Updated July 16, 2019, with livestream info, in-page section links, added a couple content links, corrected a couple typos.
File:Your Wikimania needs you!.jpg by John Cummings https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Your_Wikimania_needs_you!.jpg
Trust me, your Wikimania really DOES need you! And that’s what this post is about. I’m here to persuade you that it is worth it to YOU (and to the whole Graphic Medicine community) for artists and creators working in this space to share just one or two representative images of their work. Given that this is not happening right now, I’m sure the immediate reaction is something along the lines of, “Gee, I’d really like to, but, I just can’t.”, “I don’t get how this works, and I’m afraid if I start, people will take advantage of all of my work!” or, “OMG, NO WAY! If I do that, how will I EVER make any money?!? You don’t expect me to work for free, do you?!” Of course, not! This is actually about marketing and helping to draw increased attention to the entire field, which is something that will pay off for everyone. Here’s what I’m thinking. I’m drafting this out as a kind of an FAQ, based on questions that have come up in conversations I’ve been having about this.
Why do I actually need Wikipedia to mention my work?
You’ve noticed when you do a search on just about anything, how in the top five results there is almost always a Wikipedia link? Yeah, that’s why. Also, this.
“Wikipedia averages more than 18 billion page views per month, making it one of the most visited websites in the world, according to Alexa.com, a Web tracking company owned by Amazon.” (Pew Internet, 2015)
If you want people to see your work, to find your work, to buy your work, it really helps if you show up in search results. The top fifteen most visited and most popular websites in 2019, according to SimilarWeb, are Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Yahoo, [three porn sites], Twitter, Instagram, eBay, Reddit, Wikipedia, Bing, and Craigslist. You are probably already putting some of your content in some of these places, but that doesn’t mean it’s easily found. For comics (and by extension, graphic medicine content), YouTube isn’t the easiest way to show off what you’ve done. YouTube is the #2 search engine on the planet, and a great tool for reaching an audience, but making a video of a comic can be tricky. It’s not easy to search and find content in social media, and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram seems sometimes to make it difficult on purpose. I could go on at length, but the short version is that Wikipedia is heavily used, and it feeds directly into Google, which is the #1 search engine on the planet. It’s a great way to be found.
So can’t I just make my own Wikipedia page, and put what I want on it?
No. No, you can’t. If you try, they will take it down. Why? Because YOU ARE BIASED about yourself. Go figure. Wikipedia has this policy about neutral content, and they take this extremely seriously.
That’s for you, but it matters also to Graphic Medicine as a field. If you are a big name in the Graphic Medicine field, you probably shouldn’t be editing content about graphic medicine for that same reason. You know all the answers, but you may insert bias into what is supposed to be neutral content.
Here are some tips from marketers (with DOs and DON’Ts) on how to not mess up using Wikipedia for promoting your content.
5 Things to Know Before Using Wikipedia as a Marketing Tool
How to Use Your Wikipedia Page as a Marketing Tool
Surely there’s plenty of graphic medicine stuff in Wikipedia already, right?
If you look in Wikipedia for content around graphic medicine, there’s some. Not a lot. What there is tends to be a little light on content. It’s kind of embarrassing, actually. I mean, how many international conferences have we had? If you look at Wikipedia, you really are going to have trouble telling that Graphic Medicine is a “thing,” that it’s important. We know it is, but how do we show the world that it is?
There’s a few of us who’ve been working hard to try to improve the Wikipedia content around the field of graphic medicine. This involves collaborations, finding partners, learning new skills, and spending time actually doing Wikipedia work. It means helping other people with their projects, and asking them to help with ours. It means proving that you understand Wikipedia’s editing rules and will follow them. It’s work. It’s not easy work. It’s not fast. We can’t do it without your help.
If you look at what graphic medicine content is in Wikipedia, you’ll find very VERY few pictures. Now, explain to me how we show people what our comics are about WITHOUT USING PICTURES? Aren’t pictures kind of the point in graphic medicine?
Why can’t Wikipedia just use my book covers from Amazon?
