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Five Steps to Obtain a Free ImageEdit

Procuring a freely licensed photo in order to complement an article can be a daunting task for the uninitiated. Outlined below are (roughly speaking) the steps I took to obtain a photo/portrait for Glenn Greenwald in order to add it to his article on Wikipedia. In this case, I've contacted Greenwald himself but note that doing this (asking the article subject) does not always guarantee a free image. The copyright holder is the person who has taken the photo. Thus, the article subject is usually not the copyright holder and may or may not possess any photos which they can give permission for. Nevertheless, doing this may still be useful as they can provide information regarding their photographer's contact information.

One thing to keep in mind when trying to get any photo to add to Wikipedia is the Wikipedia:Image use policy. While there are other things to consider, this is official policy which means that every effort should be made to familiarize oneself with it. You should also read through Wikipedia:Requesting copyright permission.

Step 1: Look at the Wikimedia CommonsEdit

Before trying to obtain a picture, first make sure there isn't one already freely licensed over at Commons. Though if it there was one, it would probably already be in the article somewhere, still, it never hurts to check. One may also make a Picture request over at WikiCommons, though my experience has been that this may take from 'a while' to 'forever.' Also, though I've never asked myself, Flickr sometimes has photos, and has been suggested as a way to obtain relevant images (but you still have to get the licenses!) and you can even search for images by license category. Uploading images that are free to Commons will have their license screened, and even if the Flickr user later changes the license, we can still keep the image. This screening does not occur on Wikipedia.

Step 2: Request photo from subject of article biographyEdit

The next step for me was to request a photo from Glenn Greenwald. . .I found his email address where he regularly writes, but what to email him? Well of course there is a Wiki page devoted to this and it can be found at Wikipedia:Boilerplate request for permission. The email I sent was modeled from the first example and was as follows:

Hi Glenn, [Introduce Wikipedia/complementary chitchat *removed*] . . .I am writing to request a photo (general portrait or situation specific photo) for your article on English wikipedia. Your article is linked here:

The thing is, we are no longer allowed to add Fair Use photos and so I am requesting one that you currently own the copyright to and are willing to grant permission for use, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

This means that anyone will have the right to share and, where appropriate, to update your material. You can read about this license at: .

The license expressly protects authors "from being considered responsible for modifications made by others" while ensuring that authors get credit for their work. There is more information on our copyright policy at:

Thanks for your time, if you would like to make a photo available let me know, and we can proceed from that point.

[closing statement and signature removed]

Step 3: Declaration of consent form and licensesEdit

With an affirmative response to the initial email send a 2nd email which includes the declaration of consent form and ask that they send back the form with the photo as an attachment. At this point you can either suggest the licenses to fill in or go ahead and fill them in yourself. My recommendation is to go ahead and fill out the form completely so that they just have to copy and paste. I also think that it is probably a good idea to get dual free use licenses GFDL and CC-by-sa-3.0 (as they are both useful down the line, depending on the situation). So the 2nd email might look like this: (be sure to link the text of the licenses in the email)

Thanks Glenn! We have a Declaration of Consent that is required for me to be able to post. I've attached the consent form below. It seems that dual licensing under GDFL and CC-by-sa-3.0 is preferred. If you are able to send the picture as an attachment with the following declaration (please insert date and name at the bottom), I should have no problems posting the image. Thanks again, [name removed]

Declaration of consent for all enquiries
I hereby assert that I am the creator and/or sole owner of the exclusive copyright of the image(s) attached to this email.
I agree to publish that work under the free license(s)
Dual Licenses:
GFDL and CC-by-sa-3.0
I acknowledge that I grant anyone the right to use the work in a commercial product, and to modify it according to their needs, provided that they abide with the terms of the license and any other applicable laws.
I am aware that this agreement is not limited to Wikipedia or related sites.
I am aware that I always retain copyright of my work, and retain the right to be attributed in accordance with the license chosen. Modifications others make to the work will not be attributed to me.
I acknowledge that I cannot withdraw this agreement, and that the image may or may not be kept permanently on a Wikimedia project.

Step 4: Upload Image to WikiCommonsEdit

Note: only complete this step if you plan to immediately follow up with an email to WP:OTRS permissions. Otherwise your uploaded image will be deleted.

To be able to upload to WikiCommons you have to be registered (If you are not go here [1]). Once you are registered, log in and upload the image (from the menu on this page, select "It is from somewhere else"). In the Summary, be sure to write a good concise description of the image. Also, next to "permission=", add "{{Otrs pending}}". Finally select "GNU Free Documentation License" from the Licensing selection box (assuming you obtained both GFDL and CC-by-sa-3.0; you can add the other license after the image is uploaded).

Once the image is uploaded, email "permissions-commons AT wikimedia DOT org" with the relevant email thread showing that you obtained the 'declaration of consent' for the photo (the email correspondence resulting from steps 2 and 3). Be sure to link the uploaded image at WikiCommons in the email, so that it is easy for them to check and add the appropriate information to the permission section of the summary.

Step 5: Finishing upEdit

If you haven't already, make sure to add the other license (for example, type "{{GFDL-en}}" or "{{cc-by-sa-3.0}}" below license sub-heading) to the image, below the license information used to upload the photo. Once OTRS has reviewed and added the permission information, then add it to the appropriate article on Wikipedia. Also look around on Commons to see if there are appropriate categories for the uploaded image. Done!

If you have found this guide helpful and used it to acquire a free image, please leave a note on the talk page and link the uploaded image. If you want to add/clarify or more importantly, simplify anything, feel free to edit this page or make any suggestions on the talk page as needed. Thanks! R. Baley