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GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL)

The World Gets a Free Encyclopedia | 39 

By the turn of the 21st century, free software ideas had spread well beyond computer code. In 2000, Stallman created the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). The GFDL was conceived of as a complementary license to the GPL but was intended for written works such as software documentation rather than code. Wikipedia adopted the GFDL early on as its license for all content created on the site — a move that guarantees the site's content will remain perpetually free for everyone to use and redistribute.

Wikipedia and the Free Perspective 

Wikipedia's approach is tied to the ideals of the free software movement. Both the software on which Wikipedia runs (MediaWiki) and the site's content are freely available for use by anyone to adapt and modify, qualified only by the require- ments of their respective GPL and GFDL licenses. Wikipedia's slogan is Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. No one has to pay to view Wikipedia articles, but free means more than that: Free also means "no strings attached," and this is the consistent goal of the Wikimedia projects. Freedom means free of cost, free of restrictions to change and modify any content, free to redistribute, free for anyone to participate, and free of commercial influences. The GFDL license specifies that any work placed under it may be legally reused and republished by anyone, with the only restriction being that any such republishing must itself also be licensed under the GFDL (and the original authors must be credited). In other words, the license ensures that any GFDL-licensed content is both freely available and open to all. Though contributors to Wikipedia do retain the copyrights to their work, they lose the right to specify what can be done with it.

Wikipedia content is released. Understanding the GFDL, or at least its most basic implications, matters for a contributor because anything you contribute (from copyedits to whole articles) will be placed under this license. As a reader, you only need to know that you can reuse content if you credit the source in a particular way. [[Wikipedia:Copyrights]], also linked to in the footer, will tell you more about the rights you retain underthe GFDL and the copyright status of Wikipedia. 

Finding Media Files 

Every media file found on Wikipedia is intended to illustrate an encyclopedia article, not to stand alone. Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Commons offer a range of these files, from short animations to sound recordings. For instance, in the article about Mozart, you'll find a list of a few dozen or so audio files; these are short excerpts of his works for illustrative purposes. All of the media files in Wiki- pedia should be freely available under the GFDL license. 

Using the Edit Window Tools 

Below the edit window, you'll see a warning about the GFDL and the edit summary field. This is for summarizing your changes for the benefit of other edi- tors who are working on the page. Although not mandatory, it's good etiquette to add a short summary after making any edit. Simply type a brief description of what you changed. We describe edit summaries in Chapter 4; see Appendix C for some common terms and Chapter 6 for more on using edit summaries to communicate with other editors. 

Image Licenses and Fair Use 

► You (the person who puts the picture on Wikipedia) own the rights to the image (that is, you created it), and you agree to release the image under a free license, such as the GFDL.

► If you didn't originally create the image, you can prove that the copyright holder has licensed the image under an acceptable free license, such as the GFDL. 

Reusing Wikipedia Content (REUSE) 

Wikipedia material may be re-used by anyone, within the terms of the GFDL. Verifiability (V) 

From Wikipedia: Material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, and all quotations, must be attributed to a reliable, published source. 

GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL)

This is the license under which Wikipedia is released. The general outline is covered in Chapter 2, but material on secondary and invariant sections and cover texts, although not so relevant to Wikipedia, may have an effect on imported GFDL material.

Copyrighted Material

As with other publications and organizations where writing is submitted, plagia- rism is not allowed. In addition, any materials submitted to Wikipedia must be specifically licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), which is a "free license" (see Chapter 2) distinct from traditional copyright. This license means that anyone can reuse and redistribute Wikipedia's content for any purpose without asking permission, as long as they meet certain conditions; Wikipedia con- tent can be used on other sites or even republished in print. 

GFDL The GNU Free Documentation License under which Wikipedia content is released 


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