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Wikipedia lets Creative Commons into its heart

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Yes, Wikipedia is moving to a Creative Commons license.

After a vote by its Board of Trustees and its community at large, the Wikimedia Foundation has announced that its projects will move their primary licensing from the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) to the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License (CC-BY-SA). And that includes "the free encyclopedia anyone can edit."

The idea is to make it easier for people to re-use Wikistuff - and mix it with other CC-licensed content. "Updating our license terms will support Wikimedia's charitable mission, by making our projects legally compatible with others that have chosen the CC-BY-SA license," reads a canned statement from Foundation Board of Trustees chair Michel Snow. "Our free information and educational content can be shared more readily and will be easier for everyone to use."

If you're using CC-BY-SA, you can add your content to Wikistuff - and you can add Wikistuff to your content. If you're using a CC-BY or a CCO license, you can move the first way, but not the second. And when you reproduce Wikistuff, you needn't reprint the entire GFDL license - though you will have to link back to Wikiland and provide attribution.

When Wikipedia was founded in 2001 - by Jimbo Wales and a guy Jimbo Wales tried to edit from history - Creative Commons licenses didn't exist. That's why the eighth largest website in the world uses a software documentation license.

But in December 2007, at some sort of free culture worship ceremony, Jimbo announced that the Wikimedia Foundation, the Creative Commons, and the Free Software Foundation had agreed to engineer a switch to a CC license. He called it "the liberation of Wikipedia."

The way Jimbo tells it, he and free culture godhead Larry Lessig cooked up the idea while strolling in Barcelona. Amidst that December worship ceremony, Larry told Jimbo: "So, there are three great things that happened to my life - two of them coming from my wife. This is the third."

By November of last year, the Free Software Foundation tweaked the GFDL to allow for Wikipedia migration to the CC-BY-SA. This spring, the Wikimedia community voted to approve the switch, with 88 per cent of the 17,000 voters giving the nod.

Wikimedia is not dropping the GFDL. It's adopting a dual-license system, so that content can be reused under both the GFDL and the CC-BY-SA. But there will be cases where the GFDL vanishes to allow for the mixing of Wikistuff with other CC content.

The change is expected to take place in June. ®

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