This is probably the most important assignment I'll give, because this is the only one where failure to adhere exactly according to policy will result in an indefinite block from editing the encyclopediaTemplate:Spaced ndash pay attention.


There are a lot of terms associated with copyright. Here is a glossary of the terms.

Term Explanation
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, e.g. 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


On Wikipedia, you can only include text which has been released under CC-BY-SA and the GFDL. In fact, if you notice, every time when you edit, the following text is underneath the editing window:

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 Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License (CC-BY-SA) and the GNU Free Documentation License (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.

Image Copyright on CommonsEdit

What you can upload to commons

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.

Image Copyright on WikipediaEdit

Copyright is a serious problem on a free encyclopedia. As I said before, any work that is submitted must be released under the CC-BY-SA License and the GFDL.

There are two types of images on Wikipedia, free images and 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 the non free content criteria in order to use them.

What is fair use?Edit

Copyright symbol

Problems arise when people upload images that are not their own. Most images are under some form of copyright, even if it's not explicitly stated anywhere. This is usually the case with anything found on the internet. When these images are uploaded, Wikipedia must adhere to a very strict policy known as "fair use". What this basically is doing is giving us a reason to use an otherwise non-free image, on the basis that it is for educational purposes, using it has no measurable effect on the copyright holder's rights, and that we have no other alternative. The establishment of this reason is called the fair use rationale, part of a set of criteria that MUST accompany any fair use/copyright tag on Wikipedia. These criteria are:

  • A specific fair use tag (see link above) that describes what the image is.
  • The source of the image (this is usually a website, but could also be a book or magazine that you scanned the picture out of)
  • The image itself must be of low resolution. If it is high resolution, that version must be deleted and replaced with another (essentially, worse) version.
  • A fair use rationale explaining:
  • Where the image is to be used (This page MUST be in the main (article) namespace. Fair use images MUST NOT be used anywhere else)
  • That the image cannot be used to replace any marketing role or otherwise infringe upon the owner's commercial rights to the image
  • How the image is being used, in a way that fits within the fair use policy (i.e., identification purposes, etc.)
  • That there is no way the image can possibly be replaced with a free version
  • The image must have been previously published elsewhere

Only when an image meets all of these criteria may it be used. Fair use images must be used in at least one article (not "orphaned"), and articles using fair use images must use as few of them as possible. Any image that does not meet these criteria to the letter will be deleted. Any user that repeatedly uploads images not meeting these criteria to the letter will be blocked.

As a further note, I mentioned that fair use images must not be able to be replaced by a free alternative. What this basically means is, there is no way you, me, or anyone else could go out and take a picture of this same thing and release it under a free license. For example:

  • I could upload a picture of George W. Bush from the White House. Normally government works are automatically public domain, but let's say for the purpose of this discussion that the White House holds the copyright to that particular picture of the President. I can claim fair use, but the claim would be invalid because you could just as easily go to a speech Bush is giving and take a picture of him yourself. (That's what happened  ) This is considered replaceable fair use and so would be deleted.
  • 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.
  • For the article on the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I want to upload an image of their logo (visible in no great detail  ). I go to their website and upload their version. 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.

For a full description of the policies and guidelines concerning fair use, read WP:FU.


This is a pretty complex topic; is there anything you don't understand? Or are you ready for the test?