Multimedia:Licensing tutorial

From Wikimedia Usability Initiative
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We are currently looking for a Creative partner to help us produce an illustrated licensing tutorial to help our users understand the basics of copyright and free licenses.

Wikimedia Commons is a free repository of more than 7 million multimedia files that can be freely used, modified and distributed by anyone, for any purpose. Part of the documents are in the Public domain, while the others have been explicitly shared by their author under a "free license". As part of focused work to improve the user experience of the uploading process to Wikimedia Commons, we want to include a short tutorial to explain the basics of copyright and free works to new users, so that they understand what it entails to share their work on Wikimedia Commons, and what they can and can't do with other people's works.



Over the years, uploading a file to Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons has grown increasingly difficult. An example is the complicated upload form presented to users who want to share their own pictures on Wikimedia Commons.

The Wikimedia Foundation recently obtained a grant from the Ford Foundation. The subsequent Multimedia usability project funded by this grant aims to improve the usability of the upload process, in order to make it much easier for anyone to share their media files under a free license on Wikimedia Commons.

One of the main issues we have identified with our current upload workflow is that it tries to give an advanced course in worldwide copyright at the same time the user uploads a file. In reality, our research shows (unsurprisingly) that most of the users either give up in front of the instruction creep, or simply ignore it.

As a consequence, we have been working on a much simpler, more straightforward upload form that would be mostly decoupled from the Licensing 101 course. However, we still need some basic tutorial to explain what a free work is, and what people can and can't upload.

We have some basic requirements but remain open to discussion.


The primary audience for this tutorial is new users who are uploading their first media file to Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons. Most of them are not familiar with free licenses and have never been educated about copyright. The tutorial will be shown by default to any new user when they first upload a file, regardless of their language, culture or country of origin.

The tutorial will have a huge impact; it is both a tremendous opportunity to reach millions of people, and a huge responsibility.


Learning goals

The tutorial must explain the difference between unfree and freely reusable works. During the upload process, users will have to choose between the two options, depending on what kind of file they are uploading, so it is critical that they have a basic understanding of what copyright and free works are about.

The tutorial will be a success if the user completes it and:

  • has a basic understanding of what copyright is
  • has a basic understanding of what it means to release a file under a free license
  • understands that any material is considered to be unfree unless explicitly said otherwise
  • is able to determine, for simple cases, to which of the two big families (unfree or free) a media file belongs. Examples of "simple cases" include: a CD cover, a picture taken by the user, a picture from a movie and a random picture found on the Internet.


The tutorial must be:

  • short: the basic tutorial is not a goal per se, but a necessary step for new users who want to upload a picture. Going through the tutorial shouldn't last more than a minute, max. 2.
  • easily translatable: Wikimedia websites target an international audience, and Wikimedia Commons in particular is multilingual, as the central media repository for all other Wikimedia websites.
  • from an international, cross-cultural standpoint: our audience is potentially anyone on the planet who has access to Internet, so we can't use cultural references that could be offensive or misunderstood by a specific subset of our audience.
  • fun, enticing, not too boring: we want users to actually watch and complete the tutorial.
  • lightweight: our audience is very broad and we want everyone to be able to watch the tutorial, regardless of their bandwidth.



There have been several attempts in the past to create comic-like tutorials to explain basic topics about copyright and free licenses (see Supporting information), but their format made it particularly difficult to watch online and translate. We think an animated or still comic-like format (that would be displayed in an overlay or inline) is the best way to meet our requirements. We usually prefer vector graphics for that kind of work, and our preferred format is SVG. Animated SVGs are still in a prototype state, and not yet supported by MediaWiki, so a set of still SVGs would probably be the best way to go for now.

We might want to avoid speech bubbles if they make localization more difficult (especially for "verbose" languages).

The tutorial should remain stable and shouldn't require frequent updating.


  • Duration of the partnership: Advice on overall approach & product
  • Phase 1: Three to four draft designs
  • Phase 2: A first proposed set of pictures (possibly presented as a storyboard) for the selected design
  • Phase 3: A final set of 8 to 10 Inkscape-compatible SVG pictures

The final deliverables will be released under CC-by-sa license. In-progress files will be privately shared with stakeholders, under the explicit condition that they don't publish or redistribute them.



Specific schedule to be discussed.


  • Creative partner & WMF: Sign agreement
  • Creative partner & WMF: Hold kick-off meeting: agree on general overview,
  • Creative partner: delivers Phase 1 draft designs
  • WMF: shares Phase 1 designs with key stakeholders, provides phase 1 feedback and selects a Phase 1 design
  • Creative partner: delivers Phase 2 proposed set of pictures
  • WMF: shares Phase 2 designs with key stakeholders and provides phase 2 feedback
  • Creative partner: delivers Phase 3 (final) set of pictures

The tutorial will be included in our new Upload wizard when it is released in October 2010. A large communication campaign aiming at encouraging people to add media files to Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons will be organized, and the tutorial will be prominently featured.

WMF to provide

  • links to relevant documentation about copyright and free licenses
  • expertise about copyright, free licenses and the tutorial's general context
  • main topics to be included
  • feedback and decision based on draft designs, and communication with stakeholders
  • feedback on storyboard / first set of pictures

Extended scope

Depending on funding and the success of this partnership, we might consider to later extend this partnership to create a whole set of tutorials to popularize copyright-related topics that are common on Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia. Such topics include:

  • What is a derivative work, and under what terms can one build on someone else's work?
    • Related topic: Works made by multiple authors
  • What is freedom of panorama?
  • What is public domain?
  • Why allow commercial reuse?
  • What is fair use?

The requirements for these additional tutorials would be similar to those of the main tutorial, apart from their length; they could be longer, given that the user could actually be interested in watching the tutorial and learning about these topics (as opposed to the basic tutorial where the user just wants to upload a media file). They should use a common theme (e.g. for instance the same characters / visual theme).

Supporting information