Good (IMHO) summary by Yair Rand on CC-0 vs. CC-BY-SA for Wiktionary.
-------- Messaggio inoltrato --------
Oggetto: Re: [Wikidata] An answer to Lydia Pintscher regarding its
considerations on Wikidata and CC-0
Data: Thu, 30 Nov 2017 12:05:54 -0500
Mittente: Yair Rand <yyairrand(a)gmail.com>
Rispondi-a: Discussion list for the Wikidata project.
A: Discussion list for the Wikidata project. <wikidata(a)lists.wikimedia.org>
Wikidata is not replacing Wiktionary. Wikidata did not replace
Wikipedia, and force all articles to be under CC-0. Structured data for
Commons doesn't replace all Commons media with CC-0-licensed content.
They didn't even set up parallel projects to hold CC-0 articles or
media. There is no reason to believe that structured data for Wiktionary
would do any of these things. Wikidata is for holding structured data,
and only structured data.
The fact that France is in Europe is not, independently, copyrightable.
The fact that File:Vanessa_indica-Silent_Valley-2016-08-14-002.jpg is a
picture of a butterfly is not copyrightable. The facts that "balloons"
is the plural of "balloon", and that "feliĉiĝi" is an intransitive verb
in Esperanto, are not copyrightable. Even if they were copyrightable,
copyrighting them independently would harm their potential reuse, as
elements of a database, as has been previously explained.
A Wikipedia article is copyrightable. Licensing it under CC-BY-SA does
not particularly harm its reuse, and makes it so that reuse can happen
with attribution. Wikidata includes links to Wikipedia articles, and
while the links are under CC-0, the linked content is under CC-BY-SA.
Similarly for Commons content. Wikipedia articles and Commons Media are
not structured data, and as such, they do not belong in Wikidata.
Elements of prose in Wiktionary, such as definitions, appendices,
extensive usage notes and notes on grammar and whatnot, are
copyrightable. Similar to Wikipedia articles, licensing them under
CC-BY-SA would not particularly harm their reuse, as attribution is
completely feasible. They are also not structured data, and can not be
made into structured data. Wikidata will not be laundering this data to
CC-0, nor will it be setting up a parallel project to duplicate the
efforts under a license which is not appropriate for the type of content.
Attempting to license the database's contents under CC-BY-SA would not
ensure attribution, and would harm reuse. I fail to see any potential
benefits to using the more restrictive license. Attribution will be
required where it is possible (in Wiktionary proper), and content will
be as reusable as possible in areas where requiring attribution isn't
feasible (in Wikidata). There's no real conflict here.
-- Yair Rand
2017-11-29 16:45 GMT-05:00 Mathieu Stumpf Guntz
I forward here the message I initially posted on the Meta Tremendous
Wiktionary User Group talk page
because I'm interested to have a wider feedback of the community on
this point. Whether you think that my view is completely misguided
or that I might have a few relevant points, I'm extremely interested
to know it, so please be bold.
Before you consider digging further in this reading, keep in mind
that I stay convinced that Wikidata is a wonderful project and I
wish it a bright future full of even more amazing things than what
it already brung so far. My sole concern is really a license issue.
Bellow is a copy/paste of the above linked message:
Thank you Lydia Pintscher
for taking the time to answer. Unfortunately this answer
miss too many important points to solve all concerns which have been
Notably, there is still no beginning of hint in it about where the
decision of using CC0 exclusively for Wikidata came from. But as
this inquiry on the topic
advance, an answer is emerging from it. It seems that Wikidata
choice toward CC0 was heavily influenced by Denny Vrandečić, who –
to make it short – is now working in the Google Knowledge Graph
team. Also it worth noting that Google funded a quarter of the
initial development work. Another quarter came from the Gordon and
Betty Moore Foundation, established by Intel co-founder. And half
the money came from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Institute for
Artificial Intelligence (AI2)
To state it shortly in a conspirational fashion, Wikidata is the
puppet trojan horse of big tech hegemonic companies into the realm
of Wikimedia. For a less tragic, more argumentative version, please
see the research project (work in progress, only chapter 1 is in
good enough shape, and it's only available in French so far). Some
proofs that this claim is completely wrong are welcome, as it would
be great that in fact that was the community that was the driving
force behind this single license choice and that it is the best
choice for its future, not the future of giant tech companies. This
would be a great contribution to bring such a happy light on this
subject, so we can all let this issue alone and go back contributing
in more interesting topics.
