[Foundation-l] GFDL and relicensing

Thomas Dalton thomas.dalton at gmail.com
Sun Nov 25 23:24:48 UTC 2007

> That's not what it says right above the "Submit" button.  Above the
> "Save Page" button, on the English Wikipedia, it currently says:
> "Content that violates any copyright will be deleted. Encyclopedic
> content must be verifiable. You agree to license your contributions
> under the GFDL*."  Then, at the bottom of the page it says "^ GNU Free
> Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by
> the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no
> Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts."  And it hasn't
> always said this.

So you have to read the footnote, big deal. I don't know what it used
to say, but I'm fairly sure it always said you were releasing it under
the GFDL.

> I certainly would not stipulate that clicking on such a button
> constitutes agreeing to a license.  And actually, I don't recall ever
> having clicked on a button with such a text on that page, though it
> might be possible for you to gather records showing I had done so.

If clicking the button doesn't constitute agreeing the the license
then the whole of Wikipedia is a copyright violation, and changing
licenses isn't going to make a damned bit of difference. As for not
having clicked the button - you must have never contributed to
Wikipedia, then, because there's no other way of getting content on
there (without direct database access, anyway).

> As for "or later" clauses being found completely invalid, regardless
> of spirit, that's not necessary.  The GFDL license itself defines what
> "or later" means - "If the Document specifies that a particular
> numbered version of this License "or any later version" applies to it,
> you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of
> that specified version or of any later version that has been published
> (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document does
> not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any
> version ever published (not as a draft) by the Free Software
> Foundation."  The term "has been published" is sufficiently ambiguous
> that one could argue it only includes versions published at the time
> of the agreement, that would certainly make sense.  Furthermore, the
> license implies that the "or later version" language should be
> specified in the Document itself, not agreed to by some clickthrough
> license.

That's the first time I've ever heard that interpretation, and it's
clearly not the intended one, since it would be a completely redundant

> As for retracting the GFDL, first of all, rights under the GFDL are
> automatically revoked if "Any other attempt to copy, modify,
> sublicense or distribute the Document" is made.  Surely it could be
> shown that the WMF at one point made a copy or distribution outside
> the terms of the GFDL.  The article-only dumps don't comply with the
> GFDL, do they?

You're misunderstanding that clause. The license to the person
violating the license is revoked, not the license as a whole (so maybe
the WMF could no longer use it, but a fork could carry on doing so),
and you can't choose to revoke it, it either happens automatically, or
it doesn't happen at all. And as far as I know, the article-only dumps
do comply with the GFDL, is there a specific part you think is being

> Secondly, there is a significant question as to whether the GFDL is a
> contract or a waiver.  If it is a waiver, it can be withdrawn at any
> time.  If it is a contract, then there must be consideration, and any
> unconscionable parts would be void.  Entering irrevocably into a
> contract which can be changed by a third party at any time with no
> possibility to opt-out and which does not require future contracts to
> be in the same spirit of the original contract is surely
> unconscionable.

It *does* require future contracts to be in the same spirit, what are
you talking about?

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