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Please also read Appropriately Licensed FAQ before commenting

Commons licensing policy currently asks uploaders to not pick impractical and unsuitable licences, such as the GFDL, GPL and LGPL, as the only licence choice for images. This proposal takes this further to disallow new uploads where the licence choices are impractical for reuse because they are inappropriate for the media type. Such licence choices, once a necessity, are now only being made by those who wish to restrict reuse of their work. This does not help Commons build a repository of free content. Our aim is to ensure all content is usable by anyone, anytime, for any purpose. This proposal is an application of the requirement for all Free Cultural Works that users can "legally and practically exercise" their rights, without the need to contact the owner or consult a lawyer.

We propose to add a new "Appropriately licensed" section to Commons licensing policy, and to add appropriately licensed as part of the definition of what is an "acceptable licence" on Commons. The key text is highlighted in colour.

  • New subsection: Appropriately licensed
That a licence is considered a Free Culture Licence per se is insufficient: it must also be appropriate for the type of media it is licensing. Specifically:
  1. The licence must be worded such that anyone can see it is clearly applicable to the media type, without bending the everyday meaning of terms used by the licence.
  2. The licence does not impose burdens beyond those permitted that make it impractical for the media type in typical publication formats.
Some licences are clearly worded only for specific types of works. Historically, licences have been used for inappropriate media types because there was nothing better. This situation creates uncertainty and doubt for the re-user, who depends on the applicability of the licence in order to not foul copyright law. Examples:
  • The GFDL was designed for software documentation. It clearly and explicitly applies to "textual works". It does not clearly apply to single images, or to sounds or video.
  • The GPL was designed for software programs and libraries. It clearly and explicitly applies to a "program" having "source code", "executable code" and being able to be "run" or "executed". It does not clearly apply to plain text, images, sounds or video that is not a software component.
Some licences are written with requirements that are not a burden for the media format they are intended for, but become intolerable when the licence is used outside of this domain. Example:
  • The GFDL and GPL both require that the entire text of the licence be reproduced along with the work being reused. For large printed works, or text files on disc, this is not a significant burden. For hypertext works on the web, a hyperlink meets the requirement. However, short printed texts, printed images or images included as part of a slide-presentation or included in a documentary, are examples of media formats where the GFLD/GPL licence reproduction requirement is an impractical burden. The licence text is 3,700 words, 6.5 pages of small text or 50 PowerPoint slides.
  • Addition to the definition of Acceptable licenses
New works uploaded from dd mmm yyyy must have an appropriate licence for the media type (as defined above) in order to be acceptably licensed. Existing works on Commons are unaffected (grandfathered) even if inappropriately licensed for the media. The owners of such works are encouraged to add an appropriate licence. As exceptions, certain derivative works are permitted for upload:
  • Works that are derivative of existing inappropriately licensed works on Commons may be uploaded provided the new work is no more restricted, in terms of licensing, than the source work. For example, a crop of an existing image.
  • Works that are derivative of other works that are themselves appropriately licensed may be uploaded if the copy-left/share-alike terms of that work do not allow the use of a licence appropriate for the derivative work. For example, screenshots of GPL software must be GPL.
  • The section "Note: The GFDL is not practical ... are not really suitable for anything but software" can now be removed, as this supersedes it.
  • The GPL, LGPL, GFDL and "Open Data Commons" are removed from the list of preferred licences. Generally these are inappropriate sole licence choices for material on Commons.
  • The CC0 option be added to the list of preferred licence choices.
  • As currently, once an appropriately licence has been chosen for the media type, the owner may add whatever additional licences they wish. For example, the common practice of CC BY-SA + GFDL is fine.