Wikipedia Images

By Deane Barker on October 2, 2004

As if Wikipedia wasn’t useful enough already, it also happens to be a great archive of public domain and Creative Commons-licensed images.

I wrote up a post on my personal blog about the future of “downtown.” I needed a few pictures to illustrate it with, so, in a stroke of inspiration, I just went browsing through Wikipedia.

Find any image in Wikipedia, click on it, and you’ll get (1) a larger version (usually), and (2) information on licensing. By browsing the entries for Chicago and Los Angeles, I found public domain images of both.

Now, this isn’t to say you can blindly use any image you find on Wikipedia. Again, click the image to see the licensing. Some are copyrighted and used under asserted fair use. Others have no licensing information. But a lot are either (1) licensed under a GPL-ish license, or (2) in the public domain.

For example, a lot of images are shots that amateurs have taken then donated to the world. For example, like this picture of the Chrysler Building, taking by this guy, and posted under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Another interesting example I found are pictures taken by the U.S. federal government, like these polar bears checking out a submarine that broke through the ice nearby. It looks like it was taken by a sailor from the conning tower. These images are usually public domain by definition.

Just for fun, I challenge everyone in the next week to find at least one image on their hard drive that applies to a Wikipedia article, upload it to Wikipedia, and put either a GPL-ish license on it or donate it to the public domain.

Here, I’ll start: I enhanced this article about the Ferrari 360 Modena with this picture which I took myself a couple of years ago. The image upload page is here (you have to have an account with Wikipedia), and the syntax I used for my Ferrari picture is:

[[Image:Ferrari_360_Modena.jpg|thumb|250px|right|2000 Ferrari 360 Modena]]

(Interesting note: I put my picture at the top of the page, not noticing there was a more appropriate spot for it. Six minutes after I put it on the page, someone had moved the image down to a lower section and Wiki-fied the caption. Check the history. That, folks, is why Wikipedia rules.)

If you follow-through, post a comment here with a link to what you donated.