Commons talk:Avoid overwriting existing files

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Proposed guideline created[edit]

Proposed guideline created by Jameslwoodward (talk · contribs), after discussion from COM:AN, see [1]. -- Cirt (talk) 03:20, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

Good job. It might be good to tell that some (non mainstream) photographs with high quality or artistic aspirations, such as FP, POTD, QI ... should better not be touched without agreement of the author. Example of retouched picture: File:Wrightflyer.jpg --Foroa (talk) 17:46, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
Looks good. When an unload edit war occurs, I usually put the {{Dont overwrite}} template on the talk pages of the disputants. I've added a mention of the template to the proposal. Walter Siegmund (talk) 18:08, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
I have added a link to this page to the english version of {{Dont overwrite}}. It would certainly be appropriate to add a similar link to other language versions.      Jim . . . . Jameslwoodward (talk to me) 19:58, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

I think it looks good. Overwriting should be used with care. --MGA73 (talk) 20:28, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

I'd prefer if we could avoid the word "images" in the title. It is equally inadvisable to replace audio or video recordings with significantly edited versions. LX (talk, contribs) 13:21, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

Good point. How about "Commons talk:Avoid overwriting media with new uploads"?      Jim . . . . Jameslwoodward (talk to me) 13:38, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
✓ Done, moved. -- Cirt (talk) 14:22, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I prefer "Avoid overwriting existing files". Walter Siegmund (talk) 02:09, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
✓ Done, moved. Better? ;) -- Cirt (talk) 04:25, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
I cleaned up the three double redirect and one triple redirect left behind. LX (talk, contribs) 19:59, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Thank you! ;) -- Cirt (talk) 11:33, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
The older version that made a note about allowing improvements (at least as far as it holds for images) needs to be included in some way. I have a user who reverts my changes under the interpretation of this guideline as a "rule" that no upload should be made over a pre-existing file even to the point of rotations and level fixes. Shyamal (talk) 03:59, 8 December 2010 (UTC)
It still does say that revision is usually allowed for relatively minor improvements. But not in the case of historical media, they are treated ultra-carefully to preserve source chains. Please can you provide a link to the case you want to discuss? --99of9 (talk) 04:23, 8 December 2010 (UTC)
You have already warned me of my reverts, so I will presume you already know about specific cases. They are all uploads of plates that are published in journals and books with many copies (therefore not "original artwork"), one of which one has been scanned and uploaded by the Biodiversity Heritage Library and archived on the Internet Archive ( - so these plates are old but not unique and not non-recoverable. My suggestions however are not intended for my particular case but rather to ensure that the clauses are not misinterpreted. "Original artwork" could for instance be qualified. Shyamal (talk) 04:32, 8 December 2010 (UTC)
I was confused by your talk elsewhere of SVG images, I wasn't sure whether you were referring to SVG or biological plates. Thank you for your clarification that this is about the plates. There is no mention in the guideline of original artwork, but instead historical documents or artwork, which this certainly comes under. The reason I would argue for retaining our instructions on this is that the original Commons file should be preserved because anyone who wants to redo the cleanup from scratch needs a place to clearly link as their starting point. 99of9 (talk) 04:41, 8 December 2010 (UTC)

Exception for overwriting your own files?[edit]

Should we add an exception for people overwriting files they uploaded to begin with? I don't usually see anyone complaining about this. --Avenue (talk) 13:49, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

Happens often with obset people that want their used files deleted. They replace it with totally other content or ridiculous resolution. --Foroa (talk) 14:21, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Good point. I guess I don't hang out in the right places. --Avenue (talk) 20:35, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, respectfully, this should apply to this situation as well. For significant changes - a new image/file/page should be made. -- Cirt (talk) 14:22, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I think the only difference for your own files might be significant crops -- we have a colleague who has uploaded many thousands of files without any editing outside of the camera. There may come a moment when he starts editing his own files, some of which could use significant cropping -- I wouldn't have any problem with that. But certainly not lower resolution, different images, or other major changes, all of which go against the point of an irrevocable license.      Jim . . . . Jameslwoodward (talk to me) 14:32, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't think we need specific language for this case. No one is likely to challenge the uploader's judgment as long as it is reasonable. Walter Siegmund (talk) 17:36, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Agree. Key is only for relatively minor improvements, maybe that could be emphasized. --Foroa (talk) 19:11, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I was thinking more of cases like a current FPC, where a better photo of the same object was provided. But I agree with Walter that we don't need special language for cases like this; it'd probably cause more problems than it would solve. --Avenue (talk) 20:35, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Alright, no objections to this above consensus. ;) -- Cirt (talk) 04:25, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
This can still lead to troubles when users interpret these guidelines literally - as has been demonstrated to me by a user. I think "significance" of a crop should be measured by its contribution to encyclopaedic value - so removing a wide border could be by area 50% crop but it should be allowed since it enhances the encyclopaedic value by focussing on the subject (unless the usage indicates that the subject is the ornate border of the image for instance). Additionally I would suggest a clause to allow alteration of SVG (which is much like allowing editing of text on the language wikipedias) since there can be fixes made due to renderer glitches, typos etc. and when it is the original uploader, corrections may be made to the image itself over time. Shyamal (talk) 04:04, 8 December 2010 (UTC)

