Commons talk:First steps/License selection

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I am going nuts trying to figure out license options. There is too much information and too many links to this page and that for a beginner. The IRC chat was not helpful. Two long waits and no response.

I want to upload a chapter from a medical text book that the author and publisher are giving me permission to use. The choice of licenses and links to license are conflicting. The only adopter who indicates experience with copyright is on vacation.

There is a note that multiple licenses can be used. Need help to understand how that applies.


You simply need to ask the publisher and the author on which of the free licenses they are willing to publish this chapter. Most appropriate would by {{CC-BY-SA}} or {{GFDL}} (or both). You cannot decide for them. --Nux (talk··dyskusja) 11:55, 5 August 2007 (UTC)

How can this page be improved?[edit]

To those of you who have had trouble with understanding licenses, or those that just have a good idea for the page: how can it be improved? Which parts need to be clarified or augmented? Lucis 03:12, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

Ok, I'll try. The fact that I know nothing at all about the subject doesn't help. And it may not be this page that needs improving, there are several pages here giving information about licences.

I get the impression that when we do an upload, we are encouraged to specify two types of licence. One type (I am guessing) is more liberal and covers how the material can be used within Wikipedia. The other type can be more restrictive and covers what can be done with it by people who copy it from Wikipedia. This page gives a list of possible type-2 licences, with links to descriptions of how they work.

Four things that would be useful:

  • Something that either confirms, or (more likely) clearly contradicts, my description above about the two types of licence.
  • A list of the more plausible type-1 licences, a statement of their order of restrictiveness, and descriptions of what they mean.
  • Ditto for the more plausible type-2 licences.
  • An account of how, once we have chosen a licence of each type, we can specify our choice when we do an upload. (This seems to have got easier: the list in the list box of the upload form now looks like it handles double licences, but it didn't a few days ago. My thanks to whoever made that change.)

I will add that the licensing fog almost deterred me from uploading anything at all. Maproom 21:07, 11 November 2007 (UTC)

First, let me clarify what this website is. Wikimedia Commons is a central hub of free media for all Wikimedia projects, not just Wikipedia. While images can be uploaded to specific projects, files uploaded to the French Wikipedia, for example, cannot be used on the English Wikiquote; Commons is an attempt to make sharing media between projects easier. An important thing that sets Commons apart from Wikipedia is that only free media can be uploaded here. By free I mean free to use, free to distribute. Most images online are copyright with the author holding all rights to his/her creation. These cannot be uploaded to Commons (though they may be uploaded to specific language versions of Wikipedia under a fair use rationale, which is hairy business). Content owners have the right to license their media in any way they see fit. Options include public domain in which all rights are released, the Creative Commons licenses which offer varying degrees of restrictions, the GFDL, etc. I cannot write with in-depth knowledge of each license, but choosing the recommended multi-license GFDL and CC-BY-SA is a great choice. Multi-licensing allows more flexible usage, though it isn't required. I hope this helps, and I will try to describe each license with more detail. Lucis 04:21, 12 November 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for the explanation. I had completely overlooked the distinction between Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons. I also see that there is another set of problems for someone who has "found" an image and wants to put it on Wikimedia Commons. My confusion was merely about choosing a licence/set of licences when uploading images whose rights I own. I can see that you have quite some task ahead of you if you aim to provide all the information that various people are likely to need, in such a way that they are likely to find and understand it. Maproom 10:45, 13 November 2007 (UTC)

Here is a point I definitely find confusing (though I have stopped caring about it). When we choose a licence, almost all the choices offered have "GFDL" in them. According to wikipedia, "the GFDL was designed for manuals, textbooks, other reference and instructional materials, and documentation which often accompanies GNU software. However, it can be used for any text-based work, regardless of subject matter". Doumentation/text, not images, right? Yet the assumption here seems to be that people will be uploading images, not documentation, and if I click on "Random File", it seems that everything here is in fact an image. Maproom 13:16, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

The GNU GFDL applies to images as well. Honestly, it doesn't matter much to Wikimedia Commons which license you choose. All of them are acceptable. Some require different things, but they all allow more freedom than "All rights reserved". So don't be afraid to just pick a license at random, they're all good. ;) Lucis 02:36, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

I've expanded the page a bit and added a table with explanations for various jargon words. Tell me what you think. Lucis 14:57, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

