It’s easy to forget just how old Wikipedia is, compared to many of the free culture organizations on the Web. One looming example of this has always been our use of the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL).
Founded before Creative Commons, the GFDL was the only copyleft license that even came close to making our work free for others in a way that fit our mission.

But it’s never been a perfect fit. Far from it, in fact.

Clauses such as the invariant sections rule and the burden of printing both the full text of the license and a list of authors have seriously handicapped past efforts to republish works of Wikimedia projects. The GFDL is not really to be faulted for this, since it’s written with software documentation in mind, not an encyclopedia with thousands of authors.

But there’s a solution on the horizon. With the advent of Version 1.3 of the GFDL, we can now legally transition to the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. But the choice to move to Creative Commons rests not with our non-profit, the Wikimedia Foundation. It rests with the people who have licensed their contributions: namely, you. If you’ve got more than 25 edits to a Wikimedia project before the 15th of March, please make your voice heard by voting!

More information:

(Previously, this was a comment to the “3 million free images…” post, but is promoted to a topic by request.)

Currently, there are 186 Oregon-related image requests.  If that seems too daunting, consider looking at the regionally requested photos, which appear (on the same page) under WikiProject Oregon image requests.  There are 21 subcategories:  one for every region of the state.  If you know you’ll be traveling to an area, be sure to print out that region before going—and take along with your camera.

Uploading a photo to Wikipedia has become much easier over the years.  If you took the photo and it belongs to you, there is an option on the upload page which greatly simplifies things:  (You might have to create an account or log in first.)  Just click on It is entirely my own work.

If you experimented, you might have noticed that link isn’t on Wikipedia!  Commons is a repository shared by the various language Wikipedias, Wikisource, Wikibooks, Wiktionary, Wikitravel, etc.  If you’re uploading an ordinary photo, “fair use” doesn’t apply, so it is of greatest use to upload to commons where, for example, the Russian version of Mount St. Helens can directly use your photo.

There are eleven entry boxes but most of these are trivial.  The “local filename” is the name of the file on your computer which you can navigate to by using the “Browse…” button (so no typing is required).  When done, the “destination filename” is automatically given the same name. If your photo is well named, there is no need to change the destination name.  However, if your photo is named PICT000020.JPG, please give it a more descriptive name, like Mount Jefferson in Central Oregon as seen from Olallie Butte in winter.jpg—if that’s what the photo is.

The next two boxes—”Original source” and “Author”—are already filled in with “Own work by uploader” and your login name:  change them if needed.

“Date of work” is when the photo was taken.  If you don’t know, leave it blank, or put an approximate date like “January 2008”.  Modern digital cameras embed the date into the image—assuming the camera was given the date at some point—so you can see it after uploading.  That is, after uploading the photo, the website displays internal details the camera placed into the photo, like the camera manufacturer and model, exposure data, timestamp, flash and focal length, etc.  For an example, see this photo of the Tillamook Creamery interior.  Near the page’s bottom, click on show extended details and you’ll see all the information my mid-to-low cost camera added.  After uploading, you can edit the page and correct the date.

By far, the second-most important data (after the image) is the “Description”.  Give as much detail as you can stand:  this text helps people looking for photos find yours.  Reflecting Wikimedia’s worldwide support, the description can be in like 150 languages—though one is good enough.  Other people may translate it, so don’t assume much of the reader:  give thorough details and full context.  Linking to Wikipedia articles is useful, but the format is a little strange.  To link to the English Wikipedia, use the form [[w:article name]].  The w: prefix is an “interwiki shortcut”.  (I’d describe the hard way too, but I don’t know it and couldn’t find it.)

“Other versions”, “permission”, and “additional info” can be left blank.

You must choose a “licensing” option.  I find the “Multi-license with CC-BY-SA-3.0 and GDFL (recommended)” to be a good choice.  It means the photo is permitted to be used for any purpose, but attribution is required.  There’s a question mark to click on if you want to know more:  It’s possible to find your way to the legal documents associated with the various licenses.

“Categories” are extremely helpful for your photo to be found, but somewhat difficult to understand.  In the old days, I found this to be the most difficult bit of information to enter.  The new-fangled method is very helpful:  Click on the + and type the first few characters of the general topic, whether it be aircraft, coast, skyscrapers, place name, or what have you.  Then look through the automagically appearing list for a reasonably specific item.  If you have a photo of a ship in downtown Portland, at least two categories apply: “Portland, Oregon”, and “Ships by Country”.  Enter the first, click on the check mark, then click on the plus sign.  Try not to leave “categories” blank:  many editors consider it mandatory and might spend time figuring some out and adding them to your photo.

Finally, press “Upload file”.  In a few seconds, the completed page will show how you did.  :-).  Correct any mistakes by clicking on “edit”, just like on Wikipedia.

To make your photo appear in an article, add [[image:whatever it is named | thumb | caption text]] somewhere and press “show preview” to see how it looks.  Adding the first photo to an article is easy (put it at the top), but if there are several photos, tables, infoboxen, etc., it can become challenging to make it look okay.  Experiment with several placements.  If you can’t figure it out, go ahead and leave it, and someone else will fix it.

Last Thursday, as you may have heard, the Oregon Legislative Counsel Committee (LCC) held a public hearing on its policy of claiming and enforcing copyright over much of the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS).

The LCC had claimed the copyright since its inception in 1953. But those who testified—including a strong contingent from the Oregon wiki community—brought a familiarity with case law on similar issues, and modern Internet usage, that proved convincing; at the end of the hearing, members of the LCC voted unanimously to stop claiming copyright over any portion of ORS, and also showed some interest in pursuing more specific legislation in the future.


Last week, Pete showed us How to publish a photo on Wikipedia. Here’s another easy and important thing you can do: Release your Flickr photos under a Creative Commons license that allows derivative works and commercial use. Flickr enables users to share their work with others by publishing images under a Creative Commons license. Many people choose a CC license that prohibits commercial use, thinking that they don’t want their beautiful photos of Mount Hood to show up on a postcard or in a Mazda commercial. What they don’t realize is that they are also preventing their work from showing up on Wikipedia.

When Wikiproject Oregon editors want to add an image to the article, they frequently go rummaging through the wonderful world of Flickr looking for Creative Commons photos. Nothing beats stumbling across a photostream — like Marc Shandro, eyeliam, mulmatsherm, pfly, or atul666 — full of commons-licensed Oregon photos. We need more of these! If you don’t want pictures of your kids showing up on in travel brochures, you can always choose to license some of your photos under a CC-BY-SA or CC-BY license, while reserving additional rights on more personal and private photos. Flickr’s organizer tool makes it easy to apply licenses to large batches of photos at a time. Make sure you tag and caption your photos well so that editors can find them easily for Wikipedia, identifying location, geographic features, buildings, notable people, and plant and animal species if possible.

Here’s another thing we should do. Let’s start a photo pool called “Oregon Commons.” Flickr already has many great pools like Oregon and Northwest Outdoors, featuring the best Oregon images. Unfortunately, the Flickr search engine doesn’t provide an easy way to search within those pools for Creative Commons-licensed images. What we need is a pool for the best Oregon photos released under CC-BY and CC-BY-SA licenses. We could send notices to the members of those other pools inviting them to join our pool and teaching them how to license images so that they can be used on Wikipedia. And over time we’ll build up a useful resource. Who wants to take the lead?

UPDATE: More instructions in the comments below. In Flickr’s terminology, the CC-BY license is “Attribution Creative Commons” and CC-BY-SA is “Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons.” These are the only two licenses compatible with Wikipedia.

Interesting blog post about licensing photos possible violations.