Wikipedia:Non-free content

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Wikipedia's goal is to be a free content encyclopedia, with free content defined as content that does not bear copyright restrictions on the right to redistribute, study, modify and improve, or otherwise use works for any purpose in any medium, even commercially. Any content not satisfying these criteria is said to be non-free. This includes all content (including images) that is fully copyrighted, or which is made available subject to restrictions such as "non-commercial use only" or "for use on Wikipedia only". (Many images that are generally available free of charge may thus still be "non-free" for Wikipedia's purposes.) The Foundation uses the definition of "free" as described here.

The licensing policy of the Wikimedia Foundation expects all content hosted on Wikimedia projects to be free content; however, there are exceptions. The policy allows projects (with the exception of Wikimedia Commons) to adopt an exemption doctrine policy allowing the use of non-free content. Their use should be minimal and confined (with limited exceptions) to illustrating historically significant events, to include identifying protected works such as logos, or to complement (within narrow limits) articles about copyrighted contemporary works. Non-free content should not be used when a freely licensed file that serves the same purpose can reasonably be expected to be uploaded, as is the case for almost all portraits of living people. Non-free content should be replaced by free content should such emerge.

This document serves as the exemption doctrine policy of the English Wikipedia. Non-free content can be used on Wikipedia in certain cases (for example, in some situations where acquiring a freely licensed image for a particular subject is not possible), but only within the United States legal doctrine of fair use, and in accordance with Wikipedia's own non-free content criteria as set out below. The use of non-free content on Wikipedia is therefore subject to purposely stricter standards than those laid down in U.S. copyright law.

Policy[edit]

Yes check.svg This section documents an official policy of Wikipedia. It is considered a standard that all users should follow. Changes made to it should reflect consensus.

Transcluded from Wikipedia:Non-free content criteria; this is the part of the current page that is official policy

As per the Wikimedia Foundation Licensing policy resolution of March 23, 2007, this document serves as the Exemption Doctrine Policy for the English Wikipedia.

Rationale[edit]

  • To support Wikipedia's mission to produce perpetually free content for unlimited distribution, modification and application by all users in all media.
  • To minimize legal exposure by limiting the amount of non-free content, using more narrowly defined criteria than apply under the fair use provisions in United States copyright law.
  • To facilitate the judicious use of non-free content to support the development of a high-quality encyclopedia.

Policy[edit]

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There is no automatic entitlement to use non-free content in an article or elsewhere on Wikipedia. Articles and other Wikipedia pages may, in accordance with the guideline, use brief verbatim textual excerpts from copyrighted media, properly attributed or cited to its original source or author, and specifically indicated as direct quotations via quotation marks, <blockquote>, or a similar method. Other non-free content—including all copyrighted images, audio and video clips, and other media files that lack a free content license—may be used on the English Wikipedia only where all 10 of the following criteria are met.

  1. No free equivalent. Non-free content is used only where no free equivalent is available, or could be created, that would serve the same encyclopedic purpose.
  2. Respect for commercial opportunities. Non-free content is not used in a manner that is likely to replace the original market role of the original copyrighted material.
  3. Minimal usage:
    1. Minimal number of items. Multiple items of non-free content are not used if one item can convey equivalent significant information.
    2. Minimal extent of use. An entire work is not used if a portion will suffice. Low- rather than high-resolution/fidelity/bit rate is used (especially where the original could be used for deliberate copyright infringement). This rule also applies to the copy in the File: namespace.
  4. Previous publication. Non-free content must be a work which has been published or publicly displayed outside Wikipedia by (or with permission from) the copyright holder, or a derivative of such a work created by a Wikipedia editor.
  5. Content. Non-free content meets general Wikipedia content standards and is encyclopedic.
  6. Media-specific policy. Non-free content meets Wikipedia's media-specific policy. For example, images must meet Wikipedia:Image use policy.
  7. One-article minimum. Non-free content is used in at least one article.
  8. Contextual significance. Non-free content is used only if its presence would significantly increase readers' understanding of the article topic, and its omission would be detrimental to that understanding.
  9. Restrictions on location. Non-free content is allowed only in articles (not disambiguation pages), and only in article namespace, subject to exemptions. (To prevent an image category from displaying thumbnails, add __NOGALLERY__ to it; images are linked, not inlined, from talk pages when they are a topic of discussion.)
  10. Image description page. The image or media description page contains the following:
    1. Identification of the source of the original copyrighted material, supplemented, where possible, with information about the artist, publisher and copyright holder, and year of copyright; this is to help determine the material's potential market value. See: Wikipedia:Citing sources § Multimedia.
    2. A copyright tag that indicates which Wikipedia policy provision is claimed to permit the use. For a list of image copyright tags, see Wikipedia:Image copyright tags/Non-free content.
    3. The name of each article (a link to each article is also recommended) in which fair use is claimed for the item, and a separate, specific non-free use rationale for each use of the item, as explained at Wikipedia:Non-free use rationale guideline.[1] The rationale is presented in clear, plain language and is relevant to each use.

