Images being removed from wiki pages

Hi all. I have noticed that a user has been removing images from the wiki pages where the image does not have a clear licence. I think this is excessive and I don’t support it. I believe these edits should be stopped and reverted.

Yes, it would be nice if images all had licence details but the reality is that some have been uploaded years ago when adding licence info was less common. I do not see the need for us to be so risk adverse that we remove these. If the copyright holder genuinely had a concern then they can request images be removed. I suspect in most cases the person who uploaded the image also owns it and simply failed to add proper licence info because the upload process didn’t require it.

I prefer to see people’s hard work keep and not removed simply because of lack of licence details.


It’s an ongoing effort to clean up the wiki, see here: User:Mateusz Konieczny/cleanup - OpenStreetMap Wiki

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I know. I just think it is too heavy handed to remove images from pages and kindly request that part be omitted. It’s an unnecessary step and removes people’s hard work.

Since Mateusz actively participates in this forum, let’s give him an
opportunity to explain what steps he is undertaking to save these
contributions before they get removed. I have not followed the process
in detail but I have seen at least one instance where he has invested
considerable work in trying to source a license-clean replacement which
sounded diligent enough to me.


I don’t disagree with that at all. I can see a lot of work. I’m just not in agreement of the last step of removing images from pages as I feel it is an unnecessary step. It seems too heavy handed. Have we any historic cases where we’ve faced legal action because we didn’t take down an image when requested?

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I believe it is safe to assume that pictures which people have contributed (uploaded) to the osm wiki without stating explicitly a license, have done so with the expectation that the general wiki license applies.

I have been asked by Mateusz for a few pictures to state the license and did it gladly, and I agree it is a serious effort with probably lots of work he does, but if people are not with osm any more and cannot be reached, their contributions should still be kept. We should only remove content when we know it is copyrighted and cannot be used legally in our wiki.


I’m neutral on this specific issue of removing images without clear licensing, but I would like to make sure there are appropriate guardrails in place to ensure this does not become an issue in the future. I’ve noticed as a new user to the wiki, I currently do not have permission to upload files, so I’m not able to view the workflow. However when you edit a page, there is a link to the Wiki content license where it does discuss the problem of images without license information.

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I would encourage people to comment in Talk:Wiki - OpenStreetMap Wiki (“Designing policy for handling files without clear license”) or at least read through it

In general I am trying to replace images by a better one when image has a problematic license (or at least by one that is not worse). The plan is to keep valuable irreplaceable old images, just with an extra warning.

And in case of images in active use at important pages the plan is to really try to find replacements, for example see File:Mosque-al-markaz-al-islami-makassar-indonesia-6.jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki (which was copied from source where it was deleted as a problematic) or File:Alley.jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki (replaced by higher quality image ) or File:Calle arenal.jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki (replaced by full sized-image found after some research). [Note: within few months this links of images being replaced will likely become invalid]

You can see what is being deleted at Category:Labelled for deletion - OpenStreetMap Wiki - click on individual images for more detail.

If after seeing info on individual page you see something that should NOT be deleted then you can comment on Talk:Wiki - OpenStreetMap Wiki and/or downgrade deletion request to deletion proposal by changing Template:Delete - OpenStreetMap Wiki and Template:Delete proposal - OpenStreetMap Wiki and commenting on file talk page.

Or here, I guess but there is higher risk of things being missed.

In some cases yes, I am simply removing an image where it was not very valuable and uploader has not responded at all (for example one of several in a gallery, used only on old abandoned proposal, used as a decoration on page about an ancient organised HOT editing activity, decoration on profile page of user inactive for years etc)

Some pictures were explicitly noted to be coming from clearly unwanted and unfree sources, in some cases they were not described and still active author only after asking revealed that they downloaded it from random website.

So sadly at least some insufficiently described images ARE copyright violations.

Some images are clear and blatant copyright violations but many are in a gray area. For example see File:PlaetzerBach BlickAufSteinrausch.jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki - it could be easily work of uploader, maybe entire set was taken from some internet site. But if author will not respond: well, this image is quite easy to replace for cases where it is used as a generic forest and its current use on Plaetzerbachtal - OpenStreetMap Wiki is not so valuable (part of oversized gallery) and it can be removed there.

And yes, in this case I would put chances that for 99% on work of uploader and 1% on chance that it is copied from some other source. And still prefer to delete it if they will not respond.

In some cases I was genuinely unsure about copyright status of images and only at some later point there was a clear confirmation that something was a copyright violation.

Also, many, many, many images were stated to be CC-BY-* licensed, were not authored by uploader and authorship was not clearly stated. Not sure how many of remaining CC-BY-* files have this problem and how seriously it should be treated. Note that in case where image was taken by Foobar and uploaded by Barbaz to wiki then guessing that it is CC BY-SA 2.0 and stating Barbaz as author is breaking copyright law, as far as I know.

I am not aware but I prefer to avoid type of problems that may have really high costs AND are avoidable AND there is no ethical or practical requirement to be involved in them.

I am aware of cases where people had legal/financial reasons due to violating copyright.

See also “but noone will notice that I imported dataset with license incompatible with ODBL” or “they are fine with it, we can ignore all that stupid license issues and just import that data”

Do you know about shop=hunting in your area or can find freely licenced image for it? Then help is welcome ( File:Bass Pro Shops entrance.JPG - OpenStreetMap Wiki )

Do you have photo from pharmacy in India, can find one or take one? Help with replacing File:Apollo pharmacy india.jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki and many other images on India/Tags/Amenity - OpenStreetMap Wiki is welcome

Can you take decent image of breakwater? Help with replacing File:Breakwater.JPG - OpenStreetMap Wiki would be really welcome

You can upload images to and post about them in this thread (or edit file page of mentioned problematic files). If that is too complicated and found such replacement - please post here asking for help or write to me in some other way.

