Template:Header This page brings together a variety of subjects and aims to answer the question "Can I upload photographs/pictures of ...?"
It is Template:Ok to upload:
- Generally, photos you have taken yourself of uncopyrightable subjects such as views, nature, yourself (as long as you don't use this as your private web space), people who have given their consent for you to photograph them and for you to publish the photograph.
- Photos taken by you or scans or photocopies made by you of objects or designs whose copyright has expired (usually 70 years after the death of the author, but see Commons:Licensing for a country-by-country list).
- Mere mechanical scans or photocopies, made by somebody else, of an object or design old enough to be in the public domain (usually 70 years after the death of the author, but see Commons:Licensing for a country-by-country list). For scans of old images that may have been enhanced, see Commons:When to use the PD-scan tag.
- Photographs, taken either by yourself or someone else, that are faithful reproductions of 2D public domain works of art. See Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag.
Other subjects may or may not be allowable - see headings below. If you want to have an answer to the question "Can I upload photographs/pictures from ...?", see the section on Internet images. See also: Threshold of originality.
In the United States, advertisements published in collective works (magazines and newspapers) are not covered by the copyright notice for the entire collective work. (See U.S. Copyright Office Circular 3, "Copyright Notice", page 3, "Contributions to Collective Works".) This is because the same advertisement will often run in many publications. (See U.S. Code title 17, chapter 4.) Note that this rule does not apply to advertisements whose copyright belongs to the publisher of the collective work, such as ads for another magazine subscription. It also does not apply to advertisements first published outside the United States.
Works published in the U.S. without a valid copyright notice before 1978 automatically fell into the public domain. Thus, magazine and newspaper advertisements published in the United States before 1978 without a separate copyright notice may be uploaded to Commons with a Template:Tl tag. Advertisements published since 1978, but before March 1989, may also be uploaded as Template:Tl if they have no separate copyright notice and if their copyright was not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office within 5 years of publication. (For U.S. works published since March 1989, a copyright notice has no longer been required for copyright protection.)
It is best to avoid advertisements that include notable artwork that may have been covered by copyrights — there have been cases where companies ran ads with images they did not own. Advertisements that have a simple photograph of a product, such as a 1950s washing machine, will make a good illustration for early home appliances and would be very unlikely to be encumbered by copyright.
Album covers (LP, CD, DVD, video cassettes, and so on) almost always carry copyright-protected designs, and photographs of them may not normally be uploaded to Commons. The fact that you are the physical owner of an album does not mean that you are authorised to replicate the cover design by uploading a copy here.
Some countries (like Mexico, Italy, Greece or Egypt) have laws which allow them to control the publication of pictures of protected archaelogical sites or heritage items. These are ignored at Commons as they are considered as non-copyright restrictions.
Art (copies of)
2D art (paintings etc.)
If the original artwork remains in copyright a license from the artist is nearly always needed. Mere physical ownership of an original artwork such as a painting does not confer ownership of the copyright: that remains with the artist.
There are a few rare situations where the artist's license may not be needed:
- Certain images permanently located in a public place, in some countries: See Commons:Freedom of panorama.
If the original artwork is old enough to be in the public domain it is OK to upload a scan or a photocopy (from any source) or a photograph you have taken yourself. A faithful photographic copy of a public domain 2D artwork such as a painting may always be uploaded to Commons, even if the photograph was taken by somebody else and even if no photographer's licence has been provided: see Commons: When to use the PD-Art tag
- See also Engravings.
3D art (sculptures etc.)
If the original artwork remains in copyright a license from the artist is nearly always needed. Mere physical ownership of an original artwork such as a sculpture does not confer ownership of the copyright: that remains with the artist.
In some countries a 3D artwork that is permanently located in a public place can be photographed and the image uploaded without the artist's permission: See Commons:Freedom of panorama.
If the 3D artwork is old enough to be in the public domain, you may upload a photograph you have taken yourself. If the photograph was taken by somebody else, you need the photographer’s permission, since the photograph is copyright-protected, despite depicting art that is not.
