[Foundation-l] GFDL and relicensing

Mike Godwin mnemonic at gmail.com
Mon Nov 26 00:01:39 UTC 2007

Thomas Dalton writes:

>  The number of people doing something, and the likelihood of someone
> doing it are different things. I think there is a significant (while
> still probably quite low) chance of at least one person suing, and as
> I've said, that's all it takes to cause a very big and expensive
> problem.

Remember that it's expensive to the plaintiff as well as to the  

> My guess (and that's all it is at this stage),
> is that the changes required to unify GFDL and CC-by-SA would be
> fairly large, and it would end up being dependant on people's views of
> the "spirit" of the license.

What is the basis of this guess?  Most people who've reviewed CC-BY-SA  
and compared it to GFDL see lots of similarities.

> Would you care to enlighten me? Risk assessment involves assessing
> potential damage and the chance of that happening. Is legal risk
> assessment somehow different?

Yes, in the sense that Pascal's Wager is wholly unhelpful in assessing  
risk.  (I think it's wholly unhelpful in other contexts as well, but  
you certainly can't conduct an enterprise by applying "it only takes  
one" logic to a legal question.)

> I can't see how it would be. Legal costs
> are just as damaging as any other similar sized cost.

Apparently you are under the impression that legal costs are not  
damaging to plaintiffs as well as to defendants.

Let's boil this down to what the real argument is:

1) It would be wrong to relicense GFDL content on Wikipedia to a new  
GFDL that's like CC-BY-SA.
2) Allowing those who object to the content would do no good because  
it's impossible.
3) Therefore, people will sue us because they object to the new license.
4) What will they sue for?  Damages (unclear how to calculate those,  
since there's no market value or lost profit calculation that's  
obvious, and since the content isn't registered, which is a  
requirement for statutory damages), plus removal of the content.

So ... either removal of the content is impossible, in which case why  
sue?  Or it's possible, in which case, why spend the money on a  
lawsuit when you can get the same result by asking. (You don't even  
have to ask nicely.)

It helps in analysis of this question to be familiar with how  
copyright litigation actual works, and what it actually costs  
plaintiffs to bring one.

>> Yes, an American court might enforce a foreign judgment that would
>> have led to a different result if brought initially in an American
>> court.  That's first-year civil procedure (i.e., an early lesson in
>> the basic training of every American law student).
> I'm not saying it wouldn't be legal, I'm asking if it would actually  
> happen.

No one can tell you whether it would happen in any given instance.  It  
has happened, however, in the past.


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