Last modified on 6 February 2015, at 08:53


This page is a translated version of a page Commons:Licensing/Justifications and the translation is 7% complete. Changes to the translation template, respectively the source language can be submitted through Commons:Licensing/Justifications and have to be approved by a translation administrator.

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On Wikimedia Commons, a number of important restrictions are placed on the terms under which media are accepted. These restrictions exclude a variety of free media that might otherwise be useful to the project, so they are only included as a matter of great necessity. This page explains some of the reasons why these restrictions are in place.

The most basic goal of Wikimedia Commons is to serve as a practical repository for media currently in use on Wikimedia websites like Wikipedia. If this were its only goal, we would have no problems accepting media that are only for use on Wikipedia, or media that are only for non-commercial use, since the Wikimedia Foundation does not receive any money in exchange for the content.

BD-propagande-2 en.jpg

The additional restrictions imposed by our license policy are driven by our ultimate goal, which is to enable all Wikimedia site content— both media and text — to be creatively reused in a variety of contexts, in any country, without the imposition of cumbersome requirements or fees. What do we mean by creative reuse? Here are just a few examples of the types of reuse that we want to encourage with Wikimedia site content:

  • Print editions: We want Wikimedia site content to be used, whether just a paragraph, an image, or an entire article, in books, magazines, journals, and other print information sources. This is particularly important in developing and politically isolated nations where access to electronic media is extremely limited. The Wikimedia Foundation manages the Wikimedia websites, but does not have the resources to pursue the expense of printing on its own. Instead, they rely on for-profit institutions, motivated by the free availability of our high-value content, to monetize and distribute the material on their behalf.
  • Research: Wikimedia content is routinely used as a corpus and object of study in research areas such as information retrieval, computer vision, and even graph theory and sociology. Much of this research is conducted by for-profit institutions with research divisions, who would not have access to this information under a noncommercial license. See this page for more information.
  • Derivative works: Without being able to create derivative works, we cannot improve (crop, refocus, restore, etc.) images. The rise of the Internet has compellingly demonstrated that the wide availability of a variety of free works facilitates novel creative combination of those works in new works of art and new educational resources, an effect explicitly exploited by websites such as deviantART (see also free culture). Many of these works would never be created without access to free source materials. Content creators who dedicate their careers to creating new content must sell at least some of these derivative works to make a living; this is a commercial reuse.
  • Small business: A large business can afford to hire researchers to produce informational resources on topics relevant to their product, in order to better inform customer decisions. Small local businesses with more limited and less specialized resources often struggle to compete in this area. The free availability of a high-quality public information resource helps to lower the barrier to entry in these areas and encourage more competition and better access to relevant resources for customers.

A recurring theme in all these scenarios is commercial reuse and derivative use. Without commercial use, professional artists, industrial research labs, republishers, and small businesses are cut out of the loop. Without derivative use, not only can new works of art not be created, but content cannot be properly integrated with existing services, and research that automatically manipulates, aggregates, or changes the presentation of content cannot be done. In short, the purpose of free licenses at Wikimedia Commons is not to save businesses and professionals the hassle of producing content themselves, but to enable new applications that would have previously been considered too expensive to justify.

Most content whose license does not permit commercial use can be used commercially under the doctrine of fair use (or fair dealing in the UK), but the terms of fair use are extremely limited and depend strongly on context. A work that may be fair use in the context of a Wikipedia article on our website may cease to be fair use in an article republished for profit, or in a professional artwork that creatively incorporates the work, or even in a work that abridges the content. Moreover, fair use limits the quality and extent of such a work that can be used, which in turn limits its potential value for reuse. These subtle limitations make the reuse, commercial or otherwise, of any fair use content fraught with legal peril; for this reason, many Wikimedia sites have rejected its use altogether. Because Commons can only host media that are usable on all Wikimedia sites, we have no option but to exclude fair-use-only media altogether.

Wikimedia Commons also strongly disfavors content offered under licenses that impose impractical restrictions. For example, the GFDL technically requires that the complete license, a many-page document, be included with every copy of a work - even if the work is much smaller than the license! This type of restriction limits the scope of practical reuse. The Creative Commons licenses that Wikimedia Commons promotes help to balance the needs of content reusers, who want the attribution and license statement to be concise and practical, with the desires of the author, who often wish to be credited for their work.