Proposal:Care to prevent Wikipedia privatization

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Every proposal should be tied to one of the strategic priorities below.

Edit this page to help identify the priorities related to this proposal!

  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content
  3. Increase Participation
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation


Care to oppose the pressure to release Wikipedia content under public-domain - like licenses as the next step of companies having this content may be to press on shutting down Wikipedia servers.


For some business people Wikipedia content looks like a "low hanging fruit". It is valuable, lots of people contributed to it. It is owned my millions of contributors but it is tempting to assume that the content actually has no owners and can be taken by the first who is smart enough. It would likely cost many millions if these contributors were paid in standard rate. But making business from this is not so easy because a commercial derivative naturally needs to compete with Wikipedia itself - and Wikipedia is not just free but even without ads. Shutting down Wikipedia without legally owning the content does not make any sense as this does not offer any profit.

From there, some action items naturally emerge that business is likely to try and our community must care to prevent this:

  • Gradually form more and more negative attitude to the copyleft licenses (injecting viruses into our children[1] - wow!).
  • Achieve Wikipedia community switching into license that allows the closed derived works.
  • Create a local copy of the now legally owned content.
  • Use the law to make Wikipedia unavailable any more either globally or more likely in a single country. The probable arguments would be transient copyright violations, wrong words about living persons, true and imaginary security problems, true and false claims about software patents in Wikipedia - in short, all kinds of FUD. Such attempts are heard in Wikipedia history but they are not massive and not funded well enough due lack of true commercial interest.
  • Release previous Wikipedia as paid, strongly copyrighted content, after removing tiny parts of it that were reasons to close it and enjoy profit from this.

The main problem for this business would be that "public domain" content will be initially owned by many groups wanting to do the same. The groups will aggressively compete at this stage and likely only some will remain. However before this happening they will have the shared goal to bring existing Wikipedia down, and this is there they will cooperate, delivering more pressure than a single company could do and having more realistic chances to succeed.

The actions to prevent this threat are:

  • Understand the Commons "share alike" and GFDL maybe protects Wikipedia from serious attempts to take over content as content under such licenses is not commercially so attractive.
  • Set very reluctant rules on the license switching, and have this rules official. Put the "share alike" as mandatory condition for all possible alternative licenses in the future (who wants, can additionally license differently; this is not a problem as long as amount of material under PD-like licenses does not make the major part).
  • Set the rule that at least two years of discussion are required to before any changes of the license.
  • Officially drop the famous under this version of the license or any later version clause from Wikipedia licenses. This "later version" may turn out to be public domain.


The purpose of this proposal is to prevent the possible threat of the total loss of Wikipedia project.

Key Questions

The key question is if the given threat is realistic enough to make the proposed steps. I would be happy to be convinced it is not. I however see it serious enough to spend time for writing this proposal.

Potential Costs


Community Discussion

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