[Wikipedia-l] Proposal: commons.wikimedia.org

Erik Moeller erik_moeller at gmx.de
Fri Mar 19 02:26:34 UTC 2004

I propose that the current Project Sourceberg is integrated into a larger  
"Wikimedia Commons".

Said "Wikimedia Commons" should reside at commons.wikimedia.org and be a  
repository for
- images
- public domain texts
- otherwise freely licensed documents
- music, artistic works (but see below)

All material in the commons would have to be licensed under one of several  
licenses, not necessarily the FDL, but all allowing at the very least free  
distribution and commercial use. For texts, modification rights would also  
be a requirement. There would be NO fair use material on  

Material would be eligible for inclusion in the Commons if it is useful to  
at least ONE Wikimedia project. This includes plausible *future*  

The Commons Community would apply commons sense .. excuse me, common  
sense, to determine which files are eligible for inclusion, i.e. if a band  
is notable enough to have an article in Wikipedia, and their MP3s are  
freely licensed, they can be deposited; if a file is highly referenced  
from the outside and causes unbearable bandwith costs, it can be removed.  
The larger and more popular a file, the more pressing needs to be its  
rationale for inclusion.

I propose that we shall build an interface between the files residing in  
the Wikimedia Commons, and other Wikipedia projects, so that it will be  
possible to easily reference a file in the commons, like so:

[[Image:co:Airplane.jpg|200 px|A very nice airplane]]

This would not create a copy of the file or auto-generated thumbnails on  
the local server (e.g. en:). However, [[Image:Airplane.jpg]] could be used  
to describe the file in the local language and context (we should probably  
rename the Image: namespace to File: in the long term, because it is also  
used for other description pages.)

All new uploads would automatically go to the commons unless the uploader  
explicitly chooses not to send them there (e.g. for material which is  
clearly only relevant to one project, only allowed under certain  
jurisdictions ..).

The commons wiki itself should of course be multilingual as Project  
Sourceberg and Meta are. There are some features which we should enter  
into our software development roadmap to facilitate the transition to  
using the commons:
- user interface languages can be set in the preferences
- automatic import of source information from the commons to the  
description page of the local wiki
- better interlanguage handling in a single wiki installation
- friendly user interfaces for multi file uploading, automatic addition of  
uploaded files to a category etc. - things that make life easier for  
people not familiar with Wikipedia
- automatic gallery generation for multiple images of one category

What are the advantages of this system?

- Central place to resolve licensing issues
- Less time wasted on locating relevant files
- Less time wasted on re-uploading files
- A place for things like image galleries that go beyond the needs of a  
single article (e.g. 10 different pictures of the same airplane)
- We can actively solicit contributions specifically to the commons from  
people who are not interested in contributing on a regular basis
- We can provide the largest such respoitory of freely licensed material,  
with a quality control mechanism that other such projects lack (the  
- We further establish our name beyond being merely the largest, greatest   
encyclopedia ever
- We benefit from the positive connotations of the term "commons" and  
appeal more directly to altruism, which will be beneficial when we ask for  
- We create a very real consciousness for the copyleft idea which so far  
is missing especially for images, where many people simply upload whatever  
they find on the net.
- We can use this platform to become more politically relevant in the  
ongoing discourses about copyright law.

What are the downsides?

- The user interface is likely to be a bit clunky at first. We can fix  
- This project can exceed Wikipedia in costs if it is successful. I  
believe prominent fundraisers will cover us, if not, we can fix this by  
limiting the scope of the commons.
- People will upload all sorts of things which we don't want. We can fix  
that the same way we deal with Wikipedia articles we don't want.
- Changes to the software will be very specific to our needs, other  
MediaWiki sites will probably be unable to interface directly with the  
commons. Maybe we can authorize other projects on an individual basis to  
interface with us.

I believe that we should not work on a temporary fix to the licensing  
(tagging) problem, but address this issue in one fell swoop instead. More  
generally, if we want to do this, I would suggest for Jimbo to authorize  
me to set up a roadmap on Meta for the implementation. That roadmap would  
also be a place for volunteers to list themselves for specific tasks that  
need to be completed. This will have to be a community effort among  
developers, sourcebergers, wikibookers, wikipedians etc.

I believe we can launch the Wikimedia Commons within about 3 months, maybe  
less, if we work together. Let me know your thoughts and possible  
improvements to this concept.

Please help to get the word out about this proposal by forwarding this  
message to the other project mailing lists, translating it, summarizing it  
etc. As this concerns a way to share relevant data among *all* projects, I  
believe every Wikimedia user should know about this and participate in the  
planning phase.

I suggest that the initial discussion (do we want to do this?) take place  
on wikipedia-l (we have no Wikimedia list yet, sadly), and that the  
implementation discussion, if any, take place on meta.wikipedia.org.

All best,


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