Now let's examine the thoughts proposed by Lydia.
Wikidata is here to give more people more access to more knowledge.
So far, it makes it matches Wikimedia movement stated goal.
This means we want our data to be used as widely as possible.
Sure, as long as it rhymes with equity. As in /Our strategic
direction: Service and //*Equity*/
Just like we want freedom for everybody as widely as possible.
That is, starting where it confirms each others freedom. Because
under this level, freedom of one is murder and slavery of
others. CC-0 is one step towards that.
That's a thesis, you can propose to defend it but no one have to
agree without some convincing proof. Data is different from
many other things we produce in Wikimedia in
that it is aggregated, combined, mashed-up, filtered, and so on much
No it's not. From a data processing point of view, everything is
data. Whether it's stored in a wikisyntax, in a relational
database or engraved in stone only have a commodity side effect.
Whether it's a random stream of bit generated by a dumb chipset
or some encoded prose of Shakespeare make no difference. So from
this point of view, no, what Wikidata store is not different
from what is produced anywhere else in Wikimedia projects.
Sure, the way it's structured does extremely ease many things.
But this is not because it's data, when elsewhere there would be
no data. It's because it enforce data to be stored in a way that
ease aggregation, combination, mashing-up, filtering and so on.
Our data lives from being able to write queries over millions of
statements, putting it into a mobile app, visualizing parts of it on
a map and much more.
Sure. It also lives from being curated from millions
of benevolent contributors, or it would be just a useless pile
of random bytes. This means, if we require attribution, in
a huge number of cases
attribution would need to go back to potentially millions of editors
and sources (even if that data is not visible in the end result but
only helped to get the result).
No, it doesn't mean that. First let's recall a few
basics as it seems the whole answer
makes confusion between attribution and distribution of
contributions under the same license as the original.
Attribution is crucial for traceability and so for reliable and
trusted knowledge that we are targeting within the Wikimedia
movement. The "same license" is the sole legal guaranty of
equity contributors have. That's it, trusted knowledge and
equity are requirements for the Wikimedia movement goals. That
means withdrawing this requirements is withdrawing this goals.
Now, what would be the additional cost of storing sources in
Wikidata? Well, zero cost. Actually, it's already here as the
"reference" attribute is part of the Wikibase item structure. So
attribution is not a problem, you don't have to put it in front
of your derived work, just look at a Wikipedia article: until
you go to history, you have zero attribution visible, and it's
ok. It's also have probably zero or negligible computing cost,
as it doesn't have to be included in all computations, it just
need to be retrievable on demand. What would be the
additional cost of storing licenses for each
item based on its source? Well, adding a license attribute might
help, but actually if your reference is a work item, I guess it
might comes with a "license" statement, so zero additional cost.
Now for letting user specify under which free licenses they
publish their work, that would just require an additional
attribute, a ridiculous weight when balanced with equity
concerns it resolves. Could that prevent some uses for
some actors? Yes, that's
actually the point, preventing abuse of those who doesn't want
to act equitably. For all other actors a "distribute under same
condition" is fine. This is potentially computationally
hard to do and and depending on
where the data is used very inconvenient (think of a map with
hundreds of data points in a mobile app).
OpenStreetMap which use ODbL, a copyleft attributive license, do
exactly that too, doesn't it? By the way, allowing a license by
item would enable to include OpenStreetMap data in WikiData,
which is currently impossible due to the CC0 single license
policy of the project. Too bad, it could be so useful to have
this data accessible for Wikimedia projects, but who cares?
This is a burden on our re-users that I do not want to impose on them.
Wait, which re-users? Surely one might expect that Wikidata
would care first of re-users which are in the phase with
Wikimedia goal, so surely needs of Wikimedia community in
particular and Free/Libre Culture in general should be
considered. Do this re-users would be penalized by a copyleft
license? Surely no, or they wouldn't use it extensively as they
do. So who are this re-users for who it's thought preferable,
without consulting the community, to not annoy with questions of
equity and traceability? It would make it significantly
harder to re-use our data and be in
direct conflict with our goal of spreading knowledge.
