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[XL] Non-free images displayed as thumbnails on the wikipedias
Open, In Progress, Needs TriagePublic


As a result of changes made in T306883, users on the Wikipedias now see thumbnails for articles in the search results on Special:Search. Sometimes these thumbnails are non-free, fair use images. There is some concern in the community that non-free images shouldn't be used as thumbnails in this context.

Note that these are the same thumbnails used in the Go bar autocomplete and search on mobile, and that page previews also use images with any license.

This ticket will track:

  • Conversations with WMF legal about what is permitted under fair use
  • Coordination with the various teams at WMF about the affected interfaces were we to change this to disallow non-free images
  • Consideration of how the change would affect the images shown in Search Preview T306341

Update: We will be disabling fair use thumbnails in the search results, in the Go bar, and in Search Previews.

Acceptance Criteria:

  • disable fair use thumbnails in the search results and in the go bar
  • disable fair use images in Search Preview (SearchVue)
  • communication plan is in place to inform the community about this change, and to start discussions again in January

Event Timeline

PageImages already stores non-free and free images for articles with non-free images.

Using the pilicense API parameter you can request a free image or any

On the backend, use PageImages::getPropName( true ) to make sure you get the property name corresponding to the free image.

This functionality was added in T131105.

The next step is to disable the thumbnails pending communication plan from @Sannita.

CBogen updated the task description. (Show Details)
CBogen renamed this task from Non-free images displayed as thumbnails on the wikipedias to [XL] Non-free images displayed as thumbnails on the wikipedias.Nov 2 2022, 4:24 PM
CBogen added a subscriber: MPhamWMF.

Note to engineers: given that this is an XL, please go ahead and start work on this task. However, please don't merge the code until you've confirmed with @Sannita that the communication has been published.

Change 854014 had a related patch set uploaded (by Matthias Mullie; author: Matthias Mullie):

[mediawiki/extensions/SearchVue@master] Explicitly request only free pageimages

Change 854015 had a related patch set uploaded (by Matthias Mullie; author: Matthias Mullie):

[mediawiki/extensions/PageImages@master] Only provide free images for search purposes

matthiasmullie added a subscriber: matthiasmullie.

@Sannita turned out to be simpler than anticipated (or rather, current AC align quite well with how things were already setup in order to minimize required changes)
Code is ready; please let us know when it's safe to proceed with code review!

I'm working on finalizing the message to the community, I expect to send an announcement for the end of the week at the very latest.

@matthiasmullie Message delivered, you're good to go.

Thanks @Sannita! Can you share the link to where it's posted?

@matthiasmullie Message delivered, you're good to go.

Thanks @Sannita! Can you share the link to where it's posted?

I edited my previous comment to insert the link, anyway it's

Change 854015 merged by jenkins-bot:

[mediawiki/extensions/PageImages@master] Only provide free images for search purposes

Change 854014 merged by jenkins-bot:

[mediawiki/extensions/SearchVue@master] Explicitly request only free pageimages

I can offer some relevant context and history on this issue.

The Board passed a Resolution:Licensing policy. Use of non-free content must be minimal, and is only allowed subject to community established Exemption Doctrine policy. The board policy bears the the following banner:

This policy is approved by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.
It may not be circumvented, eroded, or ignored by Wikimedia Foundation officers or staff nor local policies of any Wikimedia project.

It is not necessary to detail the reasons here, but Board Policy is explicitly more restrictive than Fair Use. Any request to legal regarding Fair Use is moot, and can be canceled or disregarded.

PageImages originally grabbed images regardless of license, relying on a Fair Use justification. I believe it was originally used for the Related Articles feature, which was not permissible under Exemption Policy. When objections were raised and Board Policy cited, PageImages was changed to exclude non-Free images.

Not long after, Page Previews was built (a.k.a. Hovercards). I opened a community RFC and I got that particular usage approved under non-free Exemption Doctrine Policy. PageImages was modified to be able to include or exclude non-Free images, depending on the usage.

I don't know what sort of documentation you have on PageImages, but it should default Free-images-only and PageImages should only be called with a request to include non-Free images when the particular feature is reasonably established to be within Community-approved Exemption Doctrine Policy.

Regarding usage in search results: I do not believe the Search Engine at would qualify under Exemption policy, however on-Wiki search results are different and they might qualify. The difference is that the on-Wiki search results essentially present a cropped extract of the actual article, similar to ArticlePreviews. It's a borderline case, but if you want I could open a community discussion and make the case to allow non-Free images in those search results. (Note: It's best to ping me on-Wiki, I don't check for Phab messages as regularly.)

Etonkovidova added a subscriber: Etonkovidova.

Checked on enwiki wmf.12 - works as expected. I'll keep the task in Verify on Production column to verify for QuickView.