I think, for as long as the file isn't used at whatever other page (article, discussion etc.) and wasn't categorized by other user, we can tolerate some greater corrections of the original file. However, an image never must be overwritted by different photo of the same subject (excepting an immediate rewriting of a mistaken upload). It is unacceptable to change photos in many articles at many projects in such a way that some quite different photo is uploaded under the original name, without a record at history pages of changed articles and without checking whether the new image is fully conformable to its description at all pages where is used. --ŠJů (talk) 07:08, 8 December 2010 (UTC)

It would be better to talk about the original copies of artwork, most non-historical photographs, and perhaps other types of image separately as different criteria apply. The first copy of an original artwork is important for reference and so it would be better not to upload over the first copy of artwork. This is in keeping with the guidelines with regard to the first copies of original artwork and historical documents, and I agree with the guidelines. This would apply to the original uploader and equally to everyone else of the first copy of the original artwork. Usage of images or not on various language wikis and who has categorised an image or not is irrelevant to the importance of first copies of artwork. The {{original}} template can be used, which signposts users to retouched images. Snowmanradio (talk) 10:25, 11 December 2010 (UTC)
  • Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose I do not support a general exception for own files per User:Foroa. So no general exception please.
However if the file is not used and/or the change makes the file better then I see no reason not to allow a new version. Or if it is userpage images ofcourse. So I think the current wording "relatively minor improvements" is ok. It also says "As a general rule" so there can be cases where bigger changes can be ok. --MGA73 (talk) 20:02, 19 December 2010 (UTC)


If you will search for some examples of rewritten files, File:747 jal2.png is a typical case. --ŠJů (talk) 16:37, 9 December 2010 (UTC)

That is certainly a problematic case, those images could have filled an entire category! --99of9 (talk) 23:53, 9 December 2010 (UTC)
But that is exactly the point. Rather than the author of article having the choice of the image to use, they are forced to use the one that is the most recent, rather than the one that is the most relevant. And of course, the article will never be able to use two images from this series. Beta M (talk) 07:27, 24 December 2010 (UTC)

An other example: File:Bus-Eco.png Bus-Eco.png. This svg is used in schemes of bus lines of en:Castellón de la Plana. The revertators intend to change all bus schemes through a change ("new version") of source images of logos or numbers. But different versions have utterly different colors, in this case also utterly different text ("Eco" in blue, "L14 Ecologic Gas" in orange, "14 Eco" in gray). There can occur many problems:

  • when a image (e. g. a color number) is used by somebody for a different use than for such it was created (image like Bus-1.png can have many occasions to be used, they shape, text and color is not bound to bus lines in Castellón de la Plana)
  • when such image is categorized by color, shape or text and some of those attributes is subsequently changed
  • when two users (see history of uploads of File:Bus-1.png) have a different opinion and make and upload war here at Commons instead of discussion at Wikipedia project where those symbols are used

Should we disallow such changes of svg files? --ŠJů (talk) 22:00, 12 December 2010 (UTC)

And what about this one? --ŠJů (talk) 01:28, 20 December 2010 (UTC)

Whenever an overwrite is disputed, e.g., File:Bus-1.png, I think the newer file should be uploaded under a new name and crosslinked with the other version(s). File:20090111 TW71 Abtransport IVB.JPG isn't merely a minor crop. I think it should have been uploaded under a new name. Walter Siegmund (talk) 04:55, 30 December 2010 (UTC)
File:Solid white bordered.png is an example (uploaded in good faith) that I have reverted because it affected the current uses in a subtle but evident way. See File talk:Solid white bordered.png. -84user (talk) 19:28, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
File talk:JosephineBakerBurlesque.JPG describes another of my reversions, this time because I noticed that the new file's 8 bit grayscale palette range loses potential information compared to 24 bits. -84user (talk) 19:47, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

Similar discussions here Commons talk:File naming[edit]

At Commons talk:File naming there is also a discussion when to overwrite. I think the discussion should have been here but moving it would be too complex so I just make this link. --MGA73 (talk) 11:31, 24 December 2010 (UTC)

Move to Help:[edit]

I was just about to create Help:Uploading a new version of a file before discovering this page. I think this page is better off at the "Help:" namespace than this gallery-space, since this is not a requests page (or any other type of "edits expected"-type page). And perhaps also add information from Special:ListGroupRights on who could upload newer versions. Rehman 13:24, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

Template to add on files that has been overwritten[edit]

Perhaps we should create a template to add on files that has been overwrited. Example:

Gtk-copy-warning.svg This file has been overwritten

Files should not be overwritten.

