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Wikipedia Drops GNU in Favor of Creative Commons License

The Wikimedia Foundation will change the terms under which it licenses the content in Wikipedia, the organization said Thursday.

By adopting the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License (CC-BY-SA), Wikimedia expects to make it easier for others to re-use the content on Wikipedia and its other sites.

The decision was approved by Wikimedia's Board of Trustees. Previously, Wikimedia had held a vote in which 88 percent of about 17,000 of its members favored the change.

The current license, the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL), will continue to be supported in certain cases, but all Wikimedia sites, including Wikipedia, will make the CC-BY-SA license their primary one for content.

Wikimedia allows the content on its Web sites to be used "for any purpose," with the condition that users give proper credit and make their modifications available under the same terms, the organization said in a statement.

By embracing CC-BY-SA, Wikimedia will make its content "legally compatible" with content elsewhere that is also governed by this license and thus easier to re-use by others.

When Wikipedia was founded in 2001, the Creative Commons licenses didn't exist, so it adopted the GNU Free Documentation License -- created for software documentation by the Free Software Foundation -- because it allowed for content re-use and re-distribution. However, the Creative Commons licenses have been widely adopted since their creation in 2002.

In addition to resolving legal incompatibilities, adopting the CC-BY-SA will allow Wikimedia to drop the GNU FDL's requirement to include a copy of the license text with each copy, which Wikimedia finds complicates the process of re-using and remixing its sites' content.

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