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Grants:IdeaLab/Stop allowing anyone to legally re-use profile photos for any purpose

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Stop allowing anyone to legally re-use profile photos for any purpose
Open content licenses are great for illustrative photos, but make no sense for user profile photos
contact emailUser:Pengo
idea creator
project manager
Anito Gouveia
Ladislau Plus
Md.abu nayem
created on03:18, Monday, June 6, 2016 (UTC)

Project idea[edit]

What is the problem you're trying to solve?[edit]

You are free:
* to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work
* to remix – to adapt the work
Why force users to give this permission just to have an image on their user page? Why unnecessarily open users up to harassment?

Currently users and staff who upload their selfies for use on their own user page are forced to also give legal permission for their image to be taken and re-used for purposes they never intended, by any third party, on any site or in any publication. We should encourage users to upload profile photos, but we should not be coercing users to license their image with the same permissive standards required for primary content.

There are probably some Wikipedians who love being anonymous drones, working for the common good, butting heads with practically anonymous IP addresses who pretend to be university professors, or are children, or dogs, or other users who they know nothing about other than their username. Some Wikipedians might love the idea that a profile photo they upload to Wikipedia can legally be used by anyone for any purpose forever, although their purpose was simply to make themselves (and by extension, the social environment) less seemingly anonymous. Some Wikipedians might love the idea of reading through a 7000 word essay on what "limited autobiographical content" is allowed for them to express who they are on their Wikipedia user page. But I'm guessing most probably don't, and that the impossibility of contextualizing who you're trying to work with leads to the sterile, argumentative, male-dominated environment of Wikipedia. And that fixing this would make it a more pleasant environment for everyone.

Is it a goal of the WMF to build a permanent library of photographs of its users and former users that anyone can use for any purpose? If not, stop it. It's weird.

Social sites/networks which do not have expressive user profiles or profile images also tend to be less friendly and more argumentative (e.g. IRC, Wikipedia, Usenet, 4chan). I speculate that there is some causal connection.

Forcing users to license their user profile images with a Creative Commons or similar open content license opens up the possibility of harassment. Please end this restriction.

This proposal is a slightly reworded version of a previous one I submitted to a previous Inspire campaign:

What is your solution?[edit]

Allow user profile images to remain under the copyright of the uploader. No license should be granted for anything beyond the intended use as a profile image on Wikimedia sites. Many Wikipedians and staff have bravely licensed their own photos to be used for anything at all, including commercial usage, opening them up to harassment and other negative uses, as required to upload an image.

But they never should have been made to. An organisation which is so quixotic in its attempts to defend the individual's privacy should not be forcing its users to license their profile photos for any purpose by anyone. It's seriously weird and creepy that this is effectively a requirement, and it is easily fixed.

When or if discussion pages are ever redesigned from the ground up to be mobile friendly, not require bots for signatures and archiving, to not require special work to keep the threads both flowing correctly and readable, to prioritize answers that are seen as useful by the community and bury unhelpful or offtopic threads and responses, to notifying the person being replied-to consistently, allow users to follow a particular thread, to automatically aggregate discussion of a topic category instead of having it split over thousands of talk pages, and to generally not be a hack, perhaps user images could also be incorporated into talk pages as well, like they are in pretty much every other forum system on the Internet in [current year].

Project goals[edit]

  • Uploading a profile image should be as easy as it is on any other normal Internet site where people communicate, such such as Twitter, StackExchange, Steam, Soundcloud, Google+, Ebay, or the Wikimedia Foundation's own Phabricator.
  • Default to a non-free license for such images. It is not the goal of WMF to create a free archive of user images.
  • Allow users to remove or re-license images of themselves which they have previously uploaded. Do not require an administrator or technical knowledge to carry out the action. Automatically suggest this action to users who appear to have uploaded photos of Wikipedians under the CC license where it is not an image used on a content page. Make it the policy of Commons to honour such requests and apologize for not previously having the option. Do not egregiously state that "Commons is under no obligation to honor uploader's requests", and don't require a "public review process" to remove or re-license such images.
  • Associate profile images with user names throughout the site (like every other modern website does)
  • Reduce and simplify the restrictions on what content is allowed on user pages (throughout Wikimedia's sites).
  • Do not require the content of user pages to be licensed as creative commons (Are we creating an archive of free-content user pages? No.)
  • After fixing the broken communication system that is "talk pages", include user icons on those.
For illustration, here is the preserved orange roughy I have on my user page instead of a profile image because Wikipedia does not let me share my photo without opening me up to potential harassment through legal re-use of my image by anyone for any purpose. Why does WMF do this to its users?
  • Make Wikipedia less weird. It's seriously weird. I've been using this site for 12 years. I've uploaded around 200 images, including a couple which have been "Image of the day" on en.wikipedia.org, but I've never uploaded any of myself because my photo is not "free culture" for others to reuse and remix. And requiring it to be is just weird. Really weird. I have a photo of an ugly preserved fish on my user page instead because that photo is less weird than the licensing requirements I would have to agree to for a photo of myself. Seriously it's really really weird. Next time you do one of these surveys to find out how much more women hate editing Wikipedia this year than they did last year, ask if you can take their photo and allow anyone to use it for any purpose forever, including commercially, or if they think that's weird and inappropriate and potentially opens them up to harassment. I can tell you the answer. They're not going to say "Oh, that's ok, I'm sure the image will be partially protected by personality rights laws in some countries I visit." No, they'll say it's weird. Doesn't anyone employed by WMF find it weird that their photo is CC licensed for anyone to use, for any purpose, forever? Am I really the only one that finds this weird? It's weird. Stop being weird.
  • Can we at least get a statement from WMF about this issue?

