Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in file deletion discussions

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It is important to use the strongest arguments in deletion discussions for images and other files. Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in deletion discussions provides advice about how to frame effective explanations of your views in deletion discussions in general, and particularly in deletion discussions about articles. Deletion discussions about images and other files rest upon some criteria that are particular to those media, sometimes in ways that are unfamiliar to editors who do not frequently participate in such discussions. As a result, there are some special considerations that go into making an effective argument. Understanding these considerations can make it easier to achieve consensus during these deletion discussions, as well as to avoid conflict.

The use of images at Wikipedia is governed by Wikipedia:Image use policy. Most images and other digital media used by Wikipedia are free content, and are available at Wikimedia Commons. However, the English language Wikipedia, in agreement with the Wikimedia Foundation, also allows the use of non-free content, subject to some specific—and important—restrictions. Such content cannot be kept at Commons, but may be uploaded locally. Many deletion discussions of image files at the English Wikipedia, therefore, involve policies pertaining to the use, locally, of non-free content.

The policy on the use of non-free content at the English Wikipedia is given at Wikipedia:Non-free content. In deletion discussions concerning non-free media, arguments that are based upon the ten Wikipedia:Non-free content criteria (NFCC) carry the most weight, whereas arguments unrelated to that policy are likely to carry little weight, and should be avoided. Not surprisingly, editors often have strongly held opinions about whether or not an image should be deleted. Consequently, arguments that focus on WP:NFCC and avoid unrelated matters are also likely to reduce conflict.

The following are a list of arguments that can commonly be seen in deletion discussions for images and which should generally be avoided, or at least, supplemented with some more arguments. This essay should be read along with Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in deletion discussions, which contains many other arguments that should generally be avoided; most of the arguments listed here represent special cases pertaining to non-free content.

Although this essay focuses on arguments concerning non-free media, there are also "arguments to avoid" that apply to free images, discussed below.

Please remember that a reason that arguably could be classified as an "argument to avoid" can still have some valid points in it. This essay suggests ways to make such arguments stronger. Also please remember that most editors who participate in deletion discussions, whether advocating for keeping or deleting a given file, are acting in good faith.

All of the images used in this essay are free content.

Arguing the editor, rather than the image[edit]

"Just a vote" and "Per nominator"[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

In the military, it is appropriate to follow the leader. At Wikipedia, consensus is achieved through discussion.


At Wikipedia, consensus is achieved through discussion, rather than simply voting. In a disputed non-free file deletion discussion, it is necessary that the file satisfy all ten of the criteria listed at WP:NFCC. Thus, the most persuasive arguments are those that focus on whether or not the file satisfies all of those criteria, and which actually explain their reasoning. Sometimes, it is appropriate to agree with what another editor has already said, but it is better to explain why you agree, or with what, specifically, you agree.

Assuming bad faith[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Actually, most Wikipedians are not evil.


Wikipedia:No personal attacks advises users to "Comment on the content, not on the contributor." That remains just as true when that content is a non-free image or other file, rather than text. Normally, it is best to focus on the ten criteria at WP:NFCC, without speculating on other editors' motives. For example, one should avoid arguing that an editor simply added text to an article as a "pretext" for including an image. Most editors participating in deletion discussions really do mean well, even if they appear not to understand NFCC, or appear not to understand how the image is valuable to an article. Editors sometimes care deeply about whether or not a file will be deleted, and it is important not to cause unnecessary conflict. If there is really a conduct problem, raise it instead through dispute resolution.

However, there may be times when it is unavoidable to raise issues of bad conduct during a deletion discussion. In these cases, it is best to be certain that your accusations are well-founded and directly relevant to the discussion, and to state them in a polite and unemotional manner. Most importantly, it is best to raise them only as part of your argument, not as its entirety.

Misunderstanding the non-free content criteria[edit]

Assuming that meeting only one criterion is sufficient[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Satisfying the non-free content criteria is not like a multiple choice test.