Enforcement[edit]

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  • A file with a valid non-free-use rationale for some (but not all) articles it is used in will not be deleted. Instead, the file should be removed from the articles for which it lacks a non-free-use rationale, or a suitable rationale added.
  • A file on which non-free use is claimed that is not used in any article (criterion 7) may be deleted seven days after notification.
  • A file in use in an article and uploaded after 13 July 2006 that does not comply with this policy 48 hours after notification to the uploading editor will be deleted. To avoid deletion, the uploading editor or another Wikipedian will need to provide a convincing non-free-use defense that satisfies all 10 criteria. For a file in use in an article that was uploaded before 13 July 2006, the 48-hour period is extended to seven days.
    • Note that it is the duty of users seeking to include or retain content to provide a valid rationale; those seeking to remove or delete it are not required to show that one cannot be created—see burden of proof.

Deletion criteria for non-free content are specified in Wikipedia:Criteria for speedy deletion § Files.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ A redirect pointing to the page where the non-free content is intended to be used is acceptable as the article name in the non-free use rationale.

Implementation[edit]

The implementation of the non-free content criteria is done by having two specific elements on the non-free media's description page:

A copyright license template
The copyright license template identifies the type of copyright that the original work is under license. This is necessary to demonstrate that the image complies with United States fair use laws.
You can find a list of these copyright license templates at Wikipedia:File copyright tags/Non-free.
A non-free rationale
The rationale to use the non-free content is necessary to show that the non-free content criteria have been met. The rationale should clearly address and satisfy all ten points of WP:NFCC. Template versions to generate such rationales do exist, and include:
Several other boilerplate rationale templates can be found at Category:Non-free use rationale templates, but editors are cautioned that these are generally tenuous in terms of supporting WP:NFCC#8, and are encouraged to improve upon rationales if they can do so. You are not required to use the template forms, but whatever form you chose needs to clearly address all 10 points in WP:NFCC.
It is important to remember that a non-free rationale is needed for each use of the image on Wikipedia. If the image is used in two separate articles, two separate rationales are needed, unique for both articles.

Both the license and the rationale need to be included on the non-free media description page. The standard upload tool for Wikipedia will ask you enough questions during the process to fill in both the license and rationale for you, thus simplifying the process. If they are added manually, with or with the help of a template, it is recommended to put the rationale and license under separate sections "Rationale" and "Licensing" respectively.

Failure to include a licensing template, or a rationale that clearly identifies each article the media file is used in, will lead to the media file being deleted within 7 days after being tagged with warning messages.

Meeting the no free equivalent criterion[edit]

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Non-free content cannot be used in cases where a free content equivalent, with an acceptable quality sufficient to serve the encyclopedic purpose, is available or could be created. As a quick test, before adding non-free content, ask yourself:

  1. "Can this non-free content be replaced by a free version that has the same effect?" and
  2. "Could the subject be adequately conveyed by properly sourced text without using the non-free content at all?"

If the answer to either is yes, the non-free content probably does not meet this criterion.

Another consideration for "no free equivalent" are "freer" versions of non-free media, typically which include derivative works. For example, a photograph of a copyrighted 3D work of art will also carry the copyright of the photographer in addition to the copyright of the artist that created the work. We would use a photograph where the photographer has licensed their photograph under a free license, retaining the copyright of the derivative work, instead of a photograph that has non-free licenses for both the photograph and work of art.

Meeting the previous publication criterion[edit]

Very often, such as for most non-free content emanating from the news and entertainment industries, meeting this criterion is not in question. In rare cases however, non-free content may have been originally "leaked" and never subsequently published with the copyright holder's permission—such content must not be included in Wikipedia.

