[Foundation-l] GFDL and relicensing

Andrew Gray shimgray at gmail.com
Fri Nov 23 15:06:06 UTC 2007

On 23/11/2007, Robert Horning <robert_horning at netzero.net> wrote:

> > If the migration happens, I will support 100 percent any request by
> > you to remove your content rather than have it be interpreted under a
> > new, harmonized GFDL/CC license.
> With over 2000 edits on en.wikipedia alone, and 5000 on en.wikibooks....
> over 4 years old in some cases... I think that would be quite the feat
> to accomplish from a technical viewpoint.  There is hardly a part of
> en.wikibooks that I haven't touched at least on some level.

It does pose an interesting problem, certainly, but it's not as bad as
it seems at first glance, especially if we're happy to leave the
extant history dumps intact and apply the new license as of, say,
revision two billion and higher...

First off, you need to quantify new content added rather than, say,
edit wars; I believe there are existing algorithms to manage this.
Filter out only those content-adding posts - maybe 50%, maybe 5% - and
then check to see if that content still exists in the final version.

All that stage can be done mechanically, once you've coded it up, and
done offline with a database dump. Then the human stage - you have a
checklist of diffs and pages to look at to see if the content is
material; if it is, you edit it out or rewrite it and mark the page as

Still effort, but a lot less, especially if the author's motivated to
help make sure we do it properly.

> My contributions have been under the terms of the GFDL, and whatever the
> FSF says is the "or later version" I will respect in terms of fitting to
> the fine points of the GFDL. There is no way I can "take the license
> away" at this point, but I certainly am going to expect that the terms
> of the GFDL are followed on my contributions.

Bingo. And those terms include your handing to the FSF the power to
vary the exact terms, remaining "similar in spirit to the present
version", allowing alterations "to address new problems or concerns".

We're not talking about declaring that the GFDL is now replaced by
Some Other License; we're talking about letting an existing process,
where the license is slowly updated and polished and streamlined,
trickle along with the aim of eventually getting to the point where
the two major free-content 'viral' licenses are functionally the same.
This doesn't have to happen tomorrow, or happen in one jump - it might
be in 2015, with GFDL 1.7 and CC-BY-SA 6.2! - but it's perfectly

I mean, the fundamental principles of the GFDL and CC-BY-SA are the
same. I own this; I let anyone republish it or develop it; they have
to keep my name; they have to keep these conditions. Everything else
is administrative details, and it's the administrative details (like
how the viral aspect of the license should work, how attribution
should be handled, how we deal with a plethora of authors, etc etc
etc) that these "revision clauses" are meant to help us adjust.

Assuming they do stay similar in spirit, I really don't see a problem
here, and I am a little lost as to why people are objecting so
vigorously! I can't help but feel that there's a lot of arguments with
shadows, people objecting to things which weren't actually proposed...

- Andrew Gray
  andrew.gray at dunelm.org.uk

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