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Wikimedia Commons

WikimediaCommons: Introduction


This Manual is designed to provide the essential information for people interested in contributing their own work to Wikimedia Commons.

What is Wikimedia Commons?

 Wikimedia Commons ( http://commons.wikimedia.org/ ) is a website managed by the Wikimedia Foundation ( http://wikimediafoundation.org/ ), a non-for-profit organisation that also manages Wikipedia. It is a database of media files available for anyone to use for any purpose. It's an open website that any can contribute to, which uses wiki software that allows for easy collaboration.

The site is managed entirely by volunteer editors, who also create the majority of its content by contributing their own work. The community is multilingual, with translators available for dozens of languages. It only collects material that is available under free content licenses or in the public domain. It was founded in September 2004, and as of July 2008 contains nearly three million media files.

Why is it special?

These are some qualities that make Wikimedia Commons unique:

  • All content is available under free content licenses that allow commercial use and derivative works.

  • Utility: Wikimedia Commons concentrates on files that will be useful. That means no blurry photos of someones shoes.

  • The community concentrates on providing detailed annotations of media files, with information as precise as exact geographic coordinates available. Our nature files often have precise location and species information available which is invaluable for scientific purposes.

  • The multilingual community makes it easier than ever for people all over the world to find relevant media described in their native language.

  • Extensive collections of high quality vector graphics such as flags, maps and diagrams. Vector graphics are suitable for printing at any size, unlike bitmap images which look fuzzy at high resolution.

  • We invite everyone to help us make the most extensive free content media collection in the world. Individuals can contribute directly to the free culture mission by uploading their work at Wikimedia Commons.

What is free content?

The Definition of Free Cultural Works ( http://freedomdefined.org/Definition ) recognises the following essential freedoms that any license must allow for a work to be considered “free content”:

  • to use and perform the work for any use, without exception

  • to study the work and apply the information

  • to redistribute copies to anyone, anywhere, for any price

  • to distribute derivative (modified) works.


There are only three restrictions that are considered permissible:

  • Attribution of authors

  • Transmission of freedoms (“copyleft” or “share-alike” clause)

  • Protection of freedoms (e.g. access to source code may be required when redistributing the work).

Which licenses are free?

Works that are in the public domain, due to the expiration of copyright or the author choosing to relinquish it, are free cultural works, although “public domain” is not technically a license. (A license can only be used where copyright still exists. 'Public domain' is the absence of copyrights.)

Common licenses that people choose to use to make their works free content are the GNU Free Documentation License (“GFDL”), published by the Free Software Foundation, and the Attribution license (“CC-BY”) and Attribution ShareAlike license (“CC-BY-SA”) both published by Creative Commons.

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