Deletion discussions for non-free files are usually decided by the ten criteria listed at WP:NFCC. The existence of a file description page with a usage rationale, criterion 10, is just one of these. To be kept, a file must satisfy all ten criteria, not just some of them. It is not a multiple choice process, in which checking off just one of the options is sufficient. An editor nominating a file for deletion is generally expected to name, specifically, which criteria the file is believed not to meet. When responding to such a nomination, it is important to pay attention to what the nominator said. Pointing out, for example, that an image satisfies fair use requirements does not constitute a persuasive argument when the deletion nomination is based on something unrelated to fair use. To make the best argument for keeping a file, always address your argument to the specific criterion or criteria that were raised by the nominator or by other editors who have argued for deletion.


Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Copyrighted images may be used if and only if they satisfy our criteria for non-free use.


  • Delete – It's under copyright. – CopyPolice (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Delete – The file page says that it is in the public domain, but it is actually under copyright. – ClosedToThePublic (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Delete – The file page says that it is in the public domain, but there is no proof that it isn't copyrighted. – WhatAboutTheNotice (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Any file that has an active copyright by someone else, or even appears likely to be copyrighted, must be deleted at Wikimedia Commons. And here at the English Wikipedia, the Copyrights policy is taken very seriously. However, copyrighted non-text material such as image files or other files may be used here under certain strict conditions. The file must satisfy all ten criteria listed at WP:NFCC, and it must have an appropriate non-free use rationale on its file page. Therefore, simply arguing that a file must be deleted because it is copyrighted is not a sufficient argument for deletion, even though that might seem counterintuitive. Instead, the appropriate issue is whether or not there is a satisfactory non-free rationale for its use. If there is an error on the file page, the error should be corrected.

Fair use[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Whatever you say, Wikipedia's non-free content policy is stricter than fair use law.


  • Keep – It's fair use. – FairUseIsSharing (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Keep – It's only used once. Surely, that's fair use. – OneImageOnePage (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Keep – This is a list, and there's only one image per character. Surely, that's fair use. – MixedTogether (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Keep – We could just combine all the disputed images into a single gallery. – MixAndMash (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]

A non-free file must satisfy all ten criteria listed at WP:NFCC, not just some of them, even if it is only used a single time. Wikipedia, as a free encyclopedia, has decided to make these criteria more strict than what is required by United States fair use law. In part, this is because there is a consensus that non-free material should not be used here when free content is available that could serve the purpose just as well. Also, an important aspect of being a free encyclopedia is that other entities should be able to freely reuse content that they find on Wikipedia. We even permit commercial entities to freely reuse content from Wikipedia in bulk, and they should be able to do so without sharing Wikipedia's status as an online service provider that is non-profit, charitable, and educational. Thus, satisfying fair use law is not sufficient to satisfy the requirements at Wikipedia.

It's free![edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

There is a difference between being given away for free, and being freely licensed.


  • Keep – This image is free. Anyone can download it from that website. – ImagesWantToBeFree (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Keep – Since this image is readily available from many websites, our use is not making a difference in the copyright holder's ability to profit from the image. – ItsNotAboutTheMoney (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]

The English word "free" can mean either "for zero price" (like beer being given away for free) or "with few or no restrictions" (like a free license for a file). To be considered "free content" on Wikipedia, a file must satisfy one of the licenses listed at Wikipedia:File copyright tags/Free licenses. Such content, by definition, is not non-free content. Non-free content, instead, must satisfy all ten criteria listed at WP:NFCC.

Often, images that are subject to copyright can be found somewhere on the web, where it is possible to copy and save them for free (like "free beer"). This fact, by itself, does not prove that the owner of the copyright has relinquished their legal rights under that copyright. Affirmative evidence that the material has been freely licensed is needed to establish that a file is "free" for Wikipedia's purposes.

The second criterion at WP:NFCC, that "non-free content is not used in a manner that is likely to replace the original market role of the original copyrighted media," is often discussed in this regard. The fact that an image can be obtained for free at some websites often turns out to be trumped by the same image being offered for sale at another location. Wikipedia does not have the right to infringe on someone's market just because others are doing so. If anyone is offering the image for sale, anywhere, it is likely that the image fails criterion two and must be deleted.

