[Foundation-l] Using content from Wikipedia

George Herbert george.herbert at gmail.com
Sat Oct 7 19:42:18 UTC 2006

On 10/7/06, Markus Sz <echalone at hotmail.com> wrote:
> > Date: Sat, 07 Oct 2006 18:32:38 +0200
> > From: Yorian <webmaster at compumania.nl>
> > Subject: [Foundation-l] Using content from Wikipedia
> >
> > Hey everyone, I have a question I'd like to ask:
> >
> > I have an idea for a (hopefully profitable) website, and I'd like to use
> > content from Wikipedia for it. About half of the content from the
> > website will be from Wikipedia. Of course I will mention Wikipedia as a
> > source and I will donate some of my profits to Wikimedia, but is it okay
> > to have other content on an individual webpage, besides the
> > Wikipedia-content, that is not GFDL-licensed? The GFDL is not very clear
> > on that, and people on the Dutch and English Wikipedia couldn't answer
> > this question. Is there anyone who knows this? I'm afraid I can't afford
> > a lawyer :( Thanks in advance!
> >
> > Yorian
> >
> Interesting question. The GFDL is about documents and therefor only mentions
> documents. It doesn't say anything about websites. The two applying sections
> in the GFDL are:
> ----
> You may copy and distribute a Modified Version of the Document under
> the conditions of sections 2 and 3 above, provided that you release
> the Modified Version under precisely this License, with the Modified
> Version filling the role of the Document.
> A "Modified Version" of the Document means any work containing the
> Document or a portion of it, either copied verbatim, or with
> modifications and/or translated into another language.
> ----
> The problem is, what is a "work" in terms of internet websites? Is a whole
> website a "work"? Or is a single page a "work"? This could for example be
> the case if every single page can again be edited by different people...
> which would probably make it a single "work" again.
> So, if you say a Website is a "work", than it would be the modified version
> and therefor any text on the website must be under the terms of the GFDL. If
> a single page is a "work", than only this page has to be put under the terms
> of the GFDL again. Hard to tell... You would be on the secure side if you
> put everything under the GFDL. It seems to me, the GFDL is not yet internet
> ready ;) You can of course take a chance and if you get rich with your
> website and the Wikimedia Foundation sues you, you can afford a lawer who
> will maybe win the case for you ;) Its realy hard to tell because those free
> software and free document licenses are rarely taken to court and therefor
> only few official legal interpretations for them exist.
> greetings,
> Markus
> PS: I am no lawer and all I'm saying can be just crap anyway ;) Just to
> disclaim any liability ;)

I am also not a lawyer, but I think this GFDL section is what would apply:

A compilation of the Document or its derivatives with other separate
and independent documents or works, in or on a volume of a storage or
distribution medium, is called an "aggregate" if the copyright
resulting from the compilation is not used to limit the legal rights
of the compilation's users beyond what the individual works permit.
When the Document is included in an aggregate, this License does not
apply to the other works in the aggregate which are not themselves
derivative works of the Document.

If the Cover Text requirement of section 3 is applicable to these
copies of the Document, then if the Document is less than one half of
the entire aggregate, the Document's Cover Texts may be placed on
covers that bracket the Document within the aggregate, or the
electronic equivalent of covers if the Document is in electronic form.
Otherwise they must appear on printed covers that bracket the whole

If I were going to re-use WP content in a commercial website, what I
would do is use an unmodified version of the WP GFDL content in a
separate frame within a larger page.  That should help keep the GFDL
stuff 'separate' while including it.

But you really should talk to a lawyer, if this is a moneymaking idea.
 Getting this wrong could be catastrophic.

-george william herbert
george.herbert at gmail.com

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