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Transcluded user templates with embedded license templatesEdit

A number of Commons users transclude user templates with embedded license templates. On the other hand we have the Commons policy Commons:User-specific galleries, templates and categories policy, effective since january 2008, where the following is written

"Regarding license templates: if the user-specific template incorporates a standard license template, the user-specific template should be subst:ed in use. If the user-specific template does not incorporate a standard license template, then it can be subst:ed or not as the user prefers."

Since the procedure undertaken by those users are in violation of the policy, I see a need to discuss what should be changed: The procedure practised by these users, the policy or both.

--Slaunger (talk) 12:56, 22 June 2009 (UTC)


To get an idea of what this is about, let us consider File:Feces and uric-acid.jpg created by Muhammad Mahdi Karim as an example. I stress that the particular image and user is not selected to single out a user. I just happens to be the last example I've discussed with another user.

On this file page, a user defined template, User:Muhammad Mahdi Karim/GFDL is transcluded as the value of the permission parameter

|Permission={{User:Muhammad Mahdi Karim/GFDL}}

and that user template transcludes a standard license template


With such a construct it is possible to mass-change the license applicable to files on which the user template has been transcluded without such license changes appearing on the history of each file affected by the license change. For instance, Fir0002 changed his license from {{GFDL}} to {{GFDL-1.2}}. The license changes accumulated over all Firs user templates affected more than 1700 files.

The objective for having the policy is to avoid that such license changes can go unnoticed in the file page histories. In the Fir0002 example the license change was made on 30 January 2009 but was only noticed by me on March 12, when I raised a concern about the license change on User talk:Fir0002#License Templates.

--Slaunger (talk) 12:56, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

Practising users and affected filesEdit

The practise of transcluding user templates with embedded license templates seems to be most used by some of our most productive users, who contribute images, which is frequently of FP quality. I am aware of 9 such users, but the list is probably not exhaustive. To get a more complete list the templates in User custom license tags should be scrutinized. Accumulating their user template transclusions for the users mentioned here, well over 5000 file pages are affected. A substantial fraction of the transclusions have been done before it became Commons policy not to allow that. It is my impression that many of the users mentioned here have merely copied the templates of other notable contributors and that most of the users were or are not aware that it is against Commons policy.

--Slaunger (talk) 12:56, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

What the practitioners have statedEdit

I have discussed the non-compliance with existing Commons policy with some of the users mentioned.

User talk:Fir0002#License templates
"...And yes I think I'll implement a change to my licensing scheme for future uploads - I think I'll just go with two separate templates, a copyright tag and a personal info template (eg {{GFDL 1.2)) and {{Fir0002 150MT))) --Fir0002 www 08:41, 19 March 2009 (UTC)..."
User talk:Muhammad Mahdi Karim#Relicensing
"...Sorry, but I find my current method more comfortable because if I were to upload images in the future with my GFDL template then I would have to remember to add a separate license tag and I find all that cumbersome..." and "...These types of templates are being used by many other users other than me such as Ram-man, Fir0002, Noodle, and Benjamin. I think it would be best if you could raise your concerns at COM:AN and notify all of the template users (us and others whom I may not have mentioned) about the discussion. But IMO the excuse of abusing the teplates does not hold because all of these templates are on administrator watch lists and any changes made do not go unnoticed and can be reverted. --Muhammad (talk) 07:08, 22 June 2009 (UTC)..."
User talk:Fcb981#Transcluding user templates with embedded license templates
"...I have no problem removing the actual license notice from the user template. When I made it initially, that was just what I noticed others were doing. I understand the rational behind the policy and I have no problem changing the images pages to comply...."

--Slaunger (talk) 12:56, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

Would like some assistance in extracting the license from his user template and add it explicitly on every on of his +2000 file pages.--Slaunger (talk) 20:35, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

My opinionEdit

I am of the opinion that the existing Commons policy should remain unchanged.

I do not agree with the argument that these user templates always are on administrators watchlists anyway, and thus such changes will be noticed right away. The example I gave with Fir showed that a license change on 1700 files passed unnoticed for over a month. I found out by coincidence because I got surprised that an image of Firs was suddenly licensed as GFDL 1.2, where I recalled it had been licensed under GFDL 1.2 or later earlier on.

I think that the license of a file is just a key element of a file page and if it is changed, it should always be visible on the image page history to provide license transparency for reusers.

I acknowledge that it is convenient to have one template that does it all, but I do not agree that it is cumbersome to add the license explicitly in the image page.

On User talk:Muhammad Mahdi Karim#Relicensing I have sketched a method one could use, which would give the possibility to keep one centralized user template and then parse the applicable licens(es) as parameters to that template from other, license-specific user templates, which should then be substituted onto the file pages. With this methology it is still possible to maintain in one user template general information about equipment used, how the creator can be contacted if a reuser wants to negotiate terms not dealt with in the licenses, that the creator would appreciate to be notified when an image is used, etc., etc.

--Slaunger (talk) 12:56, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

My proposalEdit

Since it is my impression that most of the user template transclusions have been done in good faith not being conscious about the crucial point in having the license template explicitly on every file page, I suggest that we assist those users in making the necessary changes. A brute force method is simply to substitute existing templates of the file pages already there. However, that will in most cases gives some pretty ugly file pages, with loads of wiki-tables and a lot of markup. That is not very elegant, and not very easy to maintain in the future. Instead I think we should work with those users such that we (or they) extract the license template from their user templates and we assist in adding license templates explicitly on every affected file page. I am confident there are some bot operators, which could assist in doing those operations.

--Slaunger (talk) 19:08, 22 June 2009 (UTC)