Wikivoyage:Non-free content

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Wikivoyage is devoted to the ideals of free content, as exemplified by our adoption and use of the Creative Commons license for our content. We believe that every human being deserves access to high-quality travel information, both free of charge and free for reuse. We also believe that a world-class travel guide makes judicious use of photographs and diagrams to illustrate the destinations to which we direct travelers.

Sometimes, though, these two goals come into conflict.

You see, the creators of works of art and architecture retain a copyright on their creations for a long period of time. Taking photographs of these works, then, means creating what is known as a derivative work—a work that incorporates the work of someone else. If the original (art or architecture) is copyrighted, then the photographer is not free to release a photograph of that work under a Creative Commons license, nor into the Public Domain. Part of the image (the part that depicts the copyrighted work) remains copyrighted and cannot be licensed except by the original artist or architect.

So what's a free travel guide to do?

Fortunately, there are a number of solutions.

  1. First, artwork and architecture that is in the Public Domain may be photographed freely, just like a landscape or the night sky. They belong to everyone. Works that are really really old tend to fall into this exception. Sadly, the rules vary from country to country, and they depend on some information that's sometimes hard to determine—like the date of the author's death, and when the work was first published. But as a rule of thumb, if something was created before 1900, you can be fairly certain it's in the public domain.
    • Example: You can do whatever you want with your (daytime) picture of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, because the Eiffel Tower was "published" in 1889 and its design is in the Public Domain. Nighttime pictures, on the other hand, are more problematic because the designer of the Tower's lighting claims a copyright on that design.
  2. Second, copyrighted artwork or architecture can be photographed freely if the work forms only a very small portion of the picture. This is called de minimis, and is a long-standing exception to copyright law.
    • Example: You can freely take a picture of the skyline of Dubai. Even though the tall buildings of Dubai's burgeoning skyline are each copyrighted, if you're taking a picture of the entire skyline, you're okay, because no single building is the subject of your photo. This comes with a caveat, though: you must be careful not to crop this photo to focus on just the Burj Kalifa, because then the de minimis exception no longer applies.
  3. Third, and most confusingly, many countries have provisions in their copyright laws that allow you to freely take photos of copyrighted works in public places. The Germans call this Panoramafreiheit (roughly, freedom of panorama), and it is very valuable to free projects such as ours. Unfortunately, as with Public Domain status, the rules vary from country to country. For example: in Germany, both artwork and architecture is covered by the exception; in the United States, only architecture is covered; and France has no panorama exception. The definition of "public place" also tends to vary from country to country. You may end up having to research the copyright law for the country in which the photo was taken in order to determine if it is okay or not.
    • Example: There are no copyright issues with your (exterior) photo of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, even though architect Frank Gehry retains an active copyright on its design. Conversely, however, you cannot take a free photo of the Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago, because U.S. law allows an exception only for works of architecture, not works of art.

"But wait," you say. "Cloud Gate is an iconic part of Millennium Park in Chicago. It's kind of weird to have a travel guide about Downtown Chicago that doesn't show such a dominant piece of the scenery."

Right you are. And that's why there's a fourth option available:

  • U.S. copyright law contains an exception to copyright for fair use of copyrighted material. This exception means that people can use copyrighted material in a limited way when it's necessary in order to produce their own works. This exception is what allows newspaper editors to print photos of a new building, movie reviewers to quote dialog from a new film, and encyclopedia writers to illustrate an article on Picasso with pictures of his still-copyrighted artwork. Fair use is restricted to a particular context—what's fair use for your encyclopedia might not be fair use for my movie review. As such, Wikimedia Commons does not allow media to be uploaded if it relies on a fair use exception.

And so we come to the meat of this policy.

As per the March 23, 2007 Wikimedia Foundation Licensing policy resolution, all Wikimedia projects are expected to host only content that is available under a Free Content License... except that individual projects may adopt an "Exemption Doctrine Policy" that allows limited use of non-free content. The remainder of this document serves as the Exemption Doctrine Policy for the English Wikivoyage.

Exemption Doctrine Policy[edit]

  1. The only non-free content allowed on the English Wikivoyage is as follows:
    • Brief textual excerpts from copyrighted media for illustrative or informative purposes
    • Photographs of copyrighted artwork and architecture
  2. Photographs of copyrighted artwork and architecture must be otherwise free; contributors may not upload images taken from non-free sources just because they depict copyrighted works that are allowed under this policy. The only non-free component of the photograph must be the copyrighted artwork or architecture in question.
  3. Photographs of copyrighted artwork and architecture must materially contribute to the quality of one or more travel guide articles, as determined by a consensus of editors. Contributors should be prepared to defend the contribution a photograph makes if challenged.
    • One corollary to this rule is that such photographs should be deleted if they are not in use.
    • A second corollary is that such photographs should not be used on pages outside of articlespace. (Limited talk-page use may be allowed for collaboration purposes.)
  4. Photographs of copyrighted artwork (such as maps) should not be uploaded if free images or text can serve the same purpose.
  5. Photographs of copyrighted artwork and architecture cannot be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons; they must be uploaded locally instead.
  6. The image description page for any photograph of copyrighted artwork or architecture must clearly state that the image contains non-free content, through the use of Template:Non-free image. An appropriate free license tag for the remainder of the photograph must also be provided, pursuant to paragraph 2 of this policy. The image description page must also list any articles on which the photograph appears.
    • To the extent practical, image description pages should also contain information on the copyright status of the work in question: creator, copyright holder, date of creation, date of publication, and jurisdiction. That information will allow us to determine when or if the work has entered the Public Domain.