Wikipedia:Fair use

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This page is considered a guideline on Wikipedia. It is generally accepted among editors and is considered a standard that all users should follow. However, it is not set in stone and should be treated with common sense and the occasional exception. When editing this page, please ensure that your revision reflects consensus. When in doubt, discuss first on the talk page.
Guidelines and policies concerning fair use on Wikipedia are almost always under heated debate on this page's talk page. You are invited to participate.
This page is part of a series about
Copyright on Wikipedia
.  v  d  e 
Policy and information

Wikipedia copyright information
Reusing Wikipedia content
Public domain · Fair use
GFDL license text
Copyright information index

Copyright assistance overview
Copyright violations
Copyright problems
General help
Copyright examinations
Requesting permission from 3rd parties
Example request letters

Items with copy-issues
Images missing information
Suspected copyright violations

Fair use is a legal doctrine which may permit the use of copyrighted material on Wikipedia under a restricted set of criteria. It is not a blanket permission to use text, images or other copyrighted materials freely on Wikipedia.

Content used under this doctrine on Wikipedia must meet the United States legal tests for fair use. Furthermore, Wikipedia places additional restrictions on "fair use" of copyrighted material; the image or content can only be used if it is not replaceable with a free content image. This might, for example, allow for the inclusion of a photo documenting a historical event such as the Hindenburg disaster, but a simple publicity still of a vehicle, building or living person will be subject to much greater scrutiny.

An editor uploading copyrighted material to Wikipedia must provide a detailed fair use rationale; otherwise the uploaded material will be deleted.


[edit] Legal position

Under U.S. copyright law, almost all work published after 1922 has an active copyright (there are exceptions, however — see United States copyright law for details). In general, the use of copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holder is copyright infringement, and is illegal. As such, on Wikipedia, which is hosted in the United States, we are normally only able to use material that is not under copyright or is available under a sufficiently free license.

An important exception to this rule exists, recognized in a clause in the copyright act that describes a limited right to use copyrighted material without permission of the copyright holder — what is known as fair use (or "fair dealing" in other countries, where standards may differ). This clause exists to protect criticism and commentary; to prevent copyright holders from restricting free speech. This page is meant as a guideline for dealing with fair use materials on the English Wikipedia — it provides general guidance on what is or is not likely to be fair use and how you can best assist editors when attempting to include material under fair use. However, it is not official policy. You, as the uploader, are legally responsible for determining whether your contributions are legal.

If you use part of a copyrighted work under "fair use" (except for short inline quotations), you must make a note of that fact (along with names and dates). It is our goal to be able to freely redistribute as much of Wikipedia's material as possible, so original images and media files licensed under a free content license or in the public domain are greatly preferred to fair use of copyrighted files. See Wikipedia:Boilerplate request for permission for form letters asking a copyright holder to grant us a license to use their work under the terms of the GFDL.

Never use materials that infringe the copyrights of others. This could create legal liabilities and seriously hurt the project. If in doubt, write it yourself. The Wikimedia Foundation reserves the right to remove unfree copyrighted content at any time.

Note that copyright law governs the creative expression of ideas, not the ideas or information themselves. Therefore, it is perfectly legal to read an encyclopedia article or other work, reformulate it in your own words, and submit it to Wikipedia. (See plagiarism and fair use for discussions of how much reformulation is necessary in a general context.)

[edit] Law

The Copyright Act of 1976 sets out four factors to consider when deciding if the copying of a copyrighted work is fair and allowable without the consent of the copyright holder (17 U.S.C. § 107):

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of Fair Use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.[1]

Briefly, these indicate that

  1. The use must not attempt to "supersede the objects" of the original, but rather, must be scholarly or critical.
  2. The less of the original that is used in relation to the whole, the more likely that use is fair, though the importance of the specific portion is also considered (as quoting the most important part may attempt to "supersede" the original).
  3. The use must not infringe on the copyright holder's ability to exploit his original work (for instance, by acting as a direct market substitute for the original work), though not through criticism or parody.

To these, Wikipedia adds that if the media could be repeated by an editor then 'fair use' is not sufficient criteria for inclusion. Editors are asked to upload a free equivalent instead.

There is also a substantial body of case law which can be consulted, and is useful for determining what some of the vague terms in these factors (such as "substantiality" and "purpose") have translated to previously in a court of law. Stanford University Libraries has put together a summary of some of the most relevant cases on the subject.

On Wikipedia, copyrighted, unlicensed material may be used under fair use if we firmly believe that the use would be judged to be fair if we were taken to court. Whenever possible, however, "free" material should be used instead of fair use material to avoid compromising the goal of a free encyclopedia and to avoid unnecessary legal exposures.

