GNU FDL Version 1.3 Improves Compatibility

Nov 04, 2008

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has released version 1.3 of its GNU Free Documentation License improving compatibility with certain Creative Commons licenses.

With the revision GNU FDL 1.3 licensed material can be relicensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) version 3.0 license. The license conditions require attributions to the author and/or licensor and that any modifications made to the product remain under the same or another compatible license.

Changes to the license can be traced back to a query from the Wikimedia Foundation, with its many Wikipedia publications in numerous languages, probably the largest user of the FDL. Brett Smith, responsible for license adherence at Wikimedia explains the problem:"Wikis often import material from a wide variety of sources, many of which use the CC-BY-SA license. Wikipedia, however, uses the GNU FDL. The incompatibility between these two licenses has been an obstacle to moving material back and forth between these sites. The new provision of FDL version 1.3 will give Wikipedia and other wikis another chance to choose the licensing policies they prefer."

The Wikipedia Foundation will be discussing the relicensing of content under the Creative Commons License in the near future. In his blog, Creative Commons Founder Larry Lessig welcomes the move: "A fundamental flaw in the Free Culture Movement to date is that its most important element -- Wikipedia -- is licensed in a way that makes it incompatible with an enormous range of other content in the Free Culture Movement."

The GNU FDL basically remains a license for software handbooks. The complete text to the license and a FAQ list for version 1.3 can be viewed at the GNU Project website.

The FSF is also working on version FDL 2.0, which should bring even more significant changes. The organization invites discussion and comments of the pros and cons of version 3.0 of the software license GPL on the GPLv3 website.

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