On the other hand, widespread availability of an image may, in some circumstances, be evidence that criterion 2 is satisfied, if it can be clearly established that there is no danger of infringing on the original market role. Clearly establishing that, however, is difficult, and discussions about this point can be contentious. It is generally unhelpful to lay blame on another editor for not having adequately considered that a file may or may not still have a commercial value. Instead, try to listen to what other editors are saying, and consider whether they might have put forth arguments that would require you to change your position.

It should also be noted that an image that exists elsewhere on the Internet can sometimes, but not always, be linked to, as an alternative to actually placing the image on Wikipedia. If the other website is operated or licensed by the copyright owner, it is entirely appropriate to provide a link in the "External links" section of the page, or through the use of the {{external media}} template, with a mention in the text that the image can be found there. On the other hand, if another website hosts an image in violation of the copyright, Wikipedia should never provide such a link.

Free by association[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Although works that are actually created by the US government are generally in the public domain, make sure first that the work is not copyrighted and reprinted.


  • Keep – This image came from a U.S. Government website, which puts all work out in the public domain, and therefore it's free. – AmericanImagesHeckYeah (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]

A special case of the "It's free!" argument occurs with respect to images from government websites. This case can also be true for any website that nominally allows its own work to be put into the public domain, but which may also republish others' work.

Many national and state governments have copyright clauses that put work performed by their own employees while performing a work function into the public domain. Thus, there are many free images available from government sources. Editors often do not realize, however, that this does not mean that any media that appears on a government website is in the public domain. Sometimes, the government will republish copyrighted work on their websites or in publications, but this does not change the copyright of the original work. In these cases, there will often be a credit indicating who the original copyright holder is. When making this argument, make sure first that the content really is in the public domain, and do not just assume it.

Low resolution[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Do not adjust your computer monitor. Do remember that non-free content must satisfy all non-free content criteria.


  • Keep – It's low resolution, so it's fair use. – ShrinkEmDown (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Delete – This image is too blurry, so we don't need it. – JustASmidge (talk) 23:28, 3 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]

There can be good arguments that include these points, but arguments that consist only of these points are likely to carry little weight. As noted above, fair use is not, by itself, a sufficient argument for keeping a file. A non-free file must satisfy all ten criteria listed at WP:NFCC. Being of sufficiently low resolution is very helpful in satisfying criterion 3b. However, the file must still satisfy all of the other criteria.

Conversely, it is unreasonable to require that an image be of excellent resolution when we are actually requiring low resolution. If an image is of very low quality (like the one at the right), however, that may reduce its ability to add meaningfully to readers' understanding of the article. This latter point must be resolved by the consensus of editors evaluating how well or poorly the image contributes to the content of the page, and not by an arbitrary threshold of resolution.


Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Images are very helpful in the classroom. They can be helpful on Wikipedia too, but they need to help the reader understand the article, not simply provide information.


Being educational is, of course, a good thing for an encyclopedia. However the criteria at WP:NFCC set a higher standard than just being educational for non-free images and files. Criterion 8, which every non-free file must satisfy, requires that the image not merely be educational, but "significantly increase readers' understanding of the topic". This means, first, that the image must either address something that is discussed in the text of the page, or add in a meaningful and substantive way to the understanding of the overall topic of the page. It is not enough for the image to provide some additional information beyond what the text covers. Secondly, the image must make it significantly easier for the reader to understand what the page discusses, beyond what the text, alone, can convey. The most effective arguments recognize and explicitly address these requirements.

Arguing that an image enhances a reader's understanding of the page gets closer to being a persuasive argument, but a better argument explains how the image does so, rather than just stating baldly that it does.


Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

What do the history books say? No matter what they say, the non-free content criteria set specific requirements.


