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
- 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
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
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
- 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
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