[Wikipedia-l] GNU FDL & HTML Table Requirement

Simon Kissane sj_kissane at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 24 09:30:00 UTC 2001

I only recently discovered the requirement to place a
table at the bottom of every page that uses content
taken from Wikipedia (see

I don't like that idea, and having read the GNU FDL,
have come to the conclusion that the requirement is
most likely in violation of the terms of the license.
The FDL permits the inclusion of invariant sections,
but it makes clear that these are front cover sections
or appendices, i.e. separate sections at the beginning
or end of a work, not something to be included on
every page. It also implies that each of these
sections is to have a unique title -- are we to give
each link table a unique name? It also implies clearly
that the invariant sections are in the original copy
of the document -- which the table links aren't in the
original copy (www.wikipedia.com).

Furthermore, even if these link tables were present in
the original copy, and mentioned, and given section
names, nowhere does Wikipedia contain a notice
indicating them as invariant sections, along the lines
contained in the FDL.

Finally, requiring them to be in HTML seems to be
violative of the FDL as well. What if I wanted to do
my website in some other markup language, such as
XHTML or SGML or XML or WML or (insert some not yet
invented language here) instead? Then I can't
technically include the exact HTML, which seems to
amount to a requirement that any redistribution on a
website be in HTML. Additional restrictions over and
above those in the FDL are prohibited by the FDL.

Now of course, any of these terms could be added if
some one individual owned the content to Wikipedia,
but they don't. The contributors license it everyone
else under the terms of the FDL; attempting to
redistribute it under any additional restriction
contrary to the FDL is in violation of their
copyright, unless you get their consent, which would
mean the consent of every single contributor to

I understand that all people want to do is require
acknowledgement, all I am saying is that legal means
must be chosen to carry this out. The legal means are
those permitted by the FDL, which is by placing a
statement (and a URL) as front-cover matter,
back-cover matter, or in an invariant section.
Websites copying Wikipedia are required to include
these sections, but these are separate sections, not
notices on every single page.

Simon James Kissane

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