Why did Wikipedia change its license in 2009?

In September 2012, Vysakh Sreenivasan asked the following question on the web site Quora:

Why did Wikipedia move from GFDL to Creative Commons?

A core piece of what makes Wikipedia and similar broadly collaborative projects work is the concept of a free content license: an explicit agreement by every contributor to forego many of their rights as copyright holders, and permit widespread reuse with few requirements beyond simple attribution.

When Wikipedia was established, the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) was the only applicable and widespread free license. The GFDL was initially designed specifically for software manuals, and in some ways was not ideal or practical for a project like Wikipedia, which hadn’t been envisioned when it was created.

But Creative Commons built a collection of licenses intended for a much broader range of kinds of content.

The change was put to a vote of the Wikipedia community in 2009; the reasons were outlined by then-Creative Commons VP Mike Linksvayer.

It was also covered and discussed on Slashdot a couple times:

And here’s the Wikimedia page devoted to conducting the vote and explaining the reasoning and the process.

About Pete Forsyth

Pete Forsyth is the principal of Wiki Strategies, and a Wikipedia expert. Full bio here: wikistrategies.net/pete-forsyth
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