A user has requested that this file is Split-arrows 2.svg up.

Then admins could split up the files into seperate file names. --MGA73 (talk) 16:36, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

  • Fine. The template could add a hidden to-do category. Snowmanradio (talk) 22:29, 21 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Agree. Could come very handy. But just a tiny off topic question: Do we have a skeletal template for all of these currently existing templates? So that styles and formatting are uniform on all templates, and text+image could be changed via simple parameters? Also if necessary, we could add a link in the template to point at COM:HMS. Rehman 01:04, 22 January 2011 (UTC)
  • On purely semantic terms, I believe MGA73 was looking for the word overwritten. Magog the Ogre (talk) 19:46, 27 February 2011 (UTC)

I have now created {{split}} so we have a template to work with. Feel free to change it. --MGA73 (talk) 21:15, 1 March 2011 (UTC)

I have inserted the word "split" so people can read what we mean. ;) ← → Image is a bit up and bigger. Maybe also simply in a new line centered at the bottom?
Technical: What is the process of splitting up? And do we assume that the uploader of a new image automatically agrees to the same licenses? Cheers --Saibo (Δ) 00:46, 2 March 2011 (UTC)
Oh, and what about a |reason= parameter since some overwritten files are okay and it may be not clear why the person who placed the template does want a split-up. Cheers --Saibo (Δ) 02:10, 2 March 2011 (UTC)
The process of splitting is mentioned at COM:HMS, which probably needs to be mentioned in the template. Just splitted up the file File:Houshinmon.jpg to File:Houshinmon2.jpg. Rehman 03:00, 2 March 2011 (UTC)

Split requests by non-authors[edit]

If you look at this request, you could see that the same uploader of the original image, has reuploaded a better file over it. Both files are, obviously looking different. But, they are of course the same thing, just with better lighting. Splitting the darker off the newer doesn't do any good. Maybe this should be mentioned somewhere? Rehman 02:48, 2 March 2011 (UTC)

It doesn't matter if it's the same uploader or if it is of the same subject. It's a different image, and should not be overwritten over the original (as it says over at Commons:File naming: "The file name applies to one concrete work: do not overwrite it even with a similar image of the same subject."). While I don't disagree with you that in this case the second one is clearly better, and the original may be of little use, it is a pretty dangerous slippery slope to create a precedent whereby original uploaders can overwrite images based on an amorphous and subjective standard of whether the new image is better or not. In this case, the original image was freely-licensed, and it is not up to the uploader to effectively delete it from the Commons through an overwrite. If the original image is too dark to be of much use, it should be nominated for deletion once the new one is uploaded (separately). --Skeezix1000 (talk) 18:30, 31 May 2011 (UTC)

How to handle accidental overwrites?[edit]

I am missing discussion/advice for such cases where files which have been overwritten accidentally with completely different contents, see e.g. the history of File:Garrulus_glandarius_1.jpg. Especially when used in project outside commons, the initial content needs to be restored in a timely fashion. In such cases any user noticing the situation could do a revert to remedy the situation immediately - but still a split should be requested. Is it required to point out as part of the request, that the image already has been reverted to it's original contents - or can we assume that the split task taker will notice this fact when executing the split? Wouldn't it be helpful if some comment from the requesting user could be given in the split template?

What about noticing the user who did the overwrite - currently the split template says "Consider to inform user that have overwritten the file with a {{Dont overwrite}}." Shouldn't that be automated? --Burkhard (talk) 20:05, 29 June 2011 (UTC)

I suppose you could split out the 19:51, 2011 May 15 version of File:Garrulus_glandarius_1.jpg#filehistory as the uploader edited the file description page [2] to add source/licensing.
Frequently this is missing though. If one would split out all previous versions, eventually one will just have to delete most of them for lack of source/license tags.
Notifying the uploader can help, but the restore with an explanatory edit summary is visible to the uploader anyways. --  Docu  at 05:04, 30 June 2011 (UTC)


I just have to say this is a poor policy and shouldn't exist. If someone is overwriting good images, then they are violating other policies. This, however, has no real need to exist. If you are dissatisfied with your image, you have every right to take a cleaner shot and reupload, or similar things. If anything, we have always allowed people to delete files that they uploaded if they aren't being used, and this is superior to that idea in that there is a history of the previous image. We do not need unnecessary clutter from similar images that exist solely because someone was required by a policy or guideline to upload under a new file if they made a mistake. Ottava Rima (talk) 21:30, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

