Submissions/GFDL, CC-BY-SA, what does data expose about which is better?

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After careful consideration, the programme committee has decided not to accept the below submission at this time. Thank you to the author(s) for participating in the Wikimania 2013 programme submission, we hope to still see you at Wikimania this August.

Submission no.
Subject no.
Title of the submission
GFDL, CC-BY-SA, what does data expose about which is better?
Type of submission
Author of the submission
Tal Niv
Country of origin
UC Berkeley
E-mail address
Tal Niv
Personal homepage or blog

Which license provides the best service to Wikipedians? The discussion will be about the data and analysis that confront this question with relevant illustrations abound. The idea that underlies this work is that a lot can be learned from the moment of transition between the licenses, despite the technical constraints, and that this information is crucial to our community for the optimization of our resources. In addition, this information is likely useful for making internal decisions on how to move forward as well as for the purpose of guiding the way for other collaborative enterprises of different scales.

Detailed proposal

Two times along its history Wikimedia has opted a one-size-fit-all copyright licensing scheme for the body of its content, first the GFDL, and then after a licensing update vote that took place in May 2009, the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike.

The decision to change the applicable license from one to another was subject to a referendum, and the very idea to alter the legal framework was based on theory about what would be best for the licensed content. As far as I know, that theory was never put to the test, neither before nor after the change has been implemented. In other words, the impact of the new license was never compared to that of the former license, nor has there ever been testing of different possible frameworks. The claim that is at the basis of the work I want to share at Wikimania is that since legal tools have a clear effect on activity patterns among those who have the potential to be affected by them, and since the decision to choose one tool was intended to serve an important purpose, that such testing is important. After all, there are many alternative-licensing schemes, which Wikipedia might have chosen, and the fact that this scheme was not its first choice is evidence of this fact. For example, Wikipedia might have chosen other CC licenses, a different mesh with the GFDL, a different platform altogether, its own created licenses like many other UGC venues, or possibly, Wikipedia could have left the choice of license to its contributors (although it is hard to imagine how).

I offer to discuss an empirical research project that attempts to consider the comparative benefits of the two licenses that were used for Wikimedia’s content: how have each influenced the patterns of access to the content, and how has each impacted the pattern of content contribution, or the different characteristics of those contributions? In addition, I would like to discuss the question of which type of action the information that is uncovered should support.

  • Analysis and Public Engagement
Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Language of presentation/talk
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Hope to
Slides or further information (optional)
Special requests

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  1. Slashme (talk) 17:24, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
  2. CT Cooper · talk 23:38, 28 April 2013 (UTC)
  3. Is your proposed method published anywhere yet?
  4. LVilla (WMF) (talk) 05:39, 5 May 2013 (UTC) I would second the earlier question about methodology: I cannot over-emphasize how interesting this is on paper. But I'm extremely skeptical in practice, because I don't see any obvious way to control for the many other variables in play beyond licensing. The proposal would be much stronger if that aspect of the research was discussed.
  5. Ijon (talk) 23:25, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
  6. sign your username here