Terms of use/Creative Commons 4.0/Legal note

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Creative Commons 4.0 upgrade

The Wikimedia projects use free copyright licenses like Creative Commons to enable people to collaborate and distribute their photos, writing, and more. Creative Commons licenses allow authors to give everyone permission to use their original creations, subject to a standard set of terms and conditions. The purpose of this note is to accompany the current discussion on upgrading the default license for Wikimedia from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported to Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International.

History[edit]

Under the licensing policy (March 2007), text and media on the Wikimedia projects are available under a free culture license or compatible terms. When the Wikimedia projects were created, the content was made available under the GNU Free Document License. In 2009, the default license was migrated to CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported. Under the Wikimedia Terms of Use, each user agrees to release their contributions under this license. The amendment under consideration will change the default license in the Wikimedia Terms of Use from CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported to CC BY-SA 4.0 International.

About Creative Commons 4.0[edit]

Creative Commons 4.0 is similar to the version 3.0 of the license. It includes the same general attribution and sharealike requirements, and adds a few additional modifications.

For more detailed information, Creative Commons has published in-depth guidance on the new license with a detailed What's new in 4.0 explanation,

For the Wikimedia projects, the differences in the licenses fall into two general areas:

  • Simpler language: Creative Commons 4.0 has been revised to use clearer language. Upgrading to Creative Commons 4.0 will make it easier for more people to read and understand the requirements of the license.
  • More international: Creative Commons 4.0 is translated into multiple languages following a careful review process. Under Creative Commons 3.0, there were international ports of the license instead of official translations. Upgrading to Creative Commons 4.0 will enable more people to read the official license in their native language.

There are some additional legal changes to the license:

  • Sui generis database rights: The new license specifies that its terms and conditions apply to sui generis database rights. The proposed amendment to the Wikimedia Terms of Use waives these sui generis database rights (in jurisdictions where they may exist) since CC 4.0 refers to these rights specifically. See more information below.
  • Updated attribution: Version 4.0 makes a few changes to the requirement to provide attribution. Re-users may provide attribution that is reasonable for the context, including a URL when appropriate. The current version of the Wikimedia Terms of Use explains that a URL may be used for attribution for wiki pages with a large number of authors, and 4.0 adds clarity to the existing explanation.
  • Moral, personality, and privacy rights: Version 4.0 asks an author to waive their moral rights, as well as personality and privacy, to the extent necessary to release rights under the Creative Commons license and to the extent it is legally allowed. Creators retain their other moral rights. This will ensure that these additional non-copyright rights do not interfere with collaboration based on someone's contribution. Like version 3.0, version 4.0 does not affect the trademark rights of the author.
  • Opportunity to correct license violations: Version 4.0 allows people to regain their rights under the license if they correct issues within 30 days. This portion of the license will help Wikimedians address cases where re-users do not provide sufficient attribution at first, but are willing to correct their mistake once notified.

If you have questions about additional changes and their consequence for Wikimedia, you can join the discussion here.

Mechanism for the upgrade[edit]

After the Terms are amended, text changes and new additions will be licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (for projects other than Wikidata). Given the collaborative nature of the Wikimedia projects, changes will often include a mixture of new additions as well as text that was previously added by other users, including text that was contributed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Under Section 4(b) in the 3.0 version of the license, adaptations may be released under the new version of the license:

You may Distribute or Publicly Perform an Adaptation only under the terms of: (i) this License; (ii) a later version of this License with the same License Elements as this License; (iii) a Creative Commons jurisdiction license (either this or a later license version) that contains the same License Elements as this License (e.g., Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 US)); (iv) a Creative Commons Compatible License. (Emphasis added)

This allows people to submit contributions under the terms of a later version of a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. In other words, CC BY-SA 3.0 is compatible with CC BY-SA 4.0 and later versions of the same license. After the Terms of Use are modified to use version 4.0, an article may be used under the 4.0 version of the license according to the attribution requirements in the Wikimedia Terms of Use.

Waiving database rights[edit]

The proposed amendment to the Terms of Use waives potential database rights (where applicable) covered by CC BY-SA 4.0 to keep barriers low when sharing information.

In some jurisdictions, creators of a database may have certain rights that extend beyond copyright. When a database includes material that is protectable by copyright, both the 3.0 and 4.0 versions of the license already allow people to use this material. The update in the 4.0 version of the license additionally provides permission to use material that is not eligible for copyright protection, but is eligible for protection as part of a database. Creative Commons sought to clarify that the licenses apply to database rights:

In particular, the fact that sui generis database rights are not explicitly covered by the 3.0 unported licenses has led to confusion in jurisdictions that recognize those rights. Version 4.0 removes any doubt, pulling applicable sui generis rights squarely within the scope of the license unless explicitly excluded by the licensor. It also allows database providers to use the CC licenses to explicitly license those rights.

There are some noteworthy distinctions between database rights and copyright:

  • Database rights do not apply universally, for example they may not apply to works created outside of jurisdictions where they are recognized.
  • Permission to use a database is necessary to use all or a substantial portion of the database, and using an insubstantial portion may not be an infringement. Unfortunately, the difference between a "substantial" and "insubstantial" portion of a database is not clearly defined.

Since Wikipedia contributors come from around the world, waiving database rights will ensure that the rights in Wikimedia content are internationally consistent and consistent with Wikipedia's past rights in contributions under version 3.0 of the license. Additionally, it will avoid potential difficulties when complying with terms like attribution and sharealike that do not clearly fit database terms.

Conclusion[edit]

Ultimately, we believe that the copyright licenses used by the Wikimedia projects should empower as many users as possible to easily collaborate by sharing knowledge. Upgrading to Creative Commons 4.0 will provide benefits to both creators and re-users by making the license terms easy to understand and more globally accessible.

  • If you have questions about wiki pages or software interfaces that will need to be updated with CC BY-SA 4.0, please add them to the cleanup drive.