Licensing update

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The licensing update has been executed.
The results are available here. Please be aware that pages need to be updated to reflect the result and that some information may be obsolete. In the meantime, viewing the LU timeline might be helpful. Help with translations is of continuing appreciation.

The Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation invited the Wikimedia community in 2009 to vote on this proposal to license Wikimedia material so it is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC-BY-SA), while retaining dual licensing with the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). The Board has evaluated possible licensing options for Wikimedia material, and believes that this proposal is the best available path towards achieving our collective goal to collect, develop and disseminate educational material, and make it available to people everywhere, free of charge, in perpetuity.

Specifically, the Wikimedia Foundation proposal is to amend site-wide licensing terms and terms of use for all projects as follows:

  1. to make all content currently distributed under the GNU Free Documentation License (with “later version” clause) additionally available under CC-BY-SA 3.0, as explicitly allowed through the latest version of the GFDL;
  2. to require continued dual-licensing of new community edits in this manner, but allow CC-BY-SA-only content from third parties (However, GFDL-only content from third parties is no longer allowed);
  3. to inform re-users that content which includes imported CC-BY-SA-only information cannot be used under the GFDL.

As is consistent with established policy and practice, and as is consistent with the CC-BY-SA license model, authors and editors will also be required to consent to being credited by re-users; at minimum, this will be done through a hyperlink or URL to the article they are contributing to.

Please see Licensing update/Questions and Answers for a more complete overview.


The core motivations for the change are as follows:

  • Without the change, we could not share text with projects that use the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike Licenses. The Creative Commons licenses are used by hundreds of thousands of authors world-wide (see statistics), having quickly become the most widely used legal tool to release rights on works other than software. This interoperability barrier with other non-profit organizations and online communities who share knowledge freely is therefore counter to Wikimedia's mission.
  • The GFDL includes some potentially onerous provisions, such as the requirement to include the full license text with each copy. These requirements impede re-use of both text and multimedia (spoken or printed versions of articles, prints of images, etc.). Wikimedia is committed to the widest possible dissemination of free knowledge. While our terms of use have always allowed for lower barriers to re-use, their inconsistency with the license text leads to fear, uncertainty, and doubt about what is legal and what is not. It advantages those re-users who can afford legal advice and research over those who cannot. This is counter to Wikimedia's mission.

The license update was undertaken to achieve greater interoperability and greater re-use of free knowledge world-wide in service to our vision: a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

Decision-making process[edit]


A vote was administered to the Wikimedia community in order to decide whether to implement the change. All users (excluding bots) who had made at least 25 edits to any Wikimedia project prior to March 15, 2009 were welcome to participate in this vote.

Voting process[edit]

The vote had three options:

  • Yes, I am in favor of this change
  • No, I am opposed to this change
  • I do not have an opinion on this change

It was decided that a simple majority in favour would be the criterion for referral to the Board of Trustees for approval. A detailed summary of the results as they were is given here.

The vote began on April 12, 2009 and ended on May 3, 2009. A draft timeline can be found at Licensing update/Timeline.

Proposed terms of use[edit]

These terms of use will be implemented across all sites that presently use the GFDL:

  • The site footer will be modified to say:

All text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. Text may also be available under the GNU Free Documentation License. See ((link to copyright policy)) for further details. See the page history for a list of authors. Media files are available under different licenses; click the file for more information.

  • Terms on edit screen will be modified to say:

By submitting an edit, you agree to release your contribution under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License and the GNU Free Documentation License. Re-users will be required to credit you, at minimum, through a hyperlink or URL to the article you are contributing to, and you hereby agree that such credit is sufficient in any medium. See ((link to copyright policy)) for details. If you do not want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, then do not submit it here. You are also promising us that you wrote this yourself, or copied it from a public domain or similar free resource. PLEASE DO NOT SUBMIT COPYRIGHTED WORK WITHOUT PERMISSION.

  • A standard copyright policy will be provided, which is to be translated literally into other languages. Aside from the text of both licenses, the policy will include the following expectations for re-users (guidelines for use under CC-BY-SA):
  • Attribution of text: To re-distribute an article page in any form, provide credit to the authors either by including a) a hyperlink (where possible) or URL to the article or articles you are re-using, b) a hyperlink (where possible) or URL to an alternative, stable online copy which is freely accessible, which conforms with the license, and which provides credit to the authors in a manner equivalent to the credit given on this website, or c) a list of all authors. (Any list of authors may be filtered to exclude very small or irrelevant contributions.)
  • Attribution of rich media: Rich media (images, sound, video, etc.) that were created through substantive collaborations between at least five people can be credited in the same fashion as text; other rich media files must be attributed in any reasonable manner specified by the contributor(s).
  • Attribution of externally contributed content: The above attribution requirements apply to content developed and uploaded by the Wikimedia community. Text and rich media contributions that come from external sources may attach additional attribution requirements to the work, which we will strive to indicate clearly to you.
  • Copyleft/Share and Share Alike: If you make modifications or additions to the page or work you re-use, you must license them under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0 or later.
  • Indicate changes: If you make modifications or additions, you must indicate in a reasonable fashion that the original work has been modified. If you are re-using the page in a wiki, for example, indicating this in the page history is sufficient.
  • For further information, please refer to the legal code of the CC-BY-SA License.

  • The copyright policy will include the following statement with regard to inclusion of content by third parties under the CC-BY-SA license:

You may import any text from other sources that is available under the CC-BY-SA license, even if it is not available under the GNU Free Documentation License. You are under no obligation whatsoever to obtain such content also under the GFDL. However, you may not import text that is only available under the GFDL. If you import text under the CC-BY-SA license, you must abide by the terms of the license; specifically, you must, in a reasonable fashion, credit the author(s). Where such credit is commonly given through page histories (such as wiki-to-wiki copying), it is sufficient to give attribution in the edit summary, which is recorded in the page history, when importing the content.

  • The copyright policy will include the following statement with regard to re-use under the GFDL:

If you want to re-use pages under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, you must verify, for every page you re-use, that it does not include information that is exclusively licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. This should be noted in the page history, the footer, or the discussion page. If such information is included, you cannot re-use the page under the GFDL. Revisions created prior to ((date of license update)) can be reasonably expected to not include any CC-BY-SA-only text.

The wording of these terms may be reasonably modified in the future by the Wikimedia Foundation for purposes of clarity and elaboration.

Finally, we will encourage the community to identify media files that are presently licensed under GFDL (but not those which are licensed under "GFDL 1.2 only") as being additionally available under CC-BY-SA.