When writing my last entry, I remembered a question that some people ask me. Why choose the Creative Commons license that allows people to use content free for commercial use? I think people have some sort of instinctive reaction toward the notion that someone could "exploit" their work to make money. One question to ask is, will you make less money because of it or more? They have to give you attribution so more people will know about you and your work. I would rather have people copy and quote my blog without worrying about asking for permission. I would love to appear in commercial magazines, books, websites and newspapers. Yes, fair use allows these people to quote me without asking permission, but fair use must be defended in court and some countries don't even have fair use. As a practical matter, fair use really only gets you the right to hire a lawyer. The CC license allows people to use stuff from my blog without fear because they know my intention and it is clear legally as well.
The next question is, then why not make it completely free? A good way to understand this is to look at the differences between the GNU Free Document License that Wikipedia uses and the by-sa (attribution share-alike) Creative Commons license Wikitravel uses. There is some overlap and lots of nuances, but generally speaking the GNU license is more about creating an ever growing body of work which must remain free and allows commercial reprinting with limitations basically in order to allow people to charge for reprinting the document. The Wikipedia copyright page says:
Wikitravel has a page on why they didn't choose the GNU Free Document License.WikipediaThe goal of Wikipedia is to create an information source in an encyclopedia format that is freely available. The license we use grants free access to our content in the same sense as free software is licensed freely. This principle is known as copyleft. That is to say, Wikipedia content can be copied, modified, and redistributed so long as the new version grants the same freedoms to others and acknowledges the authors of the Wikipedia article used (a direct link back to the article satisfies our author credit requirement). Wikipedia articles therefore will remain free forever and can be used by anybody subject to certain restrictions, most of which serve to ensure that freedom.
In Wikipedia's case, the main use case is having it available online and I think for that the GFDL works best. In the case of Wikitravel where they would like to see their work expand into the physical world in small bits, I think the CC by-sa works well. I think they both picked the right licenses.WikitravelThe GFDL was developed to support making Free Content versions of software manuals, textbooks, and other large references. Its requirements for what you have to distribute with a document under the GFDL -- such a copy of the GFDL and a changelog, as well as "transparent" (i.e. source) versions if you distribute over 100 copies -- aren't really all that onerous for large volumes of text.
But for Wikitravel, we really want to have each article redistributable on its own. Wikitravel articles can be as small as 1-2 printed pages. For such small documents, it just doesn't make sense to require people to pass out another 10 pages of legalese text, as well as floppy disks or CDs full of Wiki markup.
Consider these small "publishers" who would distribute stacks of photocopied printouts of Wikitravel articles:
• Local tourist offices
• Hotels or guesthouses
• Helpful travellers
• Exchange student programs
• Wedding or event planners
Burdening these publishers with restrictions meant for software documentation or textbooks would mean that they'd either ignore our license -- a bad precedent to set -- or, more likely, just not use our work.
We make our content Free so we can collaborate on this wiki, but also because we want it to be seen and used. We can't serve travellers with useful information if they can't get to that information in the first place.
A lightweight alternative
The license we've chosen, the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0, is much easier and more lightweight. We think that using the Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0 license (by-sa) meets our goal of having copyleft protection on Wikitravel content, without putting an excessive burden on small publishers. All that needs to be included are copyright notices and the URL of the license; this can be done in a short paragraph at the end of the article.
The big downside of not using the GFDL is that GFDL content -- like Wikipedia articles -- cannot be included in Wikitravel articles. This is a restriction of the GFDL -- you're not allowed to change the license for the content, unless you're the original copyright holder. This is kind of a pain for contributors, but we figured it was better to make it easy for users and distributors to comply with our license.
Creative Commons is planning to issue a new revision of their suite of licenses some time in the winter of 2003-2004. Compatibility with other Free licenses is "a top priority", and we can expect that some time after that version change, articles created on Wikitravel can be distributed under the GFDL. So, even though we can't include GFDL work into Wikitravel, other Free Content authors can include Wikitravel content into their work.
They point out one of the biggest problems with many of these copyleft licenses. They usually require the creator of a derivative work or the distributor to use the same license and even if the work can be tampered with, the license can not. This makes it hard if not impossible to mix with other licenses. The "share-alike" attribute in the CC license the Wikitravel uses serves this function and is similar to GPL and GFDL licenses in this regard. This is important in keeping the "spirit" of the original intent going and in the case of Wikipedia and Wikitravel which are group efforts, this is quite important. In my case, I would rather allow people who use my works to have maximum freedom so I have not included "share-alike" to my license. This allows people to mix my content with other types of licenses.