[edit] Policy

The following section of this page is an official policy on Wikipedia. It has wide acceptance among editors and is considered a standard that all users should follow. Feel free to edit this section as needed, but please make sure that changes you make to this policy reflect consensus before you make them.

The primary goal of Wikipedia's fair use policy is to protect our mission of producing and distributing free content which is perpetually free for unlimited distribution, modification, and application for all users and in all mediums. This goal could best be met by completely disallowing all content which is not free content; however, we understand that in order to meet the second part of our mission, producing a quality encyclopedia, we may permit some non-free material for critical commentary. Thus the authors of the English Wikipedia have decided to permit a limited compromise which is outlined in this policy. Most popular non-English Wikipedias do not permit unfree images at all.

Copyrighted material lacking a free content license may be used on the English-language Wikipedia under fair use if the following criteria are met. These criteria are based around the four fair use factors, the goal of creating a free encyclopedia, and the desire to avoid unnecessary legal exposure.

Any non-free media used on Wikipedia must meet all of these criteria:

  1. No free equivalent is available or could be created that would adequately give the same information. If unfree material can be transformed into free material, it should be done instead of using a "fair use" defense. For example, the information in a newspaper article can easily be used as the basis of an original article and then cited as a reference. Maps and diagrams can often be redrawn from original sources, though simply "tracing" copyrighted material does not make it free. Neither photographs nor sound clips, however, can usually be "transformed" in this way. However, if the subject of the photograph still exists, a freely-licensed photograph could be taken.
    • Always use a more free alternative if one of acceptable quality is available. "Acceptable quality" means quality sufficient to serve the necessary encyclopedic purpose. Such images can often be used more readily outside the U.S. If you see a fair use image and know of an alternative more free equivalent, please replace it, so the Wikipedia can become as free as possible. Eventually we may have a way to identify images as more restricted than GFDL on the article pages, to make the desire for a more free image more obvious.
  2. The material must not be used in a manner that would likely replace the original market role of the original copyrighted media; our use of copyrighted material should not make it so that one no longer needs to purchase the actual product. Large copyrighted photographs from agencies that make their income selling photographs, for example, would likely not be "fair use" as it would be undermining the ability of the copyright holder to make money from their work.
  3. The amount of copyrighted work used should be as little as possible. Low-resolution images should be used instead of high-resolution images (especially images that are so high-resolution that they could be used for piracy). This includes the original in the Image: namespace. Do not use multiple images or media clips if one will serve the purpose adequately.
  4. The material must have previously been published.
  5. The material must be encyclopedic and otherwise meet general Wikipedia content requirements.
  6. The material must meet the media-specific policy requirements.
  7. The material must be used in at least one article.
  8. The material must contribute significantly to the article (e.g. identify the subject of an article, or specifically illustrate relevant points or sections within the text) and must not serve a purely decorative purpose.
  9. Fair use images may be used only in the article namespace. Used outside article space, they are not covered under the fair use doctrine. They should never be used on templates (including stub templates and navigation boxes) or on user pages. To prevent categories from displaying thumbnails, add __NOGALLERY__ to it. They should be linked, not inlined, from talk pages when they are the topic of discussion. This is because it is the policy of the Wikimedia Foundation to allow an unfree image only if no free alternative exists and only if it significantly improves the article it is included on. All other uses, even if legal under the fair use clauses of copyright law, should be avoided to keep the use of unfree images to a minimum. Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis if there is a broad consensus that doing so is necessary to the goal of creating a free encyclopedia (like the templates used as part of the Main Page).
  10. The image or media description page must contain:
    • Proper attribution of the source of the material, and attribution of the copyright holder (if it is different).
    • An appropriate fair use tag indicating which Wikipedia policy provision permitting the use is claimed. A list of image tags can be found on the Wikipedia:Image copyright tags/Fair use page.
    • For each article for which fair use is claimed, the name of the article and a "fair use rationale" as explained at Wikipedia:Fair use rationale guideline. The rationale must be presented in a manner that can be clearly understood and which is relevant to the article in question.

As a quick test, ask yourself: "Can this image be replaced by a different one, while still having the same effect?" If the answer is yes, then the image probably doesn't meet the criteria above and should not be used.

[edit] Non-compliance

Images that do not comply with this policy within 48 hours after notification to the editor who uploaded the image will be deleted. This is because fair use can be, and has been, applied incorrectly to images. The editor who uploaded the image should explain and provide evidence of how fair use applies to the image (although anyone can provide an explanation) and should make every attempt to comply with Wikipedia's fair use policies. The Special:Upload page is very specific about our image upload conditions. If an image on which fair use is claimed is not in use for an article, it may be deleted immediately.

[edit] Exceptions

Images that were uploaded before 13 July 2006 may not be immediately deleted. The editor should be alerted as to the problem with the image and will be given seven days to comply with this policy. The image will then be deleted without further warning if corrective action has not been taken.

[edit] Downstream use

The mission of Wikipedia is to create a free content ("free" as in "free speech") encyclopedia under a free license, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. For this reason we do not accept material on the merits of a license exclusively for use on Wikipedia, or a license exclusively for non-commercial usage (which is not "free enough"). Such works may still be used on Wikipedia, provided they meet all of Wikipedia's strict criteria for inclusion of unfree material (see the policy section above), but then under a fair use defence rather than by virtue of an exclusive or limited permission. There are many conceivable circumstances in which the use of unfree materials would be fair on the English Wikipedia (run by a non-profit organization), which might not be in other contexts (by a for-profit organization, for instance). Just because something is fair use on Wikipedia does not mean it is automatically fair use in any other context — content re-users must evaluate their own circumstances on an individual level. Furthermore, Wikipedia fair use standards are tailored for United States copyright laws, and though fair use/fair dealing laws exist in many other countries, they are often very different from those in the United States.

For reusers, particularly commercial reusers, the most important part of a fair use description is good information on the original source of the image. This is essential to allow them to make their own determination of whether their own use is legal. They can't just rely on our judgement, since they are legally liable for their own actions, regardless of what we say. Identifying the original source is good practice in general, as it bolsters our claim that we are not trying to defraud the original copyright holder.

[edit] Acceptable uses

Content which meets all the tests given in Policy but does not also fall under one of the designated categories listed below may or may not be fair use depending on what the material is and how it is used. If you want help in assessing whether a use is fair use, please ask at Wikipedia:Requested copyright examinations. Wikipedia talk:Copyrights, Wikipedia talk:Copyright problems, and Wikipedia talk:Fair use may also be useful. These are places where those who understand copyright law are likely to be watching.

[edit] Text

Inclusion of brief attributed quotations of copyrighted text, used to illustrate a point, establish context, or attribute a point of view or idea is acceptable under fair use. Text must be used verbatim: any alterations must be clearly marked. Removed text is marked by an ellipsis (...), insertions or alerations are put in brackets ([added text]). A change of emphasis is noted after the quotation with (emphasis added), while if the emphasis was in the original, it may be noted by (emphasis in original). All copyrighted text must be attributed.

In general, extensive quotation of copyrighted news materials (such as newspapers and wire services), movie scripts, or any other copyrighted text is not fair use and is prohibited by Wikipedia policy.


Original text:

"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. "Verifiable" in this context means that any reader should be able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. Editors should provide a reliable source for material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, or it may be removed." (Wikipeda:Verifiability, 2007)


"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. (...) Editors should provide a reliable source for [potentially controversial content] or it may be removed." (Wikipeda:Verifiability, 2007; emphasis in original)

[edit] Audio clips

Brief song clips (under 30 seconds) may be used for identification of a musical style, group, or iconic piece of music when accompanied by critical or historical commentary and when attributed to the copyright holder.

Spoken word audio clips of historical events, such as speeches by public figures, may be used when accompanied by critical or historical commentary and when attributed to the speaker.

Spoken word audio clips of Wikipedia articles that incorporate copyrighted text pose legal problems (since the resulting audio file cannot be licensed under the GFDL) and should be avoided.

For further clarification, please see: Wikipedia:Music samples

[edit] Images

Some copyrighted images may be used on Wikipedia, providing they meet both the legal criteria for fair use, and Wikipedia's own fair use guidelines. Copyrighted images that reasonably can be replaced by free/libre images are not suitable for Wikipedia.

  • Cover art: Cover art from various items, for identification and critical commentary (not for identification without critical commentary).
  • Team and corporate logos: For identification. See Wikipedia:Logos.
  • Stamps and currency: For identification of the stamp or currency, not its subject.
  • Other promotional material: Posters, programs, billboards, ads. For critical commentary.
  • Film and television screen shots: For critical commentary and discussion of the cinema and television.
  • Screenshots from software products: For critical commentary.
  • Paintings and other works of visual art: For critical commentary, including images illustrative of a particular technique or school.
  • Publicity photos: For identification and critical commentary. See Wikipedia:Publicity photos.

