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User:NVO/Wikihistory of scale models

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Did you know that ... as of end of April 2011, Wikimedia Commons does not have a clear and uncontroversial policy on images of scale models? No, they don't. No policy, no guideline, no FAQ or help page answers a simple question: "May I upload a photo of a scale model? I photographed it myself. Promise!"

This page attempts to list closed deletion requests and discussions related to self-made photographs of scale models of man-made objects: cars, ships, historic buildings etc. The models themselves could be unique museum exhibits, non-working full-size replicas, factory-made toys or kits (perhaps with some personal touch added). Very few were actually built from scratch by Commons photographers. I excluded photographs of recent arhitectural models (which, in my opinion, firmly fall into "copyrighted art" category), models of humans and animals (cf. Bambi raptor - fits "art of sculpture" route). No architectural follies (Mini-worlds, Disney-kitsch etc.) too - another vague crossover category, although the Baby Atomium saga is quite entertaining in its own right. And, regretfully, no brunette models here.

The list is not complete (many files were speedied and are now below search engine radar) and is not representative of any "consensus".

In a nutshellEdit

Is there any consensus, at all? Not really. Any self-made image of a scale model may be brought to deletion. Some would argue that scale models are "copyrighted" art. Copyrighted by default: "It exists, ergo, it's copyrighted". Others would say: "the prototype (car, ship, Great Pyramid of Giza ...) is not copyrighted, and neither is its model". This is offset by a counter-argument: "the model builder has made creative decisions in placing a rivet here and omitting a door handle there" ... "Don't tell a model maker that models are not creative". Further down the road there would be arguments that, although the prototype is a useful object and thus acceptable on Commons, the model is not, and must be treated like a work of art along with genuine Picassos and Yamasakis.

The decision is pronounced and executed ("closed") by an administrator. A few years ago deletion debates could drag for years, but these days (2011) they rarely take more than a month. There's a bunch of outcomes, listed here in no particular order:

  • Speedy deleted as a violation of someone's copyright (mostly historical - see 2009 records below);
  • Deleted for the same reason;
  • Deleted for lack of OTRS release from the builder(s);
  • Deleted for depicting something that is not a useful object;
  • Deleted as a violation of "freedom of panorama";
  • Deleted "per discussion";
  • Deleted for all of the above,
  • or Kept.

A promising diversity, isn't it? Very few Commons administrators actively engage in these deletion requests, and each of them predictably leans to this or that interpretation of policies. One thing that you cannot predict is who will preside over your case.

Year by yearEdit

This is a frightened city work of art (that is, architecture) by Minoru Yamasaki. There is a strong opinion that photos of scale models must be treated in a similar fashion.


  • A question raised in June at COM:DW "Is it allowed to photograph Modells of real things...?" is answered by User:Postdlf in November: "Not necessarily; there are numerous court cases in the United States finding that a scale model of a public domain object was copyrighted, because the reduction and simplification of details in the model required creative decisionmaking" [1].


  • An inquiry at COM:LICENSING: "Could I upload a picture taken by me of a model ship that I own but did not make?" ended in a 1:1 draw. One respondent said "I don't think model ships are usually an expression of free artistic creativity", another said: "copyrightable creative and original decision-making in the selection of which details to simplify and how" [2]. Not much has changed since then...




Wikipedians discuss deletion of a video of a train model. Watch the white truck take a freedom of panorama detour.