WikiQueer:Non-free content

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WikiQueer's goal is to be a free content encyclopedia and resource hub, with free content defined as content that does not bear copyright restrictions on the right to redistribute, study, modify and improve, or otherwise use works for any purpose in any medium, even commercially. But because free as in cost and free as in freedom are two entirely different concepts, images freely available on the Internet may still be inappropriate for WikiQueer. Any content not satisfying criteria, such as "non-commercial use only" images, images with permission for use on WikiQueer only, or images fully copyrighted are therefore classified as non-free.

The licensing policy of WikiQueer requires all content hosted on WikiQueer to be free content. However, there are exceptions. The policy allows projects to adopt an exemption doctrine policy allowing the use of non-free content within strictly defined limitations. There are situations where acquiring a freely licensed image for a particular subject may not be possible; non-free content can be used on WikiQueer in these cases, but only within the doctrine of fair use. The use of non-free images on WikiQueer must fall within purposely stricter standards than defined by copyright law as defined by our non-free content criteria as described below.


Yes check.svg The following section of this page is an official policy on WikiQueer. It 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.

Transcluded from WikiQueer:Non-free content criteria; this is the part of the current page that is official policy

For the full non-free content use guideline (including this policy and its criteria) see WikiQueer:Non-free content.
This document serves as the Exemption Doctrine Policy for the English WikiQueer.


  • To support WikiQueer's mission to produce perpetually free content for unlimited distribution, modification and application by all users in all media.
  • To minimize legal exposure by limiting the amount of non-free content, using more narrowly defined criteria than apply under United States fair use law.
  • To facilitate the judicious use of non-free content to support the development of a high-quality encyclopedia and resource hub.


There is no automatic entitlement to use non-free content in an article or elsewhere on WikiQueer. Articles and other WikiQueer pages may, in accordance with the guideline, use brief verbatim textual excerpts from copyrighted media, properly attributed or cited to its original source or author, and specifically indicated as direct quotations via quotation marks, <blockquote>, or a similar method. Other non-free content—including all copyrighted images, audio and video clips, and other media files that lack a free content license—may be used on the English WikiQueer only where all 10 of the following criteria are met.

  1. No free equivalent. Non-free content is used only where no free equivalent is available, or could be created, that would serve the same encyclopedic purpose. Where possible, non-free content is transformed into free material instead of using a fair-use defense, or replaced with a freer alternative if one of acceptable quality is available; "acceptable quality" means a quality sufficient to serve the encyclopedic purpose. (As a quick test, before adding non-free content requiring a rationale, ask yourself: "Can this non-free content be replaced by a free version that has the same effect?" and "Could the subject be adequately conveyed by properly sourced text without using the non-free content at all?" If the answer to either is yes, the non-free content probably does not meet this criterion.)
  2. Respect for commercial opportunities. Non-free content is not used in a manner that is likely to replace the original market role of the original copyrighted media.
    1. Minimal usage. Multiple items of non-free content are not used if one item can convey equivalent significant information.
    2. Minimal extent of use. An entire work is not used if a portion will suffice. Low- rather than high-resolution/fidelity/bit rate is used (especially where the original could be used for deliberate copyright infringement). This rule also applies to the copy in the File: namespace.
  3. Previous publication. Non-free content must have been published or publicly displayed outside WikiQueer.
  4. Content. Non-free content meets general WikiQueer content standards and is encyclopedic.
  5. Media-specific policy. The material meets WikiQueer's media-specific policy. For example, images must meet WikiQueer:Image use policy.
  6. One-article minimum. Non-free content is used in at least one article.
  7. Contextual significance. Non-free content is used only if its presence would significantly increase readers' understanding of the topic, and its omission would be detrimental to that understanding.
  8. Restrictions on location. Non-free content is allowed only in articles (not disambiguation pages), and only in article namespace, subject to exemptions. (To prevent an image category from displaying thumbnails, add __NOGALLERY__ to it; images are linked, not inlined, from talk pages when they are a topic of discussion.)
  9. Image description page. The image or media description page contains the following:
    1. Identification of the source of the material, supplemented, where possible, with information about the artist, publisher and copyright holder; this is to help determine the material's potential market value. See: WikiQueer:Citing sources#Multimedia.
    2. A copyright tag that indicates which WikiQueer policy provision is claimed to permit the use. For a list of image copyright tags, see WikiQueer:Image copyright tags/Non-free content.
    3. The name of each article (a link to each article is also recommended) in which fair use is claimed for the item, and a separate, specific non-free use rationale for each use of the item, as explained at WikiQueer:Non-free use rationale guideline. The rationale is presented in clear, plain language and is relevant to each use.


