User:Thine Antique Pen/Adoption/AFisch99

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Hi there AFisch99! Welcome to my adoption program. Your lessons are below.


Welcome to the lesson discussing Copyright. It's one of the most important lessons I teach, because not adhering to it can lead to a ban from Wikipedia. I'm hoping to take you back to basics and will be focusing on images. However, a lot of the same concepts apply to other media files and even text too! I'll mention a bit more about that at the end of the lesson.


There are a lot of terms associated with copyright. If you are having trouble with any, here's a quick reference.

Term Explaination
Attribution The identification of work by an author
Copyright symbol © - used to show work is under copyright
Creative Commons Creative Commons is an organisation that provides licensing information aimed at achieving a mutual sharing and flexible approach to copyright.
Compilation A new work created as a combination of other works, which may be derivative works.
Derivative work A work which is derived from another work. (Eg a photograph of a painting)
Disclaimer A statement which limits rights or obligations
FACT Federation Against Copyright Theft
Fair use Circumstances where copyright can be waived. These are strict and specific to the country.
Copyright infringement Use of work under copyright without permission
Intellectual property Creations of the mind, under which you do have rights.
License The terms under which the copyright owner allows his/her work to be used.
Non-commercial Copying for personal use - not for the purpose of buying or selling.
Public domain Works that either cannot be copyrighted or the copyright has expired

Image Copyright on Wikipedia[edit]

What you can upload to commons

Ok, now if I use a term that's not in the glossary and I don't explain, feel free to slap me. Are you ready for this? Ok. Take a deep breath. You can do it.

Copyright is a serious problem on a free encyclopedia. To remain free, any work that is submitted must be released under the WP:CC-BY-SA License and the WP:GFDL. You can read the actual text under those links, but the gist is that you agree that everything you write on the encyclopedia can be shared, adapted or even sold and all you get in return is attribution.

So, there are basically two types of images on wikipedia.

  1. Free images
  2. Non-free images

Free images are those which can be freely used anywhere on Wikipedia. A free image may be either public domain, or released under a free license, such as CC-BY-SA. Free images can be used in any article where their presence would add value. As long as there is a consensus among the editors working on an article that the image is appropriate for the article, it's safe to say that it can remain in an article. Free images can even be modified and used elsewhere.

Non-free images, however, are subject to restrictions. Album covers and TV screenshots are two types of images that are typically non-free. They may belong to a person or organization who has not agreed to release them freely to the public, and there may be restrictions on how they are used. You have to meet ALL of Wikipedia's strict conditions in order to use them. (Non free content criteria)

In practise, if it comes out of your head - is entirely your own work, you have the right to make that release. If you got it from somewhere else, you don't. That doesn't mean it can't be used though. You can in these situations

  • If the work has already been released under a compatible or less restrictive license.
  • If the work is in the "public domain" - Very old items, 150 years is a good benchmark
  • If the work is not free in certain circumstances (Non free content criteria summary below, but actually a lot more detailed)
  1. There must be no free equivalent
  2. We must ensure that the owner will not lose out by us using the work
  3. Use as little as possible (the smallest number of uses and the smallest part possible used)
  4. Must have been published elsewhere first
  5. Meets our general standards for content
  6. Meets our specific standards for that area
  7. Must be used. (we can't upload something under fair use and not use it)
  8. Must be useful in context. This is a sticking point, if it's not actually adding to the article, it shouldn't be used.
  9. Can only be used in article space
  10. The image page must attribute the source, explain the fair use for each article it is used and display the correct tag

It's a lot, isn't it! Well, let's have a look at the non free stuff. I'm going to suggest two different images. One, a tabloid picture of celebrity actress Nicole Kidman, and the other, the cover of the album Jollification by the Lightning Seeds. The tabloid picture of Nicole Kidman will instantly fail #1, because there can be a free equivalent - anyone can take a picture of Nicole. The album cover on the other hand is unique - there's no free equivalent. It's discussed in the article too, so showing it will be useful in context (#8). The copy we show should be shrunk, so that it can't be used to create pirate copies (#2). I couldn't put it on my userpage though (or even here) (#9)

Get it? Well here are a few more examples.

