Wikipedia community vote on migration to CC BY-SA begins now

A community vote is now underway, hopefully one of the final steps in the process the migration of Wikipedia (actually Wikipedias, as each language is its own site, and also other Wikimedia Foundation sites) to using Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike as its primary content license.

This migration would be a huge boost for the free culture movement, and for Wikipedia and Creative Commons — until the migration happens there is an unnecessary licensing barrier between the most important free culture project (Wikipedia of course, currently under the Free Documentation License, intended for software documentation) and most other free culture projects and individual creators, which use the aforementioned CC BY-SA license.

To qualify to vote, one must have made 25 edits to a Wikimedia site prior to March 15. Make sure you’re logged in to the project on which you qualify, and you should see a site notice at the top of each page that looks like the image below (red outline added around notice).

licensing update site notice

Click on “vote now” and you’ll be taken to the voting site. [Update: If you see a different site notice, it’s because other important notices about the Wikimania conference are rotating with the vote notice. In that case you can go directly to For other Wikimedia sites, change en.wikipedia to the domain of the site in question.]

For background on the migration process, see Wikimedia’s licensing update article and the following series of posts on the Creative Commons blog:

Here’s a great “propaganda poster”, original created by Brianna Laugher (cited a number of times on this blog), licensed under CC BY. See her post, Vote YES for licensing sanity!

Indeed, please go vote yes to unify the free culture movement!

Vote YES! For licensing sanity!

37 thoughts on “Wikipedia community vote on migration to CC BY-SA begins now”

  1. pfctdayelise,

    Thank you! Of course the future has been underway for some time on Wikimedia Commons. 🙂


    The FDL is a copyleft license. There’s no way a non-copyleft license could claim to be in the same spirit. And BY-SA (the CC copyleft license) is what the FSF allowed for migration to in FDL v1.3. So no other license is or was ever on the table.

    If someone wants to start a non-copyleft encyclopedia project, go for it! I’d recommend public domain so as to create the biggest distinction. However, anyone doing this would have to realize they couldn’t use any content from Wikipedia. That’s probably why all of the attempts to start an alternative to Wikipedia that I know of recently have used BY-SA, as they want to be compatible with Wikipedia. Arguably copyleft is doing its job here — encouraging more people to use copyleft, and ensuring that more content must remain free.

  2. The dual-licensing approach seems to me to be the better choice, and it should provide for share-alike without a stipulation of attribution as part of the copyright-related conditions. The only concern I have had with GFDL is the invariant sections aspect — The reverse jiujitsu use of the derivative works right of the GPL gave us a license that was not a contract while enabling a thoroughgoing power to reuse information flexibly — and it might even one day become unnecessary and extraneous when copyright finally returns to sanity. I always felt the invariant sections part of the documentation license was not in keeping with these characteristics of copyleft. But I fear that including the attribution condition in the copyright terms for wiki works will lead to an unfortunate modification of the very best characteristics of the (pre-freakout) American tradition.

  3. Seth,

    Judging by discussions on foundation-l (the Wikimedia Foundation’s general list) leading up to this vote, I really don’t think a no attribution option would’ve flown. In fact the most recent big debate was over whether all contributors to an article needed to have their names printed along with any reuse! (I see you already commented on the blog post here about Wikipedia and attribution.) The FDL does have an attribution requirement, see 4(b), so BY-SA really is the only license that could be made compatible, and again, it is the only license FDL v1.3 allows migration to.

  4. I logged onto both Wikipedia and Commons, but did not get the vote banner. Has it closed already?

    I think the licence merger is an excellent idea and would like to vote yes.

  5. I made my first edit in 2004 and have definitely made more than 25 edits prior to March 15 yet I don’t get the notice about voting. Is my account too old or something?

  6. Peter, Scott, and Joe:

    Are you seeing a different site notice (I believe there might be some rotation between the vote and some wikimania cfp and scholarship notices) or are you seeing the vote notice and then being told you don’t qualify when you click to vote?

    If the former try going directly to

    If the latter, I’m not sure. You can see how many edits the site thinks you’ve made at — if that says you’ve made 25 edits and you’re not allowed to vote you might report that on

  7. The biggest problem with the FDL for Wikipedia is that it requires attribution, which rapidly becomes unworkable when distributing an article that has hundreds or thousands of contributors.

    The biggest problem with the CC BY-SA is that it requires attribution, which rapidly becomes unworkable when distributing a work that has hundreds or thousands of contributors.

    I doubt a noticable number of Wikipedia contributors actually care about their user names being published when an article is distributed, so changing to a license that repeats this mistake seems like a spectacular waste of effort.

  8. Who thought it was a good idea to make that image for advertisement? It gives the impression that a Yes vote is being thrown in the trash 😛

  9. Peter,

    Thanks, I added a note about the direct URL to the body of the post.


    Attribution and Wikipedia and wikis generally has been thoroughly discussed leading up to this vote. Indeed, for years. See the post on attribution linked above. And note that says that credit will be given by linking to the article in question, an entirely feasible method of attribution for reusers, and one facilitated by CC’s attribution term since version 2.0 of the licenses.

    super marketer,

    That’s what a looks like.

