How to Search Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons is an online repository of free-use images, video, and audio files. It’s a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Before Commons, each wiki would need to upload their own photos and other media separately. This is inefficient and redundant.

Files uploaded to Commons are instantly available to all wikis, in all languages and versions. They must be properly categorized, though.

Image search

Wikimedia Commons has a huge collection of high quality images. These are mainly donated by users, but there is also some free content from institutions with substantial media collections (like the National Gallery of Art).

You can search for images using the Wikimedia Commons Image search or through other sources. For example, you can use Google Image search and select CC images in the dropdown menu.

Every image and collection record on Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata is available under a Creative Commons 0 (CC0) license. That means that they are in the public domain and can be used without restriction, although credit to the author is appreciated.

Other free image resources include Pexels, Unsplash and Pixabay. You can limit your searches on these sites to images that are licensed under a certain type of Creative Commons license, so make sure to check the licensing information for each image before you reuse it. You can also try searching for images on sites that offer a variety of licenses, such as Flickr and Bing Image Search, which let you select the terms of use you want to apply to your results.

Video search

Videos are a popular way to bring a Wikipedia page to life. Wikimedia Commons includes over 45 million freely licensed media files—photographs, audio, and video—from all around the world. You can search and find files by subject, license (including images in the public domain), file size, and other properties. You can also search by theme and community assessments.

You can upload videos to Commons in the ogv, mp4, and webm formats. Please consider converting your video to one of these open, royalty-free formats before uploading. You can do this using the UploadWizard. For help, see Help:Videos.

To embed a Commons video into a page, you can use the same syntax as for image and sound files: nowiki>[[File:Video]|link=”filename”]/>. You can also create a thumbnail that points to the full-size video, and you can use a text box for captions. You can also add a language code to the filename to specify the video’s subtitles. This helps search engines index the file properly.

Audio search

A number of audio files are available for use in Wikimedia projects under a variety of Creative Commons licenses. For example, Free Music Archive (FMA) offers a wide selection of copyright-free tracks. Unlike the one-man show Incompetech, FMA tracks are available to download and use for any purpose, provided credit is given.

Other websites that offer CC audio are Museo and Hearthis, both of which offer a variety of styles and moods from independent artists. Both offer a variety of filters, including license type and length.

There are also a number of sites that focus on specialized categories of audio, such as the sounds of nature or spoken Wikipedia articles. Almost all of these are available under a CC license, although check the individual rights statements carefully. Alternatively, you can use any mainstream search engine to find CC media, by adding the filter “Creative Commons” to your search query. For example, the advanced Google Image Search has a Creative Commons option that allows you to limit your search to only those images that are freely licensed.

Text search

With over 45 million freely licensed media files, Wikimedia Commons is one of the most significant open content resources on the Internet. It contains a wide variety of media types including images, audio and video. The collection is continually growing with donations from individuals as well as institutions that have substantial media collections such as the Smithsonian and NASA.

You can find photos in the Commons by using a search engine that searches for CC license information such as Any licence, Attribution, Non Commercial and No Derivative Works. You can also limit your search to the Commons by selecting it from the ‘Search by’ drop-down menu on a search engine.

You can use a standard text search on the Commons by visiting Special:Search, but it is preferable to use the newer Media Search which is designed for searching media files and will give you more accurate results. You can find more about how Media Search works at mw:Help:MediaSearch.

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