Commons talk:Grandfathered old files

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Propose that COM:GRANDFATHER becomes a guideline[edit]

I wrote the essay Commons:Grandfathered old files (abbreviated as COM:GRANDFATHER or COM:GOF) a few months ago for using it in future discussions about files which predate the OTRS system (ca. 2006). This sometimes turns up at (un)deletion discussions. See e.g. Commons:Undeletion_requests/Current_requests#File:Talbot_Tagora_2.2_green_profile.jpg. It would be useful to have this as a general guideline. I hope to hear your input about this. SpeakFree (talk) 23:49, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

  • I support this idea, but it will need to be at least mentioned on a noticeboard so that consensus can be obtained. Magog the Ogre (talk) 20:25, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

Beef up context[edit]

I think it's not quite ready for guideline status. I've just added one sentence, but I think it also needs something about how to label the files so that editors know that they are in some sense special. --99of9 (talk) 05:57, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

Thanks for your additions. IMHO the files could be labelled with a template (like the copyright templates) which shows their special status. With of course a disclaimer on it that the template should only be used when there is no reasonable doubt about the permission. SpeakFree (talk) 17:40, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
Grandfathered files should definitely have a template to identify them, I think. Rd232 (talk) 14:42, 10 March 2012 (UTC)

I've created Commons:Verifying permissions as a first draft of a proposed guideline on verifying permissions. Mentioning the grandfathering principle there may be enough for the purposes of proving "look, the principle is accepted", and the detail left in this essay; or we could merge the entire (fairly short) essay into that guideline. I'd prefer the former, I think, certainly at the early drafting stage. Rd232 (talk) 14:42, 10 March 2012 (UTC)

I would like to see it become (part of) a guideline eventually. But this will do for now. Length doesn't matter as long as it says what needs to be mentioned. COM:PRP is only 3 lines long (with 5 examples) and that's a policy. But feel free to expand on COM:GRANDFATHER if you think it needs more. SpeakFree (talk) 18:23, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
Commons:Permissions threads much of the same ground as your draft. I think it would be better to add your draft to that page, which is also a guideline draft. That page deals with getting permissions for new uploads, yours deals with verifying permissions for existing uploads. It would be useful to have both on one page and it wouldn't make the page too long. SpeakFree (talk) 18:38, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
Hm, thanks, I didn't know about that. I might take elements of it into the new proposal, bearing in mind talkpage comments; too much of it seems like an essay. Rd232 (talk) 18:50, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
I've changed my mind. Your draft needs some more work (and you should really think about integrating it with Commons:Permissions). But the issue of grandfathered old files should be dealt with in an official manner as it involves lots of files which possibly risk deletion. SpeakFree (talk) 01:59, 11 March 2012 (UTC)

Request for comment[edit]

After discussion here and at the Village Pump which indicated that there is support for this proposal I would like to ask the community to consider that Commons:Grandfathered old files becomes an official guideline on Wikimedia Commons. SpeakFree (talk) 01:43, 11 March 2012 (UTC)

Please comment at Commons:Requests for comment/Grandfathered old files SpeakFree (talk) 22:36, 15 March 2012 (UTC)

Commons:Village pump/Copyright#Wikivoyage file migration[edit]

Please comment there if you are interested.--Ymblanter (talk) 14:50, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Change of cut-off date[edit]

There have been voiced opinions in favor or changing the cut-off date from 15 March 2006 into 11 September 2006, see this AN discussion. If we agree that 11 September 2006 is a better date, then we could change the date in this guideline. Jcb (talk) 15:22, 25 November 2016 (UTC) Votes {neutral} - at least we should all use the same cut-off date, which is not happening at this moment. So whether we choose March or September, we should all act in line with this date, rather than choosing our own dates based on non-transparant arguments like 'admin discretion' - Jcb (talk) 15:22, 25 November 2016 (UTC)


Please note that the vote is misleading. If you read the linked discussion, you will see that some people disagree that the current guideline specifies any fixed "cutoff date". This vote seems designed in a way that no matter the outcome the opener gets to get his will. (I.e. a fixed date.) --Sebari – aka Srittau (talk) 15:35, 25 November 2016 (UTC)