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It may be controversial, but I would strongly encourage uploading to instead to OSM Wiki.

Their interface is not ideal, but at least people are working on it while OSM one has severe issues and approximately noone working on it.

And all files usable in OSM Wiki are eligible to be uploaded to Commons and will be also easier to use by others.

Currently I am trying to notify especially recent uploaders about missing data on their files but I keep discovering new glaring issues with OSM Wiki uploader. See say User talk:B-unicycling - OpenStreetMap Wiki

In general yes, but some people were surprised or confused about this. And some happily uploaded files marked as “all rights reserved”.

The problem with that approach is that in such case typical uploader has no reason at all to bother with any licensing issues - after all, someone will cleanup after them. And in the worst case someone else will waste time and image will stay anyway.

Note that current approach is significantly less strict that one used on many sites where files in unclear copyright status will be deleted and delinked with bot without waiting for replacement image.

Also, if problematic files cannot be deleted anyway then such review effort is a waste of time and not worth doing.

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Thank you for taking the time to explain the process and for the effort to source alternative images.

Having read your posts I am still of the mind that the deletion stage is heavy handed and a step too far. I therefore kindly repeat the request that the deletion stage is not undertaken.

Thank you

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Can you give any examples of images from Category:Labelled for deletion - OpenStreetMap Wiki that in your opinion should be not deleted?

Or example of any edit removing images from wiki page that in your opinion was wrong and not justified?

Are you proposing to keep files such as File:Danau (Real).jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki File:Baby care shop1.jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki File:Suasana di sebuah Sekolah Dasar.jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki File:Auto-estradas Brisa.jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki ?

Do you consider it fine to have growing number of images with unclear copyright status?

Either way, if you want to influence not-yet-really-decided wiki policy, the proper place to comment is in Talk:Wiki - OpenStreetMap Wiki if you want to influence it

Hi Mateusz,

I’m not going to get into debating specific images as who am I to say what a useful image is. If a user took the time to upload them and link them to a page, then they deemed them to be useful. I think this applies to you too - as in, what in your judgement makes your view more important than the uploader’s?

Having said that, the first two deletions I looked at (not those linked above), were both unnecessary. The first degraded a wiki page and the second had already got the original uploader annoyed.

I think it’s acceptable to post feedback here. Same way that for edits to the OSM database, we are encouraged to review feedback wherever it’s posted.

Thank you

Without linking specific supposedly problematic edits I am not able to comment on them. For example people annoyed that uploading copyright violations is now less likely to be accepted is NOT a problem.

And in many case deletion are clearly improvements, for example it is really hard to dispute that deletion of following images is a good thing: File:Danau (Real).jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki File:Baby care shop1.jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki File:Suasana di sebuah Sekolah Dasar.jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki File:Auto-estradas Brisa.jpg - OpenStreetMap Wiki

I may be aware about legal implications that were unknown to uploader or ignored by them.

In some cases it can be matter of opinion whether deletion is a good step, but “keep all uploads” is not viable.

Nevertheless removing them can be improving wiki.

Do you consider it fine to have growing number of images with unclear copyright status?

Are you opposing also removal of images identified as copyright violations?

is this about confirmed copyright violations or about suspected ones?

I do not understand this part of the discussion - confirmed copyright
violations (or even those those that are violations “beyond reasonable
doubt”) will of course be removed, no matter how many people object.


Not entirely sure, that is why I asked “Are you proposing to keep files such as”. And I consider

If a user took the time to upload them and link them to a page, then they deemed them to be useful. I think this applies to you too - as in, what in your judgement makes your view more important than the uploader’s?

which was raised to be a really bad argument as it applies also to files which are confirmed copyright violations.


Copyright law is special, there is no excuse of the kind “I did not know”. If you do not have explicit permission, you are in violation. If the copyright holder sues, you will be fined. There must not be any files with unclear copyright status on the OSM servers. Mateusz work is very much needed.


Afaik “I did not know” is never an excuse in front of the law, with copyright it is not as easy, because some jurisdictions know fair use, in other cases the foto may not be copyrightable (but these are probably rare and we should not count on it), and in the case of the OpenStreetMap-Foundation, they are offering a platform and not publishing the things themselves, so it may be sufficient to take the material down once they get a notice (not sure about this)

Please also consider the users of the wiki.
If you are writing in your personal blog about OSM and take images from the wiki in the believe that the license permits you to do so and then you are getting sued because we have “bad” images in our wiki is not that nice.

Part of this should be to migrate to CC 4.0 as soon as possible, as otherwise this provides a stage for copyleft trolls. Currently we have vulnerable CC-BY-SA 2.0.

So after all, I understand that some might be annoyed by this additional effort required to maintain images. I did not upload that many, but was also contacted and updated the needed license details. Still this is necessary work to protect OSMF and our users from some lawyers abusing their power to make a business by semi-automatic suing people. The fair way would be to let people know and give them a chance to fix mistakes. And unless we do the same with lawyers than what others did with telephone sanitizers, we have to deal with it.
That aside, there might be cases in which people are consciously steal others work, so we also have to deal with these rare cases.

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The only larger jurisdiction that has fair use regulation that could be relevant in these cases is the US (one reason being that the US actively lobbies against other countries introducing such exceptions), but given that the content is published globally and the OSMF is not domiciled there I don’t see any point on wasting time discussing that aspect.