Wikipedia talk:Basic copyright issues

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This page should be reviewed and added to the Wikipedia policy list.  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  02:16, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

Right on. A lot of Fair use Police fail to explain why the remove fair use images other that that is the policy. This could prove vital in avoiding conflict. I plan to link policies to this page. or even change it to Template:Proposed--E-Bod 02:05, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
I'm pretty conservative about fair use but I've never listed anything for deletion if WP:FUC point 10 has been complied with. William Avery 20:50, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

Name change[edit]

I recommend we change the name of this essay in order for it to become more useful. We can't tell users to look at this page if it is called for dummies. While the current name is Very funny and relevant to the essay I would like to link users to this page, however i don't want to call them Dummies. That would be uncivil.--E-Bod 02:08, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

Well I was feeling a bit wimsical at the time, I asume the "... for dummies" series is fairly well known though, but by all means, if anyone can think of a better name go right ahead and rename it. --Sherool (talk) 17:34, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
How about simple copyright explanation or something. Usually the people I would send here already are angry at me. :D - cohesion 07:23, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Certainly the "for Dum..." part should go, it's not our trademark. How about "Image Copyright Issues for Wikipedia Editors"? Ironic for this page to itself be an intellectual property violation. :) Wnight 20:58, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Some thoughts[edit]

This is an excellent essay, but there are some issues I'd like to see addressed. For example, why an article on a famous magazine model cannot include images of any magazines on which she appears, for example. This is a real thorn in my side because in my opinion such images illustrate the professional work of the subject and therefore are free use. And I don't mean just saying "because it's against the law" - why is it against the law? Why is it considered economically harming the copyright holder of the magazine? Something that has annoyed me and nearly made me quit Wikipedia altogether is I kept getting unhelpful replies like "That's just the way it is" or "If you don't like it, write your Congressman" (I'm Canadian so that's useless). I'd like to get some concrete reasoning, not just parroting a law which implies one doesn't understand it. Does that makes sense?

Another area I think could be expanded is the fact that copyright use varies from country to country and something that is public domain in, say, Britain (such as most music recorded before 1956) is not necessarily public domain in the US, where Wikipedia is based, and so on.

Also, since there seems to be a bit of "fear of God" going on regarding copyrighted images, perhaps a statement to the effect that there is no rule saying articles must have images. Just a few thoughts. 23skidoo 21:24, 8 June 2006 (UTC)

23skidoo, if you mean that you wish to debate the issue in a general philosophical way, read about the reasons for the creation of copyright and the supposed gain to society from granting these monopoly rights, and then about the gradual one-sided changes in those rules. Early US copyright was quite short for instance. Slashdot has hosted many discussions of this worth googling for and it's interesting because of the changes (the net, Wikipedia, etc) happening in the intellectual-property world today. Wnight 15:52, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Ownership of Screenshots (and other limited-input works)[edit]

The question has been raised Template_talk:Software-screenshot of the ownership of screenshots. Screenshot means a still "picture" taken, internally via the computer, or with a camera, of what the computer is displaying. The same term applies, though in a narrower scope, to televisions and still pictures of projection movies.

It is generally regarded that a person holds copyright on anything of original content, the instant they render it in a permanent medium. This means that it has to be partly your creation (original content) and in on paper, canvas, file (permanent medium means not thought, etc).

Screenshots are an issue because while the image is created at the direction of the user, who otherwise would clearly own the image rights, the user presumably is making a derivative work (someone else's work is showing, or causing to be showed, the image the user wants to capture) to some degree, which may limit their rights to the image they create.

Currently Wikipedia's policy is to take a conservative view of the likely ownership of screenshots and assume for safety sake that they rest with the developer of the software (and would thus likely be unavailable for free use).


