Last modified on 16 August 2014, at 10:36

Commons:FAQ

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COM:FAQ

This page sums up frequently asked questions in Wikimedia Commons with a short answer and links to background pages.

(For clarifications on "Creative Commons license" visit Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions)

Questions about the project

What is this site about?

"Wikimedia Commons" (short form "Commons") is a media repository that is created and maintained not by paid-for artists, but by volunteers. It provides a central repository for freely licensed photographs, diagrams, animations, music, spoken text, video clips, and media of all sorts that are useful for any Wikimedia project, the most well-known of which is Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The name "Wikimedia Commons" is derived from the umbrella project Wikimedia that manages all Wikimedia projects and the word "common" as it is a common project that stores media for use on all Wikimedia projects.

What is the scope of this project?

See Commons:Project scope. The page Commons:What Commons is not may also be of interest.

Can I put material on this site?

Yes, you definitely can! In fact, that's what we want you to do. Just start with the First steps in order to join the project.

What materials can I upload?

Any freely licensed media file (images, sound, video, etc.) that is useful for any Wikimedia project can be uploaded. For acceptable file types, see Commons:File types. The licenses must allow for commercial use and the creation of derivative works.1 See also the copyright question for the required license conditions. If you are interested in uploading images, you may find it helpful to read Commons:Image casebook.

Can I upload Java or Flash web applets that are suitable for teaching or demonstrating a concept?

No. See Commons:Project scope and Commons:File types... Commons is not intended to be primarily a repository for software, it's intended to be a media repository. There are other projects (for example SourceForge, but see Category:Free software hosting facilities for a larger list) that may be much more suitable for sharing software you have created. (Flash is in the blurry area between software and media, but Java clearly is software).

Can I upload text of which I am the author?

Commons is about multimedia content (images, video, sound), not text. Text may, depending on form and content, fit into some other Wikimedia project, such as Wikibooks, Wikipedia, Wikisource, or Wikiversity. However, please note that you must not copy and paste text to these other projects unless you are willing to release it into the public domain or license it for use under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike (CC BY or CC BY-SA) licenses. For example, to use text from a website—even your own—that external website must exhibit a clear statement of such public domain release or CC BY-SA licensing.

What are 'gallery' (main namespace) pages for? How should they be designed?

Galleries are a complement to categories, as another way of displaying media. They allow files to be annotated with captions, shown at better sizes than the category default, organized in tables, etc. Typically they begin with short captions that briefly introduce the topic in many languages (these can be automatically generated using Commons Sum-it-up), followed by headed sections that typically use the <gallery> tag (see meta page for guidance).
The files should be followed by interwiki links (also generated by Sum-it-up) and at least one category. Gallery pages must be in at least one category.
A good way to design a new gallery page is to adapt an existing one from a similar topic. Species (plants/animals) pages will necessarily be different to location (cities/countries) pages.

Copyright questions

What licenses do the files I upload have to use?

You have to make sure that anything you upload is either in the public domain or under some free license such as GNU Free Documentation License or CC BY/BY-SA (for more see Commons:Licensing and Commons:Copyright tags). Please do not invent licenses out of thin air. Most things on the Internet are copyrighted. Don't assume otherwise unless you have a good reason. When publishing your own work, you can release your work into the public domain ({{PD-self}}), or under specific licenses: {{self|license name}}, {{self|license 1|license 2}} etc. Or you can choose one of the options from the drop-down menu license selector at Special:Upload under "own work".

Can I upload scans and images of others I modified?

Only the producer of an original work, or those who have been granted the right to license that work, can license the work. A scan or a modification does not automatically make a document your own work. This means that you cannot just grab a file from the Internet and put a GFDL or CC license on it. See also Commons:Image casebook.

Why doesn't the Commons include fair use content?

One of Wikimedia Commons founding principles was that content stored here should be freely reusable in any context, anywhere in the world, in the same way that the (CC BY-SA licensed) encyclopedia content is. This restricts us to free content only. This principle, like the NPOV policy at Wikipedia, will never change. Also, fair use depends on use in an editorial context – it simply doesn't apply to a media repository. Besides that, copyright law varies from country to country. Thus, fair use laws vary from country to country: each country has its own interpretation and many jurisdictions have no fair use at all. As a result, fair use content is seldom going to be usable outside the United States.