No, technically it would be just as easy as punching a button on
a computer to do that rather than this. What is in direct
conflict with our clearly stated goals emerging from the 2017
community consultation is going against equity and traceability.
You propose to discard both to satisfy exogenous demands which
should have next to no weight in decision impacting so deeply
the future of our community. Whether data can be protected
in this way at all or not depends on
the jurisdiction we are talking about. See this Wikilegal on on
<https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikilegal/Database_Rights> for more
It says basically that it's applicable in United States and
Europe on different legal bases and extents. And for the rest of
the world, it doesn't say it doesn't say nothing can apply, it
states nothing. So even if we would have decided to require
attribution it would
only be enforceable in some jurisdictions.
What kind of logic is that? Maybe it might not be applicable in
some country, so let's withdraw the few rights we have.
Ambiguity, when it comes to legal matters, also unfortunately often
means that people refrain from what they want to to for fear of
legal repercussions. This is directly in conflict with our goal of
Economic inequality, social inequity and legal imbalance might
also refrain people from doing what they want, as they fear
practical repercussions. CC0 strengthen this discrimination
factors by enforcing people to withdraw the few rights they have
to weight against the growing asymmetry that social structures
are concomitantly building. So CC0 as unique license choice is
in direct conflict with our goal of *equitably* spreading
knowledge. Also it seems like this statement suggest
that releasing our
contributions only under CC0 is the sole solution to diminish
legal doubts. Actually any well written license would do an
equal job regarding this point, including many copyleft licenses
out there. So while associate a clear license to each data item
might indeed diminish legal uncertainty, it's not an argument at
all for enforcing CC0 as sole license available to
contributors. Moreover, just putting a license side by side with
a work does
not ensure that the person who made the association was legally
allowed to do so. To have a better confidence in the legitimacy
of a statement that a work is covered by a certain license,
there is once again a traceability requirement. For example,
Wikidata currently include many items which were imported from
misc. Wikipedia versions, and claim that the derived work
obtained – a set of items and statements – is under CC0. That is
a hugely doubtful statement and it alarmingly looks like license
This is true for Wikipedia, but it's also true for any source on
which a large scale extraction and import are operated, whether
through bots or crowd sourcing. So the Wikidata project
is currently extremely misplaced to give
lessons on legal ambiguity, as it heavily plays with legal blur
and the hope that its shady practises won't fall under too much
scrutiny. Licenses that require attribution are often used
as a way to try to
make it harder for big companies to profit from openly available
No there are not. They are used as /a way to try to make it
harder for big companies to profit from openly available
resources/ *in inequitable manners*. That's completely
different. Copyleft licenses give the same rights to big
companies and individuals in a manner that lower socio-economic
inequalities which disproportionally advantage the former.
The thing is there seems to be no indication of this working.
Because it's not trying to enforce what you pretend, so of
course it's not working for this goal. But for the goal that
copyleft licenses aims at, there are clear evidences that yes it
works. Big companies have the legal and engineering
resources to handle
both the legal minefield and the technical hurdles easily.
There is no pitfall in copyleft licenses. Using war material
analogy is disrespectful. That's true that copyleft licenses
might come with some constraints that non-copyleft free licenses
don't have, but that the price for fostering equity. And it's a
low price, that even individuals can manage, it might require a
very little extra time on legal considerations, but on the other
hand using the free work is an immensely vast gain that worth
it. In Why you shouldn't use the Lesser GPL for your next
library <https://www.gnu.org/licenses/why-not-lgpl.html> is
stated /proprietary software developers have the advantage of
money; free software developers need to make advantages for each
other/. This might be generalised as /big companies have the
advantage of money; free/libre culture contributors need to make
advantages for each other/. So at odd with what pretend this
fallacious claims against copyleft licenses, they are not a
"minefield and the technical hurdles" that only big companies
can handle. All the more, let's recall who financed the initial
development of Wikidata: only actors which are related to big
companies. Who it is really hurting is the smaller
start-up, institution or
hacker who can not deal with it.
If this statement is about copyleft licenses, then this is just
plainly false. Smaller actors have more to gain in preserving
mutual benefit of the common ecosystem that a copyleft license
fosters. With Wikidata we are making structured data about
available for everyone.
