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Memory Alpha:Why Memory Alpha doesn't use the GFDL

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Memory Alpha
This page describes one of Memory Alpha's policies and guidelines

Please read through the policy below to familiarize yourself with our common practices and rules.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or complaints, please post them on the talk page.

Many wikiwikis (including Memory Alpha's "godparent", Wikipedia) use the GNU Free Documentation License to protect their work. The GFDL is a copyleft license that is designed for the free distribution of software manuals and other similar documents.

Why the GFDL doesn't work for Memory Alpha

The GFDL does fit the wiki format quite well, allowing for free sharing and modification of the work in question and all derivative works. However, there are several problems specific to Memory Alpha that make the GFDL unsuitable for our purposes.

  • Duplication. A copy of that license, plus the copyright notice of the document must be duplicated along with the work itself. In practical terms, this means that any fan website would have to post a copy of the GFDL alongside even a single article that was reposted.
  • Combining. Documents combined with a GFDL-licensed work must also be released under the same license. In our opinion, it's unreasonable to expect fans to release all of their own work under the GFDL, simply to be allowed to use material from Memory Alpha.
  • Images. The GFDL makes no explicit mention of fair use rules in its terms. Images and other documents that are added to a collection must be released under the GFDL, which requires the explicit approval of the owner of the copyright.
  • Commercial use. The GFDL explicitly allows commercial use of material distributed under said license. However, because Star Trek is owned by CBS Corporation, commercial uses need to be explicitly forbidden.

Because of these major restrictions, we have chosen to avoid the GFDL for all Memory Alpha content.

(There is one exception to the rule: Memory Alpha has adapted a number of documentation pages from Wikipedia and Meta-Wiki to help develop the policies and guidelines of the project. These pages qualify as an aggregate rather than a collection, because the documentation is clearly separate from the Trek-related material. The GFDL specifically states, "When the Document is included in an aggregate, this License does not apply to the other works in the aggregate which are not themselves derivative works of the Document.")

Why Memory Alpha uses the Creative Commons License

Early on in the creation of Memory Alpha, Dan Carlson and Harry Doddema decided that the GFDL was incompatible with the goals of the project and the reality of the fan base. Although the GFDL does fit our purposes for the most part, ignoring the inconvenient clauses would be a bad precedent (not to mention illegal!).

Therefore, Memory Alpha was switched to adopt the Creative Commons License, a shorter and more legible license published by the Creative Commons. The CCL provides the necessary freedom and flexibility that a fan site like Memory Alpha requires, and also includes the non-commercial and attribution restrictions necessary for our purposes as a Star Trek fan site.

The CCL essentially gives us the best of both worlds (if you'll pardon the pun) – the security and benefits to the authors and webmasters, and the freedom and flexibility to the visitors.

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