Usually, an accompanying copyright notice is considered sufficient evidence that a publication in the media has been made with appropriate permission.

If, in this regard, an item of non-free content is questioned or is likely to be questioned, then details of an instance of prior publication with permission must be determined and recorded at the non-free media's description page.

Meeting the contextual significance criterion[edit]

Two of the most common circumstances in which an item of non-free content can meet the contextual significance criterion are:

  • where the item is itself the subject of sourced commentary in the article, or
  • where only by including such non-free content, can the reader identify an object, style, or behavior, that is a subject of discussion in the article.

In all cases, meeting the criterion depends on the significance of the understanding afforded by the non-free content, which can be determined according to the principles of due weight and balance.

To identify a subject of discussion, depiction of a prominent aspect of the subject generally suffices, thus only a single item of non-free content meets the criterion. For example, to allow identification of music albums, books, etc., only an image of the front cover art of the object is normally used; for identification of specific coins and currency, images of the front and back are normally used.

Sourcing[edit]

While identifying a source is not specifically required by the non-free content policy, editors are strongly encouraged to include a source of where a non-free file came from on the media's description page; many of the non-free rationale templates already include a field for this information. This can aid in the cases of disputed media files, or evaluating the non-free or free nature of the image. Lacking a source is not grounds for media removal, but if the nature of the media file is disputed, the lack of a source may prevent the file from being retained. Non-free media must be from a published source; the unpublished non-free media is forbidden. Identification of the source will aid in validating the previous publication of the material.

The source information should be sufficiently complete to allow any editor to validate that material. While completeness is not required, editors are encouraged to provide as much source information as they can. Some ways to source media files include:

Scanned images
Identifying the published work, page numbers, and the copyright owner
Screenshots and video clips
Identifying the movie, television show, or other video source, its copyright owner, and the approximate timestamp where the shot or clip was taken
Images from the Internet
Identifying the URL of the image itself or web page hosting the image, and the image's copyright owner (not necessarily the same as the website's).
Music samples
Identifying the album, artist, track number, and approximate time stamp of the sample.

Meeting the minimal usage criterion[edit]

Number of items[edit]

Articles are structured and worded, where reasonable to do so, in order to minimize the total number of times items of non-free content are included within the encyclopedia.

For example, an excerpt of a significant artistic work, notable for both its production and performance, is usually included only in an article about the work, which is then referenced in those about its performer and its producer (where these are notable enough for their own articles).

An item of non-free content that conveys multiple points of significant understanding within a topic, is used in preference to multiple non-free items where each conveys fewer such points. This is independent of whether the topic is covered by a single article, or is split across several.

For example, an article about an ensemble may warrant inclusion of a non-free image identifying the ensemble: this is preferable to including non-free images for each member of the ensemble, even if the article has been split with sub-articles for each member's part in the overall topic. Note however, that an article covering an ensemble member's notable activities outside those of the ensemble, is usually treated as being a separate topic.

Image resolution[edit]

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There is no firm guideline on allowable resolutions for non-free content; images should be rescaled as small as possible to still be useful as identified by their rationale, and no larger. This metric is very qualitative, and thus difficult to enforce. Some legal proceedings have discussed the issue, but are inconclusive here.

At the low pixel count end of the range, most common pictorial needs can be met with an image containing no more than about 100,000 pixels (0.1 megapixels), obtained by multiplying the horizontal and vertical pixel dimensions of an image. This allows, for example, images with a 4:3 aspect ratio to be shown at 320 × 240 pixels (common for screenshots from TV, films, and videogames), while allowing common cover art to be shown at 250 × 400 pixels. To scale an image down to a specific number of pixels, use this formula:

\text{new width} = \left\lfloor\sqrt{\tfrac{\text{target pixel count} \times \text{original width}}{\text{original height}}}\right\rfloor

or use this tool to compute it for you.

At the extreme high end of the range, non-free images where one dimension exceeds 1,000 pixels, or where the pixel count approaches 1 megapixel, will very likely require a close review to verify that the image needs that level of resolution. Editors should ensure that the image rationale fully explains the need for such a level of detail.

An original, high resolution image (that can be reasonably scaled down to maintain overall artistic and critical details) may lose some text detail. In such cases, that text should be duplicated on the image description page. Care should be given to the recreation of copyrighted text: while it is appropriate for credits from a movie poster as factual data, such duplication would not be appropriate for an original poem embedded within an image.

