19 GNU Free Documentation License

Read the article at https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html


The Free Software Foundation’s version of a copyleft license for software manuals and textbooks, although it specifies that the license is not restricted solely to software-related materials. Published, to some degree, as a response to the open content licenses.

Key Points

  • The purpose is to make a document free (liberated)
    • Allows the author to get credit, without being responsible for modifications by others
    • Derivative works need to be shared alike
  • If there are more than 100 copies distributed then the original must be made available as well
  • Used by Wikipedia (+ CC BY-SA) – not compatible without a modified authorship clause.
  • Some find it unfree because it allows invariant text which can’t be modified or removed, which doesn’t allow people to make changes.
  • Less than reasonable for short printed text – you have to include a hard copy of the license with every printed copy of something licensed with it.

Discussion Questions

  1. When is a GNU Free Documentation License better than a Creative Commons license?

Additional Resources

Creative Commons Licenses. (2014) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/


An Open Education Reader Copyright © 2014 by David Wiley is licensed under a Ontario Commons License – No Derivatives, except where otherwise noted.

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