Can I use Wikimedia Commons for my own purposes?

The following question was asked (anonymously in October 2012) on the web site Quora:

Can I use Wikimedia Commons to host images, audio, and video for my blog or business?

How does WC handle external usage of their public resources? If their work is CC licensed, could someone effectively use WC as a free media host?

Excellent question. The Wikimedia community is delighted to have freely licensed, educational material uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, and if it also happens to serve your business interests, so much the better. However, you should make sure you carefully consider the pros and cons before doing so.

In brief, to be stored on Commons, a file needs to be:

  • A media file
  • In one of the free media formats permitted
  • Freely licensed (permitting commercial use and derivative works)
  • Useful for an educational purpose

(source)

Pros:

  • no monetary cost
  • assuming the file is acceptable, it is likely to stay there indefinitely without your intervention
  • others may improve your file in ways you didn’t expect
  • others may use your file in ways you don’t expect (i.e., you can take pride in having given freely to the world at large)

Cons:

  • Wikimedia is under no obligation to keep your file, e.g. if there is disagreement about its educational use
  • others may “improve” your file in ways you didn’t expect
  • others may use your file in ways you didn’t expect

If you’re looking for a solution that is highly predictable, you will want a contractual/business relationship with the host; so a paid service is probably advisable. But if your goals align closely with Wikimedia’s goals, Commons may be an excellent choice, and your uploads will be very welcome. And there’s nothing to prevent you from using multiple hosts for different purposes, or as a backup.

If your organization has a large collection of public domain or freely licensed files it would like to upload to Commons, see theĀ Guide to Content Partnerships.

About Pete Forsyth

Pete Forsyth is the principal of Wiki Strategies, and a Wikipedia expert. Full bio here: wikistrategies.net/pete-forsyth
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