  • A file with a valid non-free-use rationale for some (but not all) articles it is used in will not be deleted. Instead, the file should be removed from the articles for which it lacks a non-free-use rationale, or a suitable rationale added.
  • A file on which non-free use is claimed that is not used in any article (criterion 7) may be deleted seven days after notification.
  • A file in use in an article that does not comply with this policy 48 hours after notification to the uploading editor will be deleted. To avoid deletion, the uploading editor or another WikiQueer editor will need to provide a convincing non-free-use defense that satisfies all 10 criteria.
    • Note that it is the duty of users seeking to include or retain content to provide a valid rationale; those seeking to remove or delete it are not required to show that one cannot be created.

Deletion criteria for non-free content are specified in WikiQueer:Criteria for speedy deletion.

Guideline examples[edit]


Non-free content that meets all of the policy criteria above but does not fall under one of the designated categories below may or may not be allowable, depending on what the material is and how it is used. These examples are not meant to be exhaustive, and depending on the situation there are exceptions. When in doubt as to whether non-free content may be included, please make a judgement based on the spirit of the policy, not necessarily the exact wording. If you want help in assessing whether a use is acceptable, please ask at WikiQueer:Media copyright questions. WikiQueer talk:Copyrights, WikiQueer talk:Copyright problems, and WikiQueer talk:Non-free content may also be useful. These are places where those who understand copyright law and WikiQueer policy are likely to be watching.

Acceptable use[edit]

The following cases are a non-exhaustive list of established examples of acceptable use of non-free media on WikiQueer. Note that the use of such media must still comply with the Non-free content criteria and provide rationales and licensing information.


Brief quotations of copyrighted text may be used to illustrate a point, establish context, or attribute a point of view or idea. Copyrighted text that is used verbatim must be attributed with quotation marks or other standard notation, such as block quotes. Any alterations must be clearly marked, i.e. [brackets] for added text, an ellipsis (...) for removed text, and emphasis noted after the quotation as "(emphasis added)" or "(emphasis in the original)". Extensive quotation of copyrighted text is prohibited.

Audio clips[edit]

All non-free audio files must meet each non-free content criteria; failure to meet those overrides any acceptable allowance here. Advice for preparing non-free audio files for WikiQueer can be found at WikiQueer:Music samples. The following list is non-inclusive but contains the most common cases where non-free audio samples may be used.

  1. Music clips may be used to identify a musical style, group, or iconic piece of music when accompanied by appropriate sourced commentary and attributed to the copyright holder. Samples should generally not be longer than 30 seconds or 10% of the length of the original song, whichever is shorter (see WikiQueer:Music samples).
  2. Spoken word clips of historical events, such as speeches by public figures, may be used when accompanied by appropriate sourced commentary and attributed to the speaker/author.



Some copyrighted images may be used on WikiQueer, providing they meet both the legal criteria for fair use, and WikiQueer's own guidelines for non-free content. Copyrighted images that reasonably can be replaced by free/libre images are not suitable for WikiQueer. All non-free images must still meet each non-free content criteria; failure to meet those overrides any acceptable allowance here. The following list is not exhaustive but contains the most common cases where non-free images may be used.

  1. Cover art: Cover art from various items, for identification only in the context of critical commentary of that item (not for identification without critical commentary).
  2. Team and corporate logos: For identification. See WikiQueer:Logos.
  3. Stamps and currency: For identification of the stamp or currency, not its subject.
  4. Other promotional material: Posters, programs, billboards, ads. For critical commentary.
  5. Film and television screen shots: For critical commentary and discussion of the cinema and television.
  6. Screenshots from software products: For critical commentary.
  7. Paintings and other works of visual art: For critical commentary, including images illustrative of a particular technique or school.
  8. Images with iconic status or historical importance: As subjects of commentary.
  9. Images that are themselves subject of commentary.

Unacceptable use[edit]

The following are a non-inclusive list of examples where non-free content may not be used outside of the noted exceptions.