What you have done is a big step in the right direction. But I'm sorry, I still find it all very hard to understand.
Latest example: on, I took the image [1], which was placed there with a GNU licence, edited it to be suitable for what I wanted, producing [2], and uploaded it. I got the copyright message wrong. A robot replied on my talk page telling me that I had screwed up (true enough), and said "For help in choosing the correct tag, or for any other questions, leave a message on Wikipedia:Media copyright questions". I did so, asking what I thought was a precise and coherent question. No-one replied. So I added a licence tag that may or may not be appropriate, I have no idea.
There seem to be two ways to go, which I suspect most potential uploaders follow.
  1. Give up on the idea of uploading images.
  2. Select copyright tags at random, because you can't figure out which one applies and it is not likely to matter.
I am inclining towards 2, though I still have a nagging feeling that I ought to try and get my brain round this stuff.
Please, Lucis, do not take the above comments as a criticism. Your work is excellent. It is the field itself that is a nightmare. Maproom 12:23, 20 January 2008 (UTC)


So far I have uploaded 35 pictures under Cc-by-sa-3.0. I do not want to reserve any rights, so what license should I use? Public domain? --The High Fin Sperm Whale (Talk · Contribs) 21:41, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

Difference between options shown in the choice box and the explanation herein[edit]

I am confused by the terms used in the Licensing choice box provided when one want to upload a file. These are: "I do not know the copyright license"; "Multi-license with CC-BY-SA-3.0 and GFDL (recommended)"; "Multi-license with CC-BY-SA-3.0 and older and GFDL"; "Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0"; "Creative Commons Attribution 3.0"; "Public Domain" and finally "Creative Commons "Zero" waiver". Among them, only "I do not..." and "Public Domain" are explained herein under the same name. Could anybody simply clarify these terms? Randybvain (talk) 18:07, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

"user-created photographs licensed only under the GFDL ... is still an acceptable license"[edit]

I think this needs to be revisited. There is an extensive discussion about this here where one person points out that "the existence of such an option can be exploited by those attempting to control commercial reuse of their works." Indeed that is happening pretty blatantly in some cases, such as with the uploads by User:Ralf_Roletschek, who has crafted his own license template for the express purpose of barring commercial use and derivative works. See here for more.--Bdell555 (talk) 20:56, 2 December 2010 (UTC)

Minimal Standards of Creativity[edit]

The legal status of mechanical / noncreative reproductions of public domain works is murkier than presented. I understand it's necessary for Wikimedia to take stances on some of the more nuanced subtopics, but it potentially exposes the organization to liability.

For example: "If a work's author died more than 70 years ago it is within the public domain in most nations and can be uploaded in almost all cases. This applies to third party reproductions as well, as these lack the required own creativity needed to put it under copyright (see for example the Bridgeman v. Corel case)."

Bridgeman was a district court case and, as acknowledged on its Wikipedia page, is not binding. It has served as precedent for museum "best practices". Older precedent, such as Alfred Bell & Co. v. Catalda Fine Arts, Inc. (2nd Cir. 1951), came to a different conclusion. Catalda didn’t have access to the original public domain works and instead made copies of Bell’s painstakingly accurate mezzotints. Catalda claimed they weren’t sufficiently original to get copyright protection, and the court disagreed. Which raises questions as to copies of copies, or derivative works with some degree of alteration. What is the Commons' stance? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Arttechlaw (talk • contribs) 15:50, 20 June 2012‎ (UTC)

Some rather bad wording in here since '06?![edit]

"Pictures taken by you are a little bit more problematic, as every person displayed has to agree on publishing it. This doesn't apply if the photograph has been taken at public events or the persons are well-known, provided the photograph hasn't been taken in that person's private vicinity."

Umm... NO. I can't believe this has been on this page for a decade. I don't think it's right. It doesn't match our COM:IDENT guideline which says: "In the United States (where the Commons servers are located), consent is not as a rule required to photograph people in public places and publish those photos. Hence, unless there are specific local laws to the contrary, overriding legal concerns (e.g., defamation) or moral concerns (e.g., picture unfairly obtained), the Commons community does not normally require that an identifiable subject of a photograph taken in a public place has consented to the image being taken or uploaded. This is so whether the image is of a famous personality or of an unknown individual." and adds: "A private place is somewhere the subject has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a public place is somewhere where the subject has no such expectation. The terms are unrelated to whether the land is privately or publicly owned. "

So I plan to change the excerpt on this page. Draft replacement text options proposed:

A)"Pictures taken by you are a little bit more problematic. If any of the identifiable people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, their permission is needed for publication. What constitutes a reasonable expectation of privacy differs greatly from country to country. See COM:IDENT for more precise, detailed information on these differences."

B)"Pictures taken by you are a little bit more problematic, as every identifiable person displayed has to agree on publishing it. But this doesn't apply if the photograph has been taken where people don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy or the persons are well-known. See COM:IDENT for more precise, detailed information on these restrictions."

Anyone object and have grounds to do so? Have a reason to prefer A or B? --2601:643:8300:92CB:FD9B:E3D:45CB:1257 03:44, 16 February 2016 (UTC)