Wikipedia:Copyrights and Warranty Disclaimers (proposal)

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Please note this is a first draft of a proposed revision to the Wikipedia:Copyrights page that links from Wikipedia:Annotated edit page announcement (proposal). Changes and discussion of this text are greatly appreciated. Not everything here is resolved policy. All the proposed changes that have been added to the page from Wikipedia:Copyrights are underlined in the first section.

The goal of Wikipedia is to create an information source in an encyclopedia format that is freely available. The license we use grants free access to our content in the same sense as free software is licensed freely. That is to say, Wikipedia content can be copied, modified, and redistributed so long as the new version grants the same freedoms to others and acknowledges Wikipedia as the source. Wikipedia articles therefore will remain free forever and can be used by anybody subject to certain restrictions, most of which serve to ensure that freedom.

To fulfill the above goals, the text contained in Wikipedia is licensed to the public under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). The full text of this license is at Wikipedia:Text of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify the text of all Wikipedia materials under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.

As well, this Wikimedia project has decided to take advantage of the warranty disclaimers that are allowed under the GDFL.

All material contained on this site is released without any express or implied warranty as to origin, use, or fitness for any particular purpose. Contributors are being asked to indemnify this project, its other volunteers and the Wikimedia Foundation for any claims that are made against the project by their contributions (see Wikipedia:Submission Standards (proposal)).
Materials submitted here are often reviewed by volunteers for possible copyright infringement; however no guarantee is, or can be given that every copyright infringement has been removed. Some material (such as images) may be fair use and no warranty is given as to the extent to which our "fair use" may be applicable to any other use of those materials outside Wikipedia. Wikipedia volunteeers try to take all steps within their power to remove anything that is not copyright by the person submitting it or for which GFDL permission has been obtained; however, it is the responsibility of any subsequent GFDL licensee (or any person viewing the project pages) to determine that for themselves. No warranty whatsoever is given for the copyright status of talk pages, users pages or page histories and the archive of materials that are previous versions of Wikipedia pages. Such pages may have serious problems (for instance someone may have posted some "fair use" materials that might have later been considered a copyright infringement and that material was then rewritten a page's history may contain those prior versions of the page). Page histories are an archival source, please note that under United States Code Title 17 if you copy such material you must do so in a manner that does not violate that copyright law (see § 108).
For further information please see Wikipedia:Content disclaimer, Wikipedia:general disclaimer, Wikipedia:risk disclaimer, Wikipedia:legal advice and Wikipedia:Wikipedia medicine standards for specific content warnings.

The text of the GFDL is a legally binding document; what follows is our interpretation of the GFDL: the rights and obligations of users and contributors. See also Wikipedia:Submission Standards (proposal) for the terms and conditions upon which material is accepted on Wikipedia under the GFDL.

IMPORTANT: If you want to use content from Wikipedia, first read the Users' rights and obligations section. You should then read the GNU Free Documentation License.

Users' rights and obligations[edit]

If you want to use Wikipedia materials in your own books/articles/web sites or other publications, you can do so, but you have to follow the GFDL, which entails the following:

  • your materials in turn have to be licensed under GFDL,
  • you must acknowledge the authorship of the article (section 4B), and
  • you must provide access to the "transparent copy" of the material (section 4J). (The "transparent copy" of a Wikipedia article is its wiki text.)

If you are simply duplicating the Wikipedia article, the latter two obligations can be fulfilled by providing a conspicuous direct link back to the Wikipedia article hosted on this website.

If you create a derivative version by changing or adding content, you need to both acknowledge authorship and provide access to a transparent copy of the new text.

Example notice[edit]

An example notice, which complies correctly with the GFDL, for an article that uses the Wikipedia article Foo might read as follows:

This article is licensed under the <a href="">GNU Free Documentation License</a>. It uses material from the <a href="">Wikipedia article "Foo"</a>.

("Foo" and the Wikipedia URL must of course be substituted accordingly.)

Alternatively you can distribute your copy of Foo along with a copy of the GFDL (as explained in the text) and list at least five (or all if less than five) principal authors on the title page (or top of the document).

Fair use materials and special requirements[edit]

Occasionally, Wikipedia articles may include images, sounds, or text quotes used under the "fair use" doctrine. In this case, the material will be identified as from an external source (on the image description page, or history page, as appropriate). However, what is fair for us to use may not be fair for your intended use of the media.

For example, if we include an image under fair use, you must ensure that your use of the article also qualifies for fair use (this might not be the case, for example, if you were using a Wikipedia article for a commercial use that would otherwise be allowed by the GFDL).

Wikipedia does use some text under licenses that are compatible with the GFDL but may require additional terms that we do not require for original Wikipedia text (such as including Invariant Sections, Front-Cover Texts, or Back-Cover Texts). When using these materials, you have to include those invariant sections verbatim.

