Commons donation

Directmedia Publishing donates images of public domain artwork to Commons

Directmedia give 10,000 works of art

German publishing company Directmedia Publishing this week announced that they were donating digital images of some 10,000 works of art to the Wikimedia Commons, the Wikimedia Foundation's repository of freely licensed images and media [1]. The works of art are currently available on a DVD called 10000 Meisterwerke der Malerei DVD-ROM [2], but will be relicensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

This image database consists of high resolution scans of public domain works of art, together with brief biographical details of the artist, a caption (in German), the date of origin, size, painting technique, place of exhibition and a rough genre classification. The scans are in the JPEG format, and average about 1,800 pixels along the longest side. German Wikipedianer are currently coordinating the efficient transfer of the images and attendant information into the Commons database.


While the works of art depicted in these images are all themselves in the public domain, the images themselves may not be. There is no consensus regarding the legal status of such images even within the United States, and even less agreement around the world. By explicitly releasing these images under the GFDL, Directmedia has made the requirements for their reuse much clearer.

Following the announcement of the donation, notafish requested that Directmedia consider releasing the images under a Creative Commons license as well. She pointed out that the small print of the GFDL required the full text of the license to be included where documentation was reproduced under the license [3].

While this may be fine for online or CD/DVD reproductions, it may cause problems for printed reproductions, where a magazine wishing to use an image from the Commons would be obliged to print the lengthy full text of the license. Notafish suggested that Wikipedians bear this issue in mind when uploading images, and consider dual-licensing them under a license such as the Creative Commons attribution-sharealike (cc-by-sa) license in addition to the GFDL.

Close relationship

The donation follows the recent successful release of a DVD of German Wikipedia content, also published by Directmedia (see archived story). The original release of 10,000 copies sold out within three days of its release date [4], triggering another pressing of a further 10,000 copies. The German Wikipedia community has been developing a close relationship with the publishers over the past year. As well as the DVD, future editions of which are planned to be released every 6 months, Directmedia is currently developing plans to publish a series of print volumes (see related story).

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