Get involved[edit]



  • The previous version of this idea got a large number of endorsements, see: Encourage profile photos. I have no expectation that anything will come of this, but I'm putting it out there again anyway.
  • I have acknowledged my real-life identity on my user page (on en.wp) but I'm not sure of the implications if I place my own image in the public domain. I'd rather retain some control - as I do in many other spheres. Soupvector (talk) 04:57, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Makes sense! Heikohaller (talk) 09:13, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Good idea. Would add that a solution could be to use images from Gravatar, or a Gravatar-like service, and perhaps expand the user into an internet-wide presence. — Jeblad 11:01, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Yes. I have many images of me that have been freely licensed, but I'm a grizzled old bloke. I can understand why women would think twice before doing this. WereSpielChequers (talk) 12:35, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
    Probably best not to store these images on commons as the culture and expectation there is that those images can be freely reused. I suggest store local or meta.— The preceding unsigned comment was added by WereSpielChequers (talk) 12:35, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
  • I agree with the argument; users should be able to upload a non-free profile picture. I don't think it would prevent harassers from downloading and modifying said pictures, but at least it would not be legal. Rachel Helps (BYU) (talk) 14:54, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
  • yes, we have had incidents of outing using commons images of editors. we need an improved system to enforce personality rights, a warning tag is not enough. need to integrate google image / tiny eye reports, and takedown process. i like the fair use idea, but the "non-free mafia" will veto. and people will rip regardless of license. Slowking4 (talk) 22:27, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
  • it just makes sense Imtiaz Rahi (talk) 11:13, 9 June 2016 (UTC)
  • I agree, if a person "Swipes" a photo from another e-bay user they get banned.
If someone asks and permission is granted, then it should designate the original artist and give credit where credit is due.
Google has the ability to search for similar pic's maybe a auto check process could ensure a person has more control over images they created. Hat6000 (talk) 01:10, 11 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Practical and reasonable. This doesn't address the overall harassment problem but should remove a few specific but serious associated issues. It's also clear and relatively straightforward to implement. This is a "why didn't we think of this earlier?" idea. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:43, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Yes, unfortunately anonymity gives bullies self-vindication.
    Excellent idea to preserve Vikimedia and Wikipedia from that.
    Jair Moreno (talk) 05:13, 13 June 2016 (UTC)

  • I don't know why I am looking at IdeaLab, if this is not common sense then I don't have hope for anything here. It's one thing for things to be stolen in the night, but this is like a world where they are left out on the porch with a banner saying 'Free stuff'. It doesn't make sense for your own image of your own face on your own page to deliberately lack even basic protection. Prem-aka-Prince (talk) 20:57, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Agreed. As user pages are not part of the encyclopedia. If someone uses the articles, or they print it out, they are not going to need to print out user pages. I do use my image on wikipedia, but had to give this permission and as you say, it is weird to have to do that. I suggest one way to implement it is just to add a new criterion to the "non free use rationale template" of "user avatar" and the images are hosted on the individual project as is already the case for other non free images there. For more on this, see Special criterion of "avatar image" for non free use images on the discussion page.
    — The preceding unsigned comment was added by Robertinventor (talk) 04:51, 15 June 2016 (UTC)
    >user pages are not part of the encyclopedia
    They are though. Continue reading...
    6birc (talk) 01:50, 16 June 2016 (UTC) to Robertinventor
Answered there, good points thanks, added idea of a special case, and a display setting to choose whether or not to show user's avatar images - then data dumps can have that switched off. Robert Walker (talk) 03:29, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
  • In favor. (As someone said above, probably needs not to be stored in Commons.) StevenJ81 (talk) 20:00, 20 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Support. Enough with the free content absolutism and the knee-jerk response from a certain class of editor against anything that seems to resemble social media. There is absolutely no reason not to do this beyond IDONTLIKEIT. Avatars won't prevent the free distribution of the encyclopedia, they can simply be stripped out with a line of code when necessary. If we want humans to edit the encyclopedia we need an encyclopedia that addresses normal human expectations and behavior. Gamaliel (talk) 01:53, 21 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Assuming Wikipedia wants to encourage people to post pictures of themselves on their user page this is a good idea in that it gives them a fig leaf of legal protection and control over the use/adaptation of their likeness. That said why on earth would someone who is worried about potential online harassment post a picture of themself?!?

    A reasonable arguement could be made that giving this extra protection to userpage pictures of editors Wikimedia would be encouraging people to post pictures of themselves. While having a more restrictive copyright gives a fig leaf of legal protection by the time any harassment situation involving the misuse of the image got to the point where copyright becomes an issue the damage is already done. So maybe we do not want to do anything to ecourage people to put pictures of themselves out there - why open the door to more harassment possibilities?. JbhTalk 15:11, 2 July 2016 (UTC)

  • Getting to know people personally (by picture) is very important to get a connection with them. C-Kobold (talk) 02:00, 25 June 2019 (UTC)

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