A Flood of Emails

Trying to overwhelm us via the sheer volume of emails or requests will not help if your content is properly licensed for reuse under Creative Commons. In May, we received more than a dozen DMCA requests pertaining to a series of images that appeared to be licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 license. Regardless of how much time has elapsed, or how much the original author would like to amend a license, a Creative Commons license cannot be revoked. We were thus unable to assist the requester with taking down properly licensed content.

The first line of defense

DMCA requests help us to ensure that our projects do not contain content that should not belong there. However, sometimes requesters also ask for the personal information of the editors involved in originally uploading content. In these scenarios, our first line of defense in protecting the personal information of our users is that we collect very little. In May, after receiving a DMCA request, we were able to report that the Volunteer Response Team had already worked to remove the infringing content. We were also able to push back on the request for additional contact information of an editor - simply because we did not have it. Privacy is essential to ensuring that people can freely contribute to our projects and we take it very seriously.


Sometimes people are their own worst enemy. In June, we received a request to remove information relating to a crime committed for which the defendant was sentenced to five years in prison which was published on French Wikipedia. Yet, over a decade after the defendant was sentenced to prison, they published a book, in which they ostensibly refer to the crime (that they were trying to get removed from our projects) in its description and market it as a story in their own words. The Foundation resolved that in this situation, it was not appropriate to intervene and recommended that the requestor seek community mediation and/or to build wider community consensus in favor of the information’s suppression. There’s only so much we can do if the information that you want deleted about you is backed not only by third parties, but also by yourself.

Official Logo

Sometimes people send us different versions of logos that are already on Wikimedia Commons that they claim are “proper”. In June, we received such a request from Spain in relation to the heraldic shield of a small town. The best way to get a new logo onto the projects however is not by emailing us - it is by contributing to our projects yourself! In order to contribute the new version to our projects, like Wikipedia, the new version must be lawfully usable by anyone, at any time, for any purpose. The contributor should also be able to prove that their version is either in the "public domain", or that they (or some other holder of its copyright) can release it under a permissive copyright license. We gave this advice to our requester along with the offer to connect them to experienced editors who can help with uploading new images.

It’s Mine!

We occasionally receive Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to remove allegedly copyrighted images. We thoroughly examine these requests, and only grant the few that are valid. In May, we received a claim that an emoji uploaded onto our projects was infringing copyright of the company who allegedly owned it. The company requested that the license for the emoji be changed so as to not grant commercial re-use. Wikimedia Commons does not accept images under licenses that are non-free culture licenses (such as non-commercial or no derivatives licenses). Further, insufficient information was included in the request to meet the requirements of the DMCA. So we did all we could in this scenario – which was to refer the company to the community to review for a copyright concern for a speedy response, or, if they so desired, to send us another request meeting the legal requirements of a DMCA takedown request.

Fear of Genericide

Sometimes trademark holders demand changes to Wikimedia content by claiming it violates their trademark. In June, the owner of a pharmaceutical drug name trademark requested that a Wiktionary entry about the drug be amended. They wanted us to change the definition of the drug name to refer only to their trademarked definition, rather than having it be used as a stand-in for the type of medicine it was. We explained how Wikipedia pages are created and edited, and advised them to use the relevant talk pages to work with volunteer contributors. Unfortunately, the owner refused to discuss their concerns with the editors. Because the information was well sourced, and did not constitute trademark infringement, we did not remove the information.

A Family Tomb

In April, we received a request to delete a unique sort of family photograph. The family photograph was of a family tombstone, located in the most visited necropolis in the world, and was photographed as part of a large collective project documenting the cemetery on Wikimedia Commons in 2017. The image was also taken in a public place and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by the copyright holder, so there was no reason for the Wikimedia Foundation to intervene in this case. The law can be tricky as it relates to the rights of the living and the dead. We referred the requester to make a courtesy request to the volunteers of Wikimedia Commons who are best positioned to update photographs of monuments as needed.

A Puzzling Request

Earlier this year, we received a befuddling DMCA request to take down an image of our very own design – our Wikipedia puzzle globe! The image was more than 10 years old and has been the source of other derivative works. It is also licensed under the CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported license. As mentioned above, Creative Commons licenses are irrevocable. This image rightfully belongs on our projects.

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