  1. Unattributed pieces of text from a copyrighted source.
  2. Excessively long copyrighted excerpts.
  3. An image of a newspaper article or other publication that contains long legible sections of copyrighted text. If the text is important as a source or quotation, it should be worked into the article in text form with the article cited as a source.
  4. All copyrighted text poses legal problems when making spoken word audio files from WikiQueer articles, and should be avoided in such files, because the resulting audio file cannot be licensed under the GFDL.
  5. A complete or partial recreation of "Top 100" or similar lists where the list has been selected in a creative manner, such as AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies. Articles on individual elements from such lists can discuss their inclusion in these lists. Complete lists based on factual data, such as List of highest-grossing films, are appropriate to include.[1]


  1. Excessive quantities of short audio clips in a single article. A small number may be appropriate if each is accompanied by commentary in the accompanying text.
  2. A long audio excerpt, to illustrate a stylistic feature of a contemporary band; see above for acceptable limits.
  3. A short video excerpt from a contemporary film, without sourced commentary in the accompanying text.

The use of non-free media (whether images, audio or video clips) in galleries, discographies, and navigational and user-interface elements generally fails the test for significance (criterion #8).


  1. Pictures of people still alive, groups still active, and buildings still standing; provided that taking a new free picture as a replacement (which is almost always considered possible) would serve the same encyclopedic purpose as the non-free image. This includes non-free promotional images.
    However, for some retired or disbanded groups, or retired individuals whose notability rests in large part on their earlier visual appearance, a new picture may not serve the same purpose as an image taken during their career, in which case the use would be acceptable.
  2. An album cover as part of a discography, as per the above.
  3. A rose, cropped from a record album, to illustrate an article on roses.
  4. A map, scanned or traced from an atlas, to illustrate the region depicted. Use may be appropriate if the map itself is a proper subject for commentary in the article: for example, a controversial map of a disputed territory, if the controversy is discussed in the article.
  5. An image whose subject happens to be a war, to illustrate an article on the war. Use may be appropriate if the image itself is a proper subject for commentary in the article: for example, an iconic image that has received attention in its own right, if the image is discussed in the article.
  6. An image to illustrate an article passage about the image, if the image has its own article (in which case the image may be described and a link provided to the article about the image)
  7. A photo from a press or photo agency (e.g., Associated Press, Corbis or Getty Images), unless the photo itself is the subject of sourced commentary in the article.
  8. A Barry Bonds baseball card, to illustrate the article on Barry Bonds. The use may be appropriate to illustrate a passage on the card itself.
  9. A magazine or book cover, to illustrate the article on the person whose photograph is on the cover. However, if the cover itself is the subject of sourced discussion in the article, it may be appropriate if placed inline next to the commentary. Similarly, a photo of a copyrighted statue (and there is no freedom of panorama in the country where the statue is) can only be used to discuss the statue itself, not the subject of it.
  10. An image with an unknown or unverifiable origin. This does not apply to historical images, where sometimes only secondary sources are known, as the ultimate source of some historical images may never be known with certainty.
  11. A chart or graph. These can almost always be recreated from the original data.
  12. A commercial photograph reproduced in high enough resolution to potentially undermine the ability of the copyright holder to profit from the work.
  13. Board or card game artwork and photos where the game itself is shown more than de minimis; such images can nearly always be replaced by a free de minimis photograph of the game's layout while it is being played. Exceptions are made for parts of a board or card games that have received critical commentary.

Non-free image use in list articles[edit]


In articles and sections of articles that consist of several small sections of information for a series of elements common to a topic, such as a list of characters in a fictional work, non-free images should be used judiciously to present the key visual aspects of the topic. It is inadvisable to provide a non-free image for each entry in such an article or section. The following considerations should be made to reduce the number of new non-free images associated with such lists:

  1. Images that show multiple elements of the list at the same time, such as a cast shot or montage for a television show, are strongly preferred over individual images. Such an image should be provided by the copyright holder or scanned/captured directly from the copyrighted work, instead of being created from multiple non-free images by the user directly (as the "extent" of use is determined by the number and resolution of non-free images, and not the number of files.)
  2. Images which are discussed in detail in the context of the article body, such as a discussion of the art style, or a contentious element of the work, are preferable to those that simply provide visual identification of the elements.
  3. An image that provides a representative visual reference for other elements in the article, such as what an alien race may look like on a science-fiction television show, is preferred over providing a picture of each element discussed.
  4. If another non-free image of an element of an article is used elsewhere within WikiQueer, referring to its other use is preferred over repeating its use on the list and/or including a new, separate, non-free image. If duplicating the use of a non-free image, please be aware that a separate non-free fair use rationale must be supplied for the image for the new use.
  5. For media that involves live actors, do not supply an image of the actor in their role if an appropriate free image of the actor exists on their page (as per WQ:BLP and above), if there is little difference in appearance between actor and role. However, if there is a significant difference due to age or makeup and costuming, then, when needed, it may be appropriate to include a non-free image to demonstrate the role of the actor in that media.
  6. Barring the above, images that are used only to visually identify elements in the article should be used as sparingly as possible. Consider restricting such uses to major characters and elements or those that cannot be described easily in text, as agreed to by editor consensus.