  • I could upload a publicity picture of Eddie Izzard. Now, the photographer holds the copyright to that particular picture of the hilarious man. I can claim fair use, but the claim would be invalid because you could just as easily go to a performance Izzard is giving and take a picture of him yourself. (That's what happened here) The publicity picture is considered replaceable fair use and so cannot be used on Wikipedia.
  • Person X could upload a picture of the Empire State Building from a marketing kit they distributed. This image would likely be copyrighted, and so they claim fair use. But I happen to have been to New York and have a picture of the ESB. I upload that instead and release it into the public domain. The first, copyrighted picture, is also replaceable, and therefore can't be used on Wikipedia.
  • For the article on the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I want to upload an image of their logo (visible in no great detail here). I go to their website, take a copy of their logo, and upload it to Wikipedia. This fair use is allowable, because no matter where or how they display their logo, it'll be under the same copyright. Since the simple art of scanning or taking a picture of a piece of work is not enough to justify my ownership of the rights to the image, there is no way to obtain a free version of the logo. So, if it meets all the other criteria as well, it can be used on Wikipedia.


When people refer to Commons on Wikipedia, they're generally referring to Wikimedia Commons, a repository of free material. Images on Commons can be linked directly to Wikipedia, like that picture just to the right and above. Now, since commons is a free repository, fair use is not permitted. It makes sense to upload free images to commons, so that they can be used by all language encyclopedias.

Copyright and text[edit]

So you think you've got your head around copyright and how it applies to images? Well done. Let's see how it applies to text. All the principles are the same - you can only include text which has been released under CC-BY-SA. In fact, if you notice, every time you click edit, it says right there

Content that violates any copyrights will be deleted. Encyclopedic content must be verifiable.

By clicking the "Save Page" button, you agree to the Terms of Use, and you irrevocably agree to release your contribution under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 License and the GFDL. You agree that a hyperlink or URL is sufficient attribution under the Creative Commons license.

So you are in effect contributing every time you edit. Now, let's think about that non-free content criteria - "No free equivalent" means that you will never be able to license text under it (except for quoting) - as you can re-write it in your own words to create an equivalent. You always, always, always have to write things in your own words or make it VERY clear that you are not. Got it? Good.


This is a very complex topic, is there anything you don't understand? Now's a great time to ask about those weird situations.

Yeah, I think I've got it. It was very well explained! AFisch99 (talk) 16:18, 22 December 2012 (UTC)


Q1) Do you think Wikipedia *is* free?

A-Well, yes. As long as there is no fee to use it, and there's no copyrighted material that could get us in trouble with the's free.

Q2) When can you upload a picture to Commons?

  • If you took it yourself, AND
  • It is of nature/stuff no one owns.
  • It is of paintings or sculptures more than 150 years old.
  • It is of a public figure in a public location.

Q3) You find music displaying this licence [1] (non-commercial). Wikimedia is non-commerical, can we upload it to Commons?

A-I actually don't think so, since it said in the lesson "you agree that everything you write on the encyclopedia can be shared, adapted or even sold." This may or may not apply to the Commons, too; I'm not sure.

Q4) A user uploads a poster which is a composite of all the Beatles album covers. Can he do this? It is his own unique composition.

A-I think so. Since it is of album covers, there are no free equivalents.

Q5) Can you upload a press image of the Pope?

A-Nope. Anyone can take one of those.

Q6) Can you upload a press image of a prisoner on death row?

A-Yes. Because the general public can't get there, you can.

Q7) You find an article that matches a company website About Us page exactly. You check the talk page, and there's no evidence that the text has been released under WP:CC-BY-SA. What do you do?

A-Report it for copyright infringement.

Q8) Can you see any issues with doing a cut-and-paste move?

A-Yes. Violates copyright.

Q9) A final practical test... Go. Have a snoop around some wikipedia articles, see if you can find an image which is currently being used under "fair use". Come back and link to it (using [[:File:IMAGENAME]]. You must get the : before the File name, as we cannot display the image here!)

  • Answers are generally correct, but do you wish to expand on some of them? Thine Antique Pen (talk) 13:52, 28 April 2013 (UTC)
    • Hi, sorry I didn't notice this sooner. I haven't been around Wikipedia as much lately. I'll try to be back more and take a look at these answers again soon--I'm not exactly familiar with the content anymore since I finished the test on January 4, I believe. (Oh, and...whoops, I'm so out of practice that I forgot to sign my name the first time! Oh dear, sorry. AFisch99 (talk) 11:58, 31 May 2013 (UTC))