WeRelate:License proposal



Proposal to Amend WeRelate's Licensing

The latest version of the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) provides an option to license GFDL content also under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License (CC-BY-SA 3.0). The Wikimedia Foundation (runs Wikipedia) recently voted to amend their licensing to include the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license. We propose to do the same with the content at WeRelate.org and are calling for a vote. The voting period is from July 6 - July 27, 2009.


Currently, content at WeRelate.org is licensed under the GFDL, and content on Person and Family pages is dual-licensed also under CC-BY-SA 2.5. An exception is that content on some Source pages was originally imported from the DMOZ Open Directory Project and is therefore licensed under the Open Directory License. This material includes 1-2 sentence descriptions of some genealogical websites, which could be re-written or removed.

The board of directors of the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy invite the WeRelate community to vote on this proposal to license WeRelate material so it is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC-BY-SA), while retaining dual licensing with the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). The board has evaluated possible licensing options for WeRelate material, and believes that this proposal is the best available path towards achieving our collective goal to collect, develop and disseminate genealogical and family history material, and make it available to people everywhere, free of charge, in perpetuity.

Specifically, the proposal is to amend site-wide licensing terms and terms of use as follows:

  1. to make all content currently distributed under the GNU Free Documentation License (with “later version” clause) additionally available under CC-BY-SA 3.0, as explicitly allowed through the latest version of the GFDL;
  2. to require continued dual-licensing of new community edits in this manner, but allow CC-BY-SA-only content from third parties (However, GFDL-only content from third parties is no longer allowed);
  3. to inform re-users that content which includes imported CC-BY-SA-only information cannot be used under the GFDL.
  4. to remove the DMOZ-licensed material from Source pages by December 31, 2009 so that all content at WeRelate.org will be available under these terms.

As is consistent with established policy and practice, and as is consistent with the CC-BY-SA license model, authors and editors will also be required to consent to being credited by re-users; at minimum, this will be done through a hyperlink or URL to the article they are contributing to.

Since the Wikimedia Foundation recently completed a voting process on this same proposal (except that since none of their content was DMOZ-licensed, their proposal omitted item 4), there are some good background pages at their website:


The core motivations for this proposed change are as follows:

  • We cannot currently share text (in either direction) with projects that use the CC-BY-SA licenses. Since all Wikipedia content will now be available under the CC-BY-SA license, but some Wikipedia content will not be available under the GFDL license, by switching to the same licensing arrangement as Wikipedia we can continue to share information back and forth easily.
  • The Creative Commons licenses are used by hundreds of thousands of authors world-wide (see statistics), having quickly become the most widely used legal tool to release rights on works other than software. If other genealogical organizations adopt the Creative Commons licenses, we want to be able to share information freely with them as well.
  • Both licenses require attribution and share-alike (derivative works must be licensed under the same open-content license). Authors will still need to be attributed under the CC-BY-SA license.
  • The GFDL includes some potentially onerous provisions, such as the requirement to include the full license text with each copy. These requirements impede re-use of both text and multimedia (spoken or printed versions of articles, prints of images, etc.). In particular, GEDCOM exports must include the full text of the GFDL. If we adopt the CC-BY-SA license, GEDCOM exports can replace the full license text with a link to the license webpage.

Reasons against the change:

  • Anyone can give their reasons against making the change on this page.

Voting process

The voting period is from July 6 - July 27, 2009. The GFDL license specifies that if the CC-BY-SA license is to be adopted, it must happen by August 1, 2009.

Anyone who has contributed more than 25 edits to WeRelate.org prior to July 6, 2009 may vote.

To cast your vote, edit the voting page, add your signature under either the FOR or AGAINST sections, and please be sure to enter FOR or AGAINST in the edit summary. We're will count the votes in the edit summaries since edit summaries cannot be changed.

Proposed terms of use

These terms of use will be implemented across all sites that presently use the GFDL:

  • The site footer will be modified to say:
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License; additional terms may apply. See Terms of Use for details.
  • Terms on the edit screen will be modified to say:
You irrevocably agree to release your contributions under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0 and the GFDL. Others can add to, edit, download, and redistribute your contributions. You agree to be credited, at minimum, through a hyperlink or URL when your contributions are reused in any form. See the Terms of Use for details. You are promising that you wrote this yourself, or that it is available under terms consistent with the Terms of Use, and you agree to follow any relevant licensing requirements. DO NOT SUBMIT COPYRIGHTED WORK WITHOUT PERMISSION!
  • A standard Terms of Use will be provided similar to the Wikimedia Foundation's Terms of Use.
  • A standard copyright policy will be provided, which may be translated literally into other languages. Aside from the text of both licenses, the policy will include the following expectations for re-users (guidelines for use under CC-BY-SA):
  • Attribution of text: To re-distribute an article page in any form, provide credit to the authors either by including a) a hyperlink (where possible) or URL to the article or articles you are re-using, b) a hyperlink (where possible) or URL to an alternative, stable online copy which is freely accessible, which conforms with the license, and which provides credit to the authors in a manner equivalent to the credit given on this website, or c) a list of all authors. (Any list of authors may be filtered to exclude very small or irrelevant contributions.)
  • Attribution of rich media: Rich media (images, sound, video, etc.) that were created through substantive collaborations between at least five people can be credited in the same fashion as text; other rich media files must be attributed in any reasonable manner specified by the contributor(s).
  • Attribution of externally contributed content: The above attribution requirements apply to content developed and uploaded by the WeRelate community. Text and rich media contributions that come from external sources may attach additional attribution requirements to the work, which we will strive to indicate clearly to you.
  • Copyleft/Share and Share Alike: If you make modifications or additions to the page or work you re-use, you must license them under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0 or later.
  • Indicate changes: If you make modifications or additions, you must indicate in a reasonable fashion that the original work has been modified. If you are re-using the page in a wiki, for example, indicating this in the page history is sufficient.
  • For further information, please refer to the legal code of the CC-BY-SA License.
  • The copyright policy will include the following statement with regard to inclusion of content by third parties under the CC-BY-SA license:
You may import any text from other sources that is available under the CC-BY-SA license, even if it is not available under the GNU Free Documentation License. You are under no obligation whatsoever to obtain such content also under the GFDL. However, you may not import text that is only available under the GFDL. If you import text under the CC-BY-SA license, you must abide by the terms of the license; specifically, you must, in a reasonable fashion, credit the author(s). Where such credit is commonly given through page histories (such as wiki-to-wiki copying), it is sufficient to give attribution in the edit summary, which is recorded in the page history, when importing the content.
  • The copyright policy will include the following statement with regard to re-use under the GFDL:
If you want to re-use pages under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, you must verify, for every page you re-use, that it does not include information that is exclusively licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. This should be noted in the page history, the footer, or the discussion page. If such information is included, you cannot re-use the page under the GFDL. Revisions created prior to ((date of license update)) can be reasonably expected to not include any CC-BY-SA-only text.

The wording of these terms may be reasonably modified in the future by the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy for purposes of clarity and elaboration.

Finally, we will encourage the community to identify media files that are presently licensed under GFDL (but not those which are licensed under "GFDL 1.2 only") as being additionally available under CC-BY-SA.


This page has been protected from edits. Please leave comments on the talk page.


The vote to amend WeRelate's licensing according to this proposal has been unanimous. WeRelate's licensing will be changed in accordance with this proposal as of midnight, US Eastern Daylight Time, 29 July 2009.--Dallan 23:55, 29 July 2009 (EDT)