[wp-docs] Codex license: CC better than GPL?

Alex Günsche ag.ml2008 at zirona.com
Tue Feb 26 19:02:54 GMT 2008

On Tue, 2008-02-26 at 09:39 -0800, Lloyd Budd wrote:
> How attribution is done isn't defined by the CC licenses, so what do
> we mean by attribution?

The deed says: "You must attribute the work in the manner specified by
the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they
endorse you or your use of the work)."

I think this means it will be up to us, in this case the Codex
contributors, to define this. I would do this as follows: In each
article's history, the authors are listed anyway. An attribution could
be defined as a link to the page's version history with all authors,
along with the date of retrieving the page content. For example (in a
derivate work):

Parts of this document are based on the WordPress Codex

Contents retrieved from <page> on February 25th, 2008 at 9:33am
(C) 2008 The Contributors: <link to page history>

(Contents retrieved from <other page> on February 26th, 2008 3:15pm
(C) 2008 The Contributors: <link to page history>)

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license 3.0

Short form (if derivate content is used on multiple pages):
Parts of this document are based on the WordPress Codex
See detailed list of WP Codex content on summary page
<link to summary with detailed list of Codex-derived content as above>

(Note: I'm neither a lawyer, nor a native English speaker, so the
statements may require some tuning.)

> Being able to incorporate the documentation into WordPress itself
> seems desirable. That isn't possible with a CC license.

This is an interesting question: Is the CC (in this case: BY-SA)
compatible with the GPL?

FSF says no [1], but they don't explain why. In my opinion, the problem
is not so much -- as they suggest -- that there is confusion about which
license it is in particular. The actual problem seems for me to be the
question of attribution: As the specific kind of attribution is to be
determined by the author of a CC'd work, the license cannot be generally
considered GPL compatible, for same reasons as the original BSD license
is not GPL compatible because of the advertising clause[2].

Others also say no[3], and have good arguments why CC BY-SA is generally
to be considered unfree. A important point seems to be the possibility
of revocation (if I understand it correctly). I can't say if this is
true, and how this issue could be overcome, but I'm sure there is a way.
Btw, note that [3] is from April 2005 and refers to CC BY-SA 2.0. It
would be interesting how the 3.0 series of the CCs get along with GPLv3.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find qualified opinions on that.

But regardless of these, there are countless discussions (search for *CC
GPL compatible* or similar), in how far CC and GPL are compatible. Many
voices don't see the problem, and want to see CC and GPL compatible. For
example a number of iconsets and themes are CC'd (as this is a suitable
license for this sort of work), but -- given that CC and GPL are
incompatible -- cannot be shipped with the target application. I think
the CC vs. GPL issue is one of the most important questions of
OpenSource licensing today.

> When you start to try and unravel all of the issues, public domain
> quickly becomes the only real option for a high collaborative, highly
> flexible project.

I agree that Public Domain is very open and flexible, but you won't find
too many people who are willing to provide their work PD. ;) Besides, PD
is not legally possible in a number of jurisdictions, including Germany
and France. However, MIT or BSD license are also good choices, similar
to PD.

(By the way, I wasn't able to find out whether WordPress itself is
licensed "GPLv2 only" or "GPLv2 or later". The readme.html only says:
"WordPress is released under the GPL (see license.txt)", and license.txt
is the GPL v2. I wonder if this is intentional, or Matt just forgot to
include the precise statement.)

Best regards,

[1] http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/license-list.html#OtherLicenses
[2] http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/license-list.html#OriginalBSD
[3] http://people.debian.org/~evan/ccsummary.html
Alex Günsche, Zirona OpenSource-Consulting
Blogs: http://www.zirona.com/ | http://www.regularimpressions.net
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