- See also Replicas of PD artworks
- See Commons:Currency
Board games are usually of copyright design, and photographs that are intended to illustrate the game board and/or the box are not normally acceptable. Photographs of a game in progress may possibly be allowable provided that the copyright elements are incidental and de minimis to the overall image, but that is unlikely to be the case if the whole board or box design is clearly shown. The design shown does not automatically become incidental simply because there are some players in the frame along with the board.
Old board games such as backgammon, chess and go are allowable unless the board incorporates some original artistic design. Monopoly is also a special case: the 'original' Monopoly board is now out of copyright - it was published in a US patent application back in 1935: see w:Image:DarrowPage1.png. Modern standard sets may be shown provided that they are substantially identical in design to the original. Sets with significant new design elements, such as Monopoly Junior, are not allowed since the new design elements will be entitled to a new copyright.
Book covers, unless they are very old, usually carry copyright-protected designs, and photographs of them may not normally be uploaded to Commons. The fact that you are the physical owner of a book does not mean that you are authorised to replicate the cover design by uploading a copy here.
Photographs of buildings are normally allowed if the building is old enough to be public domain (in many countries, where the architect has been dead for at least 70 years). Photographs of more recent buildings may be restricted because of the architect's copyright, though some countries have exceptions that allow photographs to be taken of any building in a public place. See Commons:Freedom of panorama
- See Album covers.
Characters from books and films
- See Commons:Fan art
Images illustrating clothing styles or articles of clothing are normally acceptable. However, care must be taken not to infringe the copyright of any printed or woven design that may appear on the clothing's surface. So, for example you cannot upload images of t-shirts or caps displaying a copyright cartoon character: see Comic and action figures.
Sports uniforms/kits in club colours may also be copyright-protected: see Sports uniforms/kits.
Coats of arms
You should assume that a coat of arms drawn by someone else is copyright-protected unless you can demonstrate to the contrary. Even if the elements making up the arms have been used for hundreds of years, each specific realization may have sufficient originality to attract copyright protection. Direct copies of such specific realizations cannot therefore be uploaded even if you have taken the trouble to trace or even re-draw the design yourself.
However, if you can establish that the specific realization you want to use is old enough to be out of copyright, it is OK to upload. It is also OK if you can establish that the specific realization differs from an old public domain realization by only by immaterial details that in themselves are not sufficiently creative to generate a new copyright.
- See Commons:Currency and Commons:When to use the PD-Art_tag#Photograph of an old coin found on the Internet
- As far as possible, upload each source image as a standalone image with suitable source and licensing information.
- Finally, upload the collage using the "derivative work of one or several files from Commons" option at Commons:Upload
- Or you may add every source information manually : see File:Collage of Six Cats-01.jpg, for example.
Comic and action figures
No photographs, drawings, paintings or any other copies/derivative works of these are allowed (as long as the original is not in the public domain). No pictures are allowed of items which are derivatives from copyrighted figures themselves, like dolls, action figures, t-shirts, printed bags, ashtrays etc.
- See also Commons:Fan art
Photographs you've taken yourself at concerts are believed to be acceptable. We believe such photos are not covered by the performing artists' related (neighbouring) rights (see this discussion). Nevertheless: ideally, you should be able to present an explicit permission by the performer to take and publish photos. Beware of concert photos showing an artistic stage design: such photos are not ok, as they may infringe the stage designer's copyright. Close-ups of performing artists should be fine, though.
- See also: Practical tips on concert photography
On concert photographs found on other web sites, see Fan sites.
Costumes and cosplay
There is not yet consensus around whether photographs of a person wearing a costume are permitted. Some widely-agreed upon points:
- The photographer has rights to the photograph and must license the photograph under a free license.
- If the costume is a completely original design (not based on any existing character design), and the designer has released it under a free license, it is permitted. (There isn't a tag for this at the moment.)
- If the costume is an accurate representation of a character whose design is released under a free license or in the public domain, it is permitted.
- If the costume is a modified or original representation of a character whose design is released under a free license or in the public domain, and the costume designer has also released their design under a free license, it is permitted.
- If the costume is purely utilitarian and has no distinct or original graphical features - for example, if it's the kind of clothing that an ordinary person might wear on the street or on the job - then it is permitted under #Clothing above.
- If the costume is not the central focus of the image but only an incidental feature, or one among many costumes, it is likely to be considered de minimis.
