The Free Software Foundation released version 1.3 of the GNU Free Documentation License on November 3, 2008. This FAQ addresses questions that people may have about why we have released this new version of the license, and how it relates to FDLv2. More resources are available from the license page for FDL 1.3.

Why did you release a new minor version of the FDL?

Late last year, the Wikimedia Foundation, which oversees the Wikipedia project, passed a resolution asking us to update the FDL so as to allow Wikipedia and similar Wikis using the FDL to also use the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 3.0 license.

Because we are not ready to release FDL 2.0, we have made this release in the meantime. This new version of the license is meant to fulfill the Wikimedia Foundation's request.

How is FDL 1.3 related to the work that's been done so far on FDL 2.0?

FDL 1.3 incorporates a couple of features that have been proposed for FDL 2.0, but that's the extent of their relationship. Our goals for FDL 2.0 are not affected by this release.

What are the changes in FDL 1.3?

The primary change is the addition of section 11. This new provision allows certain materials released under this license to also be used under the terms of CC BY-SA 3.0. For more information about exactly what materials can be licensed this way, see the related questions below. As part of this change, we also introduced a new definition in section 1.

We also borrowed a couple of changes from GPLv3. The first is in section 9, which explains how the license can be terminated when you violate it. We now provide a means for violators to automatically have their rights restored if they cure the violation. The second is in section 10: now licensors can choose a proxy who is allowed to decide whether or not a work can be licensed under the terms of future versions of the FDL.

A Postscript file showing marked-up changes from FDL 1.2 to FDL 1.3 is available for your review.

What is the rationale behind these changes?

Section 11 has been added to allow wikis like Wikipedia to use FDL-covered works under the terms of CC BY-SA 3.0 if they choose to do so. They have told us that they would like to explore this option, and adding this provision gives them a clear path to do so.

Normally, these sorts of licensing decisions can and should be handled by the copyright holder(s) of a particular work. However, because Wikipedia has many copyright holders, the project needed some alternative way to accomplish this, and we've worked with them to provide that.

The other changes are minor improvements that were easy to make while we were at it. They've met with wide approval in GPLv3, and they don't change the license's fundamental permissions or requirements at all.

Exactly what material can be licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0?

In order to license an FDL-covered work under CC BY-SA 3.0, a few conditions must be met:

  • The work must be available under the terms of FDL 1.3, which provides you with this permission. If the work was released under the terms of “the GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2 or (at your option) any later version,” then it meets this criteria.

  • The work must not have any “Cover Texts” or “Invariant Sections.” These are optional features in all versions of the FDL.

  • If the work was originally published somewhere other than a public wiki, it must have been added to a wiki (or some other kind of web site where the general public could review and edit the materials) before November 1, 2008.

All FDL-covered material added to Wikipedia before November 1, 2008 satisfies these conditions.

What is the purpose of the two different dates in section 11? Why did you choose those specific dates?

Section 11 imposes two deadlines on licensees. First, if a work was originally published somewhere other than a public wiki, you can only use it under CC BY-SA 3.0 if it was added to a wiki before November 1, 2008. We do not want to grant people this permission for any and all works released under the FDL. We also do not want people gaming the system by adding FDLed materials to a wiki, and then using them under CC BY-SA afterwards. Choosing a deadline that has already passed unambiguously prevents this.

Second, this permission is no longer available after August 1, 2009. We don't want this to become a general permission to switch between licenses: the community will be much better off if each wiki makes its own decision about which license it would rather use, and sticks with that. This deadline ensures that outcome, while still offering all wiki maintainers ample time to make their decision.

What are your current plans for FDL 2.0?

We are still accepting comments on this major new revision of the license. In the current FDL 2.0 draft, section 8(b) allows for relicensing of materials in a wiki. Since FDL 1.3 now provides this in section 11, it's no longer necessary in FDL 2.0. However, all the other changes proposed in the draft would still be appropriate for the next version of the license, so they're still on the table for discussion.