It seems to be about overwriting of others’ uploads. --AVRS (talk) 08:31, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
First, we have not "always allowed people to delete files that they uploaded if they aren't being used". In fact, such deletions are against policy. We all need to remember that many of our files are used in places other than WMF projects and deletion here leaves such use in limbo.
Second, an uploader is a bad judge of whether his or her image is useful and whether a replacement is better. When this issue had been argued, often the two have been from slightly different angles or taken at different seasons, so that the two are significantly different for some purposes. Since it costs nothing to keep both, that is our policy.      Jim . . . . Jameslwoodward (talk to me) 12:01, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
"In fact, such deletions are against policy." I'm not sure where you got that, but I've worked in a lot of deletion discussions and you are wrong. Ottava Rima (talk) 16:12, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Not how it was used. Ottava Rima (talk) 16:12, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
  • I agree with Jameslwoodward and support this proposed guideline; contributors may use the deletion request process if they wish to remove an image. Note: This discussion is related to the discussion of File:Steeple Ashton.jpg.[3] --Walter Siegmund (talk) 14:51, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
"Remove" is a term that is too loose and too dangerous - it has already proven to be problematic. "an uploader is a bad judge of whether his or her image is useful and whether a replacement is bette" That is also a rather problematic claim and not really part of our basis. An uploader has the right to being credit, and also is the producer of the image. They deserve far more respect than your quick claim allows. Ottava Rima (talk) 16:12, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
  • I am also in complete agreement with Jim. If it's a minor correction, this policy allows for overwriting. If it's more than minor, but the existing file is an honest error, a deletion request is easy and should be straightforward. But the practice overwriting is so, so abused, that a policy such as this one has sadly become absolutely necessary. --Skeezix1000 (talk) 16:14, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
  • I agree with Ottava Rima that there is a wording problem here and it seems like others have seen it as well given that this is only a proposal. I have seen folks making history splits when the essential content is unchanged (eg. layout changes and enhancement of encylopaedic value to what is being illustrated File:BirdBeaksA.svg) while others use this as some kind of archival system or regulated document management system where files should not be modified. It probably helps to see the primary function as being for media to be shared across the language Wikis. A technical modification to allow users on language wikis to use specific revisions of images would help entirely avoid the issue - something like how code branches are managed on SVN or other version management systems. Shyamal (talk) 14:01, 18 October 2011 (UTC)
  • That is an interesting suggestion, but I'm not sure how it could be done so that it would be obvious to our users. Many of our contributors are unfamiliar with SVN and have little technical sophistication. Also, I don't see how it would be useful for File:BirdBeaksA.svg or File:Steeple Ashton.jpg. If someone makes a modification in File:BirdBeaksA.svg for use on one of the projects, it seems likely to me that editors on other projects would want to see it and consider using it. Thanks. --Walter Siegmund (talk) 16:27, 18 October 2011 (UTC)
Exactly my point, there is no need to split the history because the image looks different in this case. Unfortunately there are folks reading this proposed guideline and the templates associated with it and splitting out outdated versions out of the history. (see File:BirdBeaksA_(2).svg) Regarding how users should see this, well any HCI/usability advisor will say that the underlying system should be completely invisible, so no knowledge of version management systems should be required. When a user adds an image into the language wiki the option to use a specific version or a generic head of the trunk (as now ) should be allowed. Shyamal (talk) 04:57, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
We want our images to have good names. File:747 jal2.png!20080412015644 or however you choose to name a specific version is a horrible name. Furthermore, we want categories to be useful; when you go to Category:Japan Airlines Flight 123, you should see thumbnails of all the images. You shouldn't have to go to every image and check the history to see if there's anything useful there.--Prosfilaes (talk) 23:04, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
A simpler image, File:BirdBeaksA-es.svg is used in four articles on three projects where the more complete File:BirdBeaksA.svg may have contained too much detail for the article and is labeled in English. File:BirdBeaksATamilLandscape.svg is language specific with labels in Tamil. But File:BirdBeaks.svg is not labeled and may be used by any project. --Walter Siegmund (talk) 03:14, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
I love this proposal, and I am waiting for this page to become part of Commons policy. Hanay (talk) 04:26, 23 October 2011 (UTC)
  • I agree with Jim and with the principle that files should not be overwritten with different files. Commons is not a personal webhosting or archive of individual uploaders. Uploading any image, the uploader released his rights and provided his image to the project. The release is irrevokable. Every user which noticed any uploaded image have a right to find it also next time, if the image is in scope. The file can be "used" not only in other projects but it is used also showing itself in whatever category at Commons. We can tolerate uncontroversial changes of any graphics but if anybody prefer the original version, he has right to find it kept. Any photo should be never overwritten with a different photo, especially from different day or different view or with different details. --ŠJů (talk) 03:37, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
Agree. --Foroa (talk) 11:05, 28 December 2011 (UTC)

Oppose, and proposal[edit]

