Wikipedia talk:Non-free content

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Clarification of "Could be created"[edit]

Hi, I think "Could be created" in the guideline could do with some clarification here. I took it as meaning "Could in principle be created by the uploader". But the admins who delete the images seem to take it as "Could in principle be created by anyone".

This is particularly for photographs of geological structures and species in remote parts of the world. In my case it was for photographs taken at high altitudes in Antarctica. I had permission from the photographer to use it, but not to use it commercially, as it was copyright Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory.

Anyway the argument for deleting it was based on an interpretation of the guideline here that "Non-free content is used only where no free equivalent is available, or could be created, that would serve the same encyclopedic purpose."

I didn't get much discussion, but from what little there was, seems that the idea is that if the photograph could in principle be created by someone else on an expedition in Antarctica, even if nobody has yet - then we can't use the non free version.

If so it might do with some clarification. I spent a fair bit of time on this, trying to find free images (many hours of searching) and when that failed, obtaining permission from the photographer to use this image in wikipedia. And it seems that many people are uploading photographs that get deleted. Our time would be more productively spent improving wikipedia, and it might help perhaps to do a bit more work on the wording of the guidelines?

Something like adding an extra line somewhere

"Photographs of natural phenomena and species in remote places that are non free can not be included even with permission of the photographer so long as there are people who continue to visit those places who could take photographs in the future and release them with a free license".

I don't really understand the reasoning here. If there is no free alternative, then it just means that those wikipedia articles are not illustrated at all. And obviously nobody is going to sue wikipedia for a non free photograph included with permission or photographs from press releases. So what benefit is that to wikipedia to delete photographs, of difficult to access geological phenomena and species?

But if that is what the guideline is, and it's been decided that this is the policy over extensive debate, well I think it would help us if that was made clearer on this page. If this is not the intention of the guideline, then that should be made clear also. Surely this must have been discussed in the past many times?

See discussion of the ice fumerole photograph here: File_talk:Fumarole_near_the_lower_Erebus_hut.jpg.

Thanks, Robert Walker (talk) 01:54, 7 May 2015 (UTC)

