Wikipedia:Revocation of our licensing is not permitted
|This page is an essay, containing the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.||
|This page in a nutshell: It is not possible to withdraw the licensing of any contributions to Wikipedia.|
Contributions to Wikipedia are licensed under free content licenses, such as the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) and the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. It is not legally possible for individuals or organizations who contribute to Wikipedia to revoke these licenses, as this would affect the ability of the entire project to exist as a freely-editable, freely-available, encyclopedia, and the licenses themselves are specifically worded to not allow such a situation unless in certain circumstances.
Claims of this nature present a serious risk to the site because they are proclaiming an intention not to abide by the licensing agreement that makes the entire site possible. Wikipedia is not possible without free content licenses, which allows our content to be freely distributed and freely edited. Editors must be aware that they do not have a right to challenge the entire basis of the project and continue participating in it at the same time.
The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the English Wikipedia and various other projects, has not expressed an opinion on this matter.
The inability to revoke
The messages below the edit box include the warning that "[contributors] irrevocably agree to release [their] contributions under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license and the GFDL." The GFDL, Wikipedia's original license, is irrevocable, and can only be terminated under the provisions of Section 9 of the license, which allows an author to revoke the license from someone who has broken the conditions of the license. The Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license includes similar elements, including the statement that "[the] Licensor hereby grants [the user] a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual (for the duration of the applicable copyright) license to exercise the rights in the Work [...]", and a similar exit clause to the GFDL, which automatically revokes the license from users who have broken the conditions of the license.
Editors in the past who have persisted in trying to revoke the GFDL terms of their work have been banned while they have persisted in their claim.
Making such a claim is akin to making legal threats. GFDL is not a Wikipedia community-generated policy. It is not subject to actionable community discussion or editing, nor is its applicability subject to debate outside of a court of law. In common with the way that editors are blocked while they threaten to pursue other kinds of legal action, someone who intends to mount a legal challenge against Wikipedia's use of the GFDL is not invited to edit Wikipedia while they do so.
All editors have the 'right to leave' and the 'right to fork'. However, this does not mean that their contributed content leaves with them; only their participation in the community ends, and all forked content is still subjected to the license terms of Wikipedia. They are, of course, able to license their own original contributions to a different site under different terms if they so choose.
Some editors have released their contributions under additional licenses by saying so on their user page. It is a subject of debate whether it is practically possible to reuse content from Wikipedia under the terms of an additional license. However, all original text contributions are still subject to the stated licenses of Wikipedia, regardless of any other additional licenses that an editor might apply to his or her contributions.
- "What if I change my mind?" at Creative Commons' Frequently Asked Questions