This guideline is unnecessary and violates the "Feel free" motto of Wikipedia. It also limits our possibilities to correct information. The database contains images that show false information or sometimes outright lies. I remember a contributor who uploaded historical maps of Balkan states that never existed, and that could only be used to document a non-existing status quo. I remember a contributor that posed as a self proclaimed specialist of composition in visual art who just drew lines of his own idea in an image and uploaded them. I remember a graph of the increase of traffic congestion that did not follow the dataset in the source. I rember a graph of the correlation between the laying date of eggs of a certain bird and the years temperature that did not follow the source. As long as the images are used somewhere we will not delete them, no mather how false they are, because they are "ïn use". This guideline would cripple us when we are not allowed to upload a correct version of those files. But even the substantial crop argument in the guideline is debatable. The example of Martin Scorcese shows that; the substantial crop is substantially better, and when re-uploaded would make an improvement on all the articles where the image is used. The presence of the original image is only necessary when someone wants to write an article about anonymous people in backgrounds.

There is a simple solution that will not violate the "Feel free" motto. If an uploader does not want his image to be overwritten he should be able to add a template to the file-description that asks so, with a reason why. Jan Arkesteijn (talk) 11:57, 26 December 2011 (UTC)

You say that it will cripple us when we can't overwrite "false" images in use. I would say that's when this rule is most important. If a Wikipedia has an article on Svobódnyj Moscow, the free city-state between 1939-1942, before Nazis returned Stalin to power, with an appropriate map on Commons, there is nothing we can do to that map without violating our covenant with the other projects. It is what it is. We don't fight over facts with the other projects.--Prosfilaes (talk) 03:46, 27 December 2011 (UTC)
I am not aware of a covenant with other projects. Could you please give me link, so I can read it? I don't know anything about this special case Svobódnyj Moscow so I can't respond to that. But I am quite sure that a template saying "Please, don't overwrite this file because it illustrates a special case etc.etc." is quite sufficient. We don't need to choke in rules. As for the last sentence. Wikimedia does not only deliver files to Wikipedia projects. Anyone out there in the world can take our files and use them. We can't be responsible for how anyone is using our files, but we can be responsible for our ability to correct them if they are wrong. Jan Arkesteijn (talk) 11:00, 27 December 2011 (UTC)
When somebody want to replace some image with any better, the standard way is to upload the new image under a new name and to change the link on all pages where the image should be changed. This way is especially desirable in cases where the original image was incorrect and the new image is correct. Commons can contain various images, correct ones and incorrect ones. Wikipedia requieres correct information and every substantial change should be documented at the history page of the Wikipedia article. It is undesirable to change content of any article without its transparent edit. Only uncontroversial little corrections can be upload as a new version of any file. However, a derivative work or even a different work by different author shouldn't overwrite any older image. If you have any objection or comment to correctness of any image, you should add them to its description page, not to overwrite the file. This is a basic principle of Commons that every image has its own description page and the file name is a permanent identifier of a specific work. --ŠJů (talk) 03:12, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
If a file is incorrect, it should not be kept. Correct it or delete it. Wikipedia is often ridiculed for being a publisher of dubious articles. Wikimedia seems to be doing everything possible to maintain that reputation. Correct it or delete it. Jan Arkesteijn (talk) 10:25, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
Commons has a reputation for taking files from Wikipedia, moving them to Commons, and then deleting them without warning. Do we really want to encourage that reputation?--Prosfilaes (talk) 13:50, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
It's not a written covenant. But go ahead, go to any of the Wikipedias and tell them that Commons will delete files we don't like even if they're free and in use. Maybe we can get everyone to stop uploading files for the English Wikipedia to here.--Prosfilaes (talk) 13:50, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
I think we are not talking about the same thing. Jan Arkesteijn (talk) 15:03, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
If any image is considered to be incorrect by some user(s), everybody can upload a more correct image under a new filename. The incorrect image can be properly proposed for deletion as "out of scope" image. The fact that the content is "incorrect" doesn't imply directly that such image is out of scope. Such image can ilustrate some point of view or some known mistake. That's why a discussion is needed. "Commons" should guarantee correct and complete description of the image, not correctness of the depicted content. As long as any image is used in some other project, it cannot be considered to be out of scope. --ŠJů (talk) 18:00, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
On the other hand, if the uploader is not able to produce a "Please, don't overwrite this file because it illustrates etc.etc." rationale, it probably is not worth keeping. The problem in your respons lies especially in your last sentence "As long as any image is used in some other project, it cannot be considered to be out of scope." Yes it can, see f.i. File:AAC Amor Vincit Omnia 2.jpg. This is one of those pictures of the self proclaimed specialist in composition in visual art. It does not rely on any work by a real specialist, there are no sources, it is own work, so it is original research as well as point of view. Yet, the file is in use, so it will not be deleted. And if this guideline comes in effect we will not be able to take an artbook of the shelf and do what uploader should have done. If we would ask uploader a reason why his image should not be modified or overwritten, he would have to explain himself. Jan Arkesteijn (talk) 23:36, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
« "As long as any image is used in some other project, it cannot be considered to be out of scope." − Yes it can » No, it cannot. Sorry, but I’m afraid you’re fighting here against one of the most fundamental policy of Commons : a file in use on Wikimedia projects is considered in scope, period, and we won’t delete it unless it is a copyright violation. Please understand that this is our covenant with the projects: Who are we Commonists to deem that the Czech users (in your example) are wrong? It is their editorial choice, and we really cannot decide for them.
I have no doubt you have valid concerns, and that the example you give in your first post are genuine. But they sound to me as the possible exceptions to this rule − the reason why I personally support this guideline as the best way to avoid most drama and projects anger.
I think the process is like this : Avoid overwriting a wrong file, make a new version, have projects agree that it is better and replace it everywhere. This should be no problem. Problem mostly solved, no? (Then, you can nominate the file for deletion, but well, I would not bet it would be deleted, but that’s a different story).
Jean-Fred (talk) 01:21, 29 December 2011 (UTC)
It is in scope as per COM:SCOPE. And that's exactly what I'm talking about; you want to yank the rug out from under the Czech Wikipedia and tell them they can't trust us to keep an image they're using.--Prosfilaes (talk) 01:44, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