  • Could you elaborate on why (or if?) you think a fixed date is a bad idea? Storkk (talk) 15:40, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
    • That's really not my point. I am just saying that this vote is invalid as worded, because it does not allow to keep the status quo, or a cutoff date farther in the future. --Sebari – aka Srittau (talk) 15:53, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
  • (EC)Do you think the keep/delete decision should depend on the personal opinion of the closing administrator? I strongly disagree. An administrator has to apply our policies/guidelines, rather than doing what 'feels' good. Jcb (talk) 15:42, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
    • A keep/delete decision always depends on the interpretation of the presented opinions and facts. That is not the same as a "personal opinion". Different admins will always have a different interpretation about some DRs. Thinking that there can be hard and fast guidelines for everything is misguided. In this case, it is just not needed and actually harmful, considering the gradual way that OTRS was introduced. If you want my vote for a fixed cutoff date, after which no non-OTRS permissions are allowed, here it is: 2010, with an exception of files transferred from other projects after that date. --Sebari – aka Srittau (talk) 15:53, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
      • What this (referring to having a soft date, not your 2010 date) will essentially amount to, in my crystal ball gazing, is the keep or delete decision on certain files being wholly dependent on which admin closes them first. While I concede that to a certain extent this is unavoidable in cases that are inherently shades of gray (scope, etc.), I think it's a bad idea where it is avoidable. Storkk (talk) 15:57, 25 November 2016 (UTC) edited for clarity about what "this" refers to. Storkk (talk) 15:59, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
  • The only other suggestion I have is to declare everything uploaded in 2006 or earlier as covered by this guideline. This has the benefit of making it very easy for administrators to remember, and allows for contributors at that time getting used to the new OTRS policy, and for the OTRS policy to finish being edited and improved. However this would still be a "hard" end-date for grandfathering files. As for the suggestion of 2010, if that's realistic it could be floated as an alternative proposal, though I suggest a clear explanation of benefits along with some examples. -- (talk) 15:57, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
    • I think that's not a good idea. We have a huge amount of severely backlogged maintenance work. Sometimes we come accross clear copyright violations that have been online for over 10 years. A 'grandfather' rule should imho not be used to keep such copyright violations online. Jcb (talk) 16:07, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
      • I don't think that is what Fae is saying. This is not a blanket amnesty on pre-cutoff (whatever that cutoff is) files. The only difference for pre-cutoff files is that while permission should still be plausibly asserted, and that assertion is not required to have been forwarded through OTRS. Storkk (talk) 16:12, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
      • There seems to be a misunderstanding of the guideline. Please take care to review the wording. There is nothing in this guideline that would mean that any clear copyright violation would be hosted on Commons. Regardless of date of upload, known copyright violations can be deleted. -- (talk) 17:17, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
        • Ok, I may have interpreted "to declare everything uploaded in 2006 or earlier as covered by this guideline" different from what you meant to say. In the end we seem to agree about this point. Jcb (talk) 20:54, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
  • (EC) I invite everyone to have a look at File:Sarracenia Flora.jpg, the file that originally started this discussion. It was uploaded 15 days after the introduction of OTRS and there is not reasonable doubt that the permission is valid. Why do we absolutely need a guidelines that forbids this file on purely procedural grounds? Sebari – aka Srittau (talk) 15:59, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
    • If we agree that an upload from 31 March 2006 could be grandfathered, then this page should not say 'prior to 15 March 2006'. That's why I started this discussion. We have to try to come to a consensus for which date to use. Jcb (talk) 16:04, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
  • One last thing before I'm out of this discussion: I'm not totally against a hard cut-off date. But for determining one, someone needs to analyze at what date OTRS had really been the generally accepted method for proving permissions. This is not easy. Otherwise I fear that we will delete lots of useful, perfectly licensed files, that have been accepted on Commons for a nearly a decade, just to fulfill an arbitrary rule. Sebari – aka Srittau (talk) 16:17, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
    • I agree. We should take sufficient time to review the cut-off date and to determine which new date would be wise, if we decide to change the current date. Jcb (talk) 21:03, 25 November 2016 (UTC)