Once again, non-free images must satisfy all ten criteria listed at WP:NFCC. Being historic or one-of-a-kind is not, by itself, sufficient. Being of historical importance can, however, be part of a good argument that an image satisfies criterion 8 (contextual significance), and being unique may be helpful in satisfying criterion 1 (no free equivalent). It is also important to distinguish between an image that is, itself, historic and notable in its own right (such as the photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima), and thus is very likely to satisfy criterion 8, and a non-notable image that illustrates an historic event, in which case passage of criterion 8 is a matter of editorial judgment and consensus. There are plenty of conceivable images that show something historic, but which would not "significantly increase readers' understanding of the topic" on a given page, which is what criterion 8 requires. Therefore, do not simply point out that an image shows something historic. To make the most persuasive argument, go on to explain how this historic image increases the reader's understanding of what the article discusses.


Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

The Hope Diamond is irreplaceable. That doesn't mean that Wikipedia has to store it.


Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a repository for rare objects. Thus, it is not Wikipedia's role to be a place to keep unique and irreplaceable images. Arguing that an image is irreplaceable is unlikely to carry much weight in a deletion discussion. Instead, if you can show that the non-free image satisfies all ten criteria at WP:NFCC, the fact that it is irreplaceable can be helpful in establishing that it satisfies criterion 1 (no free equivalent). An irreplaceable image can also help satisfy criterion 8 (contextual significance), by being a particularly useful image to help readers understand the subject of the page.

Climactic scene[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Was it the best episode ever? It still has to pass the non-free content criteria.


This is another case of an argument that is weak by itself, but potentially stronger when made as part of a larger point. NFCC criterion 8 requires that the non-free image "significantly increase readers' understanding of the topic". Therefore, simply stating that the image is climactic, important, or iconic, is not sufficient by itself. Instead, the most persuasive arguments will refer to what the text of the article says, and explain clearly how the image helps the reader understand the subject in ways that cannot be achieved by text alone, and how the article text would be inadequate without this particular image.

Misunderstanding burden of proof[edit]

"You go first"[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Telling the other user what to do does not advance consensus.


  • Keep – I couldn't find a free replacement. You should first go and find a free image, then delete this once you found one. – DoItYourself (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Keep – If there's something wrong with the file information, you should have just fixed it. – DoYourOwnHomework (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Delete – I don't have to show that the file fails NFCC. The burden of proof is on you to show that it passes. – PassTheTest (talk) 23:28, 3 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Each deletion discussion is a discussion about an individual file. Whether or not there might exist a free image that could serve the same purpose as the image under discussion, the only issue at hand is whether the non-free image under discussion satisfies all ten criteria at WP:NFCC. If the image fails, then it must be deleted now, without waiting to find a replacement. If you believe that the file should be kept, and you cannot find a free replacement, you will have a better argument if you explain, instead, why you believe the file passes NFCC.

It is generally not helpful to achieving consensus to tell another editor what they should have done. Doing so tends to escalate tension, instead of finding a solution. If another editor points out something that is lacking in the file information, try to fix it yourself. If you can, you will then be able to return to the deletion discussion and explain that the criticism of the file is no longer applicable. On the other hand, an editor who is considering whether to nominate a file for deletion based on missing or faulty file information (NFCC criterion 10), ought to consider first whether, in fact, it is practical to fix the information oneself, instead of creating the trouble of a disputed deletion discussion.

Burden of proof in a deletion discussion is subject to rebuttable presumption. It is entirely reasonable for an editor proposing deletion to frame the nomination succinctly, for example: "Fails NFCC#2". Often, there will be no disagreement with such a nomination, and the closing administrator will conclude that the file should be deleted. In such a case, the nominating editor has no further burden. However, if another editor comes along and argues that the file should, in fact, be kept, then there must be discussion to determine who is correct. If the editor arguing for "keep" has made an unconvincing argument that you want to rebut, do not hide behind "burden of proof". Instead, try to explain politely why that argument is flawed. If the argument for keeping is, instead, valid, then the burden effectively shifts to those who still want to delete.

"I already said so"[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Rather than just repeating yourself, be sure you listened to what the other person said.


  • Delete – I already said why it should be deleted in my nomination statement. – ItsMyArgument (talk) 23:28, 3 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]

As stated just above, in "You go first", burden of proof in deletion discussions is subject to rebuttable presumption. An essential aspect of consensus building is listening to other editors' arguments. If, in fact, you already showed why the arguments for keep are incorrect, then assume that it wasn't clear to the other editors and explain it again. If the other editors, instead, have demonstrated that there was an error in your deletion nomination, then you should either explain why deletion is, nonetheless, required, or you should acknowledge that they were correct.

