When a Wikipedian moves content from one article to another, this is covered
under section 5: COMBINING DOCUMENTS. This requires that 'In the combination,
you must combine any sections Entitled "History" in the various original
forming one section Entitled "History";'.
Clearly we don't do this. However, we might to be able to claim that we combine the
history "by reference" if we state "from [[X]]". Dubious?
The only alternative would be to claim that in fact we don't need to keep a history at
all, except for text imported from third parties (like Nupedia). This would have to be
based on a fairly liberal interpretation of "if you do not want your text to be
mercilessly and redistributed at will, do not submit it here".
Now, the possible requirement to keep history causes us serious problems. For
* If a third party makes a derivative work, do they need to copy the complete
Wikipedia site locally?
* If a third party makes a verbatim copy, do they need to copy the page history?
* Can we delete an article if its contents have been merged elsewhere?
* Can we move pages that have been previously referenced in a "from [[X]]"
* Where page histories get inadvertantly screwed up, do we need to delete the
entire article and start again?
* If I print out several copies of a Wikipedia article, do I need to print out several
copies of the page history to go along with them?
Is our "printable version" hence illegal?
* If a vandal writes misleading text in an edit summary - eg "I am the principal
author of this article", is this a problem?
* Do we need to mention the publisher (Wikimedia foundation now, Bomis
previously) in every line in the history?
* Do we need to keep page history URLs stable? If so, how can we move articles,
given that the move destroys the history?
As a result, I feel that we should seek to interpret the text "if you do not want
text to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, do not submit it here" so as
void our requirement to keep a full history, if this is at all legally possible. However,
we should publicise this move well, and if any current or former contributor objects
then we should immediately strip Wikipedia of their contributions.
The costs of making a full and accurate history available are significant, and I would
say unreasonable for a wiki-based system. I am aware that people have interpreted
the current submission text in ways that release us from our obligation to keep a full
history, and I think we should look for ways to make that interpretation official.
-Martin "IANAL" Harper