[Foundation-l] Re: GFDL compatibility (was: Copyright complaints)

Erik Moeller erik_moeller at gmx.de
Thu Feb 9 23:09:29 UTC 2006

Gerard Meijssen:
> Hoi Brad,
> I appreciate that everything that gets uploaded is not by virtue of it 
> being uploaded to a wikimedia project GFDL licensed material. Now the 
> crux to me is that when it is not, it is in essence in violation of the 
> terms of the GFDL license. If this is correct, the consequence would be 
> that material that is not available under the GFDL should not be 
> included in a WMF project. Am I correct on this one ?

Our current practice as I understand it is:

- GFDL text can only be combined with text under licenses that are 
explicitly compatible with the GFDL. We currently consider simple 
attribution-only licenses to be compatible, while there is as of yet no 
two-way compatibility to other copyleft licenses like the CC-BY-SA. 
Limited fair use quotations are considered outside the scope of 
applicability of the license.

- GFDL text can be combined with images under any license which we 
permit per project-level policy, e.g.., we consider it a policy issue, 
not a legal one, to forbid images which do not allow commercial use. 
This combination of GFDL text with non-GFDL images is taken to be 
covered by the aggregation clause (section 7) of the GFDL.

Since, with the exception of fair use images, all our allowed image 
licenses are philosophically similar to the GFDL, we should strive for 
explicit compatibility in the long run.

In addition, there is the practice of multi-licensing both text and 
image contributions under the GFDL and one or more other licenses; this 
is to ensure that external parties can choose which license to follow, 
while all internal use is covered by the GFDL. This is not without its 
problems, since in the case of text contributions e.g. under 
CC-BY-SA/GFDL, it allows external parties to circumvent the copyleft 
requirement by creating a derivative work under a license which is not 
compatible with the GFDL.

Our biggest copyright black hole at the moment are fair use images on 
en.wikipedia.org. However, we seem to be evolving towards the reasonable 
practice of limiting fair use to an explicit whitelist of cases where it 
is most defensible; on the English Wikipedia, this is currently:

Different language projects have different policies of fair use; some 
follow their national laws (e.g. Polish Wikinews), others exclude it 
entirely (German Wikipedia). There might be some which use US Copyright 
Law as a basis since our servers are in Florida, and there are certainly 
language editions which are fairly lax about image copyrights. I would 
suggest an explicit cross-language survey of the issue to be conducted 
by the Legal Committee.


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