A proposal to require a confirmed email address from users uploading images and other media stimulated an extended debate on the Wikipedia mailing list. The purpose behind this idea would be to improve the chances of tracking down source and license information for uploads.
The discussion began with a suggestion from Kat Walsh on Wednesday that uploads require a confirmed email address. As she put it, it would be "a big step forward" in the effort to appropriately tag images and could prevent the deletion of many images for which the uploader cannot otherwise be contacted.
This idea got an enthusiastic reception from a number of people. Tomasz Wegrzanowski objected, however, arguing that it was another step toward Wikipedia being less open and that it "would be annoying every single contributor while gaining absolutely nothing." Walsh responded that it was actually intended to prevent the annoying of contributors, particularly those who come back later to find their contributions deleted because nobody was able to contact them. Greg Maxwell reported that for March, when email confirmation started, while 63% of uploads came from someone without a confirmed address, 83% of the images deleted came from this group of contributors.
The proposed change would not require people to give up anonymity, and it was pointed out that one must already have registered an account in order to use the upload function. A comparison came up to requiring account registration in order to create new articles, but the idea has a different philosophy behind it. The change to article creation, instituted in the aftermath of the Seigenthaler incident, was intended to prevent the addition of libel and vandalism, material that needs to be removed in any case. With respect to image uploads, the objective would be to save content from being removed. Users sorting through the mass of uploads for inappropriate submissions did comment, however, that if the proposed change reduced the scale of this task it would be a beneficial side effect.
Some users, especially those who started editing a long time ago, may already have provided an email address but never gotten around to confirming it. The confirmation system was only implemented in March as an anti-spam measure (see archived story).
The Wikimedia Foundation also gets regular requests from people interested in reusing a particular image, where the contributor may not have edited for some time and is unlikely to check his or her talk page. Such a change would facilitate redistribution of images, especially where the interested party is likely to find GFDL requirements awkward as applied to a single image.