should not remove any Public Domain mark or notice that has been applied, or provide misleading information about its copyright status. Doing so would make it more difficult for subsequent users to know what the legal status of the work is. Equally, try to keep intact any additional metadata that comes with the work.

Related policy/guideline?