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Copyright Quickstart Guide for Wikipedia Edit-a-thons: Quickstart

Get up-and-running on your edit-a-thon with guidance on complying with Wikipedia policies and copyright law.



Why are we talking about all this?

Because of copyright law. Check out the Copyright Basics for Wikipedia Edit-a-thons page of this guide for succinct and important explanations of what copyright is and what it means for Wikipedia contributors.


I want to add text to Wikipedia.

  1. If you contribute text that you, yourself, authored, you license it to the public for reuse under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license and GFDL license. For more, see: Wikipedia: Contributors' rights and obligations.​​

  2. If you wish to contribute text that someone else has written and that is protected by copyright, you can do so only if that text was already licensed under terms compatible with a CC-BY-SA license, or if doing so would be “fair use” under Wikipedia’s guidelines around fair use (for example, you are using a brief quote for critique). However, you may always link to a lawfully-uploaded text document elsewhere on the Web. For more, see: Wikipedia: Using copyrighted work from others & Wikipedia: Can I add something to Wikipedia that I got from somewhere else?

  3. If you wish to reuse text from another Wikipedia article, you must provide credit to the original authors either by including (a) a hyperlink or URL to the page or pages you are re-using or (b) a list of all authors. For more, see: Wikipedia: Re-use of text.


I want to add images or other media to Wikipedia.

  1. If you wish to upload images or other media that you, yourself, created, you must license them under a free license that supports reuse and redistribution, such as the GFDL and/or an acceptable Creative Commons license, or release them into the public domain, which removes all copyright and licensing restrictions. For more, see: Wikipedia: User-created images.

  2. If you wish to reuse or upload images or other media that someone else has created, you must first verify one of the following: (1) the media is in the public domain; (2) copyright was transferred to you; (3) reusing/uploading would be fair use; or, (4) it already has an acceptable Creative Commons or similar license applied to it. However, you may always link to a lawfully-uploaded images elsewhere on the Web. For more, see: Wikipedia: Image Use Policy. For details on how to upload and tag images and media files, see Wikipedia: Uploading Images and Wikipedia: File Copyright Tags.

  3. If you redistribute images or other media from elsewhere on Wikipedia, comply with the terms of the non-text media file’s own free culture license. Please view the media file’s description page for details about the license of any specific media file. For more, see: Wikipedia: Reusing Wikipedia content.


What are my rights as a contributor?

You retain copyright to your original materials (both text and other media) that you create and contribute to Wikipedia. This means you can later republish and relicense the materials, but you can’t retract or alter the free license for the copies of the materials you put on Wikipedia. For more, see: Wikipedia: Copyrights.


Comply with licenses.

If you are using someone else's text or image pursuant to a Creative Commons or similar license for reuse, be sure to comply with the terms of that license. This could include, for example, attributing the author, sharing it under the same terms as the original license, etc. Find out more about Creative Commons licenses.


Think about privacy.

There are legal issues to consider beyond copyright law that affect whether you can upload or repost an image to Wikipedia. For instance, if you took a photo of someone in a private setting, you may need the person's permission to post that photo since it could impinge upon the person's right to privacy. Wikipedia also precludes use of images that are defamatory, demeaning, or violate human rights. 

For more on Wikipedia's privacy policies, see: Wikipedia: Image Use Policy - Privacy rights.

For more on privacy in scholarly communications generally, see: Non-Copyright Policy Concerns: Privacy.


Ask for help.

The information presented by the Library here is intended for information purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice. While the Library cannot provide legal advice, we are available to consult with you and answer questions you might have about copyright and related scholarly communication issues. If you are a UC Berkeley faculty member, staff, or or student, please e-mail Scholarly Communication & Information Policy at

For additional information on using copyrighted materials, please visit the UC's guide to Copyright Use.