[Foundation-l] Fwd: [cc-licenses] The FSF On FDL Derivatives

Gregory Maxwell gmaxwell at gmail.com
Wed May 9 14:01:03 UTC 2007

On 5/9/07, Andre Engels <andreengels at gmail.com> wrote:
> I'd say the effect is very far-reaching - it means that if you
> incorporate a GFDL image in a work, you should put the whole resulting
> work under the GFDL. And since the original work can easily be created
> as a derivative of the resulting GFDL work (by removal of the image),
> in effect the original work has been made GFDL too. What's more, it
> also means that it is not allowed to put CC-BY-SA images in Wikipedia,
> so they will have to go too.

Relax.   There is no need to panic. Nothing is about to blow up.

First off, this isn't a new or unusual interpretation. The FSF's
statement is reasonable interpretation from the plain language of the
license. It's also the one you would expect based on a comparative
analysis with the GPL and our 15 years of experience with that

It's also a position on the license depended on by many of our
photographers, and it is one which has been successfully enforced.
It's one that, if not taken, would have caused a lot of anger and

The only reason that it needed to be restated at this time is because
Mr. Lessig has been spreading some rather unfortunate misinformation,
due to some rather silly politics which some members of the WMF board
are being dragged into, one which I expect to get worse with some
upcoming events.

Until very recently the common position was that both the CC-By-Sa and
GFDL worked this way.  This is supported by the language of both these
licenses, most strongly the GFDL but quite clearly the by-sa as well.

Recently the Creative Commons has begun telling people that this is
not true about CC-By-Sa, a change which has caused some photographers
to abandon this license.  The Creative Commons redefinition of SA is
part of a continuing trend of Lessig away from copyleft and towards
the promotion of Non-Commercial, you can see an explanation for his
position in his speech as Wizards of OS4. This is also reflected in
the Creative Commons recent position that some forms commercial
exploitation of NC works are okay (for example, putting them on an
advertising funded site). It is also is supported by the removal of
attribution for the creator/copyright holder for works under CC-*-2.5
and above.

If we accept the Creative Commons position, that by-sa is not a true
copyleft, the only compatibility problem that remains for by-sa works
is that the terms of the GFDL are incompatible. However, there is no
deep philosophically problem in including the images, it's merely a
legal terms issue. We have always understood this to be the case.
This is an incompatibility which can be fixed by the FSF in the next
release of the FDL (by allowing people to include by-sa-<=2.5 works)
and  I expect that it will be fixed. It could be fixed even better if
cc-by-sa were adjusted to allow the redistribution of by-sa works in
GFDL works under the GFDL, thus avoiding the need to use multiple
licenses. But we'll have to take one step at a time.

As far as our own compatiblity goes, right now I feel reasonably
comfortable stating that:
1) The inclusion of by-sa illustrations in non- by-sa texts, fully
non-free and FDL alike, is forbidden by the most reasonable reading of
the by-sa but fully endorsed by the Creative Commons. As such, I don't
feel like we have a problem there.
2) We have supported the use of by-sa illustrations in Wikipedia for a
long time. I can make a reasonable argument that the authors of the
Wikipedia text have implicitly endorsed this practice of including
conceptually but not technically compatible works.

Going forward we should continue to strong encourage Wikimedians who
release illustrations under by-sa to dual license under the GFDL.
This has been a long standing recommendation on commons and it is
already widely followed. For a long time it was the *only* accepted
practice on enwiki, but someone 'simpilfied' the upload page and
removed some important legal text.    Contributors lose nothing by
doing this.

We should also expect that later versions of the FDL will remove the
technical incompability here...  This is especially easy because the
position the by-sa isn't true copyleft means that the fix can be
entirely one sided.

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