I am not going to continu this discussion. I still feel this proposal is to restrictive and we can reach what we aim for if a template is added to the upload procedure with which an uploader can add a motivated request not to overwrite the file. This motivated request would make in many cases the description and purpose of a file clearer. Jan Arkesteijn (talk) 18:09, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

More considerations[edit]

I basically strongly agree with the concept of a don't over-write policy. There is nothing like a reversion war to over-heat tempers. And there is usually a muddling of source/copyright as often the image page text is not updates nor reverted in sync with the uploads/reverts. But I would temper an absolute ban, I think there are occasions where authors of works should be allowed to upload new versions which are substantially different, if (and only if) the source/author/licensing/subject remains the same. Also other users should be permitted to upload any revisions of the original (apart from vandalism and not new/different images even if of the same subject) if (and only if) the source/author/licensing/subject remains the same. But in both cases there is the proviso that if there are any objections to the revision it will be reverted and uploaded as a separate file. (I suppose we might have to exclude cases where people object to every case on principle, without a reason pertaining to the particular image)

Here are some instances of images that I have authored, uploaded, and overwritten: I like to upload my original camera images (warts and all), then my best edit (white balance, noise reduction, cloning, cropping, rotation) overtop. What I am really doing is donating the top image of the stack, but saying hey, here is the original underneath - if you really want to produce a better version go for it. In most cases I don't think two seperate files serves any purpose, but just in case the original is there to find. And really to my mind it is just the one image that I have licensed, but you can peal back the top if you want to remake it :-)

eg File:Pukeko 01.jpg

Another experiment is with combined images, eg generally people upload panoramas etc as just the finished article, but as we know stitching can be fraught and someone may want to redo it. So my tendancy would be to upload the stack with the result on top:

File:Karori Upper Dam 01.jpg

Another experiment is time lapse comparision, again I uploaded the stack incase someone wants to redo it (the source images here are aligned versions of others already uploaded separately).

File:Karori reservoir 1988 vs 2012.jpg

I would also be inclined to upload a stack of full resolution frames that I used to create a movie or improved DOF focus stack. I can imagine that some images (eg mostly out of focus, focus stack images that have sharp detail in only a very small area) would be barely in scope as thay are unusable by themselves. Is it preferable to fill a category with individually useless images, or put them somewhere that they are accessable if anyone wants to rework the stack, but otherwise they are nicely packaged together and can be moved/renamed, recategorized without fear to loosing any. --Tony Wills (talk) 13:25, 7 April 2012 (UTC)