"It's obvious"[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

You may be as smart as Albert Einstein, but that doesn't make it clear to anyone else.


In any deletion discussion, an argument that simply asserts that its position is the correct one is likely to carry little weight. Always base your argument, as specifically as possible, on the ten criteria at WP:NFCC. Sometimes, it can be frustrating to get another editor to see what is obvious to you, but telling them that it is obvious is unlikely to persuade them, no matter how much it may feel good to say it. Stay calm, and try to explain what you mean, specifically. You can always console yourself in the knowledge of your superior understanding.

Arguments that simply state that an image is good or bad are really just examples of WP:ILIKEIT or WP:IDONTLIKEIT. Instead, explain why the non-free image is good or bad. In particular, address NFCC criterion 8: how does the image succeed or fail at significantly increasing readers' understanding of what the text of the page says?

"Decorative" arguments[edit]

"It's just decorative"[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

At the article on Cattleya trianae, this image helps readers understand what the text says. Here at this essay, it really is just decorative.


NFCC criterion 8 requires that all non-free images add significantly to "readers' understanding of the topic" of the page. A common shorthand for this idea is that images must not merely be "decorative". However, the imprecision of this word often gets in the way of making a persuasive argument in deletion discussions. There is no mathematical formula for drawing the line between being merely decorative, and being something that adds significantly to understanding. This distinction is a subjective one that can only be made through editorial discussion. Instead of stating baldly that the image is purely decorative, explain how it fails to help our readers understand the page.

Furthermore, the threshold is not, strictly speaking, whether it is possible to understand the subject matter of the page by relying upon text alone, without the use of the image. Criterion 8 requires that the absence of the image "would be detrimental" to understanding the text. Thus, the issue is not whether the text alone can explain the concept at all, but whether it can explain it as well, without the image. An editor who refuses to "drop the stick" of saying that the page can be understood using text alone may eventually come to be seen by other editors as being disruptive.

Conversely, simply saying that an image looks good can be tantamount to admitting that it is, in fact, only decorative. Remember instead to explain why the image satisfies criterion 8.

"Any image can be described by words"[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Even if it's possible to explain something in braille, that doesn't mean that an image wouldn't help readers understand it better.


Arguing to keep a non-free image on the basis that "any image can be described by words" is unlikely to be persuasive. The deletion discussion is about only one image, and whether it adds significantly to readers' understanding of what the page says (NFCC criterion 8). A better argument is to explain how this image accomplishes that goal.

The opposite argument is just as weak. The fact that you, personally, are capable of understanding the text without seeing the image proves very little. The standard, instead, is whether our readers, the general public, will, as a group, tend to understand the content of the page significantly better when the image is included, and whether it would be detrimental to their understanding to omit it. Thus, the threshold is not whether someone can possibly understand the text at all without the image, but whether the image significantly improves that understanding. Does the image really add absolutely nothing to what one understands? If it only adds in an insignificant way, then explain why that is insignificant, instead of resorting to hyperbole. Doing so will then make it easier for other editors to come to consensus.

Worth a thousand words[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Whatever it's worth, it still has to pass the non-free content criteria.


  • Keep – An image is worth a thousand words. – 1000Words (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]

"A picture is worth a thousand words" is an old adage, but in deletion discussions, it is nothing more than an empty cliché. A far better way to make your case is to explain, specifically, how the non-free image satisfies NFCC criterion 8.

Crystal ball fallacies[edit]

Nobody complained before[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Hey, don't look at me! Nobody complained before!


  • Keep – This article has used this image for ages and nobody complained to us about using it. – AlreadyThere (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Keep – I'm sure the creator of the image would want us to use it. – OrWouldThey (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Keep – We have a letter from the copyright owner, saying that we may use this image on Wikipedia. – OkayYouCan (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Keep – This article has used this image for ages and editors never raised this objection before. – WeAllLikeAnImage (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Famous last words! Even if the holder of a copyright has not defended that copyright, or appears not to have defended that copyright, they still retain the right to enforce it when they choose. Perhaps they simply have not yet noticed its use on Wikipedia. No editor here has the ability to predict the future. Instead, try to find affirmative evidence that the file has been licensed in such a way that Wikipedia may use it.

