What Wikipedia did for encyclopedias, Wikimedia Commons attempts to do for photo albums. A database of nearly 30 million freely usable images and other files, Wikimedia Commons is where so many of us turn in search of that perfect or not-so-perfect photograph to illustrate a report or a presentation — without having to pay any royalties or licensing fees. What many don’t realize, though, is that there would be far more than 30 million images on Commons, were it not for an ongoing process of faithful administrators volunteering their time to delete photos. These are the doomed images that insiders…
- believe to be copyright violations (about 40% of all deletions)
- suspect that the person who uploaded the photo didn’t have the rights to release the image under a free license
- marked as duplicates, or
- defined as “out of scope” of the project.
Approximately 1,500 images are deleted each day from Commons.
One fact that may confuse outsiders who look in on this process is that many deletions are based on subjective factors, not purely objective measures. One image of a business sign with a contact phone number might be kept because it is “in scope” and “cannot be promotional” (e.g., because the business has closed), while another similar, but more artfully-shot photo might be deleted because it is “out of scope” and “promotional”. The photo illustrating this story is a quick example of how one image will get to stay on Wikimedia Commons, while a similar image will get the boot, never to be seen again.
Revenge as a deciding factor?
Your Examiner investigator recently took a look at a handful of images on Commons that got marked for deletion because they were seen as too “promotional”. Anyone can nominate a photo for deletion, then a discussion period typically of about a week is allowed. If the consensus is to axe the photo, it is deleted. However, if just one or two people give a reason to keep a photo, it will often be kept. Sometimes, a deletion nomination will be rejected out of spite, because an administrator believes that the nomination was made out of “revenge”. That was the case with one photo, which appears clearly to be a promotional advertising banner purposed to lease apartments in a building in Nova Scotia. Despite my nominating it for deletion, that photo was kept, because my similar image of a sign on the Parkway House in Philadelphia was deleted, and it was deemed that I was targeting the Nova Scotia photo as an act of revenge, when in actuality, I was trying to conduct research for this Examiner story.
So, while the image retention and deletion process on Commons is probably governed mostly by impartial factors, there is still room for spite and revenge to occasionally cloud the process. Photos that are nominated for deletion and tagged as “promotional” in any way are about 95% certain to be deleted.
Check out the slide show of both deleted and kept images that were flagged as “promotional”. Can you figure out why some images were retained while others were given the boot?