[okfn-discuss] Porting a wiki to an open license
epastore at metagovernment.org
Mon Jan 3 16:06:46 UTC 2011
A couple of years ago, a member of the Metagovernment project joined
an OKFN discussion to discuss changing our copyright.
When we opened our wiki, we made it CC:BY-NC-SA. It was something
someone suggested, and it sounded right: very open, very non-
commercial. But, hm... apparently a lot of the free content people
have a problem with NC, so we're game to change it to BY-SA or even
something more open. For the record, our wiki has always had this
copyright page, which has been basically unchanged for the history of
My question is about the logistics of porting our wiki. People
familiar with the concept have suggested that it is not possible to
simply remove a copyright restriction from a wiki because when people
contributed to the wiki, they may have had the expectation that their
contribution remain under that restriction. Is that right, and if so,
can you help us work out a way to port?
I have come up with some possibilities, but I don't know if any of
them work and/or are practical.
1. We just remove the NC. When people contributed content, they gave
it to us, and we now have the ability to change the copyright if we
please. Um... would that fly? I suspect some may have problems with
it, but what precisely would be the consequences? For the record, we
are not incorporated: we are an adhocracy that is very loosely
governed by consensuses formed on an open list server (though some day
we may incorporate). We also are not associated with any country: our
members span the globe.
2. We port all the content to a new wiki with an open license, but on
each old/ported page, we put an exception note at the bottom saying
that this content is restricted by NC. However, if we did that, could
we ever remove that tag? At what point would the page be edited enough
to make us free to change license?
3. We ask ever contributor to the wiki to release their contributions
to the new license. This can be problematic because some contributors
have left the project and have not responded to recent queries.
4. Same as #3, but we put a deadline, and if anyone does not respond
by the reasonably-long deadline (say one month), then they
automatically consent to the port. Note that this is a very common
governance mechanism used within our project (that is, when we have a
consensus, we allow a time for dissent, and if there is none, we
Can anyone comment on any of this and how we can most easily proceed?
Clearly #3 would work, but it is also the most laborious and
difficult. #1 or #4 would be the easiest practically to do, but I'm
unclear on the legality, or what happens if it is not considered
legal, since we aren't incorporated or localized. If the consequence
is just one of opening us (or me personally?) to a lawsuit, then
wouldn't the plaintiff have to show that they were somehow harmed?
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