Wikisource:Copyright policy

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The copyright laws applicable to Wikisource are primarily those of the United States of America, where the physical Wikimedia servers are located. The United States is not obliged to extend copyright beyond what it would be in the author's own country, and virtually all countries have copyrights that last for the author's life plus some number of years.

Contributors' rights and obligations


All works on Wikisource must be in the public domain or released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). Additionally, copyrightable contributions by the editor (as opposed to imported text or transcribed page scans) must be dual-licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). It is the responsibility of the contributor to assert compatibility with Wikisource's license. Failure to do so may result in the deletion of the text and potential banning of the user if they persist in violating this. A template should be used on the source material page to indicate the license that the source material is posted under.

Most recent written works are subject to copyright. Works under copyright may be incompatible with Wikisource's copyleft license. Someone owns them unless they have been explicitly placed in the public domain. Works on the Internet need to be licensed directly from the copyright holder or someone able to license on their behalf.

Original works or translations


Original works or translations placed on Wikisource are thereby licensed under the CC-BY-SA license (unless they are in the public domain). The copyright holder retains copyright, and can later republish and relicense the works in any way they like. However, the work will be released under the CC-BY-SA forever. Works may, at the copyright holder's discretion, be licensed with less restrictive terms than those of the CC-BY-SA, such as placing the contributions in the public domain or removing the requirement for the same license to be attached to derivative works (removing the "SA", thus "CC-BY").

Translations or recordings of a source work


Translations or recordings of a source work are considered derivative works of that source material. The contributor thereby warrants that the source material is either public domain in the United States, or that they have permission from the copyright holder to create the derivative work and license it under the CC-BY-SA.

Works that are in the public domain in the US only


The United States does not generally recognize any copyright on works published prior to 1 January 1929, regardless of where they were published or when the author died (the author might even still be alive). Many countries, including all countries of the European Union apply a copyright term of 70 years from the death of the author ("70 pma"). As of 2024, only authors who died before 1954 would be in the public domain in such countries. This can frequently result in works being still in copyright in the country of first publication but in the public domain in the United States. Due to the Wikimedia Foundation's Resolution:Licensing policy and corresponding subdomain applications thereof, such works may be ineligible for posting on the appropriate language subdomain. Such works may be published here if it can clearly be shown that they are in the public domain under US law and should be labeled with {{PD-US-1923-abroad}} or one of its language specific variants. Such works must not be moved to the corresponding language subdomain. There are a few very narrow exceptions to this rule and such matters should be discussed so that editors familiar with the details of the application of US copyright law and the Berne Convention can comment.

Likewise, the United States does not recognize any copyright on edicts of government even if they are still copyright-restricted in their source countries. If ineligible for posting on the appropriate language subdomain, such works may be published here and labeled with {{PD-EdictGov}}.

Linking to copyrighted works


Linking to copyrighted works is usually not a problem, as long as you have made a reasonable effort to determine that the page in question is not violating someone else's copyright. If it is, please do not link to the page.

Prohibited licenses


The GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) was formerly standard on Wikimedia Foundation Projects but is no longer allowed as the sole license. Contributors of original content must release it under dual-license (CC-BY-SA-3.0 and GFDL); however, imported works, like most of the works on main namespace content on Wikisource, need only be available under the CC-BY-SA-3.0 license. For more information see Foundation Terms of Use.

Fair use


"Fair use", also known as "fair dealing", is the concept that unlicensed copyrighted work can be legally used without paying licensing fees or receiving permission of the copyright holder (see Wikipedia's article on fair use). Fair use is explicitly prohibited on Wikisource.

As described by the Amount and substantiality clause, reproducing whole works is not fair use. See the legal precedent set in Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises (1985); as stated by Wikipedia's article on the subject, the US Supreme Court "determined that fair use is not a defense to the appropriation of work by a famous political figure simply because of the public interest in learning of that political figure's account of an historic event." Further, "the use of less than 400 words from President Ford's memoir by a political opinion magazine was interpreted as infringement because those few words represented "the heart of the book" and were, as such, substantial."

Non-commercial licenses


Although Wikisource itself does not make commercial use of works, its license does allow redistributors to make such commercial use. Therefore, works with non-commercial licenses are prohibited from Wikisource.

Such licenses are prohibited by decision of the President of the Wikimedia Foundation, as indicated by the 2004 message by Jimbo Wales entitled "WikiEN-l, Use of noncommercial-only images". In 2006, Jimbo Wales explicitly confirmed in #wikimedia that this decision applied to Wikisource, declaring that "Noncomercial-only licenses are basically the same thing as torturing kittens." Angela, board member, has also explicitly stated noncommercial licenses are unacceptable; see "Foundation-l, Juriwiki-l, Re: Copyright complaints".



You can copy public domain material without additional restrictions. All documents on Wikisource should be public domain unless otherwise indicated. Wikisource's license allows free use, modification, and redistribution (commercial or otherwise). Some texts are hosted on Wikisource using particular licenses, which should be respected.


If you find an article that infringes a copyright, you may request that the page be removed from Wikisource by posting at Wikisource:Possible copyright violations. Alternately, you may contact the Wikimedia Foundation's designated agent and request its removal. The page will be immediately blanked with a copyright violation notice until the issue is resolved. You should provide some evidence to support your claim of ownership. One possible piece of information you can provide is a URL or other reference to what you believe may be the source of the text.

Contributors which deliberately and repeatedly add copyrighted texts after being notified of this policy may be blocked from editing the project.

See also


Some elder remarks to the copyright of public speeches and "shorter term" see: