Wikibooks:Fair use policy

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Wikibooks:Media which includes a section on fair use was made policy on April 2, 2008.


This policy covers the definition of fair use materials and when they may be acceptable. In a nutshell, fair use (or "fair dealing") is a provision in the United States and some other countries that allows limited use of copyrighted media without explicit permission from the copyright holder. You must use a free alternative if one is available, or if one could be created. In general, you should use as little fair use material as is necessary.

What is Fair Use

Generally the term fair use applies to personal use of copyrighted material. One common example of fair use is to be able to copy music on a vinyl album or compact disc onto your home computer or portable MP3 player. This still doesn't give you permission to share these computer files with your friends, however.

Instructors are also given special permission to copy some materials in limited quantities for direct instructional purposes. This is known as educational fair use and should not be an excuse for material used on Wikibooks.

Problems with Fair use

You should avoid using fair use materials.

Fair use law is exclusive to United States and countries with similar law systems. In most of the European countries, works that fall into fair use in the US cannot be used at all, or the number of conditions when fair use applies is substantially smaller. This is sometimes called fair dealing where scholarly use of copyrighted material may be used in limited situations. When you use fair use images in your book, many people from other countries won't be able to print it. Most of the purposes listed below as acceptable according to the Wikibooks narrower standard may be accepted in many more countries than solely the U.S., but you should still be aware of further restrictions. Get to know the laws governing fair use or fair dealing within your country if you use content like this or try to reproduce Wikibooks content in general.

Alternatives to Fair Use

A good and growing collection of free content media is available at Wikimedia Commons — the common repository of free media for all Wikimedia Projects — and, when available, using it should be the standard procedure. Wikimedia Commons does not permit fair use images within their collection.

Another alternative is to make your own image. You must, however, ensure that your image isn't too similar to another, copyrighted image or it could be considered a derivative work and hence non-free.

Most sites on the Internet do NOT list their images or text under a free license. This includes the majority of photo galleries, company websites, and other sources of images. Do not assume that an image you find online is free to use.

What is Permitted on Wikibooks

Fair Use Materials Need Rationales

In order to upload fair use material, specific rationale must be provided as to why fair use media is necessary, and how there are no free alternatives. Images or other media that do not have such rationale will likely be deleted as a copyright violation. If the information of a fair use media component could be duplicated by a free alternative, that media may not be uploaded.

Below are some examples of acceptable fair use media. These lists are nearly complete. Possible additions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Fair Use Text

Permitted Fair Use on Wikibooks for Text:

  • Textual Excerpts
    Very short excerpts from a much larger work, usually just a few words or a single sentence or two. Scholarly citations of the source of that text are especially encouraged.

Fair Use Images

Permitted Fair Use on Wikibooks for Images:

  • Coats of Arms, Flags, Seals, etc. of administrative entities, political authorities and institutions
    These items are often protected by crown copyright or other similar legal protections, where copyright does not expire. As with company logos, it should be in some text that is specifically about the entity represented by the seal, or the seal itself. While this may seem like a violation of NPOV guidelines, you should be respectful when dealing with official symbols of various governments and not desecrate these symbols or use them in irreverent manners. Violating this standard is not only unethical, but can get you arrested even by countries other than the ones which these official symbols represent.
  • Coins, Banknotes, Stamps
    These images should also be resized, partially covered, or otherwise changed to avoid counterfeiting laws. Adding text over the top of the image like Sample or Copy may be useful, or if you are pointing out features of the money, using arrows within the image that would otherwise ruin its value as legal tender may also be acceptable. Displaying stamps is often done by graphically "cancelling" the image with usually a solid black line across the denomination value of the stamp or some other simple mark that still leaves most of the image available for viewing.
  • Company Logos and trademarks
    Logos are permissible only for modules that are specifically about the company or product whose trademark is being used. Under no condition should endorsement be implied by the use of the logo, which would be an inappropriate use. A formal disclaimer is suggested within the text (perhaps as a footnote) to acknowledge the appropriate owner of the trademark.
  • Software Screenshots
    It is important that the screen capture is there to illustrate a specific point you are trying to make within the text you are writing. You might also consider reducing the resolution of the screenshot to something significantly less than than would be found on the computer screen (10% of the original pixel size or even considerably less), unless the licensor of the software explicitly permits the use of screenshots. Rather than a full screen capture, you may even want to only display a small portion of the screen instead. Using these screen shots should not be done for decorative purposes simply to have some graphical elements in the content of the Wikibook.
    As an alternative, consider taking a screenshot of a free alternative to the proprietary software.

If you are unsure about fair use, or want to upload fair use media that is not expressly described in this document, ask about it at Staff lounge.

What is not accepted on Wikibooks

  • Large amount of text copied from other websites.
  • Fair use images used for decorative purpose.
  • Parody applications of fair use. While funny and considered legal, fiction is not appropriate for Wikibooks, as defined in Wikibooks:What is Wikibooks. You may instead want to consider the Uncyclopedia for content like this.

External References about Fair Use