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When non-free media files (images, videos, and audio clips) are used on Wikipedia, a justification for their usage, called a non-free use rationale (or use rationale or fair use rationale), must be presented in the file description page, explaining how the file is used in a way consistent with Wikipedia's non-free content criteria. This justification will help other users determine if the claim of non-free use could apply to a wide variety of uses or a narrow range of uses. It will also help determine if the given claim of non-free use is appropriate for Wikipedia in the first place.

If you are using non-free images or other media files, you must include two things on the file description page:

  1. An appropriate copyright tag explaining the basic claim of non-free use. See Wikipedia:File copyright tags/Non-free for a list.
  2. A detailed non-free use rationale. A separate, specific rationale must be provided each time the media file is used in an article. The name of the article the media file is used in must be included in the rationale.

Be sure to examine the guidelines on non-free content before uploading the file. Wikipedia's policies are more restrictive than United States fair use law in terms of what is and is not allowed.

Note: Non-free media files that do not include both a copyright tag and a use rationale may be deleted after seven days.

Non-free use of copyrighted text does not require a rationale. However, text reuse must fall within our copyright policy, not create copyright violations, and must be properly attributed to avoid plagiarism.

Necessary components

A well-written use rationale must explain how the use of these media meets the Non-free content criteria and should state:

  • What proportion of the copyrighted work is used and to what degree does it compete with the copyright holder's usage? For example, if the image is a photograph or logo, the entire work is likely being used. A screenshot that reveals the most important discovery of a documentary or the ending of a movie, for example, though a very small portion of the work, may disproportionately compete with the copyright holder's use. In the case of a music sample, the length should be no longer than 10 percent of the song's original length or 30 seconds, whichever is shorter.
  • If applicable, has the resolution been reduced from the original? In the case of music samples, has the quality been reduced from the original?
  • What purpose does the image serve in the article? If applicable:
    • Is the image a logo, photograph, or box art for the main subject of the article?
    • Is the image being used as the primary means of visual identification of the subject or topic? (e.g., a corporate logo or the box art of a DVD)
    • Does it illustrate the topic of the article? (e.g., a screen shot from a movie)
    • Is it used for commentary on a particular topic? How?
  • Why the subject can't be adequately conveyed by properly sourced text or using free content media.
    • If, for example, an image is a screenshot of a movie that is used for an article about the movie, or a corporate logo, there is obviously no such thing as a "free" version of it – all of the resources in the world could not produce one. If, on the other hand, the image is a photograph, the image is more easily replaced, even if Wikipedians may lack the resources to create a replacement.
  • Any other information necessary to assist others in determining whether the use of this copyrighted work qualifies for non-free use.


Please note that meeting the NFC does not require the use of these templates, as long as the description on the file page addresses all 10 criteria outlined by the NFC.

The template {{ Non-free use rationale 2}} facilitates both adding essential metadata and creating a use rationale with the necessary components.

{{Non-free use rationale 2
<!--Obligatory fields-->
| Description    =
| Author         =
| Source         =
| Article        =
| Purpose        =
| Replaceability =
| Minimality     =
| Commercial     =
<!--Optional/expert fields-->
| Date                =
| Publication         =
| Replaceability_text =
| Other information   =

Optional/expert fields and can be left out. An older form, {{ Non-free use rationale}}, is also available.

An alternative is to use {{ Non-free media data}} with {{ Non-free media rationale}}; this is helpful for items with multiple uses. The {{ Non-free media data}} template is applied once and a {{ Non-free media rationale}} template is added for each use, providing a separate purpose (rationale) for each use, per policy.

Insert this once:

{{Non-free media data
| Description       = 
| Source            = 
| Portion           = 
| Low_resolution    = 
| other_information = <!-- Optional parameter -->

Repeat this as many times as needed:

{{Non-free media rationale
| Article           = <!-- No linking required -->
| Purpose           = 
| Replaceability    = 

There are more specific use rationale templates in Category:Non-free use rationale templates, such as for album covers and logos.


Below are some basic examples. Good use rationales will expand on why the non-free item is needed, why a free item cannot be used in its place, and what essential function it performs in each article in which it is to be used. If the media file is used in several articles, then you must include a separate use rationale for each article. If the article text comments on the media file itself, then write so. If it does not, be sure to explain why the media file is necessary despite the fact it is not mentioned.

Logo in the article about the topic that the logo represents

=== Non-free use in [[ARTICLE NAME]] ===
Though this image is subject to copyright, its use is covered by the U.S. fair use laws, and the stricter requirements of Wikipedia's non-free content policies, because:
# It illustrates an educational article about the entity that the logo represents.
# The image is used as the primary means of visual identification of the article topic.
# It is a low resolution image, and thus not suitable for production of counterfeit goods.
# The logo is not used in such a way that a reader would be confused into believing that the article is written or authorized by the owner of the logo.
# It is not replaceable with an uncopyrighted or freely copyrighted image of comparable educational value.
  • Other text indicating conformance with the Wikipedia:Logos guideline may be added, such as confirmation that the logo has been rendered at a small size and with lower detail if it is a scalable vector image.

Historical photographs

=== Non-free use for [[ARTICLE NAME]] ===
Though this image is subject to copyright, its use is covered by the U.S. fair use laws, and the stricter requirements of Wikipedia's non-free content policies, because:
# It is a historically significant photo of a famous individual. [To strengthen the claim, consider adding sources to back up this claim, like news articles mentioning this image (and not simply using it)]
# It is of much lower resolution than the original. Copies made from it will be of very inferior quality.
# The photo is only being used for informational purposes.
# Its inclusion in the article adds significantly to the article because the photo and its historical significance are the object of discussion in the article.

Again, the above are only general examples; for more information on what needs to be included in this entry see Wikipedia:Non-free content. The information should be as specific as possible, i.e. why you need to use the media file as part of the article. Adding this information is no guarantee that the media file will not be later removed, but it will demonstrate a use rationale to others that you may have a valid justification for including non-free materials that can be used under the GFDL.

For more examples see Wikipedia:Use rationale examples.

Speedy deletion

WP:CSD#F6: Non-free images that contain no use rationale whatsoever should be speedy deleted 7 days after notification to the editor who uploaded the image is given.

WP:CSD#F7: Non-free images that obviously fail any part of WP:NFCC may be tagged as follows:

Please consider, as an alternative to deletion, fixing the description page, if possible.

If a disputed or incomplete use rationale exists that cannot be fixed, the image should be nominated for deletion at Wikipedia:Files for discussion. If the image is clearly an abuse, remove the image from the article and mark as orphaned non-free use with {{subst:orfud}}, notifying the uploader per that template.

Other notes

A redirect pointing to the page where the non-free content is intended to be used is acceptable as the article name in the non-free use rationale. If an article is merged or renamed later on, there is no need to update the non-free use rationale and fix the resulting redirects that are not broken.

See also