[Foundation-l] GFDL and Relicensing

Robert Horning robert_horning at netzero.net
Thu Nov 22 16:18:27 UTC 2007

David Gerard wrote:
> On 22/11/2007, Mike Godwin <mnemonic at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Robert Horning writes:
>>> Such a license change (barring massive cooperation from the Free
>>> Software Foundation to change the GFDL itself using the "or later
>>> version" escape clause) would require all contributions to be removed
>>> from Wikipedia by those authors who didn't agree to the change.
>> We are, of course, assuming cooperation from FSF as  a prerequisite
>> for all this. As Jimbo says, this whole discussion is a product of
>> three-way negotiations between FSF, CC, and WMF.  If FSF suddenly
>> said, hey, we're never going to do anything to support migration to a
>> version of GFDL that looks like a version of CC-BY-SA, we could stop
>> this whole discussion immediately.
>> What I've been telling people is that if you don't trust the FSF Board
>> to be custodians of the meaning of GFDL, then you have bigger problems
>> with the GFDL than anything Wikimedia Foundation could create. Me, I
>> trust the FSFers.
> Yes. There's no plans to do this other than using the "or later" clause.
> And if you (you, Robert) didn't mean "or later" as well ... what did
> you think you were doing  when you clicked "submit"?
> - d.

What I'm talking about here is a simply presumption that you don't even 
need to involve the FSF in this discussion, that that all you simply 
need to perform is a mass license migration, ignoring the fact that all 
of the content is currently licensed under the GFDL.

I'm not suggesting here that some significant improvements to the GFDL 
can't happen, but I can't even begin to imagine how Linus Torvalds (who 
is one who has been very vocal about some of the changes to the GPL... 
in part due to this issue) would react if the FSF went and simply 
declared that some version of the Creative Commons license suite was in 
fact "the next version of the GFDL".  I suppose that the FSF is 
certainly free to do this, but it would lead not to just a mass exodus 
from the GFDL, but nearly all licenses that the FSF currently sponsors.  
I don't see how the FSF could ever be trusted again on a licenses if 
they got that brazen.

What I expect that the FSF is going to do with the GFDL is to work out 
some legal language to make it work with Wikipedia a bit better.  They 
really aren't going to care much about the rest of the Wikimedia sister 
projects, unless those representing the WMF with the FSF are going to 
even bring the issue up.  The only reason why Wikipedia is even being of 
concern is because it is the largest single repository of GFDL'd content 
that is available... and from that perspective Wikipedia is a major 
stakeholder in the conversation to any future version of the GFDL.  For 
a huge number of reasons I don't expect monumental shifts in the GFDL.  
GPL/GFDL compatibility is from my perspective something far more 
important (and should be important to the FSF) than CC-by-SA/GFDL 
compatibility, but that is another issue entirely.  I certainly don't 
know how you could get GPL/CC-by-SA compatibility to work at all.

--Robert Horning

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