- If the costume conveys an accurate representation of the original non-free copyrighted character, and is the sole and central focus of the image, it is more likely to be considered a derivative work and so not permitted. A commonly cited example is an accurate Darth Vader costume.
Mike Godwin, legal counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation, has taken the following stances with regard to costumes: “Suppose someone dresses up as, say, Spider-Man, and has a photo taken. The photo is neither a copyright violation nor a trademark violation. It's usable without resort to fair-use analysis.”; “It is common for photographers to take pictures of people in costumes of copyrighted and/or trademarked characters. In general, such photographs are understood as lawful. I believe the deletion of [photographs of costumed people] unnecessary, and that this represents a too-conservative worldview with regard to the applicability of copyright and other intellectual property theory.”
There is not yet consensus on whether we want our policies to be this permissive.
- See Commons:Currency
Drawings based on photographs
Photographs can be copyrighted. A drawing made from a copyrighted photograph is a derivative work; such a drawing can be published only if the copyright owner of the underlying photograph has given his express consent. The artist of the drawing also has a copyright on all aspects original to his or her drawing. If the base photo is in the public domain, there's only the copyright of the artist of the drawing to consider.
If you want to upload a drawing made by someone else based on a copyrighted photo, you thus need both the photographer's and the artist's consent. If you yourself have made a drawing based on a copyrighted photo, you need the permission of the photographer before uploading your drawing here.
Drawings based on several photos are derivative works of all of them, and permission from the authors of all copyrighted photos would be needed. However, see Commons:Deletion requests/File:KGerstein.jpg.
The same also applies to paintings done after photographs, or drawings and paintings done based on other drawings or paintings, and even to drawings or paintings done directly after a 3D sculpture: all are derivative works, and in all cases the copyright of the underlying original needs to be considered. It also applies to collages. See also Art (copies of).
Engravings are original works and subject to copyright. If an engraving is done after a pre-existing work, the engraving is a derivative work. If so, one needs not only to account for the engraver's copyright but also for that of the creator of the underlying work. An engraver may get a copyright even if he produces an engraving of a public domain original. The choices made by an engraver of where exactly to place his engraved lines, how to space them, etc. are sufficient to make an engraving pass the threshold of originality. This also applies to etchings or woodcuts.
In the UK, engravings have been copyrighted since 1734, when the Engravings Copyright Act (8 Geo. 2 c. 13) was passed (amended in 1767 to also cover engravings done after pre-existing works). In the U.S., Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony (111 U.S. 53 (1884)) held that when the law said it applied to "maps, charts, and writings", the term "writings" subsumed "all forms of writing, printing, engraving, etching, &c. ...". Alfred Bell & Co. v. Catalda Fine Arts, Inc. (191 F.2d 99 (2d Cir. 1951)) upheld copyrights on mezzotint reproductions of paintings that were in the public domain.
Educationally-useful fan art can be accepted on Commons provided it has not been copied from any creative element of the original copyright work such as a movie, TV show, comic book or computer game. For more details, see Commons:Fan art.
According to the Berne Convention, a work can only be protected by copyright only when it is written or recorded on a fixed medium. Since a firework display in action is not so recorded it does not in itself attract protection, and such displays can be freely photographed (but not necessarily filmed). The photograph will attract protection as an original photographic work, with the copyright normally owned by the photographer. So, if you have taken such a photograph yourself, you can freely upload it.
- See Coats of arms
Folklore and Tradition
In some countries works of folklore and traditional works aren't covered by copyright as long as they do not exeed the threshold of creativety. This applies to: Germany.
Graffiti are essentially murals that have been painted illegally. Photographs of graffiti have long been allowed on Commons. As artistic works, copyright in graffiti will theoretically belong to the original artist. However, it is unlikely that the artist would be able to enforce the copyright since that would require a court to uphold the validity of an illegal act as the basis for damages or other relief against a third party.
For legally-painted artworks, see Murals.
- See Utility objects
The vast majority of images found on the internet are copyright-protected and may not be uploaded. The fact that an image has been posted to a publicly-available website does not give you implied permission to re-use it nor to upload it here. Many websites are silent on copyright issues, but images on those sites are just as off-limits as those on sites which explicitly say "Copyright, all rights reserved". Works are copyrighted by default; a copyright notice or a © sign is not needed.
