Open Source Content License (OSCL) - Other/Miscellaneous licenses

Matthew Flaschen matthew.flaschen at
Wed Apr 2 04:36:18 UTC 2008

Bruce Perens wrote:
> Many people think it is impossible for big projects to relicense because 
> they would have to contact each and every copyright holder.

I didn't say that.

> But there are a number of ways around that.

I suppose you are referring to the Raymond relicensing essay 
(, or related 
arguments.  To my understanding, this issue has not been tested in 
court.  Moreover, the essay states, "Community practice recognizes a 
strong distinction between people who contribute patches and co-authors."

That distinction definitely does not exist on Wikipedia, which weakens 
its central division between "coauthor" and "patcher' in the essay.

Even if you define patcher as "infrequent editor" or "anonymous user" or 
non-admin, etc., there are enough non-patchers that no agreement would 
be reached.

> In the case of the Wikipedia, the FSF generated a later version of the 
> GFDL especially for them,

Generated?  I question the past tense here.  The FSF plans to create 
such a new version, according to (link 
currently down).  However, nothing is definite.  The latest version of 
the GFDL is still from 2002.

The FSF has never said they would generate a special "Wikipedia" GFDL, 
and I think that would be of dubious applicability.  What they are 
/planning/ is to integrate a general "wiki clause" into the next GFDL 
( that would allow wikis to 

> and the Wikipedia switched the existing content to use that later version of the license, which is compatible 
> with the Creative Commons license that they are using for new work.

Wikipedia has /not/ switched to either a newer version of GFDL or to CC. 
  You can see for yourself that Wikipedia:Copyrights 
( says:

   Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
   under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or
   any later version published by the Free Software Foundation [...]

In summary, a new version of the GFDL /could/ allow Wikipedia to 
relicense under CC.  Without that new version, I believe the Foundation 
would be on very shaky ground in trying to do so.  IANAL and this is not 
legal advice.

Matt Flaschen

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