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Commons:PD files

Here on Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain (PD) means a file is not copyrighted and is freely available for any use. PD files documents that a file is in fact PD. This is helpful in cases where the source is lost or becomes unavailable. PD images are not required to have the PD tag.

This process verifies the free copyright status for verifying the copyright status of files uploaded to Commons. This can be done by any Commons admin (admins including bureaucrats, checkusers, and oversighters) or trusted user community approved users).


PD review processEdit

The PD review process is manual. Verification standards should be stringent, leaving little, if any, room for doubt about a file's PD status. Factors such as value of the image, how trustworthy the uploader is, laws of the country where the file was taken, and the time gap between upload and discovery of the possibly unfree status are all relevant to a decision on what to do with these images. Reviewers can also remove PD tags from files incorrectly tagged as PD.

Becoming a trusted userEdit

Users may apply to become a reviewer at Commons:License review/requests.

Reviewers who regularly erroneously tag images may have their permission revoked.

Where to ask for PD reviewEdit

Category:PD files for review lists images for review. Users can list images in that category to have PD status verified for any reason, including images where the PD status may be questionable. Some users may upload images they don't have the rights to and then license those images as free.

PD review related linksEdit


  • Description should be adequate
  • Source should be present
  • Date should be present, using "circa" is allowed
  • Author should be present, "unknown" is allowed if author can not be reasonably determined and no other factors bring the PD status into question
  • Permission should be a valid PD tag
  • Images which are no longer freely available at time of review should be marked as possibly unfree pending a decision on what to do with them on Commons talk:PD files.
  • If the image is PD-Art, it should follow the guidelines at Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag. If it is a two-dimensional work with a three-dimensional frame, mark it with {{Non-free frame}} for cleanup.

PD licensing linksEdit

Web site linksEdit

One problem when checking licenses of images coming from web sites is that the web site may cease to exist. This is one of the primary reasons PD review came into existence. By placing the PD review tag on a file, the reviewer is essentially saying he verified the web site (if that was the source) was up and available at the time of review. The PD review tag should alleviate future concerns about the validity of PD status in case the web site ever ceases to exist or the web site changes its URL structure.

Determination of public domain in US (and copyrights)Edit

US copyrights for works first published in US, excluding audio works
  • Refer to the chart on the right for US works; i.e. those first published in the US (or unpublished until now)
  • A foreign work has to be in the public domain in both US and its source country to be stored on Commons.
  • Publication means the legal distribution of copies of the work to the public.

Works first published outside the United StatesEdit

  1. Was this foreign work first published in the period from 1923 to 1977?
    Yes: step 2
    No: step 5
  2. Did this 1923 to 1977 foreign publication register and renew copyrights for the US?
    Yes: US copyright lasts up to end of 95 years after publication (i.e. public domain only from year of publication + 96).
    No: step 3
  3. Was this 1923 to 1977 non-US copyright registered foreign work published in the US within 30 days of its publishing abroad?
    Yes: {{PD-URAA-Simul}}
    No: step 4
  4. Was this 1923 to 1977 non-US copyright registered foreign work in its country's public domain as of 1 Jan 1996?[1]
    Yes: {{PD-1996}}
    No: US copyright lasts up to end of 95 years after publication (i.e. public domain only from year of publication + 96).
  5. Was this post-1977 foreign work in its country's public domain as of 1 Jan 1996?[1]
    Yes: {{PD-1996}}; however, the Cornell table neglects to specify for a foreign public domain work that is published with a copyright notice in this period.
    No: US copyright lasts up to end of 70 years after author's death, or if work of corporate authorship, 95 years from publication.
  1. a b Take note of the date; for Australian works, the effects of the 2008 law does not cover this 1996 limit, hence only pre-1945 Australian works could comply with the URAA cut-off.

Sources of PD imagesEdit

Known PD sourcesEdit

Here is a list of web sites that that release their files to the Public Domain: list URL, site name, and link that proves all files are PD

Likely PD sourcesEdit

Here is a list of web sites that that contain many PD files, VERIFY PD STATUS before actually tagging with the PD review tag: list URL, site name, and link that indicates licensing status of the web site

  • US Naval Historical Center: hosts many PD images, especially those related to the US Navy and Marines. However, they also advise that some images may not be PD, this could be especially true for foreign Naval images. Double check such images to be sure of their PD status before uploading them here.
    Associated templates:
  • US Library of Congress: hosts many PD images but advises people to double check.[2] However, there are no known restrictions on photos from the Bain collection (see above).
    Associated templates: Source – {{LOC-image}}
  • US National Archives (Digital vaults, Archive Search): contains mostly PD images; however, it also hosts German records captured during World War II and a few copyrighted materials of the press.[3]
    Associated templates: Source – {{NARA-image}}
  • Public Health Image Library: most of its images are in the public domain (work performed by federal employees in their lines of duty); these images are clearly marked as such.[4]
    Associated templates: Source – {{CDC-PHIL}}; License – {{PD-USGov-HHS-CDC}}
  • principal storage for US military photos. Note that only photos taken by the US military personel (or explicitly stated to be released by the military departments) are definitely in public domain.[5] Images attributed to Unknown or non-military entities may be copyrighted and require further investigation.
    Associated templates:
  • NASA: media on this site are in the public domain, even the personal web pages; however, the NASA insignia, the retired NASA logotype and the NASA seal are under restrictions in their use.[6] Furthermore, some of its subpages use copyrighted images (with attribution) and carry their own disclaimers.[7][8]
    Associated templates: Source – {{NASA-image}}; License – {{PD-USGov-NASA}}
  • Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection: hosts maps of almost every part of the world, clearly indicating the authors of the maps. The majority are in public domain, either from pre-1923 atlases, or by the CIA and other US federal agencies.
    Associated templates:
  • The Civil War: hosts many pages of Harper's Weekly, especially all the issues of 1861–65 (American Civil War). The scans of the journals are in the public domain. Note that unless they appear in Harper's Weekly or other pre-1923 publications, the photographs might be copyrighted dependent on year of first publication (see above section).
    Associated templates: {{PD-US}}

See alsoEdit