Lockwiki:Non free content

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Lockwiki:Non Free Content

On Lockwiki, our goal is to be a free content encyclopedia, with free content defined as any content granting the right to redistribute, study, modify and improve, and otherwise use the works for any purpose in any medium, even commercially. But, because free as in cost and free as in freedom are two entirely different things, images freely available on the internet may still be inappropriate for Lockwiki. Any content which does not satisfy any of the criteria, such as "non-commercial use" only images, images with permission for use on Lockwiki only, or images that are fully copyrighted are classified as non-free.

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

Policy and criteria for non-free content


  • To support Lockwiki'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 quality encyclopedia.


There is no automatic entitlement to use non-free content in an article. Articles may in accordance with the guideline use brief verbatim textual excerpts from copyrighted media, properly attributed or cited to its original source or author. 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 Lockwiki 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 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 Lockwiki.
  4. Content. Non-free content meets general Lockwiki content standards and is encyclopedic.
  5. Media-specific policy. The material meets Lockwiki's media-specific policy.
  6. One-article minimum. Non-free content is used in at least one article.
  7. 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.
    2. A copyright tag that indicates which Lockwiki policy provision is claimed to permit the use.
    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 fair-use rationale for each use of the item. 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 used in no article (criterion 7) may be deleted seven days after notification.

Guideline examples

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 Lockwiki talk:Non_free_content. Lockwiki:Copyrights and Lockwiki talk:Copyrights may also be useful. These are places where those who understand copyright law and Lockwiki policy are likely to be watching.

Acceptable use


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. 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

  1. 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 Lockwiki, providing they meet both the legal criteria for fair use, and Lockwiki's own guidelines for non-free content. Copyrighted images that reasonably can be replaced by free/libre images are not suitable for Lockwiki.

  1. Cover/box art: Cover/box 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.
  3. Other promotional material: Posters, programs, billboards, ads. For critical commentary.
  4. Film and television screen shots: For critical commentary and discussion of the cinema and television.
  5. Screenshots from software products: For critical commentary.
  6. Images with iconic status or historical importance: As subjects of commentary.

Unacceptable use


  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 Lockwiki articles, and should be avoided in such files, because the resulting audio file cannot be licensed under the CC-BY-SA-3.0.


  1. Excessive quantities of short audio clips in a single article. A smaller 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, navigational, and user-interface elements generally fails the test for significance.


  1. An box cover as part of a product, as per the above.
  2. A lock, cropped from a box cover, to illustrate an article on locks.
  3. 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)
  4. A photo from a press agency (e.g. Associated Press), unless the photo itself is the subject of sourced commentary in the article. This applies mostly to contemporary press photos and not necessarily to historical archives of press photos.
  5. A magazine or book cover, to illustrate the article on the person or lock 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.
  6. 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.
  7. A chart or graph. These can almost always be recreated from the original data.
  8. A commercial photograph reproduced in high enough resolution to potentially undermine the ability of the copyright holder to profit from the work.
  9. Unacceptable use images of living people. 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.

Non-free image use in list articles

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 group shot, 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 tool 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 the internals of an assembled lock look like, 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 Lockwiki, either referring to its other use or, more preferably, repeating its use on the list are strongly preferred over 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. 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.
In general, using zero, one, or two images of major elements is likely acceptable, while using more than five is likely unacceptable. Editors must also recall that every image must satisfy all of the non-free content criteria and no images that fail any of these criteria should be used.

Non-free image use in galleries

The use of non-free images arranged in a gallery 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.

Implementation and enforcement

Non-free images need a copyright tag, source information, and use rationales. Be sure to describe the source from which the image was obtained. A separate use rationale must be written each time the image is used 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.

Explanation of policy and guidelines


"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. This has been explicitly declared since June 2009. The stated mission of Lockwiki is "to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally." These concerns are embodied in the above requirements that all non-free content must meet, and our policy of deleting non-compliant content. 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.

Lockwiki 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 Lockwiki. 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, Lockwiki accepts incoming copyright licenses only if they meet Lockwiki'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 Lockwiki 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, Lockwiki imposes higher fair-use standards on itself than US copyright law. There are some works, such as important photographs, significant modern locking mechanisms, 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 Lockwiki 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

In general

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. Unless a thorough search is conducted to determine that a copyright has expired or not been renewed, it should be regarded as copyrighted.

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.

Any materials that were published in other nations, and which are copyrighted under the laws of that nation, should be considered to be copyrighted in the United States under the URAA.

Applied to Lockwiki

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

Uploading an image file, audio or video file, or text quotation into Lockwiki, and adding that file to a 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 CC-BY-SA-3.0 license. See Requesting Copyright Permission for a sample form letter.

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

If a work is not free, Lockwiki requires that it comply with Lockwiki'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 Lockwiki policy, editors should consider the legal rules as well. See 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. Lockwiki 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