I feel that while a screenshot of a default product screen is devoid of artistic content and thus totally a derivative work, that the balance *very* quickly swings to the other extreme. Very minor changes in menu layout, open files, actions in progress, and your screenshot reflects your use of this product for which implicit rights for public display MUST be available by condition of its general sale without preconditions. For this I offer the simple proof below...
A picture of almost any consumer product would be a copyright violation, at first glance, because it was created by someone else and its design is copyrighted. However a photo of my apartment from certain angles would include 100+ consumer items my sole creative decision in the use of was to purchase and use exactly as directed (dishes in cupboard, microwave on counter) and this photo would indisputably be my creative work, even if everyone admitted it was very uncreative, and I'd fully own *all* rights to the image. I may not (as mentioned on the last thread) own the rights to any specific trademark that may appear in it, but this doesn't reduce my rights over the whole image. The difference between the image of my apartment is that once the focus was no longer any specific appliance and on my collection of them, the work stopped being derivative. (“To steal from one is plagiarism, to steal from many is research.")
If I was playing a game and took a screenshot of the menu, the opening movie, or even which was purely admiring of any piece of the digital landscape, that shot would be a derivative work of the creator as I would not have created the work, merely mechanically translated it from one form (in-game model) to another (JPG or PNG). However, if I arrange many in-game elements in non-standard locations the picture takes on more of a creative aspect. Many games allow for a complex game-state to be created via player feedback, the gamestate is the player's creative work, rendered via the game's viewport in screenshot form.
At some point, as in Machima (movies filmed in game engines) where the movie is an undisputed work of art, the fact that the models were made by the game company is as irrelevant to ownership as is the presence of Michal Moore's jeans (presumably copyright Levi, etc) to the ownership of his documentary films.
Games, tools (word processors, compilers, etc) and other software allows us to express our natural (copyrightable) creativity and I've shown how derivative use is everyday seen as uninfringing use, by people, lawyers, and courts. This isn't new legal ground, game avatars are the new designer clothing, obviously intended to be seen in a medium where people are taking pictures of you. You couldn't presumably keep a straight face while arguing that the designer didn't know the work was going to be photographed or captured in some form. Any designer who doesn't want their work photographed sell/lends it only after the buyer signs an NDA, as happens legally with review sites before release dates. Presumably, anything without an NDA does not come with similar restrictions and there's absolutely no legal way to bind people to restrictions post-sale.
Thus a screenshot of Quake characters in-game is as original-art as children playing with brand-name toys is. It's exactly the use the thing was sold for and yet your usage of it makes it yours, even if the creator could theoretically predict the very creation you've made.
I have been told that I am wrong, and shown others legal opinions, but I feel that this climate of legal fear is harmful to the sharing atmosphere of wikis and I want to get a much more concrete answer before I happily let people be fed the (seemingly untrue) line that they don't own their own creations. Where are the legal decisions that say I/we can't publish a screenshot for editorial use, which would also apply to the NY Times if they had a similar editorial need. Wnight 15:52, 8 January 2007 (UTC)
The game visuals (sprites, textures, models and often also characters and such) are copyrighted by the developer of the game. While it is true that combining these in new creative ways means that you have created a new creative work protected by copyright, you can never claim it to be 100% your work, the owner of the copyrighted material you used still have theyr rights, so you can not grant licenses to use the work unless they have also given permission to do so. It may seem like spiltting hairs when game developers usualy permit all sorts of sprite comics, "fan art" and machinima, and even grant commerical use licenses to some of the more sucessfull artists (like Red vs. Blue), but for all practicaly purposes you may not release modified game visuals under a free license without a permission (preferably in writing) from the game developer to do so. So your average run-of-the-mill modified screenshot should still be tagged as fair use unless some kind of formal agreement with the developer exist or they have given some kind of blanket permission to use screenshots for whatever. --Sherool (talk) 22:39, 8 January 2007 (UTC)
