Wikipedia and Creative Commons

At last night’s party for Jimmy and Heather — congratulations on the move of Wikimedia to San Francisco — Jimmy Wales announced that the Wikimedia board has approved a path for migration of Wikipedia’s use of the GNU Free Documentation License to the Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license. We’ve had our own discussion about CC licensing here at The Conversations Network, but our challenges are nowhere near as complex as those that Jimmy faces. Not only is Wikipedia the single largest (usable) repository of human knowledge, its content has been created by a huge number of people and is used and abused by even more.

As Lawrence Lessig explains — and it’s an important issue — this isn’t a done deal yet. As I understand it, the Wikimedia board’s resolution merely initiates a process that now requires approval of the Wikipedia community, however they’ve decided to define it.

So don’t assume you can immediately rush out and reuse Wikipedia articles on a CC share-alike basis. But unless there’s a glitch in the community-approval process, this does seem like something that’s likely to happen. Congratulations to Larry, Jimmy and their respective teams for pulling this off. The clarity and simplicity of the CC licenses will benefit everyone.

One thought on “Wikipedia and Creative Commons

  1. Well, the problem is the situation is not as simple as many (including Lawrence Lessig as far as I see from his latest post) think. The content of Wikipedia won’t be ‘relicenced’ from GFDL to CC BY-SA: the GFDL is to be made compatible with CC BY-SA.

    If, let’s say, GFDL 2.0 will be compatible with CC BY-SA 4.0, there will be no need for aproval of the Wikipedia community. On Wikipedia:Copyrights we read that “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later” (bolded by myself). So, anybody who wrote anything in Wikipedia has agreed to licence his/her contributions to Wikipedia not under the GFDL 1.2 only, but under the next versions of the GFDL, which – as we can read – may be compatible with CC BY-SA, as well.

    If the CC BY-SA-compatible version of the GFDL will come into life, the content of Wikipedia will be multilicenced, not rerelicenced: we’ll be able to use it under GFDL 1.2, the GFDL X.X and CC BY-SA X.X

    And the opinion of the whole Wikipedia community will be absolutely unimportant.

    Hope it makes the situation at least a little bit clearer.

    Tomasz W. Kozlowski
    a Wikimedia contributor 🙂


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