Recently, the Wikimedia Foundation proposed that the copyright licensing terms on its wikis be changed to include a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license in addition to its longstanding GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). The proposal was approved by a 75 percent majority of community voters as announced this week.

The change will apply to all text and multimedia content, including video, images, and audio now licensed under GFDL 1.2 or later versions and will increase "the compatibility and availability of free content," according to the WMF site.

Although the proposal has not yet been approved by the Wikimedia Foundation's board of trustees, chairman Michael Snow wrote, "The volunteers who work on Wikimedia projects have very strongly supported making their contributions available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License in addition to the GNU Free Documentation License. Updating our license terms will support Wikimedia's charitable mission by making our projects legally compatible with others that have chosen the CC-BY-SA license. Our free information and educational content can be shared more readily and will be easier for everyone to use."

The change in licensing was made possible in November 2008 when the Free Software Foundation updated its most recent of the GFDL, adding language specifically to accomodate the WMF's desire to switch to Creative Commons licensing.

As we reported last month, in the event that the WMF board approves the proposal, existing content will be dual-licensed and new content will be CC-BY-SA licensed only. "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," wrote RWW blogger Phil Glockner.

"When I started Wikipedia, Creative Commons did not exist," wrote Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales on the site's Q&A page regarding the licensing changes. "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... It's a critically necessary change for the future of Wikimedia."