  10. Mike, how about being honest about what this is about:

    It’s people voting to change the license that other people used, retroactively and whether they agree or not.

    License coercion is something that should be repugnant to the free licensing movement as a whole.

  11. I suppose this will only affect newly added material to Wikipedia: old stuff will still be under the old license. Or will there be an effort to contact the original contributors for permission to relicense it?

  12. I wish that Wikipedia allowed anyone to have a voice. I haven’t hit their magic number of 25 yet,but since I use and edit there, I’d like to have a say.

    I think there should be a vote on the license, and I’d like to offer a strong vote of “no” on the Sharealike license. I think something as far reaching as Wikipedia should be under a less restrictive license, just put it under CC-BY. THAT would be a triumph for free culture.

  13. Flimm,

    With the caveat that only BY-SA content can be imported, and when that happens GFDL is not available.


    This vote is very inclusive. A Wikimedia Foundation board election last year required 600 edits and 50 recent edits. See (and that itself is very inclusive — most nonprofits don’t elect boards with community votes).

    Also, Wikipedia is already under a copyleft (ie ShareAlike requirements) license, and moving to a non-copyleft license would be impossible. See my comment at

  14. I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how person A creates content and releases it under the terms of a specific license, but then persons B, C, and D can come along, have a “vote”, then decide that person A’s work is going to be re-licensed under new terms.

    Not only does that sound illegal to me, but immoral.

    I know what Linksvayer is going to say in response, so to preempt that, let me just say that GFDL 1.2 and 1.3 says about future versions:

    “Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version…”

    I have deep doubts about whether a CC license is “similar in spirit” to the GFDL license. I guess the argument here is just how thick is the weave of wool that’s being pulled over Person A’s eyes.

  15. Gregory,

    You correctly predicted my response, huzzah!

    (To the “illegal” part anyway. If I were to venture into moralisms, I’d say that the imperative is to make free culture more effective — which is what unsplitting copyleft silos does — not to take the most extremely conservative stance on upholding the fine grained exclusionary rights of individual editors. Do you consider fair use immoral?)

  16. I consider it immoral for you to decide what *I* ought to think is the imperative of effective free culture.

    This would be like you saying that expansion of green space is important, and I might agree with you completely, but then you and some of your friends come and burn down my house while I’m away on a vacation, and you replace the footprint with some shrubbery. Upon my return, when I object to what you have done, you say, “But, surely you agree that green space is good, and I have it here that you agreed with the notion of expansion of green space.”

    What you and the WMF did was what we call a “dick move”. I think you know it, but you’re too brainwashed with this Free Culture movement to admit it publicly.

  17. Gregory,

    There is no equivalent to “my house” in this scenario. Everything concerned is already the equivalent of green space, if you wish to make that analogy … and our respective green space covenants have been made compatible, as an existing clause in the covenants enabled. Maybe two green space clubs can use each others’ spaces now, or there has been a merger of clubs. In any case, there has been no burning down of houses.

    Watch your language.


  18. “my contributions” to Wikipedia were released by me, under the terms of a license I did not expect to be radically altered in a way that I find to fail the “similar in spirit” clause of the license.

    “my house”

  19. My god! I hadn’t realised that the so-called ‘free’ creative commons thing was actually just as fascistically control-freek centred as the standard copyright junk!

    I’ve just learnt (by a search triggered by a comment at the beginning of this debate) that the main (only?) purpose of the licence imposed by the likes of wikipedia is to RESTRICT the use of the data. IOW to PREVENT it from ever being used in a truly public-domain project. If it weren’t then it would have just been public-domain from the word go.

    Bang goes my daydream that a largish group of people were standing against the copyright stranglehold on information 🙁 They’re just after imposing their own values (their own flamin stranglehold!) onto anything they create, and by licencing-chain contamination, onto anything that anyone *else* creates which needs to make use of a quote of their stuff. 🙁


  20. Greg wrote “just learnt (by a search triggered by a comment at the beginning of this debate) that the main (only?) purpose of the licence imposed by the likes of wikipedia is to RESTRICT the use of the data. IOW to PREVENT it from ever being used in a truly public-domain project.”

    Giggle! Haven’t you realised, the letters GNU don’t make controlling rules any less controlling, they just mean a different set of control freaks will appear in court against anyone who makes free use. The only good thing is that the RIAA scum have more money than the GNU bunch, so they could afford much WORSE lawyers, for mega-heavy-handed legalised extortion, compared to the relatively puny amateurs. If you want freedom, don’t mess with formal copyright beyond perhaps a ‘created by ???? and for the use of ANYONE’ line at the bottom.

    Put whatever version you create of whatever ex-restrictive toys you like out onto Emule or Bittorent, 21st century distribution frameworks where museum piece incantations just don’t matter anymore.

    That’s where the future lies, with free distribution, not with luddite worship of outdated rules and regulations that are effectively unenforcible thanks to modern technology.

    Max Steeple

  21. gregory khos,

    You’re trying to erect a house on land owned by wikipedia. Normally, wikipedia lets people do this, so long as they follow their (wikipedia’s) rules. They could make a website that no one could edit, but instead they allowed people to expand on their work, which was quite nice of them, frankly.

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