Even if we have a communication from the copyright owner, saying that the work may be used on Wikipedia, that is not the same thing as a communication that agrees to freely licensing the work as Wikipedia requires. Any file used on Wikipedia may be re-used elsewhere, so an agreement to use the image only on Wikipedia is not enough. If you are in a position to ask permission from the copyright holder, do not simply ask for permission for use on Wikipedia, but request free licensing.

Similarly, even if an image has been used on a page for a long time with no editor objecting to its use, that is not a valid argument for keeping. Some pages are viewed infrequently, so this may simply be a case in which the failure to satisfy the NFCC requirements was not noticed until recently. Also, a file may previously have had a valid rationale for use on an article, but has subsequently been moved to a different page, where the rationale is no longer valid, or revisions to the original page have made the rationale obsolete.

A variation of this argument, in which the featured status of the page is invoked, is discussed below.

Legal predictions[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Well, let's hope it never comes to this, but the issue here is whether the file passes the non-free content criteria.


  • Keep – They would never sue us. – ImbalancedScales (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Delete – They might sue us. We need to lean on the side of caution. – Legalese (talk) 23:28, 3 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • Delete – We are required by the Wikimedia Foundation to limit use to exceptional circumstances. – HigherUp (talk) 23:28, 3 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]

You may believe in good faith that the copyright holder would not object to Wikipedia's use of their property, but can you prove it? Saying that they would never enforce their copyright is very unlikely to be persuasive in a deletion discussion. Instead, showing that the file has been appropriately licensed is a much more effective argument.

Just as it is unsubstantiated speculation to claim that someone would not sue us, it is just as speculative to worry that they would. The criteria at WP:NFCC have been very carefully vetted, and it is entirely sufficient to demonstrate that the ten criteria have all been satisfied. It is never necessary to set a higher standard than that.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which owns all the servers for Wikipedia and its sister projects, has indeed stated in their resolution on licensing policy that use of non-free content on the English language Wikipedia must be limited to exceptional, not routine, use. In that regard, then, the statement that usage must be "exceptional" is factually true. However, such a statement should not be used in deletion discussions as a rhetorical trick to argue for deletion based upon criteria stricter than those listed at WP:NFCC. There is a well-established consensus that those ten criteria are appropriate and sufficient to establish that usage satisfies the Foundation's requirements. Nothing further is required.

Should have known[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Don't expect other editors to be clairvoyant.


  • Delete – You should have known that this image was copyrighted. – YourJudgement (talk) 23:28, 3 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]

The editor who uploads a file is responsible for correctly filling out the information on the file page, including the information about its licensing status. However, it is possible for an editor who acts in good faith to make an error. By the time a deletion discussion has gotten underway, it is not helpful to assign blame. Other editors, who consider the image to be beneficial to the page, may not have independently looked into whether the file page description is correct, but that does not mean that they have bad intentions. If you find that a file is being used improperly, it is sufficient for you to show that it lacks proper licensing. Making the argument personal will only inflame the discussion and get in the way of consensus.

"Otherstuff" arguments[edit]

Use on other pages[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

You don't have to look somewhere else just because someone says so.


  • Keep – This other article uses an image like this in the same manner, so should this one. – ILoveConsistency (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Delete – We don't have images like this in similar articles, so we don't need it here. – NoPageElseDoes (talk) 23:28, 3 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]

In all deletion discussions on Wikipedia, not just those that are about files, it is never a convincing argument to point to other pages. Each deletion discussion for an image is a discussion of that image only. Correct use of other images elsewhere, or the absence of images elsewhere, has no bearing on the encyclopedic value of the image under discussion. Instead, focus on whether or not the non-free image is useful on the page(s) where it appears, and whether or not the criteria at WP:NFCC are satisfied.

"We would have to delete all images"[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

We really wouldn't have to sweep all images away.


