The Creative Commons Blog today announced that the Wikipedia community is holding a vote to move to using Creative Commons for its primary content license. The license being discussed is CC BY-SA or Attribution-ShareAlike. Although Wikipedia is already covered by the Gnu Free Documentation License (or GFDL), which is similar (and was the best available choice at the time Wikipedia got started), it contains some ‘potentially onerous provisions’ according to the Wikimedia Licensing Update page.
The process to get to the Creative Commons license would start by dual-licensing existing content, and then allowing new third-party content created for Wikipedia to come in just under the CC BY-SA license. This will ensure that any content shared from Wikipedia in the future can be done under the now broadly-used terms of Creative Commons licensing and without the additional restrictions required by the GFDL, which was created more for application code documentation and is slightly more stringent, for example requiring anyone using the content to include the full license code with each use.
The Wikipedia licensing Questions and Answers page contains a quote from Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales which sums up the necessity of the change:
“When I started Wikipedia, Creative Commons did not exist. The Free Documentation License was the first license that demonstrated well how the principles of the free software movement could be applied to other kinds of works. However, it is designed for a specific category of works: software documentation. The CC-BY-SA license is a more generic license that meets the needs of Wikipedia today, and I’m very grateful that the FSF has allowed this change to happen. Switching to CC-BY-SA will also allow content from our projects to be freely mixed with CC-BY-SA content. It’s a critically necessary change for the future of Wikimedia.”
Some parts of Wikipedia are already using the Creative Commons license, like many of the images that are uploaded by contributors. However, even with Wikimedia Commons, the default is GFDL.
The voting is ongoing and eligibility to vote is extended to all users who have made at least 25 edits to any Wikimedia project before March 15, 2009. Voting ends on May 3, 2009. Instructions are on the licensing page and are fairly simple; they say to “Visit the page called Special:SecurePoll/vote/1 on a wiki for which you meet the voting conditions.”
Image courtesy of the Creative Commons blog.