You are right to conclude that it has always meant "Could in principle be created by anyone", but I am sad that it has been such a painful journey for you. I hope that you can find suitable non-commercial websites (or create your own) to host these hard earned photographs. Your situation is unusual so I think the lengthy quote is not needed, but we should go ahead and add some wording after 'be created'. 'by anyone' is ambiguous as it is not clear if it is inclusive or exclusive. Would 'by a person' be adequate, if a little legalistic? --Hroðulf (or Hrothulf) (Talk) 09:47, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
There's a further distinction that needs to be clarified. Does "Could be created" mean "Could be created as free media"? We have regular cases where a physical item is controlled by a rights holder. It is trivial for them to create representations of it, maybe to choose to license them freely. Often they do create such images and distribute them, but not under a free licence. However, as they control access to the object, it's impossible for others to do so, or to control the freedom of licences.
Is this "possible to create" or not? Those deleting non-free media all too often assume superhuman powers on the part of GF editors expected to recreate this non-free media as free. It's very easy to say "Recreate this as free media and in the meantime delete the non-free version", but it's a lot harder to actually do it. Andy Dingley (talk) 10:17, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
What do you mean by 'controlled by a rights holder'?
Would this example in our guideline apply? "For example, we would not expect a free photograph of a structure on inaccessible private property that is not visible from public locations."
Indeed, would the legal restrictions on access to Antarctica mean that the exception also applies to Mount Erebus?
(Ideally, I would like to see those controlling access encourage photographers to use free licences, as institutions in the GLAM program do, but perhaps the community intended these exceptions all along.)
--Hroðulf (or Hrothulf) (Talk) 10:57, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
  1. Our concern about the use of non-free images has little to do with preventing Wikipedia from being sued. As an educational resource, we have very wide latitude for the use of copyrighted images.
  2. Permission to use on Wikipedia is meaningless to us. Lots of people attempt to 'give' us material under the proviso that we can use it, but can't distribute it. This arrangement goes against the very fiber of Wikipedia. "Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge" (emphasis mine) An image used 'with permission' here is not free.
  3. It can be hard sometimes to obtain or create free imagery. But, our mission is to do exactly that. The only times we make general allowances for media of a subject is where it would be extremely difficult or impossible for someone to gain access to the subject. The allowances we currently make are for people incarcerated for life and people who are noted recluses. A general rule of thumb here is that if people are able to take photographs of the subject, then so can one of our editors. Example; Colton Harris-Moore. We had an interesting debate some time ago about this felon. People were saying it was effectively impossible to photograph him. Yet, plenty of photographs exist on the web of him...which disproves the point. Same goes for Kim Jong-un. Is it difficult? Yep. Impossible? Nope. That a geological feature is in a remote place does not make it impossible. Difficult, but not impossible. The geological feature is likely not going anywhere. We can be patient. --Hammersoft (talk) 13:18, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
Okay thanks all this is helpful, and I understand the situation much better now. Yes something like "could be created by a person" or whatever is best way to express it would have made it much clearer to me. And - is there any page that explains what you just said? E.g. with those examples you just gave? It might help to link to some more detailed explanation, just a thought, to give it context, why you have this rule. I mean this thread makes it all clear now, but this page will be archived.
I will be able to use the image elsewhere yes, I write science blog posts, and I may well do something that mentions these towers. And meanwhile also, I'll replace the image with a link saying "For photographs of ice fumaroles see "Ice Towers and Caves of Mount Erebus"[1]..." or some such.
On the idea of using the exception "controlled by rights user" - that's good to know about for the future, but I don't think that would apply to Mount Erebus. Because mountaineers and other adventurers can get permission to climb it and often do. I found several photographs of that sort in my image search, but so far, none were free in the sense needed for wikipedia.
Thanks again for your help and clarification! Robert Walker (talk) 14:18, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
  • You might consider reading Wikipedia:Requesting copyright permission and following the instructions there for obtaining release. Being an educational institution, the rights holder might be interested in releasing some under a free license for general edification. --Hammersoft (talk) 16:43, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Yes I think I looked into that, searched and found a page about the educational establishment's image use policy. If you look at it from their point of view, the thing is that releasing it for wikipedia isn't just releasing it for educational use.
  • It gives permission for anyone to use your image commercially as well without paying you anything for it. You have to renounce any possibility of getting royalties from it in the future as well as any possibility of telling someone they can't use your image (e.g. for an advert or whatever). So they could well be in general support of the aims of wikipedia, and happy to give permission to use their image, but once it is explained, not willing to renounce all control over commercial use of their images. Robert Walker (talk) 10:45, 11 May 2015 (UTC)
  • I think if it is made clear that once available under a free license, the commercial aspect of it is moot. Nobody would pay to gain rights to use an image when they already had rights to use the image under a creative commons license. The idea of releasing the photo for general edification should be one that is appealing to an education institution. --Hammersoft (talk) 14:54, 11 May 2015 (UTC)


Yes exactly. And then can also use it for adverts or anything they want to. And the institution has lost any chance for revenue from the photographs. Some might not mind or might like this. So it might appeal to some educational institutions yes. And NASA for instance has no problem at all with this requirement. While the ESA, DLR (the German space agency) and Roscosmos (Russian space agency) do not permit either public domain or creative commons release of their images.

DLR, ESA and Roscosmos are all keen on education and release images frequently which are used for news stories and for education purposes - but they are not public domain or creative commons - so it is a matter where you can have diverse views amongst organizations with largely similar aims. And I think they need to be respected for this, that that's a view that it is understandable and legitimate for people or organizations to take, however much one might hope for the ends of wikipedia that they would decide otherwise. Robert Walker (talk) 22:47, 19 May 2015 (UTC)

Can these photographs be uploaded with a fair use license?[edit]

Hello! I would like to add photos of the Dragon Kings or temples of the Dragon Kings in articles about Chinese religion, in order to illustrate the concept that this deities symbolise. The two photos linked above are both licensed to be shared, but with "no derivatives" and "non commercial" restrictions. I wonder if they could be uploaded for fair use.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 19:55, 27 May 2015 (UTC)

No, that won't work, as they'd be clearly replaceable with other, free photos of the same objects that somebody might take some day. Fut.Perf. 20:01, 27 May 2015 (UTC)