  • Keep – Following your argument, we would have to delete all images on Wikipedia. – BurnThemAll (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Keep – But the NFCC criteria are just subjective. – RulesDontMatter (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Sometimes, editors who want to delete an image make arguments that would, in effect, justify removal of all images from this project. Some such arguments are, in fact, listed here as arguments to avoid. However, it is usually not helpful in trying to reach a consensus to belittle another editor's comments, as this approach tends to polarize the debate instead. Saying that we would have to delete all images on Wikipedia falls prey to the fallacies that it matters for a deletion discussion whether other files would also be deleted, and that one can predict, crystal ball fashion, what decisions would be made in the future. Instead, simply point out how the other editor is incorrectly applying the criteria at WP:NFCC.

It is essentially the same argument to complain that the criteria are too subjective. Some of them are indeed subjective, but how they are applied is a matter of consensus, which is all the more reason for editors to listen to one another's arguments.

Audited content[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Don't try to pull rank. Link to the earlier discussion, and show how the file was already shown to pass the criteria.


  • Keep – This image is used in a Featured Article. – CelebrityImage (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Keep – This image is used in a Good Article. – DestinedForStardom (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  • Keep – This image was thoroughly evaluated when the page was reviewed for Featured Article. – TheyKeptIt (talk) 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Sometimes, a non-free file that appears in a Good Article or Featured Article is nominated for deletion. Such nominations can, understandably, be frustrating for editors who have worked hard to bring those articles to that level of quality, and editors arguing for deletion are advised to recognize that fact. However, simply pointing to the article's status is unlikely to be a persuasive argument. Perhaps the image was added after the page was audited. Even if the image was, in fact, carefully scrutinized during the review of the page, it may not be obvious to the editors arguing for deletion that every one of the ten criteria at WP:NFCC was already determined to have been met. A much better argument is to provide a link to the actual discussion that occurred when the page was audited, and show that, in fact, the image is already known to meet the specific concern raised in the nomination.

Deletion discussions concerning free media[edit]

Although this essay focuses on non-free content, there are also free images and other files that are kept, for various reasons, at the English Wikipedia, instead of or in addition to being kept at Commons. Consequently, there can also be deletion discussions of such files at Wikipedia, whether or not they are being discussed for deletion at other projects. Such files are, of course, not subject to the Wikipedia:Non-free content policy. Instead, they must be shown to be properly licensed according to Wikipedia:File copyright tags/Free licenses. Below, there are "arguments to avoid" concerning such files. Beyond that, many of the general principles of "arguments to avoid", given at Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in deletion discussions, apply to those deletion discussions. In addition, it is useful to recognize that some of the "arguments to avoid" that are listed above should also be avoided when discussing free material, with the only difference being that the non-free content criteria do not apply.

It's unused[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

With proper licensing, we don't necessarily need to sweep out all the corners of the project.


The seventh NFCC criterion requires that non-free content be used in at least one article in order to be kept. However, there is no such requirement for free images (including those in the public domain), when properly licensed. Perhaps an article making good use of the image will be created in the future. Editors sometimes point to WP:NOTIMAGE, which states that "Wikipedia is neither a mirror nor a repository of links, images, or media files." However, that policy concerns the use of image files in article space, and prohibits "mere collections of photographs or media files with no text to go with the articles." It does not apply to storage of free files on servers, where there is no shortage of capacity. It is entirely possible that a completely unused free image ought to be deleted if it lacks any potential encyclopedic use, as described at Wikipedia:Image use policy#Content, but in such cases it is better to argue based on the content of the image, rather than on its use.

There's no description[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in deletion discussions.

Sherlock Holmes would look beyond a file page to determine an image's encyclopedic value.


An image whose encyclopedic purpose cannot be determined is an appropriate deletion candidate. However, the file page is not the only place to look to find information about an image. Has the nominator checked the uploader's contributions immediately following the upload? Often, the next thing a user will do is insert the image into an article. And even if the image was never itself inserted, the uploader's contributions generally will provide clues about what an image is. In sum, the lack of a description on the image page is not fatal.

See also[edit]