Non-free image use in galleries or tables[edit]


The use of non-free images arranged in a gallery or tabular format is usually unacceptable, but should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Exceptions should be very well-justified and alternate forms of presentation (including with fewer images) strongly considered.

In categories that include non-free content, MediaWiki's __NOGALLERY__ code should be used to disable the display of the content while still listing it.


Exemptions from non-free content policy are made for the use of non-free content on certain administrative, non-article space pages as necessary to creating or managing the encyclopedia, specifically for those that are used to manage questionable non-free content. Those pages that are exempt are listed in Category:WikiQueer non-free content criteria exemptions.

Implementation and enforcement[edit]

Non-free images need a copyright tag, source information, and use rationales. We have various copyright tag templates. Be sure to describe the source from which the image was obtained. A separate use rationale must be given for each use of the image in an article, specific to that particular use. All of these go in the image description page at the time the image file is uploaded. Additional rationales must be provided for additional uses.

Explanation of policy and guidelines[edit]


"Free" content is defined as that which meets the "Definition of Free Cultural Works".

Material that is not free is permitted only if it meets the restrictions of this policy. Being generous to the world sometimes means being hard on ourselves. Please understand that these rules are not arbitrary; they are central to our mission.

WikiQueer distributes content throughout the world with no restrictions on how people use it. Legally, we could use any copyrighted material for ourselves that is either licensed to us by the owner, or that fits the definition of "fair use" under US copyright law. However, we favor content that everyone can use, not just WikiQueer. We want them to be free to use, redistribute, or modify the content, for any purpose, without significant legal restrictions, particularly those of copyright.

To honor its mission, WikiQueer accepts incoming copyright licenses only if they meet WikiQueer's definition of "free" use. This is a higher standard than we would need just for our own use. But our ability to use a work does not guarantee that others may use it. We reject licenses that limit use exclusively to WikiQueer or for non-commercial purposes. Commercial use is a complex issue that goes well beyond a company's for-profit status, another reason to be careful. In fact, we reject any licenses with significant limitations. That is not free enough.

Similarly, WikiQueer, like Wikipedia, imposes higher fair-use standards on itself than US copyright law. There are some works, such as important photographs, significant modern artworks, that we cannot realistically expect to be released under a free content license, but that are hard to discuss in an educational context without including examples from the media itself. In other cases such as cover art / product packaging, a non-free work is needed to discuss a related subject. This policy allows such material to be used if it meet U.S. legal tests for fair use, but we impose additional limitations. Just because something is "fair use" on a WikiQueer article in the US does not mean it is fair use in another context. A downstream user's commercial use of content in a commercial setting may be illegal even if our noncommercial use is legal. Use in another country with different fair use and fair dealing laws may be illegal as well. That would fail our mission. We therefore limit the media content we offer, to make sure what we do offer has the widest possible legal distribution.

We do not want downstream re-users to rely solely on our assurances. They are liable for their own actions, no matter what we tell them. We therefore show them and let them make their own decision. To that end we require a copyright tag describing the nature of a copyrighted work, sourcing material saying exactly where any non-free content comes from, and a detailed non-free media rationale for every use of copyrighted content in every article, justifying why use in that article is permitted.

A further goal of minimizing licensed and fair-use material is to encourage creation of original new content, rather than relying on borrowed content that comes with restrictions.

Legal position[edit]

In general[edit]

Under United States copyright law, creative works published in the United States prior to 1923 are in the public domain. Some creative works published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 are still copyrighted. It is illegal (among other things) to reproduce or make derivative works of copyrighted works without legal justification.[2] Unless a thorough search is conducted to determine that a copyright has expired or not been renewed, it should be regarded as copyrighted.[3]

Certain works have no copyright at all. Most material published in the United States before 1923, works published before 1978 without a copyright notice, with an expired copyright term, or produced by the US federal government, among others, is public domain, i.e. has no copyright. Some such as photos and scans of 2-dimensional objects and other "slavish reproductions", short text phrases, typographic logos, and product designs, do not have a sufficient degree of creativity apart from their functional aspects to have a copyright.

