Thursday, May 21, 2009

Licensing Vote Results

The results of the Wikimedia licensing vote have been made public today. From Robert Rohde on foundation-l:

The licensing update poll has been tallied.

"Yes, I am in favor of this change" : 13242 (75.8%)
"No, I am opposed to this change" : 1829 (10.5%)
"I do not have an opinion on this change" : 2391 (13.7%)

Total ballots cast and certified: 17462

This is quite a good result, and one that I am happy to see. The WMF board has not made a final decision on the matter, but I sincerely hope that they pursue this license migration.

Update: The board moved pretty quickly on these results, and have already written and approved a resolution:

Whereas the Wikimedia community, in a project-wide vote, has expressed
very strong support for changing the licensing terms of Wikimedia sites,
and whereas the Board of Trustees has previously adopted a license
update resolution requesting that such a change be made possible, the
Board hereby declares its intent to implement these changes.
Accordingly, the Wikimedia Foundation exercises its option under Version
1.3 of the GNU Free Documentation License to relicense the Wikimedia
sites as Massive Multiauthor Collaborations under the Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license, effective June 15, 2009. The Board
of Trustees hereby instructs the Executive Director to have all
Wikimedia licensing terms updated and terms of use implemented
consistent with the proposal at

So it looks like Wikibooks (and all other GFDL WM projects) will be migrating to CC-BY-SA-3.0 dual-licensing by June 15th. Quite a cool thing to happen!


  1. Several wikibooks include the page {{:GNU Free Documentation License}}, which specifies Version 1.2 without(!) later clause. Thus, I guess these books will not be affected by the move to dual licensing, right?

  2. Then that template is incorrect. The entirety of the text on the Wikibooks website (not pictures, which are licensed independently) is migrated to the new licensing conditions. Any book which has a bad licensing template like this should have it removed or updated.

    The official copyright notice for the entire site, which is linked to from the edit page, is at Wikibooks:Copyrights, which does specify the "or any later version" clause. Any template or notice in a book that contradicts this copyright notice is essentially void and a violation of site policy.

  3. Okay, I was thinking of a different template. The page you linked to is the text of the license itself. The actual copyright statement of the Wikibooks website itself is located on the Wikibooks:Copyrights page. The license text isn't the complete "license statement" of the site, Wikibooks copyright policy stipulates a few additional points (any later version, no front or back cover texts, etc). Books should really be using {{GFDL}}, and printed versions should include both that template notice and the text of the license.

  4. I see. So what about books that include images that are licensed under the GFDL without later clause? Can the template {{GFDL}} be used even though it does not apply to some of the images? Some books use a different license statement that explicitly states that some images use a different license.

  5. Good question. Images are licensed separately from the text of Wikibooks. If they are tagged with the {{GFDL}} template (which has always used the "or any later version" clause), presumably the author was aware of this potential. If an author instead wanted to limit their picture to a particular license version they should have used (possibly needing to create it) a new template for that purpose.

    Again, images are a separate issue and most images are not going to be affected by this change. The only thing that really changes is the license of the text content of the site.

  6. The {{GFDL}} template doesn't clarify that images are a separate issue, instead it refers to the "document". I think it should refer to the "text of this document", or something like this.

  7. I think you're trying too hard to merge the two issues into one. In GFDL parlance, a "document" is a thing that is a single work. So the text of the page is one document, an image is another document. Each of these two things are separately licensed, the text is bound by Wikibooks:Copyrights to be GFDL 1.2 or later, with a few other stipulations. Images are licensed individually by their authors, some of which may use the GFDL with the {{GFDL}} template. The {{GFDL}} template doesn't specify that these things are separate, that's an issue that's sort of discussed in Wikibooks:Copyrights and in the text of the GFDL itself.

    When we combine the two, by including a reference to an image in a page of text, that creates what the GFDL calls an "aggregate": multiple separate documents, each licensed individually grouped together in a single place. Changing the license of one part of an aggregate has no effect on the other parts of it. A lot of this confusion stems from the strange word choice used by the GFDL. I suggest you read the text of the license itself (though it's very boring) to get a better sense of some of the vocabulary that it uses.

    So, to reiterate:
    * Text and Images are treated on Wikibooks as separate "documents", as defined by the GFDL, because they can be licensed independently

    * The text "document" is migrating to GFDL+CC-BY-SA-3.0.

    * Images are licensed independently from the text and generally are not being migrated (I am not sure the fate of images currently marked {{GFDL}}, I do not know if they are eligible for migration)

    Hope this helps!

  8. Thanks! After reading the GFDL the issues are much clearer.