2008/11/7 Mike Godwin <mgodwin(a)wikimedia.org>rg>:
David Gerard writes:
> "So what's wrong with the GFDL?"
> That's gotta be the first question, and you should be able to manage
> five paragraphs without pausing.
I am so excited by David Gerard's implicit
volunteering to draft a
great answer to this great question!
Muwahaha yourself. *cracks knuckles, gets typing*
Q. So what's wrong with the GFDL?
A. The GFDL was written as a licence for software manuals on paper
with one or a few authors. It's not at all suited to wiki content with
possibly hundreds of editors. Wikipedia's predecessor, Nupedia,
adopted it at the time because the CC by-sa license didn't exist yet.
* The GFDL is very difficult to follow in practice. Almost no-one
knows how to follow it properly - including its authors, the Free
Software Foundation, when the Wikimedia Foundation has asked them
directly to advise on this.
** Trying to obey can be onerous. Per the letter of the license, every
significant (greater than fair use) quotation from a GFDL work needs a
copy of the license (three or so pages of print) attached. GFDL
content is almost impossible to reuse in audio or video content for
** Although easy to follow on the web (link to a local copy of the
GFDL) or in a book (reproduce the three-page license), it's almost
impossible to reuse in shorter pieces.
** The "how to comply" pages on various Wikipedias are more what
individual editors think is a good idea, not necessarily what the
letter of the license says - as has been complained of by reusers
accused of violation for not following this month's interpretation.
** Even cutting and pasting text between two Wikipedia articles is
technically a violation unless the full author list for that piece of
text is attached. This is not workable on a wiki.
* CC by-sa is becoming the usual licence for free content intended to
stay free ("copyleft"). That's a whole world of text, images, movies
and so on that Wikimedia stuff can't be mixed with. (A software
analogy is using a copyleft license that's not GPL-compatible - it
makes your work an isolated island for no particular gain.)
Q. Why didn't the FSF just say "OK, the next GFDL is the same as CC by-sa"?
A. Because, despite Wikimedia sites being by far the largest corpus of
GFDL content, the FSF needed to keep important details of how the
license works the same for its original audience: authors of software
There. How's that for a start?