Wikipedia:Moving files to Commons

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Off they go!

Many files have been uploaded to Wikipedia. A long-term project is underway to move free-content files—including images and audio—to Wikimedia Commons. Commons provides a central location for files for use on all Wikimedia Foundation projects, so when our local files are moved there, they become available to hundreds of other wikis, as well as remaining available to the English-speaking Wikipedia. Below are issues to consider when carrying out moves to the Commons.

Why move files to Commons?

  • Commons files can be used by any Wikimedia Foundation project, including Wikipedia in any language. This means a file can be uploaded and maintained once, instead of dozens or hundreds of times. In fact, some projects, like Simple English Wikipedia, only use files hosted on Commons, and do not store files locally.
  • Commons organizes files thoroughly; putting everything in one place helps to keep things tidy.
  • Files will stay on the Commons whether or not they are being used to illustrate an article. Wikipedia, unlike Commons, is not supposed to store locally any files that are not in use.


What not to transfer

Commons employs more restrictive policies on copyright issues than the English Wikipedia does; for instance, fair use images such as most images of album cover art cannot be hosted on Commons. Commons accepts only free content. Note that unlike Wikipedia, which only requires files to be free use in the United States, Commons requires files be free use in both the United States and the country where the file originated (so a French painting must be free use in both France and the United States).

  • Do not transfer files without a clear and verifiable source.
    • "Own work" is an acceptable source, however you should be aware that a great deal of files labeled as own work, possibly as high as a quarter of those identified as such, are not actually the work of the uploader. Several things contribute to this, including a lack of familiarity with copyright and that "Own work" is an easily reachable default in the upload wizard.
      • The most common mistake involving claims of own work involves people photographing the artistic work of other people. Users think 'I took the photo of that painting, the photo is my own work', not knowing that the painting itself is also under copyright, and that said copyright also comes into play when they upload. If you come across such a situation, check to see if the piece of art's copyright has expired. If so, you can add a second template, usually PD-old-100, and mark which template applies to the painting and which applies to the photograph of the painting. This file description page of a Featured Sound illustrates how to do this.
    • If the source is a website, check to see if the link is still active. If it isn't, it might be simple to reestablish a link, but if no link can be found, it might not be a good idea to transfer the file over.
    • If there are multiple authors, each must be cited. If the file is a derivative of another file on a WMF project, that file must be sourced, the new file's license must follow the guidelines set by the old file's license (i.e. if a file released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license, a derivative of that file must also be licensed with at least a Creative Commons Share Alike license).
    • Other WMF projects cannot be used as sources. Track down the source from the upload on the other project, and use that instead.
    • Sometimes you'll be able to look at a claim that something's someone's own work and know that it is false, or at least questionable. If your gut feeling says that something isn't right, there's a good chance that something isn't right.
  • Do not transfer files with unclear or inaccurate copyright templates.
    • If there's no copyright status template on the page, don't move it over, period. Much of the time, you'll be able to figure out what template should be used by reading the text on the file description page, in which case you can put in the proper template and then transfer it over. That's perfectly okay.
  • Do not transfer fair use files. Fair use is not free use.
  • DO NOT DELETE PROTECTED IMAGES. But you may add a copy at Commons so the image becomes available to other Wikimedia projects. Images are usually locally uploaded and protected here at Wikipedia since they are used in the interface or in some widely used template. Deleting the local copy of an image used in the interface does break things. More about high-risk images.
  • If you do not understand freedom of panorama, do not transfer images of buildings or sculptures to Commons.
  • If you do not understand the terms of a license or cannot identify improper use of that license, you should not transfer over any files using that license.
  • Finally, if a file is currently up for deletion, don't transfer it (unless the only reason for deletion is that the image is not currently in use on the English Wikipedia, but it is otherwise encyclopedic and unquestionably public domain or appropriately licensed). If you do move an image with a deletion template on it to Commons, make sure to remove the template from the Commons page once you move it.
  • Do not transfer files when the uploader specifically requests that their files are not moved to Commons.
    • Some users request that their work remain on Wikipedia, and does not move to Commons. Don't fight them over it; with tens of thousands of files to transfer, it's not worth it. There is no commonly used template to indicate a desire to keep one's files off Commons, however many users who wish to keep their work off Commons use custom templates or the {{keeplocal}} or {{Do not move to Commons}} templates, neither of which are designed for that purpose. The {{esoteric file}} template can be used for files of no interest outside Wikipedia, for instance self-portraits uploaded purely for use on a Wikipedia userpage.
    • Note that you may still copy files to Commons, without requesting deletion of local copies.

Dealing with files that you cannot or should not transfer

  • Simply put, files that should not be transferred to Commons should not be tagged as awaiting transfer. However, while simply removing the transfer request template is an option, there are other things to consider:
    • When dealing with files that are simply not ready for transfer, but all of their issues can be fixed, you should try to fix them yourself. If you can't fix them but feel that it is reasonably possible that other people might be able to, don't remove the transfer request template, just skip over the file and move onto the next one.
    • If a file should be deleted, don't just remove the transfer request template, put the file up for deletion yourself. Remember that while it is theoretically a requirement that all locally hosted files be used, that requirement does not exist on Commons; an orphaned but otherwise usable file should not be put up for deletion.
  • If you do not feel comfortable transferring a specific file or are unsure about how to deal with it, skip over it. It is better to cherry pick the easy cases than to try to guess through ones you don't know the answer to. Not everyone has the same level of experience with files or copyright, and there's no shame in avoiding cases that you feel are too difficult for you. There is also no shame in asking for help.

How to transfer files to Commons

Before you begin transferring files, make sure you read this entire page.