If a small area of a large image needs high resolution to see details that are discussed in the article text, it may be better to crop the section to show the critical portion at a higher resolution, than to try to reduce the full image. If cropping is performed, editors should indicate the original source of the image and what modifications were made.

If you believe an image is oversized, either re-upload a new version at the same file location, or tag the image file page with a {{Non-free reduce}} template, which will place it in a maintenance category to be reduced by volunteers or a bot like User:Theo's Little Bot.

Note that these guidelines apply to the resolution as stored on the image file page; the reuse of these images in mainspace should follow the Manual of Style for image use, such as deferring to default thumbnail size to allow the end-user control of the image display.

Both non-free audio and video file have more explicit metrics for low resolution, which can be found at Creating Media Files.

Guideline examples[edit]

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Non-free content that meets all of the policy criteria above but does not fall under one of the designated categories below may or may not be allowable, depending on what the material is and how it is used. These examples are not meant to be exhaustive, and depending on the situation there are exceptions. When in doubt as to whether non-free content may be included, please make a judgement based on the spirit of the policy, not necessarily the exact wording. If you want help in assessing whether a use is acceptable, please ask at Wikipedia:Media copyright questions. Wikipedia talk:Copyrights, Wikipedia talk:Copyright problems, and Wikipedia talk:Non-free content may also be useful. These are places where those who understand copyright law and Wikipedia policy are likely to be watching.

See also: Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2008-09-22/Dispatches, a guide to evaluating the acceptability of non-free images.

Acceptable use[edit]

The following cases are a non-exhaustive list of established examples of acceptable use of non-free media on Wikipedia. Note that the use of such media must still comply with the Non-free content criteria and provide rationales and licensing information.

Text[edit]

Brief quotations of copyrighted text may be used to illustrate a point, establish context, or attribute a point of view or idea. In all cases, an inline citation following the quote or the sentence where it is used is required. Copyrighted text that is used verbatim must be attributed with quotation marks or other standard notation, such as block quotes. Any alterations must be clearly marked, i.e., [brackets] for added text, an ellipsis (...) for removed text, and emphasis noted after the quotation as "(emphasis added)" or "(emphasis in the original)". Extensive quotation of copyrighted text is prohibited. Please see both WP:QUOTE for use and formatting issues in using quotations, and WP:MOSQUOTE for style guidelines related to quoting.

Audio clips[edit]

All non-free audio files must meet each of the non-free content criteria; failure to meet those overrides any acceptable allowance here. Advice for preparing non-free audio files for Wikipedia can be found at Wikipedia:Music samples. The following list is non-inclusive but contains the most common cases where non-free audio samples may be used.

  1. Music clips may be used to identify a musical style, group, or iconic piece of music when accompanied by appropriate sourced commentary and attributed to the copyright holder. Samples should generally not be longer than 30 seconds or 10% of the length of the original song, whichever is shorter (see Wikipedia:Music samples).
  2. Spoken word clips of historical events, such as speeches by public figures, may be used when accompanied by appropriate sourced commentary and attributed to the speaker/author.

Images[edit]

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Some non-free images may be used on Wikipedia, providing they meet both the legal criteria for fair use, and Wikipedia's own guidelines for non-free content. Non-free images that reasonably could be replaced by free content images are not suitable for Wikipedia. All non-free images must meet each non-free content criterion; failure to meet those overrides any acceptable allowance here. The following list is not exhaustive but contains the most common cases where non-free images may be used and is subject to the restrictions listed below at unacceptable use of images, notably §7 which forbids the use of press agency images when the image itself is not the subject of commentary.