Contributors' rights and obligations[edit]

If you contribute material to Wikipedia, you thereby license it to the public under the GFDL (with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts). In order to contribute, you therefore must be in a position to grant this license, which means that either

  • you own the copyright to the material, for instance because you produced it yourself, or
  • you acquired the material from a source that allows the licensing under GFDL, for instance because the material is in the public domain or is itself published under GFDL.

In the first case, you retain copyright to your materials. You can later republish and relicense them in any way you like. However, you can never retract the GFDL license for the versions you placed here: that material will remain under GFDL forever. In the second case, if you incorporate external GFDL materials, as a requirement of the GFDL, you need to acknowledge the authorship and provide a link back to the network location of the original copy. If the original copy required invariant sections, you have to incorporate those into the Wikipedia article; it is however very desirable to replace GFDL texts with invariant sections by original content without invariant sections whenever possible.

Using copyrighted work from others[edit]

If you use part of a copyrighted work under "fair use", or if you obtain special permission to use a copyrighted work from the copyright holder under the terms of our license, you must make a note of that fact (along with names and dates) in the summary box when you submit the work. It is our goal to be able to freely redistribute as much of Wikipedia's material as possible, so original images and sound files licensed under the GFDL or in the public domain are greatly preferred to copyrighted media files used under fair use. See Wikipedia:Boilerplate request for permission for a form letter asking a copyright holder to grant us a license to use their work under terms of the GFDL.

Never use materials that infringe the copyrights of others. This could create legal liabilities for you and seriously hurt the scope of this project. If in doubt, write it yourself.

Note that copyright law governs the creative expression of ideas, not the ideas or information themselves. Therefore, it is perfectly legal to read an encyclopedia article or other work, reformulate it in your own words, and submit it to Wikipedia. (See plagiarism and fair use for discussions of how much reformulation is necessary in a general context.)

Linking to copyrighted works[edit]

Linking to copyrighted works is usually not a problem, as long as you have made a reasonable effort to determine that the page in question is not violating someone else's copyright. If it is, please do not link to the page. Whether such a link is contributory infringement is currently being debated in the courts, but in any case, linking to a site that illegally distributes someone else's work sheds a bad light on us.

If you find a copyright infringement[edit]

It is not the job of rank-and-file Wikipedians to police every article for possible copyright infringement, but if you suspect one, you should at the very least bring up the issue on that page's talk page. Others can then examine the situation and take action if needed. The most helpful piece of information you can provide is a URL or other reference to what you believe may be the source of the text.

Some cases will be false alarms. For example, if the contributor was in fact the author of the text that is published elsewhere under different terms, that does not affect their right to post it here under the GFDL. Also, sometimes you will find text elsewhere on the Web that was copied from Wikipedia. In both of these cases, it is a good idea to make a note in the talk page to discourage such false alarms in the future.

If some of the content of a page really is an infringement, then the infringing content should be removed, and a note to that effect should be made on the talk page, along with the original source. If the author's permission is obtained later, the text can be restored.

If all of the content of a page is a suspected copyright infringement, then the page should be listed it on Wikipedia:Possible copyright infringements and the content of the article replaced by the standard notice which you can find there. If, after a week, the page still appears to be a copyright infringement, then it may be deleted following the procedures on the votes page.

In extreme cases of contributors continuing to post copyrighted material after appropriate warnings, such users may be blocked from editing to protect the project.

How the Wikipedia interprets the GFDL[edit]

The GFDL is ambiguous in some ways and otherwise somewhat problematic in others. If you disagree with the following interpretations of what the GFDL allows, do not contribute to the Wikipedia:

  • The GFDL work is the textual portion of the Wikipedia article only. Images, navigation or other components displayed in the same browser window are not the work or derived works and do not need to be covered by the GFDL. This allows non-GFDL images to be in Wikipedia articles and allows sites which use Wikipedia articles to include ads or combine Wikipedia articles on the same page as articles from elsewhere.
  • The title of the Wikipedia article isn't part of the article. This allows sites to have their own page titles without having to duplicate the exact capitalisation and disambiguation notes which may be in the Wikipedia article title. For example, they can skip (author), (poet), (architect), (politician) and similar parts of Wikipedia titles without infringing. This also allows display of several Wikipedia articles on one page.
  • A mention of, and on web sites, a link to, the Wikipedia is sufficient to satisfy the GFDL credit for authors requirement. It is not necessary to determine and list the five most significant editors of an article and credit them individually. This solves a significant technical problem and allows for more compact articles, including audio articles without great spoken overhead.
  • A mention of and, on web sites, a link to, the Wikipedia is sufficient to satisfy the GFDL requirement that a copy of the GFDL and source document be made available. This allows such things as audio readings of articles without the need to recite the full license and makes life considerably more pleasant for users of those forms, as well as more convenient for all other reusers, while still letting people know that they can reuse the work.

All of these interpretations are intended to make it easier for others to reuse articles without great overhead, helping to spread the knowledge as widely as possible. If you have reservations, consider how these interpretations assist a child preparing a school project in easily reusing and adding things to a Wikipedia article and what would be required without them.

See also[edit]

Further discussion...