Citizendium is not Free Content

Posted in Free Culture, Wikis at 10:53 pm by Erik

Nearly a month after its public launch, Citizendium (a new wiki-like encyclopedia that positions itself against Wikipedia) still has not figured out its licensing policy. While the project has no choice but to follow Wikipedia’s GNU FDL when it imports articles from there, its own pages are still under undefined terms. Contributors are asked to wait while (someone) figures out the licensing terms: “All new articles will be available under an open content license yet to be determined.” It does not say who will make that determination and on what legal basis they even have a right to do so. Unless CZ decides to ask every contributor for permission to relicense, authors would have a very good claim to question a licensing decision they do not agree with.

I hope that Citizendium will become free content eventually, instead of adopting odious restrictions like “no commercial use” which would make subsets of it incompatible with Wikipedia and other free knowledge resources, not to mention making an awful mess of the editing process. Meanwhile, the content created by CZ contributors is completely proprietary and not usable by anyone beyond its publication to the CZ website. The few high quality articles they have developed and which could potentially be merged back into Wikipedia are non-free. I would caution anyone who contributes there to at least explicitly license their content (for example, by putting a licensing template on their user page).

1 Comment »

  1. Mike Johnson said,

    April 26, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Hi Erik,

    This is an interesting mix of fact and conjecture. I share some of your concerns and disagree with your framing of others (we are, in all senses of the term, committed to an open content license; I don’t think it’s correct to say “Citizendium is not Free Content”). What content license to choose is a pressing concern, and right now we’re worried that not enough community stakeholders have really ‘got’ how important this issue is, so we’re awaiting more input from the community.

    To rush into such an important decision would be more unfair to the community than leaving it ambiguous and encouraging contributors to join the discussion. If you are a Citizendium contributor, I encourage you to join the discussion as well.

    Mike Johnson

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