Slight tangent, but a general point worth making somewhere here. In Europe, even those studying law do not use the term 'grandfathered' and most will have no idea what it is supposed to mean. It's a uniquely American word and is quite confusing to us non-Americans. Please keep this in mind when improving the guideline as we need to avoid a presumption of prior knowledge. -- (talk) 12:03, 26 November 2016 (UTC)

Possible cutoff dates[edit]

I think there is enough ambiguity around possible cutoff dates that before !voting on any particular one, they should be discussed separately. I'd suggest adding dates you wish to argue for in chronological order below... I don't see a point in commenting on or adding a new date if the first argument is against, but who knows. Storkk (talk) 21:46, 25 November 2016 (UTC)


This is the current cutoff... I think "no change" should always seriously be considered. Storkk (talk) 21:46, 25 November 2016 (UTC)


Per the discussion above, instructions to uploaders before 2007 appear to have been opaque enough that I think, keeping in mind that this guideline isn't a copyvio amnesty, that a date of end-2006 is both reasonable and clear. It also has the advantage, pointed out by Fae, that it is easy to remember. Storkk (talk) 21:46, 25 November 2016 (UTC)

  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support Using the end of the year seems the best compromise to me. Easy to understand and apply, and slightly fairer on uploaders than expecting the OTRS guidelines to be fully enforced from day 1. Checking the database, between 2006-09-11 and the end of 2006, there were 193,245 files uploaded. Considering that only a fraction of these will have missing information under the later guidelines, it seems manageable. -- (talk) 12:08, 26 November 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Weak support - on one hand I think over nine months for new guidelines to take effect is quite long. On the other hand I see the advantages of using the end of the year. It's a decade ago after all, if we would not have been so extremely backlogged in maintenance, we would probably not have been talking about this subject at this moment. Jcb (talk) 12:28, 26 November 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support , reasonable date per comments above. --Cavarrone (talk) 10:28, 27 November 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support per the above discussions. This seems a reasonable solution. Kelly (talk) 09:54, 28 November 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support , grandfathered rules apply a while after the start of new rules. --Ruthven (msg) 12:26, 3 December 2016 (UTC)
  • acceptable to me - Jmabel ! talk 17:02, 16 December 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support , easier to remember. -- Tuválkin 18:46, 16 December 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support 2006-12-31, over three month vacatio legis (since OTRS creation) is IMO enough; also easy to remember. --jdx Re: 21:34, 16 December 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support Looks like a good choice to me Ronhjones  (Talk) 22:37, 17 December 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support per my previous statement when I supported this policy but suggested a different cut-off date. --AFBorchert (talk) 13:35, 27 November 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support per AFBorchert. This sounds like the date when OTRS actually became required. --Sebari – aka Srittau (talk) 10:05, 28 November 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support per AFBorchert. -- Geagea (talk) 00:29, 29 November 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support per above. --Steinsplitter (talk) 16:43, 16 December 2016 (UTC)
  • acceptable to me - Jmabel ! talk 17:02, 16 December 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support as above the end of the year, it is also easy to remember. Hanay (talk) 08:33, 18 December 2016 (UTC)
  • Symbol support vote.svg  Support per AFBorchert. Ankry (talk) 13:19, 18 December 2016 (UTC)


The notifications of this discussion at the various noticeboards have been archived in the meantime and everybody has had the opportunity to respond and to vote. The majority of the votes is in favor of changing the cut-off date to the end of 2006. I have updated the guideline accordingly. Thanks everybody for your input. Jcb (talk) 16:09, 27 December 2016 (UTC)

Update the template[edit]

Shouldn't we update the template as well? -- Geagea (talk) 14:51, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

✓  Done , I have restored the old wording, which just said "2016", without going into specifics. Sebari – aka Srittau (talk) 15:45, 9 January 2017 (UTC)