Public domain images
15px Images that are verifiably old enough to be out of copyright can be copied and uploaded: generally when the author has been dead for at least 70 years, but see Commons:Licensing for country-by-country rules. The copyright must have expired in your jurisdiction, the United States and the jurisdiction of the web server.
Some websites incorrectly purport to claim copyright protection on old images that are actually in the public domain. You should critically analyse such statements and not simply take them at face value.
Images released under a free license
15px Images that have been verifiably released under an acceptable Free license by the copyright owner can be copied and uploaded. The image must be free in your jurisdiction, the United States and the jurisdiction of the web server.
Note that the website owner normally does not own the copyright to images on the website. Many amateur and even some professional websites purport to release rights that they do not own, for example by incorrectly stating that all images on the site are public domain. You should critically analyse such statements and not simply take them at face value.
In a few countries, notably the USA, most government-created works are as a matter of policy released into the public domain: please use the appropriate template such as Template:T.
15px Unless the copyright holder specifies a free license, press photos are generally intended only for journalists, and cannot be modified. So they are not suitable for Commons.
- See Trademarks.
Maps & satellite imagery
You may not upload copies of copyrighted maps to Commons, nor may you trace or even re-draw such a map yourself. Any map you create yourself must be wholly based on public domain sources or on sources that have been released under a suitable free license. For information on which maps are copyrighted, see Commons:Derivative works#Maps.
15px Satellite pictures and derived maps from commercial projects like Google Earth, Google Maps, bing.com, and others are based on a combination of free and copyrighted satellite imagery and are, therefore, not acceptable on Commons.
15px Maps issued by the UK Ordnance Survey, Admiralty charts etc. are subject to Crown Copyright. They enter the public domain 50 years after publication: for these old maps only use license tag Template:Tl. Some are also released under the Ordnance Survey OpenData license (Template:Tl) or the Open Government License (Template:Tl).
15px On the other hand, maps and charts of the United States compiled by US Federal Government agencies are Template:Tl. Maps and charts of the rest of the world from Federal agencies may contain copyrighted data from other sources and not be PD. This is true of most NIMA/NGA marine charts.
Unless old enough to be in the public domain, murals will normally be copyright-protected even if the artist is unknown. Thus, images of murals cannot usually be accepted. It normally makes no difference if the mural is in a public place and can be freely photographed since Freedom of Panorama, where it exists, typically does not extend to permitting photographs of 2D artworks such as murals. There are some exceptions - see: Freedom of Panorama.
- See also Graffiti
Museum and interior photography
Photographs taken by yourself in a museum or the interior of a building/monument are deemed acceptable here, provided they do not show copyrighted works. If the museum's house rules forbid photography, a breach of that rule is an issue between the photographer and the museum, but does not affect the copyright status of an image. If the museum's house rules were a valid contract, it would bind only the parties of the contract: the photographer and the museum. The Commons and all other third parties are not subject to such a contract.
Museum policy regulating photography may also vary over time. For example in 2006 interior images of the Royal Palace of Madrid were allowed, but by 2008 it was strictly forbidden. Some museums also have different days in the week where photography is allowed or not.
It is up to the photographer to decide whether s/he wishes to upload images which have been taken in breach of any private rules of the museum.
- See also: Practical tips on photographing in museums.
- See Commons:Nudity
Drawings and text taken from patent publications are normally allowed. Material derived from a US patent can be tagged Template:Tl. Occasionally, though, there may be a copyright reservation in the body of the specification such as the following which appears in US patent 5,544,360: "A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by any one of the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent files or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever."
Posters are normally copyright-protected even if the artist is unknown. Thus, images of posters cannot usually be accepted. It normally makes no difference if the poster is in a public place and is freely photographable since Freedom of Panorama, where it exists, typically does not extend to permitting photographs of 2D artworks. Even where it does, posters will usually be excluded since they are normally located temporarily rather than permanently in a public place.
