Citizendium, the other free encyclopedia.

I was wrong. Congratulations to the Citizendium Foundation on choosing a free content licence (CC by-sa 3.0 unported) for Citizendium!

Free content, like free software, is about freedom — the freedom for anyone to use, study and apply, change and redistribute the work, for any purpose. “Non-commercial” isn’t free enough to be called free. “No derivatives” isn’t free enough to be called free. As Brianna Laugher notes, “The right to fork that is created by free content licensing keeps the parent organisations honest.”

The big news here is that the choice of a free licence furthers the public expectation that educational content (Wikipedia, Citizendium, Encyclopedia of Earth, Open Site) will be under a proper free content license. Scholarpedia and about.com need not apply. Google needs to think carefully.

(I also get a thank you at the end of the Citizendium license essay. Any help I provided in making this choice happen, I’m extremely pleased to have provided.)

Citizendium and Wikipedia, or at least the more foolish members thereof, have their periodic pissy bitchfights. But we’re on the same side in deep and important ways.

(Is Citizendium good for anything? Well, their history of the BSD Daemon is the best article I’ve seen on the subject. There’s excellent stuff there worth linking people to.)

10 thoughts on “Citizendium, the other free encyclopedia.”

  1. It’s the presence of the SA clause that creates the right to fork, not the presence or absence of an NC clause. A community using CC-BY-NC-SA still has the right to fork.

    Nice work persuading him to go Free(TM). I was also majorly surprised when it was finally announced.

  2. I’m not taking much credit, I was surprised to be named! You’re right the -NC doesn’t affect that – Uncyclopedia has a fork all ready to go at uncyclopedia.info if Wikia ever goes insane. But your statement’s still the case.

  3. David Gerard’s earlier, silly post had nothing to do with persuading me to go with CC-by-sa. If anything, it made me want to go with a noncommercial license, because dogmatic ideologues need tweaking. I call you that, David, because your repeated and completely unjustified insistence that CC-by-nc-sa wouldn’t be a free license. Of course it would be. However, my better judgment won out; tweaking ideologues is not a reason to do anything, as fun as it might be. David (and others like him) did inspire me, however, to write this section (see “The argument from the definition of ‘free'” and the two sections that follow), which is my attempt to explain these (I should have thought) simple matters. You were named, David, only because I named everyone who made a substantive comment.

  4. Thanks sincerely for the support, David.

    That said, this sort of discourse that would seek to construct “a public expectation” that content creators are doing an immoral act if they do not make their creative and/or educational works available for for-profit or derivable purposes is what I personally find most troubling about the whole “free content” movement. It reveals that it’s not really about “free as in freedom“, i.e., the freedom for content creators to exercise their own freedom over their works. Rather it is about achieving power and then using that power to undertake various acts of discursive coercion.

    In my own support of Citizendium’s licensing decision (see http://tinyurl.com/2hdefw), I wish to make it very clear that I distance myself from such notions. “Free as in freedom” should really be about freedom indeed, not “freedom” as a euphemism for power and coercion.

  5. @Stephen – “‘free as in freedom’, i.e., the freedom for content creators to exercise their own freedom over their works” – no, like software freedom it’s about freedom for the users. CC markets to the creators, FSF to the users. Proper free content is more user-friendly, and it’s the expectations of the readers we’re talking about. The people we’re theoretically doing these for.

    If you make something and don’t want to do that, you still don’t have to; I’m saying people will increasingly not care. That’s not the same as coercion (note lack of CC licenses on this blog); but you don’t have a right to their attention.

    But then, BSD vs GPL, “business friendly” BSD vs contribution-gaining GPL, and if FreeBSD had a repository as well-run as Debian’s (anyone telling me it is hasn’t used both) then I certainly wouldn’t be using Ubuntu.

  6. This sounds like good news to me.

    I really don’t see why so many wikipedians are so antagonistic to CZ though. There are some things about it that seem silly (removing personal attacks, and several people wanted them gone from *history*, blocking and wanting to “delink” inactive accounts, the bizzare protection/move approval system…) but I still support the basic idea of it and it’s a project I’d like to see take off.

    With regards to Citizendium bashing in general, if people think CZ is so obviously crappy why spend so much time bashing it? In their minds it should just fail and there would be nothing to worry about…

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