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

Lorelle VanFossen lorellevan at gmail.com
Wed Feb 27 16:38:23 GMT 2008

I sent this at the start of the conversation but it appears to have not made
it to the mailing list. Here is my second attempt:

I contacted Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today, an expert on this subject,
and he recommends both GPL and Creative Commons-BY-SA.  Here is his
response, used with permission, that explains why.

- - -

The person is, for the most part, completely right.

The GPL license was never and is not designed for written words. That
is why they created the GNU Free Document License for reference
materials. However, there is a major issue with the GFDL in that it is
not actually compatible with the GPL. You can't port code from or into
it from GPL sources.

It's a classic "head desk" moment. The license written to solve the
problem of the GPL not working well with the written word and artistic
creations is incompatible with with the GPL. The problem is that the
GPL is targeted at software and many of the notions and concepts
covered in GPL don't apply to creative works (especially references to
patents) and the GPL doesn't cover many problems that arise with
written works, such as translations.

What I'll guess is that the people behind the codex decided it was
best to use an imperfect license that was compatible than something
targeted at written works but couldn't play with GPL code. It's an
inelegant solution that causes problems, such as the translation
issue, but can head off others such as the inclusion of codex writing
in WP files.

Wikimedia has been trying to get away from the GFDL due to
compatibility issues with the license and is converting to Creative
Commons BY-SA. It is "GPLesque" in that it has many of the same
principles, but is not compatible with GPL code due to attribution
requirements and other specifics that are different between the GPL
and the CC license.

However, to do that, they are having to obtain changes to the GFDL,
make the transition possible. Otherwise, they'd only be able to
license new material.

This is what we call a license clusterf!@#$ and it was actually created
by the open source movement. I can name almost a dozen "open" licenses
that are not compatible with one another or only have limited
compatibility. There is no easy way out of this and the only "elegant"
solution is dual licensing.

What you would do in this case is license the codex both under the GPL
and under the CC license. If someone wanted to use it in GPL code,
they could use that license, if they wanted to use it in a manner
consistent with CC, they could. That keeps compatibility high and lets
people like Alex do what they have to.

The problem is applying it. I just registered for an account and
didn't sign any actual TOS. I would, theoretically, own the rights to
anything I submit as I technically didn't even agree to the GPL.
Still, since there are mentions of the GPL on the site, I won't play
that card but I will say that I only agreed to the GPL and that it
would be impossible for the site to do a blanket relicensing of the
content posted without permission from the rights holders.

This issue isn't as simply resolved as changing the licensing on the
home page. Since the GPL and CC license are not compatible, you can't
move content from one to the other without authorization. Though there
will likely soon be a means to transfer GFDL licensed material to CC,
it is unlikely that GPL will be able to.

In short, this might be a solution that you're just stuck with. Sure,
there are better ways to handle it, but the nature of copyright
licensing is that, once you agree to something, it pretty much stays
that way.

Anyway, that is all I have. I hope that it helps!

Jonathan Bailey
Site: http://www.plagiarismtoday.com

= = =

Both would cover the WordPress as program documentation usage, the Codex as
manual, and editorial/technical content for usage (tips, tutorials, etc.).

Before doing anything, we need legal language on this for inclusion, which I
recommend Matt or Toni get from the WordPress Lawyer or I can get a
recommendation from Jonathan.

This doesn't have to be a complicated change. We need to cover the multiple
uses and can do so easily with little stress.

1. Change the copyright and license statements on appropriate pages on the
2. Send an email announcement to everyone who contributed (or a blanket to
all registered "members" on the Codex) or just make a public announcement
via all the normal WordPress outlets.
3. Add a clear agreement/TOS that must be checked for approval and
acceptance when registering to edit the Codex.

Do we have an accessible email list of everyone whose "registered" for the
Codex? Going public with this would create a huge...shall we call it
"discussion"...on the issue. Which could be good if we don't put all our
energy on the naysayers.

Then we wait for copyright to catch up with the WordPress Codex. I would
hate for the Codex to become the legal suit that would bring about faster
changes in the copyright and licensing laws. So CYA with both might be the
best conservative option.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://comox.textdrive.com/pipermail/wp-docs/attachments/20080227/f9412667/attachment.htm

More information about the wp-docs mailing list