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As of 2009 all contributions to Wikipedia must also be licensed under Creative Commons.
- Q: What are you trying to do in a nutshell?
- A: Wikipedia's articles can be shared with any other GFDL projects but open/free projects using the incompatible Creative Commons Licenses (e.g. Wikitravel) can't use our stuff and we can't use theirs. It is important to us that other free projects can use our stuff. So we use their licenses too.
- Q: Is there a Wikipedia namespace article dealing with multi-licensing?
- A: Yes, at the Guide to Multi-licensing.
- Q: What other resources can I read up on?
- A: See also:
- Q: If the GFDL is free and open, then why can't other people use our articles?
- A: Because while the GFDL is "free and open", it is only free and open in the sense that the terms of the GFDL are followed. Put simply: It is absolutely restricted to only those projects that use the exact same license. If the average person wants to use our articles, it must release whatever it is working on under the GFDL. Imagine that I was running a project similar to Wikipedia, but it had a different license. I may have a million articles, but I can't add ANY of them to Wikipedia because the license doesn't match. Both may be "free and open", but they are not the same license. The terms "free" and "open" are somewhat misleading. The only "free" and "open" license is the public domain, where no copyright is asserted; however, any modifications made to public domain information can be placed in a more restrictive license, which is what these "open and free" licenses try to prevent. In order to enforce copyleft you have to be restricted to a particular license. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
- Q: So how do we get around these problems?
- A: You can't get around all of the problems, but you can agree to multi-license your original personal contributions for which you own the copyright. Ideally, if you multi-license your contributions under every "open and free" license, then ANYONE can truly use your stuff and it will always be protected by copyleft.
- Q: What's the catch?
- A: Since you offer the choice of multiple licenses, someone can take your work and choose which license to use, make a modification under one license and not release it under all of the licenses. Thus it is possible that modifications made to Wikipedia articles could be shared with others but they may choose not to share back with us. There is no way around this. It is idealistic and assumes that others are as altruistic as you are. Of course there are times when someone has to do this, for instance, in a document that is already licensed under an alternative license that can't be changed. You have to decide whether being truly "open and free" is most important or if instead being somewhat open and free but mostly protecting your own interests is most important.
- Q: Should I use the public domain?
- A: If you are willing to give up your copyright to your changes and you accept that other people may make modifications to your stuff and place it under a more restrictive license (other places, not here at Wikipedia where it will be open always), then maybe this is right for you. Many people choose this because they don't care about the above problems and if you license into the public domain, then it is compatible with EVERY license and you never have to think about multi-licensing again. Once and done.
- Q: Where can I put a copyright message other than my personal user page?
- A: Create a [[User:YOUR_USERNAME/Copyrights]] page and place the proper templates there. This will set up the proper categories to allow us to automatically track the users who do this. If it is not a big deal, you can also add a small link from your user page to the subpage to allow the average user to find it easily, but this is not required.
- Q: I wrote it, but now so many people edited it that I hardly recognize my text. What if no one else releases it? Is the article unusable?
- A: If you authored a text but only you multi-licensed it, then only those old versions of the article are multi-licensed. The rest of the editors must be asked to release their changes or the newer versions are unusable. Luckily, as more and more people multi-license, the number of articles are growing that have been edited totally by people who have multi-licensed. Also a large number of the most active Wikipedians have agreed to multi-license, so the users who are not as active don't make as big of a dent against multi-licensing.
- Q: What about small edits/vandals/reverts?
- A: Certain minor edits, such as fixing typos, are not considered to be copyrightable under U.S. copyright law because such edits are too trivial to be a copyrightable creative expression. When we perform a revert or fix to vandalism, we are essentially going back to a previous version that may have been multi-licensed. It is in essence removing the non-multi-licensed portion of the article. So vandalism is not a problem.
- Q: Can you summarize the public domain, GFDL, and CC-by-sa license and the implications of using them?
- The public domain is not really a license, instead, it is a statement that you will choose to release all claims to copyright for what you would have otherwise owned the copyright to. This allows anyone and everyone to use your contributions for any purpose. The tradeoff is that it is possible that someone can modify your contributions and release the modified version under a more restrictive license so that not even you could use it for free. They will own the copyright for the derivative work.
- The GFDL is a copyleft license that requires that any copy must also be released under the GFDL. Documents under the GFDL can be sold commercially with a few restrictions. Unique to the GFDL are "invariant sections" which cannot be removed or modified and not permitting Digital rights management. The former has caused a number of problems here at Wikipedia. The GFDL is incompatible with the popular GPL. The GFDL requires that credit be given for work. See the GFDL article for additional information on the problems with the GFDL.
- The CC-by-sa is a newer copyleft license similar to the GFDL, with a few additional differences. The CC-by-sa license requires that every editor of a document be properly attributed if the document is copied, thus making sure you always receive credit for your work. It is a bit more specific on how this should be done than the GFDL. It also does not require you to give pages and pages of legal text with each document, but only a URL to the license document, as opposed to the GFDL which makes you include the entire text with each copy.
- Q: Are you trying to change Wikipedia's license?
- A: No! Hopefully the FSF will improve the GFDL so some of its problems can be addressed. Changing Wikipedia's license would result in many articles being lost because the authors could not or would not relicense. But even if the GFDL is improved, many users still want to share their contributions with other projects that don't use the GFDL, and multi-licensing does this.
- Q: What is the difference between the CC-by-sa versions 1.0 and 2.0?
- A: Trying to read legal text makes my eyes glaze over, but 1.0 was a draft version by Creative Commons. Presumably, Wikitravel was created before the final 2.0 version was created. I would assume that there are not many differences between the two but the wording in 2.0 probably has less problems and/or loopholes since it was the adopted one. 1.0 does not have a "or any later version" provision, so they are essentially incompatible licenses, even though they are almost identical in wording. Hopefully Wikitravel will migrate to 2.0, even if that means losing articles by users who don't or can't agree to multi-license. Until that point, Wikipedia users may choose to also include 1.0 in order to remain compatible with Wikitravel.
- Q: What about anonymous edits?
- A: Any anonymous edits will cause any later version of the article to not be dual-licensed as long as those changes remain intact. What this means in practice is that a person wishing to dual-license will have to simply remove those anonymous edits. Fortunately, in a wide number of circumstances anonymous edits are very simple edits which may not be covered by copyright or at least will be very easy to remove from the resulting article. In the case of the "rambot" articles, in a sampling that I've performed, most of the articles have not been touched by anonymous editors, and those that have were very simple changes.
- Q: Why isn't the creative commons license compatible with the GFDL? Is this analogous to the difference between the GPL and the LGPL in software?
- A: The GPL/LGPL and GFDL are incompatible because they say so: each license says that only the exact license can be compatible, specifically excluding every other license, even if they do the same thing. In addition, they are not compatible because the GFDL has partially non-free restrictions, whereas the GPL does not have these restrictions. See the Draft Debian Statement on GFDL. The differences between the GPL and LGPL are totally different: They refer to whether or not separate compiled object code can be linked together. However, efforts are underway to make the Creative Commons Share Alike licence compatible with the GFDL, as announced by Lawrence Lessig and Eben Moglen on the Wikimania 2006 conference.