CC compatibility

Creative Commons floats move toward compatibility with GFDL

In an effort to make freely licensed content more accessible across different projects, Creative Commons has released an initial draft of a license that would improve compatibility with the primary license for Wikipedia content.

Mia Garlick, General Counsel of Creative Commons, on Thursday released a proposal that would amend the organization's copyleft ShareAlike licenses. The draft amendment would change these licenses so that derivative works could also be distributed under the Free Software Foundation's GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). In explaining the proposal, Garlick cited the inability to use content from Wikipedia with Creative Commons-licensed material from other sites, such as Flickr.

Currently, the ShareAlike clause in Creative Commons licenses allows derivative works to use any license with the same "license elements", to allow for license updates and international versions. Garlick noted that the GFDL "essentially enables the same freedoms" as the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC-BY-SA).

Discussion took place largely on the Creative Commons licenses mailing list. The proposal initially met with enthusiasm about the prospects for greater interoperability among free content licenses. However, some concerns were also raised about it based on the provisions of the GFDL. The point was made that the GFDL specifically indicates that commercial uses are allowed, whereas Creative Commons provides the option to choose a ShareAlike license that is restricted to noncommercial use. Thus, to avoid going against the intentions of people who chose a noncommercial license, Garlick later indicated that the amendment might have to be limited to the CC-BY-SA license. Also, several people expressed concern about the widely disliked GFDL provisions for "invariant sections" (use of which is prohibited on Wikipedia).

Tomos made the observation that the amendment would create "a one way street" where Creative Commons material could be reused under the GFDL, but not the other way around. Since making changes in the other direction is out of Creative Commons' control, discussion also turned to the question of whether changes to the GFDL might be possible. Many people have expressed hope that the GFDL and Creative Commons licenses could eventually become more compatible, but any progress is likely to be gradual. The Free Software Foundation is currently working on a new version of the GNU General Public License (GPL), with a public comment process that is expected to last through next year. As a result, it is uncertain how much effort will be put into revising the GFDL in the near future.

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