I wish. That would sure make life easier in some ways. I could just say that Wikipedia has rules saying we can’t do this (which is true), but it isn’t that simple. You see, they have the rules for very good reasons. Wikipedia is truly global resource, and intellectual property laws vary around the world. Even if the law here in the United States (where I am) said it would be fair use to use a picture of the book cover, that doesn’t mean the same is true in other countries.
Wikipedia has very good reasons why they make it a policy to try as hard as possible to only use images with public domain or Creative Commons licensing. Those images are legally safe to use in any country, anywhere around the world. So, your book covers on the publisher’s website? Those might be fair use, maybe, but in general, the idea is let’s not test that if we can avoid it. What they want most for images used in Wikipedia articles are those public domain and Creative Commons images.
“Because we want free content, ideally all images uploaded would be free for everyone, and therefore would be acceptable on our sister project, Wikimedia Commons. Images submitted to Commons are used the same way as images uploaded locally to Wikipedia and are automatically available on Wikipedia—as well as on hundreds of other Wikis run by the Wikimedia Foundation. If you have an image that meets our copyright requirements, please upload it to Commons.” Ten things you may not know about images on Wikipedia
Wikimedia Commons? What’s that? Are their rules different from Wikipedia’s?
What is this Wikimedia Commons? Just the most awesome databank of public domain and Creative Commons images in my experience, with full provenance for each image, sources, detailed information on how to cite that specific image, what kind of credit and attribution you need to provide, what limits are placed on what you can do with that image, and all that good stuff. They also provide images in multiple resolutions, sizes, and sometimes formats. Not just images either, but other kinds of media as well. But images you can find and use in your own art work isn’t why we’re here. Back on topic.
Yes, Wikimedia Commons has their own rules about what images are allowed, just like Wikipedia does. Here are Wikipedia’s rules and their style guide.
For the Commons, the short short version is that it’s okay to add either images you created or photographed yourself or images that are over 75-100 years old, with the extra guidelines that if the image is a photograph of a person, they expect you to get the permission of that person. More on that in a minute. Those are the rules for the images that are straightforward and likely to be legal for anywhere in the world, preferred images. There are grey areas in the rules for things that are sometimes okay (eg. low resolution versions of book covers), and there are types of images they really don’t want (eg. fair use). For the full details on what’s allowed and what isn’t, check the link to their rules. The most important bit to remember is you can upload your own images and decide the permissions for use.
Aren’t there other pictures you can use? You don’t really need mine, do you?
Nope, we really, really, REALLY need your help! Only YOU can share your images, and without examples of your images, how can Wikipedia editors say wonderful things about your work? I have personally searched through THOUSANDS of images in Wikimedia Commons looking for examples that we could use in some of the Graphic Medicine articles on Wikipedia. I found nine. Nine that might qualify. All of them are public domain, and all of them except four were created roughly 70 or more years before the phrase “graphic medicine” became a gleam in Ian‘s eye. Three of those are military, and one is only very superficially related.
Here, I’ll show you. All nine. Whoohoo!
First, here’s the first one that we could use. Wikimedia Commons includes the cover of “The Docs (2010),” publicized as Graphic Novel Helps Corpsmen Cope with Combat-related Stress.
Here’s the second relatively contemporary graphic medicine type of image, also from the US military (this time the Army), highlighting the adventures of “Captain Condom and Lady Latex” in a 1991 era educational comic to help prevent the spread of AIDS.
Less contemporary (1966), we have a full page from the comic, “A Medal For Bowser,” illustrating the value of animals for research.
I’m going to go fast with the others, and just give you small versions of them, but I think you’ll get the idea. These pieces are more of a stretch, as far as being useful for communicating what’s going on in the world of graphic medicine now.
Judge Rummy (1926)
Medicine Man (1930)
Mr Skygack (1907)
Orator Woodward (1900)
Laughing Gas (1800s)
There you go! That’s the visual world of graphic medicine according to Wikimedia Commons! (Unless we help change it.)
