Wikipedia:GFDL standardization

On Wikipedia the image copyright tag {{GFDL-with-disclaimers}} includes the phrase "Subject to disclaimers". Due to legal restrictions in the GFDL itself, one must preserve all disclaimers accompanying licensing statements, so all future reusers of images on Wikipedia that are "subject to disclaimers" must also reference Wikipedia's disclaimers.

This creates a situation where many images licensed under the GFDL have had unnecessary baggage added to them, and the {{GFDL-with-disclaimers}} license on the English Wikipedia is generally incompatible with the GFDL licenses appearing on other projects, including Commons, where such disclaimers are not used. The aim of the GFDL standardization is to overcome this limitation as best as is possible and restore the parity with other projects that don't include "disclaimers".


In early 2004, a well meaning person added "subject to disclaimers" to the {{GFDL}} template. This simple addition had unintended legal implications.

Pursuant to the Text of the GNU Free Documentation License:

"The Document may include Warranty Disclaimers next to the notice which states that this License applies to the Document. These Warranty Disclaimers are considered to be included by reference in this License ..."

and reusers are obliged to

"Preserve any Warranty Disclaimers"

The implication is that the disclaimers are inexorably bound to the license, must be reproduced in all future copies or versions, and can only be removed by the copyright holder.

Unfortunately, the simple act of adding disclaimers to the GFDL template implies that tens of thousands of images on Wikipedia are now required to be accompanied by reference to Wikipedia's general disclaimer. This imposes an unnecessary burden on future reuse. Most other Wikipedias and Commons have sensibly avoided adding disclaimers to their GFDL tag. Commons also was forced to create Commons:Template:GFDL-en to separately designate those GFDL images coming from the English Wikipedia as being subject to our warranty disclaimers. Other language versions of Wikipedia have also used disclaimers with their GFDL tags. Since the tags point at a different language version of Wikipedia's general disclaimer, there are separate tags on Commons for these variants, for example Commons:Template:GFDL-it and Commons:Template:GFDL-ja.

All image pages using versions of the GFDL templates that included disclaimers have been modified to use {{GFDL-with-disclaimers}} and {{GFDL-self-with-disclaimers}}, so the vanilla GFDL templates no longer include disclaimers and are safe to use.

Standardizing the templatesEdit

The ultimate goal is to change {{GFDL}} and its variants so that the templates on this Wikipedia have the same meaning as they do on Commons and on other Wikipedias.

However, due to the legal restriction against removing disclaimers, we can not simply change the templates directly. Hence the transition will occur in several steps.

First all images presently designated as having disclaimers will be migrated to templates named in a way that explicitly designates their restricted status, e.g. {{GFDL-with-disclaimers}}. Once this is accomplished and the original {{GFDL}} templates are emptied, the disclaimer statement will be stripped off the tag, hence giving {{GFDL}} the same meaning it already has in other projects and Commons. Lastly, images currently labeled {{GFDL-no-disclaimers}} will be migrated to the equivalent, and now disclaimer free, {{GFDL}}.

This process of serial migration, involving over 100,000 images, will take at least several days.

Removing disclaimers from older imagesEdit

As noted above, we can not legally remove the disclaimers from images that have them, hence the best we can do is move them to separate templates that explicitly note their restricted status.

If you are the copyright holder for any image that had disclaimers added to its license, however, then you can remove the disclaimers. Please do so by editing the image description page and replacing the licensing tag with the appropriate no-disclaimers version, e.g.