Wikipedia + CC BY-SA = Free Culture Win!

As anyone following this site closely must know, the Wikipedia community and Wikimedia Foundation board approved the adoption of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license as the main content license for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites. A post about the community vote has many links explaining the history and importance of this move.

Detail of Win win relationship by Alex Brollo / CC BY-SA

Starting last week with English Wikipedia (there are over 700 Wikimedia sites in over 250 languages — the image to the right is sourced from one of them), the copyright notice on Wikimedia sites is being changed to CC BY-SA. See the Wikimedia Foundation Terms of Use.

The outreach effort to non-Wikimedia wikis to take advantage of this migration opportunity is ongoing. Help if you can. One very important milestone was reached June 19, when most wikis hosted by Wikia (there are thousands, including some big ones) converted to CC BY-SA.

Hooray for Jimmy Wales, founder of both Wikipedia and Wikia! (Note the two organizations are unrelated.) CC is fortunate to also have Wales as a member of our board of directors. Without his vision, this unification of free culture licensing would not have been possible.

Here’s to a huge win for Wikipedians, all of free culture, and everyone who made it possible! Already the licensing change is enabling content to flow between Wikipedia and other projects. Will you interoperate? See a post on my personal blog for a long-winded conjecture about long-term impacts of the licensing change.

Finally, note that this is only one instance of the Wikipedia community showing great foresight and leadership. For example, clearly the Wikipedia community’s steadfast commitment to open formats played a major role in giving open video (effectively meaning Theora) a chance for wide adoption, which it now appears on the verge of. Hooray for visionary free culture communities and many wins to come!

Addendum 2009-06-30

Erik Moeller writes on the Wikimedia Foundation blog that the licensing update has been rolled out on all Wikimedia wikis:

Perhaps the most significant reason to choose CC-BY-SA as our primary content license was to be compatible with many of the other admirable endeavors out there to share and develop free knowledge: projects like Citizendium (CC-BY-SA), Google Knol (a mix of CC licenses, including CC-BY and CC-BY-SA), WikiEducator (CC-BY-SA), the Encylcopedia of Earth (CC-BY-SA), the Encyclopedia of the Cosmos (CC-BY-SA), the Encyclopedia of Life (a mix of CC licenses), and many others. These communities have come up with their own rules of engagement, their own models for sharing and aggregating knowledge, but they’re committed to the free dissemination of information. Now this information can flow freely to and from Wikimedia projects, without unnecessary legal boundaries.

This is beginning to happen. A group of English Wikipedia volunteers have created a WikiProject Citizendium Porting, for example, to ensure that high quality information developed by the Citizendium community can be made available through Wikipedia as well, with proper attribution.

20 thoughts on “Wikipedia + CC BY-SA = Free Culture Win!”

  1. Jimmy Wales is co-founder of Wikipedia, and he is also co-founder of Wikia. The two entities are related in many ways. Sixty percent of the early board of directors of the Wikimedia Foundation were Wikia employees. There are over 10,000 hyperlinks from Wikipedia to Wikia’s sites. And, most recently in early 2009, the Wikimedia Foundation voted to rent office space from Wikia, Inc. Literally, Wikia is Wikipedia’s landlord.

    But, you may keep up this fiction that the two are not related, if it makes you more comfortable to kid yourself.

    I won’t even ask about your opinion on various complexities of this fraudulent “license migration”, since you can’t seem to cope with even simpler realities.

  2. Isn’t “enabling content to flow between Wikipedia and other projects” just another word for “ripping people off”? If people wanted the material they’d written for Wikipedia in the public domain, they’d have said so when they uploaded it. The whole point of using GFDL is that it makes it possible but difficult to lift material, and that’s always been the understanding under which people have written for Wikipedia.

  3. Gregory,

    Everything is related to everything else. I meant to dispel the easily gained (due to shared founder and similar name) misimpression that Wikia and Wikipedia are the same entity or that Wikia is the commercial counterpart of Wikipedia. Perhaps I should have used more words, or probably, none.


    No. Curiously Gregory asked the same question here previously. My response then and now

  4. Keep in mind that Gregory is (or at least was) a banned editor on Wikipedia who has since devoted his life to disparaging Wikipedia and promoting his own site.

  5. “Keep in mind that Gregory is (or at least was) a banned editor on Wikipedia who has since devoted his life to disparaging Wikipedia and promoting his own site.”

    Getting banned as an editor is normal on Wikipedia. It happens to everyone who doesn’t obey the unwritten rules of mediocracy and corporate / scientific consensus. I know of dozen op people who took the time and effort to enhance articles with much needed dissident views and minority stands, only to be banned by the Wiki-maffia.

    So. This is no argument to take Gregories-argument less serious.

  6. I wonder why they needed to chose attribution, I wonder why everyone thinks its so important, the GPL or GFDL doesn’t have any by. I consider offering the attribution variant not a smart idea at all.

    However now since any content I upload up Wikipedia as attribution. I do want to be attributed at every single article I worked on! And no page history is no satisfying attribution, as you a) get out of reasonably viewable history fast, b) someone taking my text from wikipedia is again to attribute me, not wikipedia, so he should hunt down every single sentence he takes to attribute the correct authors.

  7. Other question, how can they even convert the work they got from all their editors under a GFDL license? I doubt that GFDL is that open you can just drop it for work you received under the GFDL and replace it with an other license.

  8. Won’t this move make the content on Wikipedia not unique anymore? The reason for Wikipedia’s success is its unique content and simple wording.

  9. Mike Linksvayer thank you for the enlighting links, I skimmed through tat topics.

    So to conclude, yes attribution is kind of stupid for a free project. However it was needed, as this was the only CC to be compatible with FDL.

    So I agree, if anyone wants to make a new grounds up project similar to wikipedia, s/he would be really adviced not to do attribution. However Wikipedia can no longer get out of it, since they are forced into the license (and compatibles) they picked from start.

  10. >Hooray for Jimmy Wales
    >CC is fortunate to also have Wales as a member of our board of directors
    >Without his vision

    So Mike Linksvayer says wikipedians are lambs with Wales as shepherd? Wikipedia goes where daddy points? When did i missed the moment of “free encyclopedia” becoming authoritarian regime?

  11. Will CC By-SA alter Wikipedia’s public domain status? Will it still be a FREE Encyclopedia?
    Is the conversion is the good thing to do in the first place, or it’s just a start of something bigger, something to do with money?
    None of above comments seemed to concern these. So you please answer.

  12. Gendel,

    Wikipedia has never been in the public domain. It is FREE in terms of the most relevant definition, see

    Hopefully the license transition was both a good thing to do in the first place and the start of much bigger things. That’s what this post is about, starting from the title!

  13. I think Mr. Gregory Kohs has never gotten an answer I would consider satisfactory. I was also unsatisfied and amazed that Wikipedia would attempt such a thing; until I found out that the FSF had changed license terms of the GFDL to permit Wikipedia to also license under the CC license.

    See the first FAQ

    I still wonder why CC would advertise that the GFDL is ‘insane’.

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