[WF-General] Media license strangeness

Alistair Riddoch alriddoch at zepler.org
Wed Jul 14 11:26:14 PDT 2004

Over the course of the last few weeks there have been a number of discussions
on media licensing, and a number of media discussions which have been affected
by media licensing. I have not been part of all of these discussions, but much
of what I have seen has left me feeling that we have a problem in this area
which these discussions have so far failed to resolve.

The problem from my point of view is the requirement for dual licensing under
the GPL(1) and GFDL(2). Dual licensing is essentially a problem because it
makes it more difficult to accept contributions. It means that we can only
accept contributions which are already distributed under terms compatible with
both licenses, or if we obtain explicit permission from the author to
distribute under the terms of both licenses. Any existing media we find that is
available under any 1 license we cannot use unless we can contact the author
and persuade them that we are worth their time.

The problem is is worsened by the fact that requiring dual licensing does not
really provide us with any benefits.

The often cited reason for the dual licensing requirement is that the terms of
the GPL do not apply well to media. This argument does not really stand up as a
reason for requiring media creators to release their work under the GPL. If the
GPL can be applied to media, then there is no reason why we should not
distribute under the terms of the GPL, and the GFDL becomes unnecessary. If the
GPL can not be applied to media, then requiring contributors to release
material under the GPL is pointless.

A second reason given for dual licensing is the issue of clauses in the GFDL
which many consider to be non-free. This is a good reason for not relying on
the GFDL alone, but is not a good reason for requiring dual licensing.

The dual licensing requirement is excessively restrictive, over complicated and
may even be destructive to our purposes as a Free Software project.

I would therefor propose that we adopt a new policy which is more considerate
to our contributors. I propose that we accept artwork under any terms which are
compatible with the GPL. We can then distribute aggregations of this work under
the GPL if necessary, and leave the original terms intact in the media
repository. There would be no problem with our existing content as all of it is
already available under the terms of the GPL because of the dual licensing
policy. Any contributor who has concerns with the applicability of the GPL can
choose another license or terms themselves, as long as they are compatible. It
should be simple to compile a short list of compatible licenses from the Free
Software Foundations resources, and we have more than enough licensing
knowledge to assess new work on a case by case basis.

This policy should be easier for contributors to understand, more respectful of
contributors rights, less hassle for distributors, and far easier to maintain.

Comments please.


1) GPL, GNU General Public License,

2) GFDL, GNU Free Documentation License, sometimes known as FDL
Alistair Riddoch
alriddoch at zepler.org
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