  1. Cover art: Cover art from various items, for visual identification only in the context of critical commentary of that item (not for identification without critical commentary).[1]
  2. Team and corporate logos: For identification. See Wikipedia:Logos.
  3. Stamps and currency: For identification of the stamp or currency, not the subjects depicted on it.
  4. Other promotional material: Posters, programs, billboards, ads. For critical commentary.
  5. Video screenshots: For critical commentary and discussion of the work in question (i.e., films, television programs, and music videos).
  6. Screenshots from software products: For critical commentary. See Wikipedia:Software screenshots.
  7. Paintings and other works of visual art: For critical commentary, including images illustrative of a particular technique or school.
  8. Images with iconic status or historical importance:
    • Iconic or historical images that are themselves the subject of sourced commentary in the article are generally appropriate.
    • Iconic and historical images which are not subject of commentary themselves but significantly aid in illustrating historical events may be used if they meet all aspects of the non-free content criteria, particularly no free alternatives, respect for commercial opportunity, and contextual significance. Note that in the case the image is from a press agency and is not itself the subject of critical commentary, it is assumed automatically to fail the second test of "respect for commercial opportunity".
  9. Images that are themselves subject of commentary.
  10. Pictures of deceased persons, in articles about that person, provided that ever obtaining a free close substitute is not reasonably likely. Note that in the case the image is from a press agency and is not itself the subject of critical commentary it is assumed automatically to fail "respect for commercial opportunity".

Unacceptable use[edit]

The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples where non-free content may not be used outside of the noted exceptions.

Text[edit]

  1. Unattributed pieces of text from a copyrighted source.
  2. Excessively long copyrighted excerpts.
  3. All copyrighted text poses legal problems when making spoken word audio files from Wikipedia articles, and should be avoided in such files, because the resulting audio file cannot be licensed under the GFDL.
  4. A complete or partial recreation of "Top 100" or similar lists where the list has been selected in a creative manner. Articles on individual elements from such lists can discuss their inclusion in these lists. Complete lists based on factual data, such as List of highest-grossing films, are appropriate to include.[2] Lists that have acceptable free licensing (as with AFI 100 Years... series) may be reproduced in their entirety as long as proper citations and sourcing are included.

Multimedia[edit]

  1. Excessive quantities of short audio clips in a single article. A small number may be appropriate if each is accompanied by commentary in the accompanying text.
  2. A long audio excerpt, to illustrate a stylistic feature of a contemporary band; see above for acceptable limits.
  3. A short video excerpt from a contemporary film, without sourced commentary in the accompanying text.

The use of non-free media (whether images, audio or video clips) in galleries, discographies, and navigational and user-interface elements generally fails the test for significance (criterion #8).

Images[edit]

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  1. Pictures of people still alive, groups still active, and buildings still standing; provided that taking a new free picture as a replacement (which is almost always considered possible) would serve the same encyclopedic purpose as the non-free image. This includes non-free promotional images.
    For some retired or disbanded groups, or retired individuals whose notability rests in large part on their earlier visual appearance, a new picture may not serve the same purpose as an image taken during their career, in which case the use would be acceptable.
    In considering the ability to take a free photograph, it is expected that the photographer respects all local property and privacy laws and restrictions. For example, we would not expect a free photograph of a structure on inaccessible private property that is not visible from public locations.
  2. An album cover as part of a discography, as per the above.
  3. A rose, cropped from a record album, to illustrate an article on roses.
  4. A map, scanned or traced from an atlas, to illustrate the region depicted. Use may be appropriate if the map itself is a proper subject for commentary in the article: for example, a controversial map of a disputed territory, if the controversy is discussed in the article.
  5. An image whose subject happens to be a war, to illustrate an article on the war. Use may be appropriate if the image itself is a proper subject for commentary in the article: for example, an iconic image that has received attention in its own right, if the image is discussed in the article.
  6. An image to illustrate an article passage about the image, if the image has its own article (in which case the image may be described and a link provided to the article about the image)
  7. A photo from a press or photo agency (e.g., AP, Corbis or Getty Images), unless the photo itself is the subject of sourced commentary in the article.
  8. A Barry Bonds baseball card, to illustrate the article on Barry Bonds. The use may be appropriate to illustrate a passage on the card itself; see the Billy Ripken article.
  9. A magazine or book cover, to illustrate the article on the person whose photograph is on the cover. However, if the cover itself is the subject of sourced discussion in the article, it may be appropriate if placed inline next to the commentary. Similarly, a photo of a copyrighted statue (assuming there is no freedom of panorama in the country where the statue was when the photo was taken) can only be used to discuss the statue itself, not the subject of it.
  10. An image with an unknown or unverifiable origin. This does not apply to historical images, where sometimes only secondary sources are known, as the ultimate source of some historical images may never be known with certainty.
  11. A chart or graph. These can almost always be recreated from the original data.
  12. A commercial photograph reproduced in high enough resolution to potentially undermine the ability of the copyright holder to profit from the work.
  13. Board or card game artwork and photos where the game itself is shown more than de minimis; such images can nearly always be replaced by a free de minimis photograph of the game's layout while it is being played. Exceptions are made for parts of a board or card games that have received critical commentary.
  14. A logo of a perennial event (or of its sponsoring company), used to illustrate an article about a specific instance of that event. If each instance has its own logo, such specific logos remain acceptable.
  15. An image of a newspaper article or other publication that contains long legible sections of copyrighted text. If the text is important as a source or quotation, it should be worked into the Wikipedia article in textual form, with a citation to the newspaper article.
  16. A publicity image of a commercial product released by its manufacturer, if the product has already been sold or displayed to the public in such a way that free photographs of it could be taken.
  17. The logo of a entity used for identification of one of its child entities, when the child entity lacks their own branding. Specific child entity logos remain acceptable.