I understand that it's an issue of potential tainting. However, I see similar tainting in other areas, such as photography where concept that the photographer (screen capturer) owns the work despite some fairly large amount of copyrighted or trademarked content. As in my example of owning my vacation photos despite that my clothing is copyrighted and directly visible. Obviously a documentary photograph requires neither the permission of the subject, nor ownership of the rights of everything it displays. Otherwise celebrities would simply wear a copyrighted image and forbid its reproduction, thus rendering themselves immune to photographers. But, as images get published in major newspapers, we can see that this does not actually work this way.
So why is it assumed to work differently with screenshots than photographs. I don't see where copyright law specifies a difference between the two. Can I take a photo of my screen to get around this? What about if I take a picture of the monitor as well and the cluttered desk? "Microsoft Office 2007, as seen on a Viewsonic monitor, Ikea furniture, junk by WNight" Wnight 23:30, 8 January 2007 (UTC)
Well I won't claim aany expertise on the subject but it's basicaly down to how much of the work is visible and what the photo is intended to ilustrate (see Commons:Derivative works). Taking a picture of a guy who happens to wear a t-shirt with a copyrighted design is ok (fall under the Freedom of panorama i believe), while a close up photograph of just the copyrighted design (or cropping away everyting else) would likely be considered a copy of such. It's basicaly all about the intention, if a photo is clearly meant to show a copyrighted work it's a "copy", while if it just happens to be a natural part of a unrelated scene it's not. A bit of a blurry line maybe, but I'd say a picture made up entierly of copyrighted elements would tend to be on the "copy" side of it (unless permission to use those elements have been granted). --Sherool (talk) 08:30, 9 January 2007 (UTC)
Again, I agree that it's based on intent, but I think that it is NOT based on percentage content, in any meaningful way. I offer as example [[1]]. This photo is clearly 100% copyrighted consumer parts, in a copyrighted layout, etc. Yet the ownership of this image clearly rests with the photographer, and ALL image rights may be handed down in a GFDL friendly way, despite the fact that this image is totally uncreative - it's exactly the shot anyone would have taken, of a totally unoriginal subject - it's exactly the same motherboard anyone else could have bought. Yet, even if many people took identical pictures, they'd ALL own all applicable rights on their own photos, despite resemblance to someone else's copyrighted work.
Don't speculate about it, look at the media used every day all around you. Traffic cameras are nothing but 24/7 copyright violation, especially if any of the drivers claimed copyright on their bumper-stickers. CNN uses video of people wearing copyrighted clothing, driving copyrighted cars, etc. shows the commander in chief of the USA in/around copyrighted and trademarked things that I can only assume his staff have not felt the legal need to license the display right of. The reality is that documentary use in the slightest almost immediately trumps "derivative work" in copyright law. We have judges to stop this when I "document" myself watching a movie, but in general as long as your use of copyrighted and trademarked images does not make a profit specifically from the display of these images you're not infringing. I'm sure Ford and GM would greatly prefer to prevent Michael Moore from showing their products, logos, etc. They simply can't.
Indeed, just as a pointer to the general legal climate, [2], in which Sega's copyrighted and trademarked logo was allowed to be displayed by a competitor, as Sega had made it a requirement to program for their console. The courts do not seem willing to let copyright or trademark (the issues we're worried about for screenshots) issues become censorship. But, nobody is saying these trademarks or copyrights are thus somehow broken out of this legal context, just that the legal use is assumed, and paramount.
As such, please, show how screenshots are materially different than photographs, where we are apparently more willing to accept the obvious. Wnight 13:32, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Page move[edit]

I would like to actually start using this page, but the people I would send here are already a little upset, and I would rather not imply that they are dummies. Anyway, if there are no objections in about a week I'd like to move this to "Basic image copyright issues". - cohesion 23:15, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

Sure why not. As I said back in June I'm not married to the "for dummies" name, discussion just kinda seemed to die down. "Basic image copyright issues" sounds ok to me. --Sherool (talk) 05:05, 7 April 2007 (UTC)
Ok, changed. I'm not dead set on this name either, so if someone has a better idea :) - cohesion 06:03, 7 April 2007 (UTC)