Nupedia Open Content License

David Johnson david at
Sun Oct 29 02:10:13 UTC 2000

On Saturday 28 October 2000 01:43 pm, Jimmy Wales wrote:

> The only restriction on use and reuse that we seek, and I hope
> that this is consistent with Open Source ideals, is that when
> people use the content on the web, they are required to provide
> a hypertext link back to the original project.  The idea here is
> to make the project "viral".  When Altavista or Yahoo or someone
> important like that picks up the content to make their own branded
> encyclopedia, that's *great*.  We want them to do that, and for
> free.  The only thing we ask is that each page derived from our
> content carry a linkback to us.

Okay, some points:

"You may not charge a fee for the sole service of providing access to and/or 
use of the Content via a network"

Why not allow someone to charge for the service? Presumably the server upon 
which the content is based cost some money to operate. The content itself is 
still free beer.

The problem I have with guaranteeing the free beer status of Nupedia is that 
there will be derivative works. You would be prohibiting authors from making 
money off of the "cat" article, even though they only quoted Nupedia in the 
"czar" article. Bob Young can sell Redhat for $80, but could only sell a CD 
of Nupedia for around $2.

"Attribution Requirement"

I have nothing againt attribution requirements personally. But I recall 
decades during which the BSD license had an attribution requirement which the 
FSF called "obnoxious".

And will there be exceptions for schoolchildren doing homework :-)

"You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in 
part contains or is derived from the Content or any part thereof, to be 
licensed as a whole"

I am still somewhat disatisfied that the GPL didn't elaborate on this, and I 
wish you would. If volume C used a sentence from Nupedia, then is volume Z 
under legal control by Bomis Inc? If all volumes shipped together? What if 
they were on a monthly subscription service?

"Exceptions are made to this requirement to release modified works free of 
charge under this license only in compliance with Fair Use law where 

Fair Use is kept deliberately nebulous in law. It would be good if you 
explicitely listed some example of Fair Use. How much can I quote in a term 
paper before the license kicks in? Are there any additional privileges for 
educational use?

David Johnson

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