  • CommonsHelper is an online tool that transfers one image at a time. It automatically generates all of the necessary information you need to make the transfer. If you authenticate your Commons account with OAuth (by following a link from the CommonsHelper interface), the tool will even move the file itself for you, meaning you don't have to save it on your computer and reupload it. You can import the user script User:Mattflaschen/CommonsHelper Labs.js. It offers a button on every image edit page, allowing you to start the Commons transfer process (the user script does not check whether the file's license is Commons-eligible, so you must confirm this before completing the Commons upload).
  • When you have finished transferring the file to commons, make sure you use the {{Now Commons}} template on the local Wikipedia file, which puts the local version up for deletion. For images with the same name here and at Commons, use the syntax {{Now Commons}}. For images where the name here and the name on Commons are different, use the syntax {{Now Commons|New file name}}. CommonsHelper offers a button to automatically add the template (or delete the file immediately, if you have the necessary privileges). A handy way for efficiently moving files to the Commons is to use a bookmarklet. At the bottom of this page is a bookmarklet that you can use, in the "Tools" section.
  • Remember to clean up any unhelpful info or templates broken in the transfer (e.g., red {{{1}}} is common).

Transferring manually

  • As a last resort, you can save the file you want to transfer onto your computer and then re-upload it at the Commons upload page. Be sure to use the same file format (e.g., .jpg or .PNG) for the new Commons file or else the old WP file will not meet Wikipedia:Criteria for speedy deletion, specifically WP:F8 ("Images available as identical copies on Wikimedia Commons"). Make sure that you include…
    • …the contents of the local Template:Information template, which conveniently can be copied directly from the local page onto Commons. Alternatively, Magog's fileinfo generates the upload information text to transfer manually.
    • …the licensing template or templates. Some templates used locally exist with another name on Commons. (For example, the local {{PD-old}} is {{PD-old-100}} on Commons, and {{PD-old}} on Commons is {{PD-old-70}} locally. There are other examples, but most are far less confusing than that one.)
    • …the local upload information. Who uploaded the image locally, and when? If there are multiple revisions locally, you should make sure to list them all at Commons. This is a strict requirement for the GFDL and CC-BY licenses. You do not, however, have to upload previous versions of the file, only detail that they existed, complete with the username and time of the edit. You also don't need to mention vandalism or usurpations that were later undone.
  • Even if you don't use it to move the file itself, Commons Helper will still create a full summary for you that you can copy and paste into the Commons upload page. Please read the above section for information regarding CommonsHelper and how to clean up after it.
  • When you have finished transferring the file to commons, add either the {{Now Commons}} or {{KeepLocal}} template to the local Wikipedia file. ({{Now Commons}} also puts the local version up for deletion). For images with the same name here and at Commons, use the syntax {{Now Commons}} or {{KeepLocal}}. For images where the name here and the name on Commons are different, use the syntax {{Now Commons|New file name}} or {{KeepLocal|New file name}} .

Transferring your own work to Commons

When transferring your own work to Commons, you may follow either of the transfer paths above. Unless someone else has edited your file, however, there is no need for you to give the local history of the file at Commons, although it is still recommended that you do so.

Transferring images from Geograph

When transferring images copied from the Geograph Britain and Ireland project, you may follow either of the transfer paths above. Unless someone has edited the original file, there is no need for you to give the local history of the file at Commons, although it is still recommended that you do so. Make sure to use the {{Geograph}} tag so that the image gets placed in Category:Geograph images.

Other things to be aware of

Bot-assessed files

  • As of July 2012 Fbot and Svenbot started tagging files for transfer to Commons, based mainly on the licenses that those files used. Files tagged by the bot are kept separate from files tagged by humans, and can be found at Category:Copy to Wikimedia Commons (bot-assessed). Aside from being kept in a subcategory, any file tagged by one of those programs has a large red warning label indicating that it was tagged by a bot. While it is important to thoroughly check all files before you transfer them, it is especially important to check files tagged by the bot, because unlike humans, the bot has no way of knowing if the licenses that were used when the files were uploaded are accurate or not.

File renaming

  • While it is permitted, it is not advised that you rename files during the transfer to Commons. It is better to do so before or after the transfer, because then the rename is reflected in the file's history, and can be better traced down should something go wrong.
    • Before you rename please read the guide on when to rename.
    • When you rename files, regardless of the location, it is critical that you update any pages on Wikipedia that use that file. The toolbox on the left of the screen links to Special:WhatLinksHere, which allows you to see where on Wikipedia the file is being used. If the name of the file on Commons is different from the local name, you must also remember to use {{Now Commons|New file name}} for the syntax. Please note that pages outside Wikipedia will not work if you rename unless you leave a redirect.

General advice

  • Make sure you are uploading the highest resolution image available. If the image was taken from a website, it might be worthwhile to check that source. There are almost no cases where reducing the size of a free use image is preferable. CommonsHelper will not shrink or otherwise edit images that it assists you in transferring.
  • Please try to place images you transfer to Commons into at least one category on Commons. Many categories that exist locally exist on Commons. This helps other people find the images later, and is greatly appreciated.
  • There are 100 (yes, 100) licenses that begin with "PD-USGov". In some cases, the file description pages will indicate that a more specific license (such as PD-USGov-DHS-CG or PD-USGov-DOC-Census) could be used. If you can be sure that the more specific license is as accurate as the general license, you should use the more specific license.


  • The bookmarklet discussed above is as follows (this uses the older tool, based on TUSC rather than OAuth):[clarification needed]
    • javascript:window.location='//'+wgContentLanguage+'+&image='+wgTitle+'&commonsense=1&remove_categories=1&tusc_user=YOUR_USERNAME&tusc_password=YOUR_PASSWORD&reallydirectupload=1'
    • Do not forget to replace “YOUR_USERNAME” and “YOUR_PASSWORD” (with your TUSC password). Once created, it works on any Wikimedia project.

See also