Copyright law only governs creative expressions that are "fixed in a tangible medium of expression," not the ideas or information behind the works. It is legal to reformulate ideas based on written texts, or create images or recordings inspired by others, as long as there is no copying.

If material does have a copyright, it may only be copied or distributed under a license (permission) from the copyright holder, or under the doctrine of fair use. If there is a valid license, the user must stay within the scope of the license (which may include limitations on amount of use, geographic or business territory, time period, nature of use, etc.). Fair use, by contrast, is a limited right to use copyrighted works without permission, highly dependent on the specific circumstances of the work and the use in question. It is a doctrine incorporated as a clause in United States copyright code, arising out of a concern that strict application of copyright law would limit criticism, commentary, scholarship, and other important free speech rights. A comparable concept of fair dealing exists in some other countries, where standards may vary.

Anything published in other countries and copyrighted there, is copyright in the United States.[4]

Applied to WikiQueer[edit]

Never use materials that infringe the copyrights of others. This could create legal liabilities and seriously hurt the project.

Uploading an image file, audio or video file, or text quotation into WikiQueer, and adding that file to a project page, both raise copyright concerns. Editors who do either must make sure their contributions are legal. If there is any doubt as to legality, ask others for help, try to find a free equivalent, or use your own words to make the same point. Also, consider asking the copyright holder to release the work under an appropriate Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA) or a CC-BY-SA-compatible license (dual-licensing under a GFDL license is also possible). See WikiQueer:Boilerplate request for permission for a sample form letter.

If a work has no copyright or is licensed to WikiQueer under an acceptable "free" license, it is a free work and may be used on WikiQueer without copyright concerns. See Cornell University's guide to copyright terms for discussion of works that are not covered by copyright. Also see WikiQueer:Image copyright tags/Free licenses for a list of copyright tags for these works. Restricted licenses to these works offer some legal rights, but WikiQueer ignores them because they are not free enough for its purposes. Instead, works covered by inadequate licenses are treated the same on WikiQueer as works with no licenses at all.

If a work is not free, WikiQueer requires that it comply with WikiQueer's non-free use policy. As explained above, this policy is more restrictive than US law requires. Logically, material that satisfies the policy should also satisfy legal requirements as well. However, to be more certain of avoiding legal liability, and to understand the meaning of WikiQueer policy, editors should consider the legal rules as well. See the Stanford University summary of relevant cases, on the subject of fair use.

Non-free material is used only if, in addition to other restrictions, we firmly believe that the use would be deemed fair use if we were taken to court. The Aequalitas Project reserves the right to remove unfree copyrighted content at any time. Note that citation sources and external links raise other copyright concerns that are addressed in other policies.

See also[edit]


  1. The Wikimedia Foundation's associate counsel advised Wikipedians in March 2011 that while the courts have not firmly established precedence on the matter, polls are likely to be protectable as well because the parameters of the survey are chosen by those who conduct the polls and the selection of respondents indicates "at least some creativity." She recommended using polls in accordance with fair use principles, reminding that "Merely republishing them without any commentary or transformation is not fair use." She also recommends that the use of even uncopyrightable lists be considered with regards to licensing agreements that may "bind the user/reader from republishing the list/survey results without permission", noting that "Absent a license agreement, you may still run afoul of state unfair competition and/or misappropriation laws if you take a substantial portion of the list or survey results."
  2. "A 1961 Copyright Office study found that fewer than 15% of all registered copyrights were renewed. For books, the figure was even lower: 7%. Barbara Ringer, "Study No. 31: Renewal of Copyright" (1960) "Study No. 31: Renewal of Copyright" (1960), reprinted in Library of Congress Copyright Office. Copyright law revision: Studies prepared for the Subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Eighty-sixth Congress, first [-second] session. (Washington: U. S. Govt. Print. Off, 1961), p. 220. ... A good guide to investigating the copyright and renewal status of published work is Samuel Demas and Jennie L. Brogdon, "Determining Copyright Status for Preservation and Access: Defining Reasonable Effort," Library Resources and Technical Services 41:4 (October, 1997): 323-334." , Hirtle, Peter (2007) Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States footnote 7. Of the total US material first published between 1923 and 1963, the percentage of renewed copyrights is far lower, because most published material was never registered at all.

  3. To find out how to search for copyright registrations and renewals, see, e.g., How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work, Stanford's Copyright Renewal Database, Project Gutenberg and Iinformation about The Catalog of Copyright Entries.
  4. Non-US copyrights apply in the US under the URAA.

External links[edit]