Wikipedia:Fixing non-free image problems

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Someone deleted a picture from the article I was working on... HELP

First, take a deep breath, and remain calm. There are people here who can help with your questions, and if possible, find a solution to your problem. There are basically two type of pictures (images, files, pics, etc.) that are used here on Wikipedia:

  1. Free images
  2. Non-free images

A free image is an image that 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. These are the types of files that this guide discusses. Because these non-free images involve real world legal issues, very often the wording of our guides is necessarily complex and difficult to understand. By calmly discussing the issues, policies, and guidelines everyone can gain a better understanding of what can be used, and how it can be used.

Why was my image removed?[edit]

There are generally three sources of image removal: an editor looked at the image and decided that it was inappropriate as placed in the context of the article or that its use did not meet non-free content guidelines (see below); a bot (an automated script or tool) that surveys articles found that the image was missing necessary licensing information to allow the image to remain and automatically removed it; and on occasion, as the result of "blanking" vandalism.

Our non-free image policy[edit]


No one is automatically allowed to use non-free images or content in an article or elsewhere on Wikipedia. To use non-free items, all 10 of the items below must be satisfied.

  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. Where possible, non-free content is changed to, or substituted with free material instead of using a fair-use item. ("Could the subject be adequately conveyed by text without using the non-free content at all?" If the answer is yes, the non-free content probably does not meet this criterion.)
  2. Respect for commercial opportunities. Non-free content is not allowed to be used if it is likely to replace the original market role of the original copyrighted media.
  3. Minimal usage. Multiple items of non-free content are not used if one item can convey equivalent significant information. Minimal extent of use. An entire work is not used if a portion suffices. 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 have been published or publicly displayed outside Wikipedia.
  5. Content. Non-free content meets general Wikipedia content standards and is encyclopedic.
  6. Media-specific policy. The material 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 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 (exceptions).
  10. Image description page. The image or media description page contains the following:
    1. Identification of the source of the material, supplemented, where possible, with information about the artist, publisher and copyright holder; 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 permits the use.
    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.
    4. The rationale is presented in clear, plain language and is relevant to each use.

If all these rules are met, then it's possible that the image or file can be inserted into the article.

Common non-free image problems, and how to fix them[edit]

It is best to take the time to read and understand all 10 of the above criteria, but there are two in particular that are frequently not satisfied, causing the image to be removed:

  • Criterion 10 requires that a non-free use rationale be placed on the image description page that serves to explain why a particular use of a non-free image should be allowed for the article in question. A missing or incorrect rationale will cause the image to be removed.
  • Criterion 3 requires minimal usage of non-free content in an article; overuse causes the image to be removed.

To ensure that these criteria are met, the following questions should be answered:

Is there a non-free use rationale for the image?
If there isn't, the image is removed from the article. See the guidelines for instructions on how to create a rationale.
Does the rationale point to the article the image is used in?
"General use" rationales are not sufficient; the rationale needs to explain why the non-free image is needed in the article you wish to add the image to, and the rationale should link to the article.[1] If a rationale is already present, but it is for a different article, an additional rationale for the article you wish to use it in must be added.
Is the link to the article correct?

Check that the article linked to in the rationale is the same article you wish to use the image in. A common mistake is to link to a similarly-named article, or to a disambiguation page that links to the article.[2]
Are you sure that the link is correct?
Take a look at the non-free use rationale on the page File:Thriller (Michael Jackson).jpg. This is the cover for the single named "Thriller", so the rationale links to the article Thriller (song). If the rationale instead linked to the page Thriller (a disambiguation page), the rationale would no longer be valid, and the image would be subject to removal.
How many non-free images are already present in the article?
If there are already non-free images in the article, then the newly added image may tip the balance from "minimal usage" of non-free content (as required by NFCC #3, above), into overusage, which is not allowed.[3] If there many non-free images in the article already, then the "minimal usage" requirement is almost certainly not being met; instead of simply adding the new image, first discuss on the talk page of the article how the image is a better use of non-free content than the existing non-free images, and offer suggestions as to which non-free images should be removed from the article (or replaced with a free image, if one is available), to meet the requirements of the NFCC.

The above questions help identify common problems satisfying the NFCC requirements. However, even if a rationale is present and properly formatted, there is no guarantee the image will meet all 10 of the criteria. There may be other problems with the image use; the next section will help put you in touch with an editor who can help identify them.

What do I do now?[edit]

If you were able to determine from the trouble-shooting steps above why the image was removed, go ahead and correct the problem if you can. However, if it is still not clear why the image was removed, do not simply put the image back in. Instead:

Step 1 – Find out who removed the image, and ask them why.
At the top of the page there is a "history" tab. If you click on it, you see a list of all the edits made to the page. Try to determine which edit caused the removal of the image, and then go to that editor's talk page and ask them politely why it was removed. Most editors are happy to explain when approached in a respectful manner. If the editor is unavailable, or their response does not explain the problem to your satisfaction, proceed to the next step.
Step 2 – Check the article's talk page.
Look on the article "discussion" (or "talk" page, depending on your particular browser and wiki settings) to see if there's any discussion already going on about the image. If there isn't, then post your concerns and questions there. If after some time it appears that nobody else is working on the article, and you haven't gotten a reply, then try the next step.
Step 3 – Try the help desk.
Wikipedia has a help desk that deals specifically with the non-free image and copyright issues, located at Wikipedia:Media copyright questions. Post your concern there to see if they can assist you.
Step 4 – Ask another editor.
You can try one of the editors listed at Wikipedia:WikiProject Images and Media/Non-free#Editors willing to help, or at the section below. Note that the editors at the top of the WikiProject list were the first to sign up, and may no longer be active; you may have better luck contacting one of the editors at the bottom of that list.

Whatever you do, don't edit-war with the person or bot that removed the image; repeatedly restoring a removed image without first resolving the issues that caused its removal can lead to being blocked from editing. Instead, follow the steps above to resolve the issue the right way, through proper attention to our non-free use policies and consensus on the article's talk page as to which images to include in a particular article.

Editors willing to help[edit]

Other places to get help[edit]

See also[edit]

  • WP:NFCC (our legal policy on using non-free content.)
  • WP:FU (our guideline on how to use non-free content for specific cases.)
  • WP:FUR (where to request a review of removed non-free content.)
  • WP:COPYRIGHT (our legal policy on general copyright issues.)
  • WP:FURG (instructions on how to write a non-free use rationale)


  1. ^ Sometimes rationales can be rendered invalid after a page move, if the person moving the page fails to make sure the images used in the article have their rationales updated with the new article title, and the old title is then used for something else (e.g. a disambiguation page, or an unrelated article.)
  2. ^ There is no numerical limit that separates minimal use and overuse; the key is to ensure that each non-free file that is being used has an adequate justification. NFCC #3 is not about simply counting the number of non-free images; it's about being sure that no more are being used than are needed to achieve the purpose being identified. Sometimes, even one image is not considered "minimal" if it does not add anything beyond what is already discussed in the text. On the other hand, there may be cases where a considerable number of images are appropriate: for example, if the images themselves are the subject of the article, have no significant commercial value, and no representative subset can be chosen that conveys the same degree of understanding.