[Foundation-l] GFDL 1.3 Release

Erik Moeller erik at wikimedia.org
Mon Nov 3 21:50:15 UTC 2008

All -

As has been pointed out, the Free Software Foundation has now released
version 1.3 of the GNU Free Documentation License, which is the
standard text license used by all Wikimedia Foundation projects with
the exception of Wikinews. The updated license text can be found here:

[If you are still seeing version 1.2 on that URL, you may need to
clear your browser cache.]

We are very grateful to the Free Software Foundation for working with us
to develop this re-licensing language.

The only change is the addition of section 11, "Relicensing". This
section permits "massive multi-author collaboration websites" (i.e.
wikis and wiki-like websites) to relicense GFDL content to the
CC-BY-SA, under two key constraints:

* Newly added externally originating GFDL content cannot be relicensed
after November 1, 2008. (In other words, we should stop importing GFDL
content from non-Wikimedia sources, unless they plan to switch as
well. I believe Wikia is planning to switch, but will confirm that shortly.
Please feel free to begin reaching out to other relevant GFDL sources.)

* The relicensing clause will expire on August 1, 2009.

Relicensing can only be done by the operator of such a website, not by
any other party. So the Wikimedia Foundation can choose to re-license
Wikipedia, Wikibooks, etc., but no other party can. We will be able to
do so because most GFDL-licensed content implicitly or explicitly
permits re-use under "any later version" of the GFDL.

== Why wasn't this license available for review earlier? ==

The restriction on externally originating FDL content is intended to
prevent bulk-import and bulk-relicensing of FDL content from external
sources. This is intended to protect the autonomy of site operators in
making a re-licensing decision, and to prevent FDL-licensed software
documentation from being re-licensed without the permission of the
authors. This was a key condition for the Free Software Foundation to
agree to this change. While an earlier draft was published, the
specifics of the migration process have been negotiated privately in
order to not allow for such systematic bulk-relicensing by interested
third parties.

== What's next? ==

* Later this month, we will post a re-licensing proposal for all
Wikimedia wikis which are currently licensed under the GFDL. It will
be collaboratively developed on meta.wiki and I will announce it here.
This re-licensing proposal will include a simplified dual-licensing
proposition, under which content will continue to be indefinitely
available under GFDL, except for articles which include CC-BY-SA-only
additions from external sources. (The terms of service, under this
proposal, will be modified to require dual-licensing permission
for any new changes.)

It will be the obligation of re-users to validate whether an article
includes CC-BY-SA-only changes -- dual licensing should not
be a burden on editors. This is also not intended to be bidirectional,
i.e., merging in GFDL-only text will not be possible.

We _will_  propose to continue to permit GFDL 1.2-only media uploads
for the forseeable future, to address concerns regarding strong and
weak copyleft, until such concerns are fully resolved to the satisfaction
of community members. However, GFDL 1.2-or-later media are
expected to be migrated to CC-BY-SA under this proposal.
It is expected that we will launch a community-wide referendum on this
proposal, where a majority will constitute sufficient support for

* As a heads up, communities should be more careful with importing
external FDL content, unless they know for sure that it will
be migrated to CC-BY-SA in the near future. This will not affect
Wikimedia-internal copying transactions, as either all or no
GFDL-licensed Wikimedia wikis will be switched to CC-BY-SA.
If some GFDL 1.2 content that cannot be migrated later is imported
by accident, that should not present any great difficulty -- we will
simply remove it as we would remove any other problematic
copyrighted content.

More information will follow later this month as we develop the
re-licensing proposal. Let me know if you have any immediate

Erik Möller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation

Support Free Knowledge: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate

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