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The Media Education

Wikipedia Moving From GFDL To Creative Commons License 90

Posted by timothy
from the please-discuss-in-the-talk-section dept.
FilterMapReduce writes "The Wikimedia Foundation has resolved to migrate the copyright licensing of all of its wiki projects, including Wikipedia, from the GNU Free Documentation License to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. The migration is scheduled to be completed on June 15. After the migration, reprints of material from the wikis will no longer require a full copy of the GFDL to be attached, and the attribution rules will require only a link to the wiki page. Also, material submitted after the migration cannot be forked with GFDL "invariant sections," which are impossible to incorporate back into a wiki in most cases. The GFDL version update that made the migration possible and the community vote that informed the decision were previously covered on Slashdot."
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Wikipedia Moving From GFDL To Creative Commons License

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  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @06:41PM (#28047595) Homepage Journal
    Like the GNU Free Documentation License, the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license is a free, copyleft license designed for works other than computer programs. It just lacks some of the practical problems that come with the GNU FDL, which was designed specifically for software manuals that run dozens of pages long. Individual encyclopedia articles are much shorter than that, and the ability to incorporate the license by reference is a better match for Wikimedia Foundation's uses. But the Creative Commons licenses have some of their own practical problems, such as requiring distributors to remove an upstream author's credit upon request.
    • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @07:06PM (#28047837) Homepage Journal

      GNU FDL was chosen as CC was not available at the time. Now CC has additionally become an accepted standard with a lot of material out there. It is great news as this makes it easier to mix content from and to their projects.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Hear hear. Now that this decision has been made, how long until the full transition occurs? It certainly looks like a much better choice. From the *wikipedia page on the Creative Commons licenses:

        "Some within the copyleft movement argue that only the Attribution-ShareAlike license is actually a true copyleft license [24] and that there is no standard of freedom between Creative Commons licenses (as there is, for example, within the free software and open source movements). [25] An effort within the movement

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ais523 (1172701)

          *The quoted material from wikipedia is reposted under the GNU Free Documentaion License. A full copy of the license is included below to comply with the licensing requirements.

          Pretty much a perfect example of what's wrong with the GFDL; although arguably your quote from Wikipedia above was fair use, other legitimate reuses of it might not be. The GFDL was designed for books, where quoting the entire license is no problem; it wasn't designed for Slashdot comments, or newspaper articles, or any of a huge number of other possible situations.

          • Pretty much a perfect example of what's wrong with the GFDL; although arguably your quote from Wikipedia above was fair use, other legitimate reuses of it might not be. The GFDL was designed for books, where quoting the entire license is no problem; it wasn't designed for Slashdot comments, or newspaper articles, or any of a huge number of other possible situations.

            Fair use in your country? Not saying mine is different, just highlighting that wikipedia which is mostly available in most/all cuntries [sic] sh

      • GNU FDL was chosen as CC was not available at the time. Now CC has additionally become an accepted standard with a lot of material out there. It is great news as this makes it easier to mix content from and to their projects.

        While that may have been Jimbo Wales motivation for the GNU FDL, the real truth goes a bit deeper than even that. This is far too simple of an explaination.

        There was another encyclopedia effort called the GNU-pedia being led by none other than Richard Stallman who tried to start an open-source collaboratively written encyclopedia. This was started about the same time that Nupedia was just getting off the ground as well. Nupedia had a slight head-start in terms of getting going a little bit earlier, although the licensing terms for Nupedia were not nailed down as the whole concept of an open-source encyclopedia was still getting established.

        Due to the bureaucratic overhead in Nupedia, a much more free-form wiki-style encyclopedia was created by many of the participants in this early encyclopedia effort, and that became what we know today as Wikipedia. Again, with the already established crowd with ties to GNU projects and committed to the general philosophy of the GPL, the GNU FDL was a natural choice... where that document license was just being released. Having Richard Stallman brow beat Jimmy Wales certainly didn't hurt either, although I don't think it was that hard of a decision to be made at the time.

        BTW, there were other "open source" type licenses at the time besides the GFDL, even if what we know today as the "Creative Commons" suite of licenses didn't really exist in its current form.

        All that has really happened here is the "or later version" clause of the GFDL has been allowed to include a somewhat similar philosophical Creative Commons license as something considered a later version or edition of this particular license. What the Wikimedia Foundation board of trustees has done is to make a political move to explicitly move the content of the Wikimedia projects (not just Wikipedia) to the Creative Commons license explicitly mentioned in that new clause.