[edit] Counterexamples

Some people find it easier to understand the concept of fair use from what is not fair use. Here are a few examples of uses that would almost certainly not be fair use under Wikipedia's policy:

  1. An article containing one or more unattributed pieces of text from a copyrighted source.
  2. An image of a rose, cropped from an image of a record album jacket, used to illustrate an article on roses.
  3. A detailed map, scanned from a copyrighted atlas, used in an article about the region depicted. The only context in which this might be fair use is if the map itself was a topic of a passage in the article: for example, a controversial map of a disputed territory might be fair use, if this controversy is discussed in the article.
  4. A work of art, not so famous as to be iconic, whose theme happens to be the Spanish Civil War, to illustrate an article on the war. (However, because of its iconic status, it is presumably Fair Use where we have a small image of Picasso's Guernica in the article Bombing of Guernica.)
  5. A photo from a press agency (e.g. Reuters, AP), not so famous as to be iconic, to illustrate an article on the subject of the photo. If photos are themselves newsworthy (e.g. a photo of equivalent notoriety as the Muhammad cartoons newspaper scan), low resolution versions of the photos may be fair use in related articles.
  6. An image of a Barry Bonds baseball card, to illustrate the article on Barry Bonds. A sports card image is a legitimate fair use if it is used only to illustrate the article (or an article section) whose topic is the card itself; see the Billy Ripken article.
  7. An image of a magazine cover, used only to illustrate the article on the person whose photograph is on the cover. However, if that magazine issue itself is notable enough to be a topic within the article, then fair use may apply.
  8. An image of a living person that merely shows what they look like.
  9. Any image found on the Internet where the original source is unknown or not verifiable.
  10. A chart or graph. These can almost always be re-created from the original data.

[edit] Tagging fair use image files

Labeling images as fair use can be done with the fair use copyright tags. If you have found a file that appears to be fair use, you can add a tag corresponding to the type of material to the image description page.

Please also add the source from which the image has been reproduced. Remember there is no "general rule" about fair use, each fair use must be explained and a rationale must be established for that specific use (in other words every page that uses the image will have a distinct rationale for using the image on that page even though fair use is claimed on the image page).

[edit] Tagging for review

The following is currently a proposed addition to the review process examining the fair use of images. It is not official policy or guideline, but is a suggestion being discussed.

There are several tags that you can use in addition to the fair use tag to help for review purposes.

If you would like an image to be reviewed by another user as to whether or not it is fair use, you can add the tag {{fairusereview}} to it, which will flag it for an informal review by other editors.

If you believe an image that is tagged as fair use is definitely not fair use, you can add {{fair use disputed}} to it, and it will be eventually nominated for deletion at Wikipedia:Possibly unfree images or Wikipedia:Copyright problems.

Images which have been deleted as not meeting the Wikipedia criteria for fair use, ie. the 'repeatability' criterion, should be listed at Wikipedia:Deleted fair use image replacement.

If you have reviewed a fair use image (whether it is tagged as {{fairusereview}} or not) and are quite confident that the image does qualify as Fair Use on the listed pages, add {{reviewedfairuse|pages=[[names of pages]]|user=~~~|date=~~~~~}} to the page. Do not review an image for fair use in an article if you either uploaded the image or made the decision to include it in the article where it is being used.

The reviewer may choose to accept a reasonably presented rationale in good faith without necessarily agreeing with each point asserted, as long as it does not contain information that the reviewer believes to be incorrect or misleading. If incorrect or misleading information is removed, and the reviewer believes that the remaining information is sufficient to provide a reasonable fair use rationale, then the rationale should be accepted. If the reviewer considers that the rationale is incomplete or does not provide sufficient detail to make a determination, then the reviewer should consider that the criterion has not been met.

Reviewers are urged to consider that some discretion and personal judgement is required in assessing whether certain of these requirements are met, and in these cases may choose to assume good faith, unless there is reason to doubt. Other users may be invited to review or comment if a clear determination can not be made.

If the image is used in more than one article, it is preferable that individual articles are assessed individually with a separate template box used for each article reviewed, as future edits to a particular article may render fair use claims as void.

As the aim of this process is to improve Wikipedia, reviewers should, where possible, attempt to elevate the standard of the Fair Use of the image, by making any edits they consider appropriate, where possible. For example rewording an inadequately written Fair Use rationale, or deleting unnecessary information, is a far more constructive action than simply deeming that a criterion has not been met.

If you see an image tagged as fair use that would appear to be quite easy to replace with a free alternative, add {{fairusereplace}} to the image description page. The image will be added to Category:Fair use image replacement request so that others are aware of the problem and can create a replacement if possible. Large images that should be scaled down to qualify as fair use may be tagged with {{fairusereduce}}.

[edit] Other Wikimedia projects

The above guidelines are specific to the English language edition of Wikipedia, at Other Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedias in other languages, may have different policies towards fair use. Please check the policy of each project as certain projects never accept fair use.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links