Can I use the materials on this site outside Wikimedia?

Yes, you can. However, you will have to check the image description page (this can be seen by clicking on the image) to see under what license it falls. In most cases you will be okay if you copy the author and licensing information from the image description page and publish that with the image or other file. See Commons:Reusing content outside Wikimedia for details.

What information should I put in the summary, or on the image description page?

See the tutorial at First steps. It is recommended to use Template:Information to fill the description page. If you are using Upload Wizard or the enhanced upload form, {{Information}} will be automatically used and the input/data you provide will be correctly arranged in it.

Where do I get credit for my images?

Some of our accepted licenses require attribution. This means that a photographer has to be given credit every time his or her picture is used. Please make sure you put the name you want to have mentioned in the description page of the image. Within Wikipedia articles, people who click your image in order to enlarge it will see your name.

What happens if a Flickr license changes?

Authors may change their Creative Commons licenses and sometimes do, but their license at the time of verification cannot be revoked. (See the Creative Commons FAQ: What if I change my mind?) If an upload from Flickr has a verified CC BY or CC BY-SA license, the file remains on Commons. However, the template {{Flickr-change-of-license}} might be added. Works identified on the image page as a new version of a verified file also remain. Verification appears in a FlickreviewR, administrator or trusted user notice on the image page.

I have uploaded an image, can I revoke the license later?

The short answer is "No".
Free licenses are designed in such a way that once you release the work under them, you cannot come back later and demand that people stop using that particular license to distribute the work. This is done to protect the users from putting their time and energy making what you upload better or developing something around that work, only to find out later than their work cannot be distributed at all because you have changed your mind. Also see the official Creative Commons FAQ topic “What if I change my mind?”, longer version.
Please think hard before you upload images to Wikimedia Commons.
Having said that, on some occasions, such as when it is clear that a mistake was made, and the uploader requests the deletion right after the upload, images are deleted. But this is not a loop-hole that you can use if your upload has resided on Commons for some time.

Technical questions

What resolution should the images I upload be?

The highest resolution available for images is more than welcome. You don't have to worry about server disk space and the loadtime of the Wikipedia pages that refer to them, since the software automatically generates and caches smaller (as specified in the articles) versions.
However, scaling of images may fail if the image is very large and rendering takes too much time or memory (in that case, either no scaled image is shown, or the full image is served to the browser, often causing it to lock up). For PNG images, a hard limit of 25 megapixels is in effect. Large JPEGs are only problematic if they are saved in progressive mode, since the entire image has to be processed at once. Use baseline mode instead.
In case the full scale original is too large to process for the software, upload it anyway, but then please overwrite it with a scaled down version (around 6 megapixels in size); the full scale version will still be available in the upload history, and you can add a reference to it in the image description.

How can I directly use materials on this site in Wikipedias?

Just link to the image's file name as if it were a local image. Note: There may be a slight delay in loading the image on the Wikipedia you link it from. This is due to a delay in cached versions of images and can be fixed by doing a reload on the image itself rather than on the page it is displayed on. See also MediaWiki image help, media help page in Meta-wiki, Wikipedia image markup page and Wikipedia picture tutorial.

How do I link to an image without showing it?

Use [[:File:Example.jpg]]. That shows up as: File:Example.jpg

How can I transfer an image from Wikipedia to Commons?

If the image is under a free license, download the full size version on your computer and upload it on Wikimedia Commons. You may also use an upload tool. After you have done that, copy the description page and check that it contains the name of the author and/or the url of source, the date and a short description. Add the URL of the original Wikipedia page, and the name of its original uploader. Check that license tags and other templates are correct on Commons.

How can I rename/move an image or other media file?

