Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/Staying Safe When Using Freely-Licensed Pictures

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  • Staying Safe When Using Freely-Licensed Pictures


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  • The Wikimedia movement is all about creating and using free content so that everyone can participate in creating the sum of all knowledge. But even though freely licensed content is a prerequisite for that goal, sharing and reusing it involves some obligations. Wikimedia Deutschland created a Web tool to simplify this task for you. It’s almost as easy as copy and paste!


What do you want to tell the world? Put it here. The best imagery helps convey your most basic ideas without doing it overtly. Ideas on introductions and writing style can be found in our guidelines.
Generating the correct attribution with just a few clicks. The original picture is by Paulrudd, Sikh pilgrim at the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) in Amritsar, India, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Images under a free license are great! Unlike works under traditional copyright, anyone can use them without paying money or obtaining a use permit each time from the photographer. Images that have been published under free, e. g. Creative Commons, licenses, can be readily used for printed products, blogs, or social media channels. However, it is necessary to include some mandatory information. This license notice, for example, must contain information on the author or creator of the work. The license requirements have clear legal stipulations, but they’re not always easy to figure out in the case of re-use. The information required in any particular case is thus not necessarily apparent at first glance. This is because the requirements for the license notice are often hidden in “legalese,” which can prove to be a challenge to decipher even with the best of intentions. Moreover, missing information can have consequences! Even accidental non-compliance with license requirements leads to an infringement of copyright.

Copy and paste the simply created correct label, without violating the license conditions

Wikimedia Deutschland wants to show you how easy it is re-use freely licensed works. To provide the right information, you shouldn’t have to be a lawyer or understand the license text down to the last detail. Wikimedia Deutschland’s Attribution Generator has been providing assistance in this regard since 2016. It automates the compilation of the license information, thus helping even laypeople to comply with the license obligations. With answers to just a few questions, the Web tool enables the creation of the license attribution that can be easily reused. You only need to indicate whether you want to use the image digitally or in print materials, if you have modified it, and if it will be used alone or with multiple images. In this way, the correct license notice can be created in just a few clicks for all images that are provided on Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons under a free license. To stay on the safe side, simply publish the attribution together with the image.

Attribution Generator Explained by Dr. Till Jaeger and Jens Ohlig (WMDE)

With this short video, we want to show how easy it is to create the license notice for an image with the Attribution Generator. In addition, Dr. Till Jaeger, a specialist attorney in copyright and media law, briefly explains the benefits of Creative Commons licenses. Wikimedia Deutschland collaborated with Dr. Jaeger in developing the Attribution Generator.

Until now, the Attribution Generator has only been available in German and English. To get the word out about the Attribution Generator internationally, we need your help! Our goal is for it to become the place to go in as many languages as possible for all those people around the globe who want to use free-license images, but don’t know how. Help us translate the Attribution Generator into your language! You can find details on precisely how it works on the Wikimedia Commons page. Or send us an email. We’re happy to assist you!

Katja Ullrich, Project Manager for the Attribution Generator at Wikimedia Deutschland