Robert Horning writes:
I've seen other websites try this with Wikimedia
content, and I don't
know how you give "full notice to the community" of a license change.
I regard this as essentially a trivial problem. You could put it on
the front page of each language's Wikipedia, for example. Those who
never see the Project front pages might not see such a notice -- but
they probably don't know we're having a fundraiser, either.
Furthermore, I'm willing to bet that the set of contributors who both
(a) insist on an old version of GFDL and (b) care about it enough to
remove content if migration happens, and (c) wouldn't hear about the
migration is a very, very, small set of contributors.
If you are modifying the license
terms outside of the terms of the GFDL, you need to renegotiate with
that contributor...including all anonymous contributors.
I don't believe this is required, as a practical matter. Consider,
agreements all the time, unilaterally. They issue long, complicated
notices when they do this. Amazingly, this triggers neither mass
departures nor massive negotiations with individuals. And they are
dealing with far larger populations than we are.
I agree that you're right in theory, of course. In practice, not so
big a problem.
Such a license change (barring massive cooperation
from the Free
Software Foundation to change the GFDL itself using the "or later
version" escape clause) would require all contributions to be removed
from Wikipedia by those authors who didn't agree to the change.
We are, of course, assuming cooperation from FSF as a prerequisite
for all this. As Jimbo says, this whole discussion is a product of
three-way negotiations between FSF, CC, and WMF. If FSF suddenly
said, hey, we're never going to do anything to support migration to a
version of GFDL that looks like a version of CC-BY-SA, we could stop
this whole discussion immediately.
What I've been telling people is that if you don't trust the FSF Board
to be custodians of the meaning of GFDL, then you have bigger problems
with the GFDL than anything Wikimedia Foundation could create. Me, I
trust the FSFers.
An attempt by the WMF to go this route would simply
fork in Wikipedia where "purists" who want to maintain the GFDL
of Wikipedia would have everything that currently exists, and the CC-
version would be a hollow shell of the original version of the
I think the risk of a fork is very low, at this late date. But even if
it happened, the notion that "purists" would somehow control the
"original" Wikipedia while the CC-BY-SA version would be a "hollow
shell" strikes me as less likely than the other way around.
BTW, you can count me in an a GFDL ideologist if you
want, and my
contributions are under the terms of the GFDL.... and I intend to
enforce that license on anything I've contributed to Wikimedia
where the GFDL is the explicit default license of the project.
I of course support your prerogative to do this. I think that any
migration has to accommodate GFDL "ideologists" and allow for their
removal of their content if they believe the project is not adequately
copyleft for them.
But then again, those websites
generally got so little web traffic that most of them fold up after
than a year of operation.
There's also the notion that we law students learned early on -- "de
minimis non curat lex." But that's okay, since you wouldn't have to
seek legal recourse to address your objections -- you'd just remove
your contributions, citing GFDL concerns, and no one would stop you.
But remember (a) we're talking about migration in cooperation with
FSF, not in opposition to FSF, and (b) the CC-BY-SA license is
designed to be viral to the same degree as GFDL, without being as
At the end of the day, what you have to ask yourself is this: is our
primary purpose as Wikipedians to get the knowledge out to the world
for free (and in a way that keeps it free), or is our purpose to
privilege an older version of GFDL regardless of whether it inhibits
our ability to provide the world information for free? I tend to
think our purpose is more the first than the second.