Shortcut

COM:FAQ#MOVE
See also Commons:File renaming
If you are the uploader and recently uploaded the file, review Commons:File naming and add the following template to the file description page: {{rename|1=new name.jpg|2=1|3=uploader request: please rename to fix .. }}, where |2= is a number from 1 to 7 (with 2=1 being for Uploader requested).
If you are not the uploader, check if the reason matches one outlined in Commons:File renaming. If yes, use {{rename}} as well, stating the corresponding reason.
Gallery and userspace pages can be moved by logged in users by using the "move" link usually shown at the top of the page (this depends on the skin you use). Note that this feature may not be available to new users; if needed, just ask someone to do it for you.

How can I rename or move a category?

See Commons:Rename a category.

How do I put a page / image into a category?

To add an image or page to category Foo, add the following link to the page (resp. the image's description): [[Category:Foo]]. This is a "magic" link, which will a) appear in the category box at the bottom of the page and b) cause the image to show up in the category. See Commons:Categories for more information.

How do I best categorize my own pictures?

Categorization should answer "W-questions", most importantly: What is it? Where is it? To find appropriate categories (or gallery pages), look at Main page, the search page and the Category tree tool. Look at the categories given there, and go to the one that best fits your picture. Then look at subcategories and pages in that category, and again choose the one that fits best. Repeat until you find no more specific place that fits your picture. If unsure, choose a more general category. Use the CommonSense tool which can suggest categories based on keywords you give it. See Commons:Categories for more information.

Why might a category list not be up to date?

Sometimes, pages are placed in categories not manually by Commons editors, but by means of a special editing tool called a template, which can be used to place identical information (including category membership information) on many different pages at once. When the information on such a template is edited, the pages containing that template are not necessarily updated immediately. This means that pages might not always appear in the most current categories. However, this problem usually affects project maintenance categories rather than the categories used for browsing.
Various other temporary delays may sometimes mean that lists of category members or subcategories, or the page counts given, are not completely up to date. So if you are editing Commons and find that your page hasn't yet shown up in a category or been removed from an old category, don't panic! The problem will probably resolve itself within minutes, or after a longer time in rare cases.

How should categories be organized?

Try to copy the existing structure when expanding categories. Make sure each new category has at least one parent category. See if your area has a category scheme, or if there is one you can model yours on. Especially for species and countries, the structure should follow the conventions set by existing structures. For more information about categories on Commons, see Commons:Categories.

How do I best make a gallery of my own pictures?

You can create a user gallery either as a subpage of your user page (so if you are user Foo, put your gallery page at User:Foo/gallery), or as a category (called something like Category:Pictures by Foo). All user galleries should be in Category:User galleries - see there for some examples. To find all the pictures you have uploaded, you can use the upload log or look at an automatically generated Gallery (just change the wiki to commons.wikimedia.org and fill in your username).

How do I create a gallery?

See meta:Help:Images and other uploaded files#Gallery tag, category, table of images for information on how to create galleries the easy way - with the <gallery> tag. The page Commons:Galleries might give you information on common conventions of galleries here on Commons.

When should I use a gallery or category?

Files should always be added to descriptive categories, since if they are only added to galleries, they can be easily removed from them and thus "lost". Categories are useful as indiscriminately large "containers" of images on a topic. Galleries (on article pages) are useful as showcasing the best, most illustrative, informative and interesting images of a category. They are also useful for presenting material in a logical order, something categories have a limited ability to do. For example, compare Tennis to Category:Tennis. Information on gallery pages can be presented in a hierarchical manner, such as Pronunciation of Dutch municipality names and United States.
This is just advice for if you feel totally lost. Generally use whichever you prefer or feel most comfortable with. Some topics have specific guidelines for the organisation of media, such as plants and animals which fall under the WikiProject Tree of Life. Unless you are interested in helping out with such projects, don't worry too much about finding out what the 'rules' are until someone tells you -- the people who take part in the project will fix things up.

Why is the old picture and not the new uploaded picture on my screen? (Or-- my thumbnail is wrong.)