Non-free image use in list articles[edit]

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In articles and sections of articles that consist of several small sections of information for a series of elements common to a topic, such as a list of characters in a fictional work, non-free images should be used judiciously to present the key visual aspects of the topic. It is inadvisable to provide a non-free image for each entry in such an article or section. The following considerations should be made to reduce the number of new non-free images associated with such lists:

  1. Images that show multiple elements of the list at the same time, such as a cast shot or montage for a television show, are strongly preferred over individual images. Such an image should be provided by the copyright holder or scanned/captured directly from the copyrighted work, instead of being created from multiple non-free images by the user directly (as the "extent" of use is determined by the number and resolution of non-free images, and not the number of files.)
  2. Images which are discussed in detail in the context of the article body, such as a discussion of the art style, or a contentious element of the work, are preferable to those that simply provide visual identification of the elements.
  3. An image that provides a representative visual reference for other elements in the article, such as what an alien race may look like on a science-fiction television show, is preferred over providing a picture of each element discussed.
  4. If another non-free image of an element of an article is used elsewhere within Wikipedia, referring to its other use is preferred over repeating its use on the list and/or including a new, separate, non-free image. If duplicating the use of a non-free image, please be aware that a separate non-free use rationale must be supplied for the image for the new use.
  5. For media that involves live actors, do not supply an image of the actor in their role if an appropriate free image of the actor exists on their page (as per WP:BLP and above), if there is little difference in appearance between actor and role. However, if there is a significant difference due to age or makeup and costuming, then, when needed, it may be appropriate to include a non-free image to demonstrate the role of the actor in that media.
  6. Barring the above, images that are used only to visually identify elements in the article should be used as sparingly as possible. Consider restricting such uses to major characters and elements or those that cannot be described easily in text, as agreed to by editor consensus.

Non-free image use in galleries or tables[edit]

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The use of non-free images arranged in a gallery or tabular format is usually unacceptable, but should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Exceptions should be very well-justified and alternate forms of presentation (including with fewer images) strongly considered.

In categories that include non-free content, MediaWiki's __NOGALLERY__ code should be used to disable the display of the content while still listing it.

User-created montages containing non-free images should be avoided for similar reasons. Within the scope of NFCC#3a, such montages are considered as multiple non-free images based on each non-free image that contributes towards the montage. If a montage is determined to be appropriate, each contributing non-free item should have its source described (such as File:Versions_of_the_Doctor.jpg). A montage created by the copyright holder of the images used to create the montage is considered a single non-free item and not separate items.

Exemptions[edit]

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Exemptions from non-free content policy are made for the use of non-free content on certain administrative, non-article space pages as necessary to creating or managing the encyclopedia, specifically for those that are used to manage questionable non-free content. Those pages that are exempt are listed in Category:Wikipedia non-free content criteria exemptions.[3]

Explanation of policy and guidelines[edit]

Background[edit]

"Free" content is defined as that which meets the "Definition of Free Cultural Works".

Material that is not free is permitted only if it meets the restrictions of this policy. This has been explicitly declared since May 2005.[4] The stated mission of the Wikimedia Foundation, which supports Wikipedia servers and software, is "to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally." These concerns are embodied in the above requirements that all non-free content must meet, and our policy of deleting non-compliant content. Being generous to the world sometimes means being hard on ourselves. Please understand that these rules are not arbitrary; they are central to our mission.

