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The following statment by Wikimedia Foundation Board Member Kat Walsh is to be considered a "higher policy" than WP:NONFREE. That is, in areas where WP:NONFREE is in conflict with this statement, this statement shall be considered the more authoritative document.
Because licensing has been an active topic in the community, the Board has discussed the issue at its recent meetings; thank you to those whose thoughtful input furthered the discussions.
A formal declaration in the form of a Board resolution has not yet been made and will be forthcoming; however, we hope that this longer message will provide the explanation behind the resolution. The resolution will seek to clarify something that has been true for some time but may not have been stated in a clear enough form as guidance for the various communities to follow.
The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to develop educational content under a free content license or in the public domain. For content to be "free content", it must have no significant legal restriction on people's freedom to use, redistribute, or modify the content for any purpose.
It is therefore vital that all projects under the Foundation umbrella use these standards, not only because of our desire to enable the creation of free reference works, but also because of our commitment to allow those works to benefit everyone who wishes to use and reuse them. Because of this, all media we allow on our projects must be free for all users and all purposes, including non-Wikimedia use, commercial use, and derivative works. (Some media may be subject to restrictions other than copyright in some jurisdictions, but are still considered free work.)
There are many different licenses that allow these freedoms. The licensing page on the Wikimedia Commons, <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Licensing>, discusses some of these license terms and gives links to the many licenses that are acceptable to use.
While we appreciate the goodwill of those who give special permissions for Wikimedia to display a work, this does not fulfill our greater purpose of giving others the freedom to use the content as well, and so we cannot accept media with permission for use on Wikimedia only. Derivative uses are also important. The value of allowing modifications becomes clear to anyone who edits the projects, as new work builds on the work of others, and work you cannot change to meet your needs and purposes is not free.
Commercial and non-commercial use is more controversial, as many people are concerned that allowing commercial uses allows others to abuse their generosity. But ultimately Wikimedia's longstanding and carefully considered position is, as with many other organizations devoted to free content, that disallowing commercial use does not provide significant benefit to the content creator or to the public. Non-commercial licensing stops many valuable uses that help distribute and support free works, and hence does not further our mission. Where commercial use spreads the works without taking away others' rights to use and distribute them for free, it helps our purpose of making the content as widely available as possible. This is a long enough message without going deeply into detail, but Erik Moeller's essay at <http://www.intelligentdesigns.net/Licenses/NC> is a thorough and clear explanation of the reasons why the harm is more than the benefit, and so why non-commercial content is not something we use.
It is for these reasons, which we have long supported, that all media on Wikimedia sites which are used under terms that specify non-commercial use only, no-derivatives only, or permission for Wikimedia only, need to be be phased out and replaced with media that does not have these restrictions.
Some Wikimedia projects use media that is not free at all, under a doctrine of "fair use" or "fair dealing". There are some works, primarily historically important photographs and significant modern artworks, that we can not realistically expect to be released under a free content license, but that are hard to discuss in an educational context without including the media itself. Because the inability to include these works limits scholarship and criticism, in many jurisdictions people may use such works under limited conditions without having license or permission. Some works that are under licenses we do not accept (such as non-derivative) may meet these conditions. Because of our commitment to free content, this non-free media should not be used when it is reasonably possible to replace with free media that would serve the same educational purpose.
Since individual projects have differing community standards and there are potentially legal issues in different jurisdictions, individual projects may choose to be more restrictive than Foundation policy requires, such as the many projects that do not allow "fair use" media at all. However, no project may have content policies less restricive, or that allow licenses other than those allowed on Wikimedia Commons and limited fair use.
We hope this clears up some of the uncertainty about what types of material may be uploaded to and used on the projects as well as why we take this position.
Thanks to everyone for your input and hard work.
For the Wikimedia Foundation, Kat Walsh