It is sometimes argued that the primary purpose of a poster is advertising, and that the advertiser should be pleased that the image is being widely disseminated by Commons. Such an argument, however, cannot overcome the basic copyright problem: that the uploader is purporting to license to all and sundry (including the advertiser's competitors) an original design that he/she did not create and does not own.
Although the overall 3D shape of most packaging (boxes, cartons, bottles) is not copyright-protected, the printing on such packaging is often legally protected as an artistic work (that applies irrespective of artistic merit, and regardless of whether the design appears only on the front surface or wraps around). Sometimes, the printing appears on an affixed label, but the result is the same. Note that this does not depend on whether a company or product logo is shown; those are themselves often copyright-protected, but often the problem is not a logo but a printed photograph or drawing on the packaging which illustrates the contents.
Generally, then, product packaging carrying original printed designs cannot be uploaded to Commons, even if you personally own the physical object and even if you took the photograph yourself.
There are a some very limited exceptions:
2. Packaging which carries only a printed design which is so simple as to be ineligible for copyright protection. In such a case, you can release your copyright in the photograph with a personal licence of your choice such as Template:T.
3. Packaging which carries only a printed design which is old enough for the copyright to have expired. That applies to the classic Coca Cola logo (but not to more recent Coke designs). In such a case, you can release your copyright in the photograph with a personal licence of your choice such as Template:T.
For some reason, Commons seems to attract quite large numbers of photographs of food and drink packaging, taken without regard to copyright. If you are reading this because your photo has been deleted, please remember that other stuff exists is not a valid argument for keeping any copyright violating image. Eventually, other copyright violating images that you might have noticed on Commons will be spotted and deleted as well.
See also Trademarks.
Replicas of PD artworks
Exact replicas of public domain works, like tourist souvenirs of the Venus de Milo, cannot attract any new copyright as exact replicas do not have the required originality. Hence, photographs of such items can be treated just like photographs of the artwork itself. However, the photographer still has rights to the work; see 3D art above.
You should assume that a road sign is copyright-protected and may not be uploaded unless you can demonstrate to the contrary. Allowable signs include those that are too simple to attract copyright protection (use the Template:T tag), those that are old enough to be in the public domain, and those released to the public domain by government policy - eg certain signs which are specified within the US Department of Transportation's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
- See Commons:Screenshots.
Sculptures and statues
- See Art (copies of).
- See Coats of arms
- As far as possible, upload each slide as a standalone photograph with suitable source and licensing information.
- Finally, upload the slideshow using the "derivative work of one or more files from Commons" option at Commons:Upload
- Or you may add every source information manually : see the "Collages" section above.
These are normally copyright protected, unless they are simple enough to be Template:T.
Many trademarks and logos are protected by copyright owned by the relevant company, and may not be uploaded since to do so would be a copyright violation. Copyright and trademark protection may and indeed often do co-exist in the same design.
However, a design which is too simple for copyright protection is acceptable; in such cases please use the Template:T template and if applicable also Template:T. Note that the allowability or otherwise of a trademark/logo depends only on whether it is entitled to copyright protection; the fact that the trademark/logo may be additionally protected by Trademark laws in some countries is no bar to Commons hosting the image. See Threshold of originality for more examples.
There is normally no copyright in a 3D utilitarian object, so photographs of typical household objects are normally acceptable as long as you have taken the photograph yourself. If someone else took the photograph, you need permission from copyright owner (usually the photographer). See Commons:applied art.
If the object has an original printed or embossed design on its surface, there will be copyright in that design even though there is no copyright in the 3D shape. This might apply, for example, to a cup with embossed surface decoration. So, unless the printed or embossed design is old enough to be public domain, or is too simple to be copyrighted, a photograph of the article may not be uploaded without the designer's permission.
Current Commons policy allows images of vehicles on the basis that the 3D shape of a vehicle will not normally be entitled to copyright protection. Photographs of vehicles are normally acceptable as long as you have taken the photograph yourself. If someone else took the photograph, you need permission from copyright owner (usually the photographer).
If the vehicle carries an original painted design, there will be copyright in that design even though there is no copyright in the 3D shape. Unless the design is insignificant enough to be ignored, a photograph of the vehicle may not be uploaded without the designer's permission.
This page is based on Wikimedia Commons'Image Casebook page (July, 9th, 2011 version), under Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license.