        That the WMF board also helped to write that clause of the GFDL due to placing political pressure on Richard Stallman and those involved in the Free Software Foundation sort of brings this thing full circle as well. A lot more is happening here besides "the folks at Wikipedia seeing the light" and suddenly deciding to switch licenses.

        BTW, I do think harmonization of the various free document licenses is on the whole a good thing, and having the weight of the Wikipedia editors and enthusiasts championing a broader license in terms of something used in more documents can only make that resulting license a much more stable license and less likely to be modified to something generally unacceptable to that community.

        Still, to suggest that the GFDL was chosen only because the CC-BY-SA license was not yet written is a gross oversimplification of what really happened and doesn't tell the true story. Those who put reliance on the GPL, however, beware. That license could have the same thing happen in the future, based on whatever whim or political winds happen that can influence the Free Software Foundation.

        The one thing that I do regret never happened is some sort of harmonization between the GPL and GFDL.... primarily in regards to open source textbooks and commentaries on software design. It at least had a shot with the licensing staying within the scope of the Free Software Foundation, but now that the Creative Commons governing body is in charge, it seems like something that will never happen. This is still a problem with the CC-BY-SA license and won't get resolved any time in the near future.

    • by samkass (174571)

      Was it the license that was preventing a downloadable dump of Wikipedia from being distributed on an iPhone? Does the CC license change that?

    • by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:12PM (#28048285) Homepage

      Wikipedia has a useful FAQ [wikimedia.org] about the relicensing.

      The parent post makes some good points about what was undesirable about the GFDL. In addition, there's the issue of needless proliferation of licenses. What everybody originally intended here was to make a commons that everyone could draw from. If A makes an animation, and B writes a song, and C performs B's song, and A, B, and C all try their best to put their work in the commons, then D should be able to come along and make a video consisting of A's animation with a sound track consisting of C's performance of B's song. There shouldn't be artificial obstacles just because A, B, and C chose different licenses.

      I'm not saying there should only be one free-as-in-speech license for written materials. We do need at least two, because there are real philosophical differences between BSD-style licenses and GPL-style licenses. But there is not a real philosophical difference between the GFDL and CC-BY-SA.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tepples (727027)

        I'm not saying there should only be one free-as-in-speech license for written materials. We do need at least two, because there are real philosophical differences between BSD-style licenses and GPL-style licenses.

        CC-BY and CC-BY-SA appear to nicely fit the roles you mention. But the credit removal requirement in even CC-BY might cause license incompatibility if a free program under a GNU license uses CC-BY images, audio, etc. Or am I misreading the definition of "aggregate" in the GPL?

        • by Kjella (173770)

          Good one, clearly the work as a whole includes the images and other resources according to copyright law. That does imply that any images and other resources can not put "additional restrictions" on themselves. Funny though, according to the GPL (GPLv3 definition at leasT) that means you have to include the "preferred source" of editing any image - that's usually not the final render. Wonder how many are violating that one....

          • by ais523 (1172701)

            I know that when I posted a GPL-licensed image (PNG converted from pic) to Wikipedia (it was GPL-licensed by someone else, I had no say in the matter), I posted the pic source code to it on the image description page; the GPL requires that. When someone else converted it to SVG, they didn't; I suspect that's also correct, in that SVG images are generally modified by modifying the SVG, but PNG images created by rendering an image in a vector format are generally modified by modifying the original vector form

        • by Teancum (67324)

          I'm not saying there should only be one free-as-in-speech license for written materials. We do need at least two, because there are real philosophical differences between BSD-style licenses and GPL-style licenses.

          CC-BY and CC-BY-SA appear to nicely fit the roles you mention. But the credit removal requirement in even CC-BY might cause license incompatibility if a free program under a GNU license uses CC-BY images, audio, etc. Or am I misreading the definition of "aggregate" in the GPL?

          This is the one thing that IMHO is one of the things that makes working with any of the Creative Commons licenses so difficult.

          CC-BY != CC-BY-SA != CC-SA != CC-SA-NC

          I've been caught in the trap of referencing one license by shorthand when it really is another license that is being discussed, and getting into philosophical discussions about each of the various Creative Commons licenses.

          Or to put it more bluntly, there is no "Creative Commons license".... there is a whole bunch of 'em and they are mostly inco

          • I've been caught in the trap of referencing one license by shorthand when it really is another license that is being discussed

            You mean like the GPL vs. the LGPL?

            Or to put it more bluntly, there is no "Creative Commons license".... there is a whole bunch of 'em and they are mostly incompatible with each other.