COM:OVERWRITE is aimed at preserving the integrity of image transclusions, i.e. if I use File:X.jpg it won't suddenly be replaced by something substantially different (whilst minor improvements are fine). Using the page history as a sort of archive makes sense, as long as it's done in a way which doesn't contradict the core integrity principle. If original files and the "proper" version are uploaded in one session, it should be fine. Rd232 (talk) 18:45, 7 April 2012 (UTC)
The proposed policy doesn't state an aim, it will be cited in all cases of overwriting as new generations of Commonists appear - this is a general problem and results in continual instruction creep as people apply policy on its face value rather than looking at the reasons it was created (other existing and proposed policies/guidelines suffer from this too). So if a policy is only meant to be used in a restricted set of circumstances, then that must be part of the policy - eg a preamble "This policy applys in cases where an image is in use".
But I contest that as being its sole aim anyway :-). It is also needed to short circuit reversion warring. It also needs to cover any uploads over QI/FP/VI images whether in use or not. Uploading over evaluated images destroys the integrity of those project's evaluation marks - minor changes (eg colour balance) may make the difference between whether it would have been awarded the evaluation mark or not. Either the evaluation mark needs to be removed, or the image needs to be formally re-assessed. --Tony Wills (talk) 21:55, 7 April 2012 (UTC)
I think (and I wasn't involved in creating it) that the page is primarily aimed at preserving the integrity of image transclusions - and yes, it should state that clearly, to help people understand why the page says what it says. If you can have a revert war over something very minor, then it may not be a problem from the primary aim point of view - but of course there are still secondary issues (like clogging up the upload log for the file). QI/FP/VI uploads is a good point - but again if the difference is minor, so that reusers are not likely to notice (or complain if they do), then it's a secondary issue. It's an important secondary issue, and worth mentioning separately. ... I might redraft this page a bit :) Rd232 (talk) 00:02, 8 April 2012 (UTC)
  • Interesting, your comments highlight a difference in conception of what Commons is - I perceive Commons as a project to make available human knowledge in the form of free media files, a project that has a remit independant of the wikipedias etc that might be the primary users. Therefore I see our formulation of policy/guidelines etc as things that pertain directly to the operation of this project. As a project we do things that are not directly useful to other wiki projects (eg we delete things because they are not PD in the US and source country, we move files around, me merge duplicates ...). We are mindful of the effect we have, and try to repair damage we do to those projects (eg delinking, redirects). The problem of over-writing to other projects is not that changing the image in their articles is necessarily bad (anyone can do that anyway), but that it doesn't trigger their watchlist so that they are not notified of the change (this is no doubt a bug report somewhere ;-). So although this policy may have been conceived in that light, I do not think that that is its primary importance to this project.
  • Regarding QI/FP/VI, the comment "if the difference is minor, so that reusers are not likely to notice..., then it's a secondary issue" is sacrilegious! ;-). Those are significant activities here (and I would assert that they are important ones) and overwriting their work is just a flat non-starter. Also we have an endless stream of revert wars involving maps, crests, flags and coats-of-arms, some of which end up on an admin board, and we sometimes foolishly try to adjudicate about which one is the 'correct' one. A simple overwrite policy that says in the case of disputes, split the images rids us of these disputes of biblical proportions. - The individual projects can decide which to use (and are probably better placed to decide than us).
  • And come to think of it, it may well be a wiki project that wants to overwrite the image - eg we have stolen (:-) their free image and moved it to Commons, but maintainers of their article decide to revise the image, we want to tell them that they can't and must create a separate one! ;-)
  • I think given the level of non-concensus expressed by others above (this policy has gone nowhere over a couple of years), we need to first get agreement on the aims of this rule (policy/guideline thingy), and then formulate how to achieve that (which may or may not involve this rule!). --Tony Wills (talk) 02:15, 8 April 2012 (UTC)
  • I disagree firmly with what Commons is; no matter what other goals we follow, we are first and foremost an image repository for the other Wikimedia projects.--Prosfilaes (talk) 09:47, 8 April 2012 (UTC)
  • From Commons:Project scope "Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to all. It acts as a common repository for the various projects of the Wikimedia Foundation, but you do not need to belong to one of those projects to use media hosted here". The purpose is stated (my emphasis). Lacking any other such resource and given the close connection, Commons is of course used by the other projects as their primary media source, but that doesn't make that our primary purpose. If the wikipedias etc disappeared (perhaps a plague of illiteracy ;-), Commons would still have a purpose. --Tony Wills (talk) 13:35, 8 April 2012 (UTC)
  • But few users. (As for that plague of illiteracy, Wikipedia demands much less literacy from its users then Commons does.)--Prosfilaes (talk) 00:09, 9 April 2012 (UTC)
Like any Wiki(m/p)edia project this is a repository of information for the whole wide world, whether you like it or not. Therefore we have a responsibility to maintain information and media, to keep it fit for use, up to date and free of errors. This means that it is essential on Commons to be able to overwrite images. Jan Arkesteijn (talk) 11:42, 8 April 2012 (UTC)
Which is why it's, like and, and not like In any case, the direct users of our files, be they Wikimedia projects or not, depend on the stability of our files. This does not include keeping them up to date in most cases; it is not helpful when a 2005 discussion of borders of Africa gets its map replaced with a 2015 map.--Prosfilaes (talk) 12:25, 8 April 2012 (UTC) What's that? Of course, it is not right to change a 2005-map to the state of 2015. File names should always be descriptive enough to show that. Jan Arkesteijn (talk) 13:19, 8 April 2012 (UTC)
Ignoring Commons, every project that is designed as a standalone project has a domain name of wik*.org; every project that's a tool of the other projects, like, has a name * I'm not sure what you mean by keeping it up to date if you have no plans of updating maps and such.--Prosfilaes (talk) 00:09, 9 April 2012 (UTC)
So that is why Commons would be listed under "Backstage" projects, rather than Content projects meta:Template:Main_Page/Sisterprojects/en ? --Tony Wills (talk) 07:19, 9 April 2012 (UTC)
The Incubator is also listed as a content project, despite it being there to start a new project, not provide a service to the public.--Prosfilaes (talk) 11:09, 9 April 2012 (UTC)
It is so tiresome to discuss things that need not be discussed. If a file with the name "African borders in" exists it should not be updated to 2015. If a file exists with the name "Average atmospheric temperature by" it should be updated every year. Is this so hard to imagine? The ability to overwrite files is a necessity. Jan Arkesteijn (talk) 09:06, 9 April 2012 (UTC)
If a file with the name "African borders" is used in a Wikinews article, it should not be casually updated to delete the locality that's being discussed. Let's not be a media repository that no one uses because they can't rely on us.--Prosfilaes (talk) 11:09, 9 April 2012 (UTC)
"African borders" is a wrong filename if the African borders of 2005 are to be depicted. Some problems can simply be solved without making a new policy. Jan Arkesteijn (talk) 11:31, 9 April 2012 (UTC)

