[Foundation-l] GFDL and relicensing

Robert Horning robert_horning at netzero.net
Thu Nov 22 06:02:36 UTC 2007

George Herbert wrote:
> On Nov 21, 2007 5:59 PM, Robert Horning <robert_horning at netzero.net> wrote:
>> BTW, you can count me in an a GFDL ideologist if you want, and my
>> contributions are under the terms of the GFDL.... and I intend to
>> enforce that license on anything I've contributed to Wikimedia projects
>> where the GFDL is the explicit default license of the project.
> If the next generation of GFDL were something along the lines of
> CC-BY-SA-2.5, would that be an acceptable future evolution from your
> perspective?
> >From what I know (and I am not involved in the CC/FSF/WP discussions, so
> that may not be worth much) the concerns boil down to:
> 1. GFDL is viral (*-SA-* is as well)
> 2. GFDL is large and clunky
> 3. GFDL is insufficiently flexible about the license inclusion on
> electronically redistributed content, from a modern perspective
> 4. GFDL is structurally a poor match for oft-changed content (primary
> authors, change logs/edit histories, etc... i.e any Wiki content).
> 5. GFDL hasn't been translated.
> I know quite a few people who care about the license being viral, who either
> exclusively use CC-SA type licenses or GFDL.  I know others who would be
> perfectly happy if that went away leaving us with more of a CC-BY type
> license.  I personally am comfortable without viral, but I agree that
> imposing that on people who implicitly or explicitly bought in with that
> assumption as part of their internal prioritization of why to use / like
> GFDL is likely unfair and controversial and drama-inducing.
> I don't know of anyone to date who's objected to structural improvements
> along the lines of fixing 2-5, or making those aspects more like CC-BY-SA
> licenses.
> If you object to fixes to 2-5 then please explain your concerns in enough
> detail that they can be carried to the update discussions which are going
> on.
Perhaps this may not be the case, but from my perspective my little 
$0.02 added to the discussion is not going to make even a single bit of 
difference to any changes to the GFDL. Basically, I don't think "the 
powers that be" really care even a little bit what my opinion on the 
matter really is, nor are they willing to accept my opinions on the 
topic.  Especially to make any meaningful influence on the next version 
of the GFDL.

I'm not saying this to be making a statement here, but there are some 
rather powerful political interests here that are trying to make changes 
to the GFDL, and are willing to throw money around to see that they 
happen.  And unfortunately money talks.

I have a number of problems with the Creative Commons suite of licenses, 
not the least of which is the fact that nearly every time I get into a 
disucssion about them, I get trashed on the forums for misquoting which 
license I'm talking about, even when it is something minor like 
understanding the difference between CC-by-SA and CC-SA, or any other 
variant.  At least when I use the term GFDL, it is not ambiguous about 
what license I'm talking about.  And the spectrum seems to shift so much 
not only on each variation of each CC license but that each variation 
has gone through several revisions....which I really don't have time to 
sort through the subtle details of them either.  In this regard, I pray 
to the license gods (RMS would get a kick out of this) that they don't 
have the GFDL follow the pattern of the CC licenses.... as unfortunately 
it appears that the FSF is doing right now with things like the AGPL.

That there are some problems with the GFDL, I don't dispute.  And I hope 
that some of them do get fixed.  Of the problems with the GFDL that you 
note, the only one that I see as a real serious problem is the lengthy 
text that must be included when you distribute GFDL content.  For books 
this generally isn't a problem (and I've make a couple of dead-tree 
versions of GFDL'd content for redistribution myself), but the problem 
comes when people want to do more than a book, or use only a much 
smaller excerpt.  This is a real problem.

The issue with dealing with the GFDL and Wikis is not so much the fact 
that it is electronic media, but the fact that unlike traditional 
publishing most Wiki-based content has several orders of magnitude more 
contributors than you would ever have in a traditional book publishing 
environment.  Even more than you would find in a more traditional 
complied content format like a newspaper or news magazine.  The MPAA 
only recognizes 4 authors (screenplay writers) for on-screen credits, to 
show an example of another medium that is not electronic (or doesn't 
have to be) that also has problems with trying to decide "authorship" 
when there are large numbers of collaborators working on a single 
document.  BTW, there are people in the motion picture industry that are 
not pleased with this rule either.  Legal frameworks of any kind have 
not really been developed to cope with a typical Wiki format, nor have I 
even seen any constructive discussions that have covered identifying 
authorship of a Wikipedia article, beyond doing things like edit 
counts.  Usually the "authorship" is simply attributed to the WMF.... 
which is clearly not the case.

-- Robert Horning

More information about the foundation-l mailing list