Wikipedia distributes content throughout the world with no restrictions on how people use it. Legally, we could use any copyrighted material for ourselves that is either licensed to us by the owner, or that fits the definition of "fair use" under US copyright law. However, we favor content that everyone can use, not just Wikipedia. We want them to be free to use, redistribute, or modify the content, for any purpose, without significant legal restrictions, particularly those of copyright.

To honor its mission, Wikipedia accepts incoming copyright licenses only if they meet Wikipedia's definition of "free" use. This is a higher standard than we would need just for our own use. But our ability to use a work does not guarantee that others may use it. We reject licenses that limit use exclusively to Wikipedia or for non-commercial purposes. Commercial use is a complex issue that goes well beyond a company's for-profit status, another reason to be careful. In fact, we reject any licenses with significant limitations. That is not free enough.

Similarly, Wikipedia imposes higher fair-use standards on itself than U.S. copyright law. There are some works, such as important photographs, significant modern artworks, that we cannot realistically expect to be released under a free content license, but that are hard to discuss in an educational context without including examples from the media itself. In other cases such as cover art / product packaging, a non-free work is needed to discuss a related subject. This policy allows such material to be used if it meets U.S. legal tests for fair use, but we impose additional limitations. Just because something is "fair use" on a Wikipedia article in the US does not mean it is fair use in another context. A downstream user's commercial use of content in a commercial setting may be illegal even if our noncommercial use is legal. Use in another country with different fair use and fair dealing laws may be illegal as well. That would fail our mission. We therefore limit the media content we offer, to make sure what we do offer has the widest possible legal distribution.

We do not want downstream re-users to rely solely on our assurances. They are liable for their own actions, no matter what we tell them. We therefore show them and let them make their own decision. To that end we require a copyright tag describing the nature of a copyrighted work, sourcing material saying exactly where any non-free content comes from, and a detailed non-free media rationale for every use of copyrighted content in every article, justifying why use in that article is permitted.

A further goal of minimizing licensed and fair-use material is to encourage creation of original new content, rather than relying on borrowed content that comes with restrictions.

Legal position[edit]

In general[edit]

Under United States copyright law, creative works published in the United States prior to 1923 are in the public domain. Some creative works published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 are still copyrighted. It is illegal (among other things) to reproduce or make derivative works of copyrighted works without legal justification.[5] Unless a thorough search is conducted to determine that a copyright has expired or not been renewed, it should be regarded as copyrighted.[6]

Certain works have no copyright at all. Most material published in the United States before 1923, works published before 1978 without a copyright notice, with an expired copyright term, or produced by the U.S. federal government, among others, is public domain, i.e., has no copyright. Some such as photos and scans of 2-dimensional objects and other "slavish reproductions", short text phrases, typographic logos, and product designs, do not have a sufficient degree of creativity apart from their functional aspects to have a copyright.

Copyright law only governs creative expressions that are "fixed in a tangible medium of expression," not the ideas or information behind the works. It is legal to reformulate ideas based on written texts, or create images or recordings inspired by others, as long as there is no copying (see plagiarism for how much reformulation is necessary).

If material does have a copyright, it may only be copied or distributed under a license (permission) from the copyright holder, or under the doctrine of fair use. If there is a valid license, the user must stay within the scope of the license (which may include limitations on amount of use, geographic or business territory, time period, nature of use, etc.). Fair use, by contrast, is a limited right to use copyrighted works without permission, highly dependent on the specific circumstances of the work and the use in question. It is a doctrine incorporated as a clause in United States copyright code, arising out of a concern that strict application of copyright law would limit criticism, commentary, scholarship, and other important free speech rights. A comparable concept of fair dealing exists in some other countries, where standards may vary.

Anything published 1923 or later in other countries and still copyrighted there, is typically also copyrighted in the United States. See Wikipedia:Non-U.S. copyrights.[7][clarification needed]

Applied to Wikipedia[edit]

Never use materials that infringe the copyrights of others. This could create legal liabilities and seriously hurt the project.

Uploading an image file, audio or video file, or text quotation into Wikipedia, and adding that file to a project page, both raise copyright concerns. Editors who do either must make sure their contributions are legal. If there is any doubt as to legality, ask others for help, try to find a free equivalent, or use your own words to make the same point. Also, consider asking the copyright holder to release the work under an appropriate Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA) or a CC-BY-SA-compatible license (dual-licensing under a GFDL license is also possible). See Wikipedia:Boilerplate request for permission for a sample form letter.