COM:OVERWRITE actually has something on this which could be expanded on: the section "Advanced". Basically, individual files should be stable: File:African borders 2011.jpg should always show the 2011 borders, etc. If people want to transclude a "current African borders" file, that should be a redirect: File:current African borders.jpg, which can be redirected to whatever the current file is for that series, so in 2012 it can be changed to point to File:African borders 2012.jpg, etc. (Ideally, a template on the redirect would explain matters, but since file redirects don't show any non-redirect content (bugzilla:27857) that's not possible at the moment.) Rd232 (talk) 12:10, 9 April 2012 (UTC)

Scope-Purpose-Aim-Interpretation (draft )[edit]

I think before creating policy (ie changing this page from a proposed guideline or policy), we should start off by agreeing on what the underlying problem is that the policy will be used to address. My first take on this:

This policy is about when it is in-appropriate to replace an image with a revised or different one ("over-writing"). Purpose:

1) To avoid damaging wikimedia projects by making changes to the content of their pages that does not trigger anyone's watchlist, and is difficult to revert from within that project.
ie users are not notified of the change and when/if they do find it they can not reverse that change by a simple revert - they must work out that they need to come here and revert, or split the image.
2) To short circuit revert wars about image content
if there is a dispute, split the image (this could be covered by a different guideline/policy but is fundementally about over-writing)
3) To maintain the integrity of the assessment marks of sub-projects like FP, QI or VI.
Even seemingly trivial changes can invalidate the assessment, and in principle the image needs to be re-assessed. There is no reason not to upload changes separately - this also aids comparision (and therefore assessment) of the changes.

--Tony Wills (talk) 02:35, 10 April 2012 (UTC)

Commons:Overwriting existing files[edit]

I think the problems with this proposal, including the lack of clarity, come from being all about avoiding something. But that something is something that happens all the time, and should. So Commons:Overwriting existing files is my attempt to be much clearer about all this. Thoughts? Rd232 (talk) 14:15, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

Your attempt is a lot clearer. Another exception to the minor changes rule is files with image annotations will lose those annotations if the pixel dimensions change - see Help:Gadget-ImageAnnotator#Limitations. -84user (talk) 14:58, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
Thanks. I don't think the annotation creates a new exception - it's just something to be aware of, that annotations may have to be recreated. I've added a note. Rd232 (talk) 14:48, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
It looks fantastic. My one suggestion -- in the section of where not to overwrite, after "Completely unrelated files", we should add: "(including different images of the same subject)". Way too many people seem to think that it's okay to overwrite, for example, a 2007 photo of a statue with a better 2012 photo of the same statue. --Skeezix1000 (talk) 16:40, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
Good point - I've added a little clarification. More examples of different cases would be nice, so if you've got a specific one for that in mind, perhaps you could add it to the Examples section. Rd232 (talk) 17:12, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
I've encountered the issue several times, but the only specific instance that I can remember and find at this moment (probably due to the fact that Dger and I had a discussion at that time) is when Dger tried to overwrite File:Baldwin-Lafontaine.jpg with File:Baldwin-Lafontaine April 2010.jpg. He was correct that the second photo is better, but still inappropriate overwriting. Just not sure this is a great example for the guideline. --Skeezix1000 (talk) 19:23, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

Since people generally seem to agree that Commons:Overwriting existing files is better, I'm redirecting this page there to avoid confusion. If anyone decides to revert that, please explain why! Rd232 (talk) 16:55, 14 August 2012 (UTC)