            FSF had the same problem [gnu.org] with the Open Publication License [opencontent.org]: the basic license was free, but it allowed option A (no derivatives) and option B (non-commercial), either of which made a work using it non-free.

            At least if you were referencing the GFDL, you knew you were talking about a specific document that was well defined without this sort of ambiguity.

            The GFDL has its own non-free option, and it is called Invariant Sections.

        • by bcrowell (177657)

          But the credit removal requirement in even CC-BY might cause license incompatibility if a free program under a GNU license uses CC-BY images, audio, etc.

          As far as I can tell, that was an issue with CC v2 licenses, but it's been fixed in v3:

          • by tepples (727027)

            But the credit removal requirement in even CC-BY might cause license incompatibility

            As far as I can tell, that was an issue with CC v2 licenses, but it's been fixed in v3:

            The third link gave me an untrusted issuer error when I tried to view it in Firefox. I had to edit the URL to use HTTP instead of HTTPS. But then the Legal Code of CC-BY version 3 still has very similar language.

            If You create a Collective Work, upon notice from any Licensor You must, to the extent practicable, remove from the Collective Work any credit as required by Section 4(b), as requested. If You create a Derivative Work, upon notice from any Licensor You must, to the extent practicable, remove from th

  • by Landak (798221) <Landak@gmail.com> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @06:41PM (#28047597) Homepage
    ...is this the start of the end of the GFDL?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by orngjce223 (1505655)

      Not really, the GFDL is for things that are much longer, and y'know Wikipedia articles really aren't supposed to be very long (the one on the "United States" is about as big as they get).

      Basically, imagine the GFDL tacked onto a five-sentence stub Wikpedia article about a town in France. Then imagine the GFDL tacked onto a hundred-page software manual. It's (proportionally speaking) a pretty big difference, which makes it very practical in the latter case but not in the former.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kjella (173770)

        Everything you said is correct except you gave no real reason why the GFDL should continue to exist. You're free to include the full CC license too if you feel like, and if you only did it by reference I doubt many would care. The CCs have pretty much become the standard for any type of free non-code material, and I can't see any good reason why software documentation should need a special license different from any other text.

        • by Teancum (67324)

          The point of the GFDL was to provide a licensing approach to textual content that was compatible in philosophy to the GPL. More specific, the GPL was simply inappropriate to be used in a text-only type document and something more needed to be made so user documentation of GPL'd software could be distributed under similar terms.

          If you dive into the fine minutiae of the GFDL, there are some terms and clauses (especially the much maligned invariant sections) that do offer some value and offer licensing terms

        • by againjj (1132651)
          It allows additional restrictions on secondary sections, like front covers, back covers, and invariant texts, which CC-BY-SA does not allow for. This is intended to make the license more attractive to those who publish books with free content but want control over the surrounding material. For those people who produce GFDL material with no secondary sections, there really is no significant reason to not go with CC-BY-SA.
  • Is existing GFDL content compatible with the CC licence?

    Why can't individual contributors choose their licence like they can with Flickr?

    • Re:I didn't RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

      by jrumney (197329) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @06:52PM (#28047723) Homepage
      Wikipedia is very different from a file upload site like Flickr, in that each page is not the work of one individual, but the combined work of many. Consistent licensing is essential - noone wants to have to check all the licenses of previous edits before they add their own to ensure that no license conflict happens.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Meshach (578918)
        Good point. The original license does not account for the fluid nature of articles at wikipedia. From a legal perspective this seems like an improvement (IANAL though).
    • Each page of Wikipedia (or any other wiki that runs on an open copyright license) is a licensed work, and each version of the page is a derivative work based on the previous ones. Using your suggestion, users could only choose their own license terms when they create a new page—any edits to existing pages need to comply with the license terms of the previous edits, in order to be permitted as derivative works of those edits. And letting the creator of each page choose their own license for it wouldn't
    • Re:I didn't RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @07:11PM (#28047867) Homepage Journal

      Is existing GFDL content compatible with the CC licence?

      I think (please correct me) what they did was write a GFDL version compatible with the CC. Then they upgraded the licence of the existing content and thus now they can switch over to CC.

      I'd read the article, but it's slashdotted :-[

      Why can't individual contributors choose their licence like they can with Flickr?

      Wikipedia is not a blog. It would become a format like urbandictionary.com or everything2.com: no rewriting and collaborating on content, rather single statements of various truthiness.

      • Re:I didn't RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

        by Carnildo (712617) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @07:44PM (#28048105) Homepage Journal

        Is existing GFDL content compatible with the CC licence?