Shortcut

COM:FAQ#PURGE
Commons uses "caching" to display pages more quickly, which occasionally makes it show copies of pages and thumbnails which are not up to date. "Purging" is a way to force Commons to recreate a page from its database, rather than relying on the cached version of the page.
  • Manual: Purging can be done manually, by adding the text ?action=purge at the end of the URL in the address bar of the browser, and then pressing Enter or clicking "Go" to tell the browser to go to that revised URL.
  • Gadget: Purging can also be done with the assistance of gadgets which can be activated in your Preferences.
    • Page Purge adds a "Purge" tab at the top of the page. In the standard Commons skin ("Vector"), this tab appears in the dropdown menu next to the search bar, accessible by clicking the arrow icon (MediaWiki Vector skin action arrow.svg). In skins other than Vector, the tab is labelled simply "*".
    • ExtraTabs2 includes a "Purge" tab along with other useful links.
    • Thumbnail Purge adds a "Generate thumbnail" tab which regenerates the thumbnails of an image (for example, after uploading a new version of a file). This requires the ExtraTabs2 gadget to be enabled.
Sometimes thumbnail purging can be a problem, even with the use of the Thumbnail Purge gadget. For further steps to try, see Help:Purge#Advanced manual thumbnail purging.

Why can't I see some images?

It might be a thumbnail problem (see the question above), or you might run an ad-blocking software that mistakenly thinks the image was an advertisement. Can you see Image:D-fructose.png? If not, then that's the likely cause of your problem. That image resides at the URL http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/D-fructose.png which contains the string "/ad/". Your ad-blocker is probably configured such that it considers all images with a URL containing this string to be advertisements. Change the configuration such that this rule does not apply to the .wikipedia.org and .wikimedia.org domains. That should cure the problem.
The file may be too large to give a thumbnail. E.g. a large JPG in progressive mode. See: Commons:File_types#Size_and_scaling.

How can I search for images?

Look at Special:Search and follow the links there. For more advanced searching see Commons:Tools#Search. You can also go to related articles in the different Wikipedias and look at what pictures they are using. Some may already be on Commons, and they should be categorized, giving you a hint where to look for more.

How will the software be adapted for this project?

See Commons:Tools, Commons:Gadgets and Commons:Bugs.

I have a lot of files. Can I do a batch upload, rather than one at a time?

Yes. The Commonist is a Java/BeanShell-based upload tool with a graphical user interface. It reportedly works well under Linux and MacOS, and should work on Windows too (although some people have reported problems under Windows).
For those comfortable with the Unix command line, a script by User:Nichalp, based on Eloquence's file upload script in Perl is suitable for most Unix, Unix-like, Linux or Mac OS X machines.
Up! and VicuñaUploader are two new upload tools written in Java; with modern browsers, it is possible uploading multiple files using Upload Wizard. Finally, if you need technical assistance for automated or large uploads, there is Commons:Batch uploading.

A file or page needs to be renamed or moved. Can this be done?

Galleries and other standard pages: yes. Accounts older than four days can rename articles by using the 'move' tab at the top of the page. Note that for different language titles, redirects should be created rather than moving a page.
Files (Images): Yes, but only by administrators or users with the filemover permission. Please see #How can I rename/move an image or other media file?.
Categories: no. If the badly named category is still a likely one (rather than a misspelling), the badly named one should be converted into a soft redirect by tagging it with {{category redirect}}. The images in the category have to be manually changed to belong to the new category. (Cat-a-lot is a gadget which makes such mass recategorisation easy.) Note that due to technical restrictions, categories should all be in English.

When I tried to upload my file, I get this error: "." is not an allowed file format. See Commons:File types for more information.

Make sure that the file you're uploading has an extension and that it is one of the allowed types. Make sure also that you have not left a space either before or after the point.
Be sure to include an extension in the Destination filename: field as well. For example, write "Orange grove in summer.jpg" not just "Orange grove in summer".

What does the upload error This file contains HTML or script code that may be erroneously interpreted by a web browser. mean?

