Here is the current draft of the letter I will send to HMSO. I plan
to send it on 3 July (the mail isn't picked up the following day ;->).
Please reply with your comments and suggestions before that date.
Controller and Queen's Printer
Dear Ms. Tullo:
I am an administrator of the Wikipedia, a multilingual project to
create a complete and accurate open content encyclopedia. The
English-language version can be seen on the Web at
. We gather information from many sources,
and government Web sites are often very useful to us. We have
reviewed the terms of the Crown copyright, but are still unsure
whether we can use that material.
We understand that we can use your material "free of charge in any
format or medium provided it is reproduced accurately and not used in
a misleading context [and] the source of the material [is] identified
and the copyright status acknowledged." Our question centers on the
interaction between the Crown copyright and our own. We maintain
copyright over the material we create, but license its use under the
GNU Free Documentation License, which was designed by the Free
Software Foundation (FSF) for free content. The license text can be
found at http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html
. It stipulates that any
copy of the material, even if modified, must carry the same license.
Wikipedia is the largest documentation project to use this license.
Thus, under the terms of the GFDL, we cannot pass the Crown copyright
restrictions on to third-generation re-copiers. For example, I might
copy material from the Royal Navy's site into an article about HMS
SCEPTRE, doing so accurately, honestly, and with attribution, but a
third party who copied the article onto his Web site, removed the
attribution, and somehow altered the information to be deceptive would
not be in violation of our license.
As participants in a unique and highly visible project who are freely
releasing our work to the public, we are punctilious about respecting
copyright. We would be very grateful if you could provide us with a
statement of HMSO's opinion on our ability to copy material from HM
Government Web sites and relicense it under the GFDL.
I can be contacted by e-mail at sean(a)epoptic.com, by telephone at
01-310-739-xxxx (I am in time zone UTC-7 -- please call in your late
afternoon), and by post at Sean Barrett, xxxx xxxxxx Avenue, Los
Angeles CA 90xxx, USA. Thank you very much for your time and