        I think (please correct me) what they did was write a GFDL version compatible with the CC. Then they upgraded the licence of the existing content and thus now they can switch over to CC.

        Close: Wikipedia was licensed under the GFDL version 1.2 or later. What the FSF did was write version 1.3 with a clause saying that any GFDL-licensed wiki (with safeguards to prevent license-washing) could be re-licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license 3.0.

      • by Teancum (67324)

        The exact clause is this:

        11. RELICENSING

        "Massive Multiauthor Collaboration Site" (or "MMC Site") means any World Wide Web server that publishes copyrightable works and also provides prominent facilities for anybody to edit those works. A public wiki that anybody can edit is an example of such a server. A "Massive Multiauthor Collaboration" (or "MMC") contained in the site means any set of copyrightable works thus published on the MMC site.

        "CC-BY-SA" means the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license published by Creative Commons Corporation, a not-for-profit corporation with a principal place of business in San Francisco, California, as well as future copyleft versions of that license published by that same organization.

        "Incorporate" means to publish or republish a Document, in whole or in part, as part of another Document.

        An MMC is "eligible for relicensing" if it is licensed under this License, and if all works that were first published under this License somewhere other than this MMC, and subsequently incorporated in whole or in part into the MMC, (1) had no cover texts or invariant sections, and (2) were thus incorporated prior to November 1, 2008.

        The operator of an MMC Site may republish an MMC contained in the site under CC-BY-SA on the same site at any time before August 1, 2009, provided the MMC is eligible for relicensing.

        This really ought to be called the Wikipedia clause, and likely will be if it is discussed in the future. The purpose of the date is to say "good riddens" to Wikipedia and explicitly allow for this licensing change. The Wikimedia Foundation pressured the Free Software Foundation to put this clause in, so the decision to switch licenses is really a fairly old issue.

    • by Teancum (67324)

      The only rule on Wikipedia in this regard is that all content added to Wikipedia must be licensed under the terms of the GFDL.... although many users have explicitly dual and multi licensed their content under other licenses, including CC-BY-SA well before changes in the GFDL allowed this switch to happen.

      BTW, on the Wikimedia Commons site, if you uploaded images and other non-textual content, you are free to select whatever license for that content you wanted to upload... as long as you are the original ar

  • Okay (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 21, 2009 @06:44PM (#28047633)

    I just got off the phone with the big guy, you know, RMS himself. St. Ignacio or whatever.

    And he's fucking pissed.

    He said and I quote, "Looks like these fuckers don't know who they're dealing with. They need to be taught a lesson... freedom ain't free."

    Apparently, he's planning on liberating wikipedia by force.

    • Re:Okay (Score:5, Informative)

      by David Gerard (12369) <slashdotNO@SPAMdavidgerard.co.uk> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @07:32PM (#28048013) Homepage
      RMS actually thinks it's a good idea [fsf.org] :-)
      • by syousef (465911)

        RMS actually thinks it's a good idea :-) ...but does he want to rename it the GNU Hurd Creative Commons License?

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      Without RMS's approval, this could never have happened. The FSF wrote a clause into GFDL 1.3 specifically to allow this to happen.
  • From the Licensing Update page http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Licensing_update [wikimedia.org] (Emphasis mine):-

    Motivation

    The core motivations for this proposed change are as follows:

    * We cannot currently share text (in either direction) with projects that use the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike Licenses. The Creative Commons licenses are used by hundreds of thousands of authors world-wide (see statistics), having quickly become the most widely used legal tool to release rights on work

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Well, the migration couldn't have happened if the FSF didn't sign off on the change; they were the only ones with the authority to make an update to the GFDL allowing it. Although it seems that the FSF's decision came out of a negotiation [slashdot.org] that took place back in 2007, so perhaps it wasn't really their idea and it was more a matter of bowing to pressure from the masses. Also, I have no idea how RMS personally felt about it.

      I definitely agree that the GFDL was totally unsuitable for Wikipedia.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @07:32PM (#28048009) Journal
        It is slightly chilling for anyone using another FSF license. You can omit the 'or later versions' license and have the possibility that the later versions of other FSF licenses will be incompatible with your version (e.g. LGPLv3 is incompatible with GPLv2; good luck if you were working on a GPLv2-only project that depended on a library that has moved from LGPLv2-or-later to LGPLv3-or-later). Or you can include it and have the possibility that the FSF will decide to grant an exemption for a specific large organisation and allow them to relicense your work.
        • have the possibility that the FSF will decide to grant an exemption for a specific large organisation and allow them to relicense your work.