The file you tried to upload contains some HTML code in its metadata. Most likely, you tried to upload a JPG file, and the HTML is contained in the file's EXIF data. Because of security concerns, such files cannot be uploaded.
You'll have to remove the HTML code from the file's metadata. You will need to have access to software that allows you to edit such metadata. One way to do this is via exiftool. This is a very powerful command-line program to edit image metadata. If you're using a computer running the Windows operating system, there is also a graphical user interface to that tool called ExiftoolGUI.
If the file you tried to upload is from Flickr, you can view (but not edit) the metadata on Flickr. For instance, this Flickr image does have HTML in its metadata and will thus provoke this error message. You can view the metadata by appending "/meta" to the URL: this image's metadata. The "Caption-Abstract" metadata entry contains HTML-code: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napier,_New_Zealand#1931_earthquake">Wikipedia</a>. That's the bit you'd need to remove. (Yes, that's just a harmless link. But with HTML, one could try to do more nefarious things, and thus our software simply forbids any HTML in image metadata.) Download the Flickr file to your computer and then remove the HTML from the metadata.
Once you have removed the HTML from the image's metadata, you should be able to upload the file. (Do not upload this sample file from Flickr, though, it already exists as File:Central Hotel, Napier 05.jpg.)

I want to use a Commons image, but there is already a file at my local wiki with the same name which is blocking it. How can I access the Commons file?

Unfortunately at this time, the only options are to have the local file deleted, or re-upload the Commons image under another name, or ask for the Commons image to be moved to another name.

How can I upload a new version of a file?

Firstly, you can only do this if your account is older than 4 days.
Secondly, consider uploading to a separate file unless the changes are very minor. See Commons:Overwriting existing files.
Have the new version of the file saved to your computer. Go to the image page. Under "File history", there is a link that says "Upload a new version of this file". Click on that link and then browse and find saved file. For the summary, you should put something like "hi-res version" or "removed background noise" or "fixed colour balance" - just one line is enough to say what changes you are making. Then click "Upload file". You will get the warning that you are replacing an existing file, but since that is what you want to do, you should continue.
Avoid overwriting images with different images of the same topic.

How can I discover what pages link to my file?

The "File links" section will automatically list any pages on Wikimedia Commons that display your images. It does not show where these images are used on other Wikimedia projects. To discover that information click on the "check usage" tab at the top of the file's page.

Why don't the scripts (monobook.js) and styles (monobook.css) work anymore?

If you would like to continue to use your custom code in the vector skin, you will need to move and/or adapt your monobook.js to your vector.js and monobook.css to vector.css accordingly.

I liked the old design more. Can I change it back?

If you're a registered user, then you can. You must open your Special:Preferences, go to the tab "Appearance" and check "Monobook" there. Press "Save setting" and the old design is sort of back. Edit window remains changed unless you untick the two "Beta features" tickboxes.

Why is the text of my new uploads corrected soon after upload?

In last couple of years Wikimedia Commons has been working hard on localization or internationalization (aka. i18n) of most of the text a user might see on any page. The goal is to show the content in the language of their choice. The current upload process, which creates a lot of new text visible on each page, was written before the current push for internationalization and creates all the headers and other standard texts in the language of the uploader, and since the software supports many different languages, new images are created daily with text in all those languages. In order to correct the problem, some automatic processes (aka bots) patrol new uploads and older images, changing the text to code which will automatically show the text in the language of the user's choice. Some of the changes you might expect to see on files uploaded (using English language for these examples) are:
  • Summary{{int:filedesc}}
  • [[Commons:Copyright tags|Licensing]]{{int:license}}
  • Own work{{own}}
Some recent discussions on the subject can be found here and here.

Can't the upload process be fixed so it creates the correct wiki-text?

As explained in the previous answer the wiki-text of the new file uploads is created directly by the server-side upload program (a php script). It can only be fixed by changing the Mediawiki code. The problem is well known, but it is unclear if there are plans to fix it (as of Nov 2009). Some recent discussions on the subject can be found here.

Why did my image rotate for no reason?

See Commons:Rotation.

How do I fix the orientation of an image?

If your image appears upside down or needs to be turned by 90°, you can apply {{rotate}} to the file description page. After a couple of hours, a bot will rotate the image (losslessly, if possible).
RotateLink is a default gadget to add a link “(Silk arrow rotate clockwise.png request rotation)” to file pages, which allows you to easily (automatically) request any rotation.