And that's great. But that doesn't require CC0 as sole license
to be achieved. We are leveling the playing field to give
those who currently don’t
have access to the knowledge graphs of the big companies a chance to
build something amazing.
And that's great. But that doesn't require CC0 as sole license.
Actually CC0 makes it a less sustainable project on this point,
as it allows unfair actors to take it all, add some interesting
added value that our community can not afford, reach/reinforce
an hegemonic position in the ecosystem with their own closed
solution. And, ta ta, Wikidata can be discontinued quietly, just
like Google did with the defunct Freebase which was CC-BY-SA
before they bought the company that was running it, and after
they imported it under CC0 in Wikidata as a new attempt to
gather a larger community of free curators. And when it will
have performed license laundering of all Wikimedia projects
works with shady mass extract and import, Wikimedia can
disappear as well. Of course big companies benefits more of this
possibilities than actors with smaller financial support and no
hegemonic position. Thereby we are helping more people get
access to knowledge from more
places than just the few big ones.
No, with CC0 you are certainly helping big companies to
reinforce their position in which they can distribute
information manipulated as they wish, without consideration for
traceability and equity considerations. Allowing contributors to
also use copyleft licenses would be far more effective to
/collect and use different forms of free, trusted knowledge/
that /focus efforts on the knowledge and communities that have
been left out by structures of power and privilege/, as stated
in /Our strategic direction: Service and Equity/.
CC-0 is becoming more and more common.
Just like economic inequality
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/economic_inequality>. But that is
not what we are aiming to foster in the Wikimedia movement.
Many organisations are releasing their data under CC-0 and are happy
with the experience. Among them are the European Union, Europeana,
the National Library of Sweden and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern
Good for them. But they are not the Wikimedia community, they
have their own goals and plan to be sustainable that does not
necessarily meet what our community can follow. Different
contexts require different means. States and their institutions
can count on tax revenue, and if taxpayers ends up in public
domain works, that's great and seems fair. States are rarely
threatened by companies, they have legal lever to pressure that
kind of entity, although conflict of interest and lobbying can
of course mitigate this statement. Importing that kind
of data with proper attribution and license
is fine, be it CC0 or any other free license. But that's not an
argument in favour of enforcing on benevolent a systematic
withdraw of all their rights as single option to contribute.
All this being said we do encourage all re-users of our data to give
attribution to Wikidata because we believe it is in the interest of
all parties involved.
That's it, zero legal hope of equity. And our experience
shows that many of our re-users do give credit to
Wikidata even if they are not forced to.
Experience also show that some prominent actors like Google
won't credit the Wikimedia community anymore when generating
directly answer based on, inter alia, information coming from
Wikidata, which is itself performing license laundering of
Wikipedia data. Are there no downsides to this? No, of
course not. Some people chose
not to participate, some data can't be imported and some re-users do
not attribute us. But the benefits I have seen over the years for
Wikidata and the larger open knowledge ecosystem far outweigh them.
This should at least backed with some solid statistics that it
had a positive impact in term of audience and contribution in
Wikimedia project as a whole. Maybe the introduction of Wikidata
did have a positive effect on the evolution of total number of
contributors, or maybe so far it has no significant correlative
effect, or maybe it is correlative with a decrease of the total
number of active contributors. Some plots would be interesting
here. Mere personal feelings of benefits and hindrances means
nothing here, mine included of course. Plus, there is
not even the beginning of an attempt to A/B test
with a second Wikibase instant that allow users to select which
licenses its contributions are released under, so there is no
possible way to state anything backed on relevant comparison.
The fact that they are some people satisfied with the current
state of things doesn't mean they would not be even more
satisfied with a more equitable solution that allows
contributors to chose a free license set for their publications.
All the more this is all about the sustainability and fostering
of our community and reaching its goals, not immediate feeling
of satisfaction for some people.
 Wikipedia Signpost 2015, 2nd december
 according to the next statement of Lydia
Once again, I recall this is not a manifesto against Wikidata. The
motivation behind this message is a hope that one day one might
participate in Wikidata with the same respect for equity and
traceability that is granted in other Wikimedia projects.
Kun multe da vikiamo,