Wikipedia:Signatures of living persons

There is no consensus to reproduce signatures in Wikipedia articles, and there is some concern regarding reproducing the signatures of living persons. Signatures of living persons, in general, should only be displayed in articles when a person has published their own signature, and reliable secondary sources reproduce the signature. Copyright and trademark issues may also affect the decision to include a signature. Concerns about privacy and identity theft make it imperative that signatures be removed upon the request of the subject.


Generally, there is no consensus for signatures of living persons to be reproduced in Wikipedia. Discussion on the relevant article talkpage to decide the value of reproducing a signature would be appropriate. Criteria to consider would be whether: (1) the subject has published their own signature; (2) secondary sources have reproduced the signature, with the subject's consent; (3) the image of the signature is from a reliable source, and (4) the signature is directly relevant to the article in which it is displayed.

Legal issues

The legal status of signatures is disputed, varies with jurisdiction, and mainly depends on whether they are copyrightable as "artistic works." Like calligraphy, they may be in the public domain, because they consist entirely of information that is common property and contain no original authorship (see Template:PD-ineligible),[1] but the appearance of signatures, rather than names, may be protected. Whether a signature can be considered an artistic work may depend on its originality and creativity, or whether it involves "skill, judgement, and labour". [2] Files of signatures considered ineligible for copyright both in the US and the country of the individual concerned may be tagged with {{PD-signature}}.

There are a variety of non-copyright laws which may affect the uploader and/or the Wikimedia Foundation, including personality rights[3][4] and privacy rights. Work surrounding the signature might be copyrighted, using a signature could be false attribution, a signature used on product might suggest endorsement (i.e. passing off), and signatures may be trademarked.[1] Trademarked signatures should be treated the same as trademarked logos.


Copying a signature from a primary source may be a misuse of the source and a breach of privacy.

Editors should provide clear justification of importance for the use of the signature of any living person where such signature is not already available in widely published sources. If a person (or a representative of) requests that their signature be removed from an article, the signature should be removed, and the Wikipedia:OTRS team should be notified.

See also


  1. "Signatures" (PDF). Design and Artists Copyright Society. Retrieved 7 July 2010. It is unlikely that, on balance, signatures could fall within the protection afforded to artistic works. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. Spilsbury, Sallie (2000). Media Law. Cavendish Publishing. p. 439. ISBN 185941530X. An individual's signature may be protected under law as an artistic work. If so, the unauthorised reproduction of the signature will infringe copyright. The name itself will not be protected by copyright; it is the appearance of the signature which is protected.
  3. Buchan, Robert; Grassie, Gill (1 May 2004). "Personality rights: a brand new species?". The Journal. Law Society of Scotland. Retrieved 7 July 2010. In the USA it is accepted that a person’s name, voice and likeness are protected at law. Similarly, Canada, Germany and France also have accepted the existence of a “personality right”. An individual has the exclusive right to authorise how their name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness may be used. If anyone uses the image without their consent, it is an infringement of the right and may be subject to a penalty. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. Jaasma, Keith (Fall 2009). "Star Power in the Lone Star State: The Right of Publicity in Texas". Texas Intellectual Property Law Journal. The University of Texas School of Law. 18 (1): 123–181. the Texas Court of Appeals in Waco recognized in U.S. Life Insurance Co. v. Hamilton that the unauthorized “use of an individual’s signature for business purposes unquestionably constitutes the exercise of a valuable right of property.”