If a work has no copyright or is licensed to Wikipedia under an acceptable "free" license, it is a free work and may be used on Wikipedia without copyright concerns. See public domain, copyright, and Cornell University's guide to copyright terms for discussion of works that are not covered by copyright. Also see free license regarding free licenses and Wikipedia:Image copyright tags/Free licenses for a list of copyright tags for these works. Restricted licenses to these works offer some legal rights, but Wikipedia ignores them because they are not free enough for its purposes. Instead, works covered by inadequate licenses are treated the same on Wikipedia as works with no licenses at all.

If a work is not free, Wikipedia requires that it comply with Wikipedia's non-free use policy. As explained above, this policy is more restrictive than US law requires. Logically, material that satisfies the policy should also satisfy legal requirements as well. However, to be more certain of avoiding legal liability, and to understand the meaning of Wikipedia policy, editors should consider the legal rules as well. See fair use for further information, and the Stanford University summary of relevant cases, on the subject of fair use.

Non-free material is used only if, in addition to other restrictions, we firmly believe that the use would be deemed fair use if we were taken to court. The Wikimedia Foundation reserves the right to remove unfree copyrighted content at any time. Note that citation sources and external links raise other copyright concerns that are addressed in other policies.

Reporting inappropriate use of non-free content[edit]

Possibly inappropriate uses of non-free content can be reported and discussed at Wikipedia:Non-free content review.

Other Wikimedia projects[edit]

This policy is specific to the English language Wikipedia. Other Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedias in other languages, may have different policies on non-free content. A list of some of the projects and their policies on fair use can be read at Wikimedia Meta-wiki. Specific information about different language versions of Wikipedia and their rules on fair use can also been seen at Meta.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ NFCI#1 relates to the use of cover art within articles whose main subject is the work associated with the cover. Within such articles, the cover art implicitly satisfies the "contextual significance" NFCC criterion (NFCC#8) by virtue of the marketing, branding, and identification information that the cover conveys. The same rationale does not usually apply when the work is described in other articles, such as articles about the author or musician; in such articles, the NFCC criteria typically require that the cover art itself be significantly discussed within the article. For historical information, see RfC Jan 2011, RfC Sep 2012, and RfC Dec 2012.
  2. ^ The Wikimedia Foundation's associate counsel advised in March 2011 that while the courts have not firmly established precedence on the matter, polls are likely to be protectable as well because the parameters of the survey are chosen by those who conduct the polls and the selection of respondents indicates "at least some creativity." She recommended using polls in accordance with fair use principles, reminding that "Merely republishing them without any commentary or transformation is not fair use." She also recommends that the use of even uncopyrightable lists be considered with regards to licensing agreements that may "bind the user/reader from republishing the list/survey results without permission", noting that "Absent a license agreement, you may still run afoul of state unfair competition and/or misappropriation laws if you take a substantial portion of the list or survey results."
  3. ^ Due to software limitations, TimedText pages for non-free video files will automatically include the video file, and as such, pages in the TimedText namespace are presumed exception from NFCC#9.
  4. ^ May 19, 2005 statement by Jimbo Wales
  5. ^ "A 1961 Copyright Office study found that fewer than 15% of all registered copyrights were renewed. For books, the figure was even lower: 7%. Barbara Ringer, "Study No. 31: Renewal of Copyright" (1960) "Study No. 31: Renewal of Copyright" (1960), reprinted in Library of Congress Copyright Office. Copyright law revision: Studies prepared for the Subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Eighty-sixth Congress, first [-second] session. (Washington: U. S. Govt. Print. Off, 1961), p. 220. ... A good guide to investigating the copyright and renewal status of published work is Samuel Demas and Jennie L. Brogdon, "Determining Copyright Status for Preservation and Access: Defining Reasonable Effort," Library Resources and Technical Services 41:4 (October, 1997): 323-334." , Hirtle, Peter (2007) Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States footnote 7. Of the total US material first published between 1923 and 1963, the percentage of renewed copyrights is far lower, because most published material was never registered at all.

  6. ^ To find out how to search for copyright registrations and renewals, see, e.g., How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work, Stanford's Copyright Renewal Database, Project Gutenberg and Iinformation about The Catalog of Copyright Entries.
  7. ^ Non-US copyrights apply in the US under the URAA.

External links[edit]