[Foundation-l] GFDL and relicensing

Anthony wikimail at inbox.org
Mon Nov 26 00:17:16 UTC 2007

On Nov 25, 2007 6:24 PM, Thomas Dalton <thomas.dalton at gmail.com> wrote:
> > 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.
It didn't always say Version 1.2, and it didn't always say "or any
later version".  Anyway, I expect your arguments to be accurate.  If
it doesn't say something "right above the submit button", but instead
says it in a footnote, don't say it says it "right above the submit
button".  If it's no big deal, there's no need to exaggerate.

> > 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.

That's probably true to some extent, although I'd say there is an
implicit license given to the WMF when hitting submit.  I'd say that
implicit license is only valid if the WMF doesn't significantly alter
what it's doing, though, and that it can be revoked at any time.

> 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).
Well, that's not true, as I can send a POST request to the server in
many ways, but that's not what I was getting at.  I was getting at the
fact that I don't know for sure if the text read that 1.2 or any later
version nonsense last time I hit submit.  But for the purposes of
argument, let's assume it did, and that the WMF can show that it did.

> > 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
> clause.
I've never heard that particular clause interpreted before, but "has
been published" is what it says, and it's hard for me to see how it
can be interpreted as "will be published in the future".  It's only a
redundant in certain instances.  If I release something under GFDL 1.1
or any later version, it's not 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),

In this particular hypothetical situation the defendant is the WMF,
isn't it?  If not, then, well, the whole part about "clicking on
submit" is going to be a whole lot tougher, since presumably only the
WMF and myself are parties to that agreement.

> and you can't choose to revoke it, it either happens automatically, or
> it doesn't happen at all.

Right, this is an additional argument, though.

> And as far as I know, the article-only dumps
> do comply with the GFDL, is there a specific part you think is being
> violated?
The current version article only dumps.  Do they contain the GFDL?  Do
they have a compliant section entitled history?  Do they even list all
the authors, anywhere?

> > 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?
Sorry, I thought you were arguing that the future licenses don't even
have to be in the same spirit.

By the way, once you've shown all of this, and that the WMF has
received a license under the GFDL 4.7 (which didn't even exist at the
time of the agreement), that this can't be revoked, and that it hasn't
automatically been terminated, now the burden is on you to show that
you're actually in compliance with the license.

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