          Why do you think that the FSF is in the least likely to grant an exemption to a "specific large organisation"?

          The revised GFDL allows relicensing of content on wikis (and any other publicly editable web sites) under another license with a very similar intent.

          • by Teancum (67324)

            Have you read section 11 of the GFDL, version 1.3?

            There is no possible way to read that section without realizing it is specifically tailored to Wikipedia and only Wikipedia, even though other wikis that fit in the time frame of having been established prior to November 1st, 2008 and make the switch prior to August 1st, 2009 can also fit through the crack. The purpose of the vote is to make sure Wikipedia makes the switch before the August deadline.

            This is a one-time only thing and was written into the GFD

        • by Draek (916851)

          If you include the "or later" you're already allowing the license creators (in this case, the FSF) the ability to arbitrarily relicense your work, it's just that in this case the FSF decided the CC group was a trustworthy enough bunch to take care of that one from now on.

          Frankly, I see no reason why you'd trust the FSF but not CC, and if you didn't trust the FSF already you should've left out the "or later" part in the first place. So personally, I see this as nothing more than a convenient opportunity to l

        • > You can omit the 'or later versions' license and have the possibility that the later versions of other FSF licenses will be incompatible with your version (e.g. LGPLv3 is incompatible with GPLv2; good luck if you were working on a GPLv2-only project that depended on a library that has moved from LGPLv2-or-later to LGPLv3-or-later).

          The "or later" clauses allow the licensee (in your example, the GPLv2 project maintainer) to choose which license terms they choose to follow. That choice is *not* made by t

          • While the library can start accepting v3-or-later code, the v2-or-later code will still be usable under those terms, you just won't be able to get any new v3-or-later licensed updates. You can keep that v2+ code in your project so long as you abide by the terms, though you may have to maintain that library yourself from now on.

            True, of course, but then you're effectively stuck maintaining a fork. If your project incorporated any GPLv2-only code (e.g. PDF rendering support from Poppler/xpdf) then you can use the next version of the library, which is LGPLv3-or-later. You either have to switch to another library or you have to fork the existing one and make sure you duplicate (but don't copy) any LGPLv3 bug fixes and security patches.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by David Gerard (12369)
  • Scary power.... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by myforwik (1465003)
    A scary amount of power is shown when places like wikipedia make you submit your work to the GFDL license AND any future versions. So it basically means they can port everyones submissions to whatever they want. One day this is going to back fire terribly. Wikipedia has always been a joke though when it came to GFDL. I used to go around and remove content that was cut and copied between pages by non original authors, because it violated the GFDL because the original authors information was not kept in the
    • by Teancum (67324)

      While I do think what you were describing here is of a trollish nature (by trying to follow your interpretation of the GFDL to the letter and being disruptive), I will agree that commentary about the GFDL and discussion of its finer points on Wikipedia leave much to be desired.

      I have also been concerned about author citations on Wikipedia, and there has been a rather relaxed attitude about the whole process of citing those authors. That this may backfire some day when authorship can be proven but no possib

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ais523 (1172701)

      I used to go around and remove content that was cut and copied between pages by non original authors, because it violated the GFDL because the original authors information was not kept in the edit histories, naturally I was banned.

      Why did you not just add the old history to the new history (either by putting it on the talk page with a link in the edit summary, adding it to the edit history, or by asking an admin to merge the histories for you)? You could have made your point, corrected the licensing situation, and not been trollish.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      WP:POINT [wikipedia.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Citation Needed

  • The Human Readable summary that Creative commons gives is fantastic. This is what GPL/LGPL is missing. I've been working with and creating open source software and even I don't understand GPL or LGPL very well.

    • by sherriw (794536)

      Wow. and I just found that they provide a summary of GPL and LGPL. Fantastic. I love how I found that AFTER posting on /. Doh!

      • by sherriw (794536)

        Scratch that, they have a summary of LGPL(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/LGPL/2.1/) and GPL2(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/GPL/2.0/) but not GPL3.

  • Love the move of Wikipedia to Creative Commons By Share Alike. Congratulations! Run into business people not understanding the value of this specific license. They understand the power of Wikipedia, so them moving to CC By SA makes my life much easier :-) So from now on, CC By SA licensed: Free Online Encyclopedia www.wikipedia.org Free Online Music Community www.tribeofnoise.com Any other great solely CC By Share Alike initiatives out there? Just reply to this post :-) Cheers - Hessel (Chief of Noise

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