Manual way:

Template Rotation
{{rotate|90}} Arrow Right 90°.svg 90 degrees clockwise
{{rotate|180}} Arrow Right 180°.svg 180 degrees
{{rotate|270}} Arrow Left 90°.svg 270 degrees clockwise (90° anticlockwise)
If you request a rotation by another value (e.g. 5°), the image will be placed in Category:Images requiring rotation for processing by humans. Maybe an editor will take the time to rotate it - can take some longer time.

What are the strangely named components in file paths?

And how are they computed?
If you go to some file on a MediaWiki installation, say File:Spelterini Blüemlisalp.jpg, and you click to view the full version, you may discover that the file resides at the URL http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Spelterini_Bl%C3%BCemlisalp.jpg. (The "%C3%BC" part is just the result of url-encoding the Umlaut "ü".)
Where does that "/a/ae" part come from?
The "a" and "ae" denote some subdirectories that are used to avoid problems with directories containing too many files. Imagine all the millions of files at the Commons in one directory! Some operating systems have problems dealing with directories with many files. (Try working with a folder containing a few thousand files on Windows...)
Can it be calculated from the file name?
Yes. It's the first and the first two characters of the MD5 hash of the filename (blanks replaced by underscores) without namespace part. The file name "Spelterini_Blüemlisalp.jpg" has the MD5 hash "ae1a26d34d6a674d4400c8a1e6fe73f8".
MediaWiki installations can be configured on how to generate these filenames and directory structures. Any MediaWiki installation has one or more file repositories, which may be local or not. First, such subdirectories are used only if the global server-side configuration setting $wgHashedUploadDirectory is true (or $wgHashedSharedUploadDirectory for shared repositories). Then, for each file repository, there is a property called hashLevels that determines how deep the directory structure shall be. If zero, no such intermediary directories are used. If set to e.g. 3, three levels of directories are used; for the example above, one would get "/a/ae/ae1".
This method of storing files has been in MediaWiki since version 1.1 (and possibly even earlier), though it became a bit more configurable over time; initially, it was hardcoded to use two hash levels.
You can check what the file URL for a given file name will be at Special:FilePath. The file path can also be queried through the MediaWiki API using e.g. a query like http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/api.php?action=query&titles=File:Spelterini_Bl%C3%BCemlisalp.jpg&prop=imageinfo&iiprop=url. Both these methods, however, work only for existing files.
Online MD5 calculators differ in the way they treat UTF-8 input. Two that return values consistent with the way MediaWiki hashes UTF-8 strings are md5.cz and md5.md.

How do I translate the subtitles on a video?

You can create a copy of the timed text page containing the transcribed subtitles, changing the language code in the timed text page to your language code. Then you simply translate the text. See Commons:Timed_Text#Internationalization.

Internal error: bad token

When uploading a file you may see an Internal error: Bad token. error message. This will usually be fixed by logging out of Commons, closing your browser, and starting again. If not, you may additionally delete all cookies (or just the wikimedia.org cookie) and purge your browser's cache before trying again. If this still does not solve the issue, try turning off ad blockers or network filters (sometimes the token could look like an advert URL).

Questions about the Commons community

What is an administrator and how do I become one?

See Commons:Administrators.

Where can I ask questions?

If you want to raise a question which you think is likely to have been raised before, use the Commons:Help desk. If you want to raise a question which might be new, or gain wider community attention, use the Commons:Village pump.

How does Commons work with similar projects?

Commons is very interested in working with projects that have similar aims. See for example Commons:10,000 paintings from Directmedia and Commons:Collaboration with ourmedia. FlickrLickr is a successful example of working with another source of images.

What should I do if a page or file needs deleting?

See Commons:Deletion requests and Commons:Deletion policy.

Why don't all images from Wikimedia projects get uploaded here by default?

Most importantly, some Wikipedias have a less strict licensing policy than Commons, so some pictures that would not be acceptable to Commons may be OK there. Commons does not (and cannot) allow fair use content, as some Wikipedias do: see Commons:Fair use.

What language should be used here?

Ideally, whichever one you are most comfortable with. See Commons:Language policy. However for technical reasons categories should be in English.
Unfortunately, users who don't know English well may have a harder time on Commons. Commons tries to supply information in many languages, but non-English pages tend to be incomplete or outdated. Also, some things, like the names of categories, can't (yet) be localized. Sorry.