Monday, April 13, 2009

Wikimedia Licensing Vote

The Wikimedia Foundation has started a vote to enable a migration from GFDL licensing to dual-licensing GFDL and CC-BY-SA-3.0. All Wikibookians (in fact, all Wikimedians) are encouraged to vote on this issue, and it's my personal hope that they all vote YES! Here is the voting page. You must have at least 25 edits before you will be allowed to vote.

A number of members of the Wikibooks community have specifically requested some kind of dual-licensing scheme to make our books more interoperable with other open-education websites. Some authors have attempted to use different licensing schemes on a per-book basis, although those attempts were generally thought to be against Wikibooks' terms of use.

Dual licensing GFDL and CC-BY-SA-3.0 will keep our material compatible with all the GFDL stuff still, but will also open compatibility to other websites and organizations that are CC-BY-SA-3.0 only. A large number of organizations, especially open-education groups, use CC-BY-SA licenses for their content, and previously Wikibooks was not compatible with these. Now, if the vote is passed, we will be and licensing will no longer be a significant barrier to the free use of quality educational materials.

It is my personal opinion that this initiative will be immensely beneficial to the Wikibooks project, with no significant downsides. If people would like to explore other opinions, get in contact with me and I will be happy to send you links to other information that you can use to make a decision.


  1. I've to say that I voted against it. I did it due to two reasons:

    (1) In my opinion it should be gone either the whole way or no step. Dual licensed content is more complicated than single licensed content. And the users even don't know how to use single licensed content.

    (2) In my opinion a migration to dual licensed content is against German law and therefore it could be a starting point for people to successfully sue the operator of the projects in Germany.

  2. That's a little disappointing to hear, and I think some clarification can be made on some points:

    1) Dual-licensed content is simpler then single-licensed content. Previously, we asked people "do you agree to license your content under the GFDL?", now we are asking "do you agree to license your content under the GFDL and another license that has the same spirit?". Also, content reuse becomes far easier: Content reusers can use our content under GFDL, *OR* CC-BY-SA, *OR* both, whichever is their preference. Previously, reusers had to use our content under GFDL, which is often incompatible with other websites, which means (a) a complicated content embedding scheme, (b) complicated relicensing which is almost impossible, or (c) can't reuse our content at all.

    GFDL is a far more complicated license then CC-BY-SA, so anything we do to move away from dependence on GFDL is a move towards less complexity.

    2) I have heard the objection about German law before, and I seem to think it was rebuffed. It's my understanding that German law doesn't really allow for the "or any later version" clause that all Wikimedia projects use already. And still, with that clause in place, no Germans have sued the WMF. If we're going to let the laws of any one single country influence the legal position of the WMF, I think it would be the US where the WMF and it's servers are located, not Germany.

  3. 1) Yes, you've said it: Reusers have the choice to use the content under GFDL or CC-BY-SA or both. So you have to describe three different schemes to reuse the content which will confuse reusers more than one. ;) And think off what I wrote: either whole or nothing. That means either we use further only GFDL or we will relicense all only under CC-BY-SA.

    2) The location of the servers is not the criterion on how to choose the law according to German law. It's the content and for which country it is determined. So, if the content is German German courts are able to decide about actions because German content is determined to be used -- among others -- in Germany.
    Also, my concerns are not directly because the "or any later version" but due to the relicense. It is not in the sense of the authors to do that. Because of the doctrine "in dubio pro auctore" (if there are doubts you have to choose what is the best for the author), which is very important in (German) copyright law, it is not allowed -- in my opinion.

  4. 1) That's not the case. You don't need to explain anything to reusers because the licensing is more flexible and dynamic. If your website is GFDL, you can use our content without problem. If your website is CC-BY-SA, you can use our content without problem. If your website is GFDL+CC-BY-SA, you can reuse our content without problem. Most reuser organizations already know what licensing they are using, and now our content will be more usable without needing explanation.

    With users who are less savvy, there are still the same general rules: Use our content for free, make modifications for free, and allow other people to make use of our work and your derivative work for free. None of that changes. What does change is that we no longer have to also mention "And make sure to include a copy of the GFDL, and make sure to include a title page with the top 5 authors, etc". Our explanation is now shorter for non-savvy users, and absolutely non-existant for savvy users. Far less complex.

    2) That's nonsense. A German speaker in the US who writes on de.wikipedia is not subject to German law. Germany is also not the only country where German is spoken. German language projects are intended to be used by speakers of the German language, not necessarily by residents of Germany.

    If there is a clear problem with German language projects, and I'm still not convinced that there is, then that's an issue that de.wikipedia and de.wikibooks and de.* can deal with separately. The rest of the Wikimedia Foundation shouldn't be held hostage by the peculiarities of law in any one country.

  5. i've written my opinion and you call it nonsense ... that's not kind. if you don't want to hear any other opinion you should write that.

    and if you would have read carefully what i'd written you would have seen that i hadn't written that germany is the only german speaking country ... also a german speaker in the us who writes in de.wp is subject to german law -- there are just hindrances which prevents him/her from being sued ...

  6. I didn't mean to be unkind, but your statement is still completely false: A US citizen who lives in the US and writes content in the US is not subject to German law. There simply is no way that's possible.

    I don't speak German, and I am not subject to German civil law. If I learn German, that situation does not change for me. The WMF is not German, and does not exist in Germany, so it cannot be sued there.

  7. You're right when you say that it doesn't matter whether you speak German or not. But you're not right when you say that you cannot be sued in Germany.

    We should end here because you will not convince me of the opposite and I -- obviously -- won't convince you. Just one point: One could say that German law is divided into "formal" and "material" law. "Materially" there is no problem but "formally" there are some problems because you live in the US and the WMF is a corporation in the US. These "formal" problems don't hinder a lawsuit just the enforcement. BTW: As far as I know that is the same situation in the US and many other countries ...