We’re only talking about pictures of my art, right? Not pictures of me?
That depends. Are you someone who might someday appear in a Wikipedia article? Yes? Then you might want to consider how you’d like to appear there. Here are the images used for two very influential graphic medicine artists and storytellers, Ellen Forney and Lucy Knisley.
You keep taking about “Public Domain” images and “Creative Commons” images. What’s the difference?
I’m over simplifying again, but public domain means anyone anywhere can do anything they want with an image. They can cut it, crop it, redraw it, recolor it, convert it into 3d, blend it with other images, make a collage, make a statue, snip out a tiny part and zoom into the details, ANYTHING. Creative Commons does NOT give people full rights to do anything. Creative Commons image licenses have several different types of license, and you get to make these choices. Here are some links to help describe better than I can what some of the issues are, and how making some images Creative Commons can be a brilliant idea, how it can help you as an artist, and how it makes it possible for you to help others.
What you didn’t know about Creative Commons: Creative Commons provides artists with access and raw materials. Big companies benefit too.
“No tool is better than the people”: CC artists in conversation on Collaboration, Community, and the Commons
Jomo Thompson: Is Creative Commons Good for Artists?
Why should I use a Creative Commons License?
How can artists who license their work under Creative Commons make money from their work?
If I make some images available for Wikipedia, what does that mean? Do I have any control over them?
This depends on what license you choose. Creative Commons, the organization, has helpful tools to support you choosing the right license for you, making a decision you are comfortable with. I’m guessing most published graphic medicine artists would want a license that tells people you have to use their name and give them credit for using their images. If you are making an image free, you might want to say that other people can’t use it for anything they sell, or that they can’t modify it at all. There are good reasons to say they can change, and good reasons to say they can’t. That’s a whole other blogpost (or a dozen).
What if someone decides to use the images for something else? Who else can use them, and how?
The short version is that once you make an image Creative Commons, ANYONE can use it. What you control is HOW they use it.
There are some licenses people choose that do say other people can not only use the image, but can change it. Of course, you want people to be able to talk about you and your work in Wikipedia. Having images there also means academics, teachers, scholars, researchers can write and teach about your work and publish about your work without having to get image rights for those images. Teachers can use the images in class, as examples for students, or integrate them in assignments. Other artists might include them in a collage or montage, or might do Andy Warhol-style mashups and manipulations. You can set limits on how far this goes. The most restrictive licenses say the image has to be used exactly as it was provided with no changes, and giving you all the credit each time it is used. They aren’t giving you money, but that’s the only thing they aren’t giving you. The most liberal licenses give people permission to mix and match and mash and generally use your image as a stepping stone to inspire new creativity. And there’s a lot of subtle steps in-between these two extremes.
Are there strategies for sharing images that can protect my copyrighted works and still get something in Wikipedia?
You betcha, but it might mean getting permission from your publisher (or employer, if it was a work for hire). This will depend on any contracts you might have with them, and what rights you’ve given to them. FYI, giving a publisher the rights to a work often means you no longer have those rights. It seems obvious when you say it like that, but it isn’t always obvious to creators that the pictures they drew no longer belong to them.
So, Wikipedia will only take small thumbnails of your book covers. If your publisher wants to have anything higher resolution show up there, you need their help. Another idea is to put in Wikimedia not the final version of an important image but an earlier sketch. You can redraw a scene more simply, or take a small excerpt from a large sketch. The idea is to make the picture different in some significant way from what was copyrighted, and to make this distinction. Of course, you can always use images that didn’t end up being included in the final work, or drawing something new.
If you are considering using an image that’s well known, be sure to check with a lawyer or your publisher/employer to make sure they are okay with your plans and the images you chose. Using a new image means you don’t need anyone else’s permission.
Do you have questions or concerns that I missed? That’s awesome! Add them in the comments or come next Saturday, July 20th, 2019, to an online AMA (Ask Me Anything) at noon Eastern Time.
I’ll add the link here once I get the stream set up. Here’s the connection info!
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