A new guide to attribution for reusers of Creative Commons-licensed content on Wikimedia

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At the Wikimedia Foundation, we feel strongly that clear, consistent, and comprehensive attribution of Wikimedia content reused outside of our projects is critical to maintaining a thriving ecosystem of free knowledge. Attribution is important to us not just for meeting licensing requirements, but for ensuring that the individuals and communities who volunteer their time to create and make free knowledge available on Wikipedia and its sister projects are properly credited. It is also important as a mechanism to raise awareness of the open knowledge movement and increase participation in that movement. But figuring out what to attribute and how can be challenging, given the varied nature of Wikimedia content (text, images, facts) and the different places that content can be reused (on mobile phones, desktop computers, and even car navigation systems). The Wikimedia Foundation’s Product Design teams do a lot of thinking and building with this goal in mind, and today we’re pleased to announce a set of best practices and practical tips for how reusers of Wikimedia content can approach attribution.  

People going online today interact with media from Wikimedia Commons, or text from Wikipedia or its sister projects in a wide variety of ways: external websites, apps, voice assistants, and more. However, it may not always be clear where this content originates or who created it, because attribution is sometimes incomplete or inconsistent. Due to user experience constraints (e.g., small screens with little real-estate available for in-depth attribution), and variation and flexibility in Creative Commons license attribution requirements (e.g., fair use exemptions), it may not always be clear that this content is created and curated by Wikimedia community volunteers, is available under a free license, and can be improved, remixed, and shared.

The new guidelines on our Brand Portal page are aimed at anyone who is new to the Wikimedia or free license ecosystem and is interested in reusing Wikimedia content in an online environment, whether that’s individuals, startups, or large-scale technology platforms. While we have based these guidelines on our own experience of remixing and sharing content in new ways, we recognize that new, creative applications of Wikimedia content arise as quickly as technology grows and evolves (which is to say, very quickly!). There are a wide variety of reasonable ways project content can be reused, and different use-cases require careful thought to the user experience and licensing terms. However, we hope that these guidelines can serve as a first step for anyone considering reusing Wikimedia content externally, and can provide more consistency to the attribution end-user experience across different devices and platforms. Reusers of other Creative Commons licensed content or those who are looking for more guidance should also be sure to check out the Creative Commons wiki for more attribution recommendations and best practices.

If you’re an individual or team interested in reusing Wikimedia content, we hope you’ll find these guidelines valuable, and if you have more questions or ideas for bringing free knowledge to online experiences in ways that aren’t covered in the guidelines, please get in touch with us! We would love to hear what you’re working on and help you ensure that our free knowledge ecosystem gets the credit it deserves.

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