CZ:Citizendium Press Releases/Dec212007

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For immediate release

The Citizendium encyclopedia project picks a Creative Commons license

"Our gift to the world: CC-by-sa"

December 21, 2007 – In a much-awaited move, the non-profit Citizendium ( encyclopedia project announced that it has adopted the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-by-sa) as the license for its own original collaborative content. The license permits anyone to copy and redevelop the thousands of articles that the Citizendium has created within its successful first year.

          The license allows the Citizendium to join the large informal club of free resources associated especially with Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation. Wikipedia uses the FSF's GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), which is expected to be made fully compatible with CC-by-sa in coming months. Therefore, Wikipedia and the Citizendium will be able to exchange content easily. A minority of Citizendium articles started life on Wikipedia and so have been available under the GFDL.

          But the Citizendium, started by a co-founder of Wikipedia, Dr. Larry Sanger, is quite unusual as Web 2.0 projects go. "We are focused on quality and responsibility as well as quantity," Sanger said. The project combines an open, dynamic wiki with a role for expert editors, a requirement of real names, and constitutional non-profit self-governance, rather than anarchy or Silicon Valley for-profit control. With a pilot project launched in November 2006 and public access launched last March, the project has created about 4,300 articles and more words (about five million) in its first year than Wikipedia created in its first year. The project reported accelerating growth throughout 2007 and anticipates even more vigorous growth in 2008.

          To explain the choice of license to present and future contributors, Sanger released a 22,000-word essay: "An explanation of the Citizendium license." The project underwent a very lengthy deliberation process in multiple groups and venues, beginning last spring, and culminating in the essay. "The essay is written for our 'Citizens,' it's not really for public consumption," said Sanger. "We were very thorough. There are people who get quite passionate about free licenses, and so I felt I had to get it exactly right. It is as much the work of all the Citizens I am privileged to have been able to interact with as it is my own work--and we said a lot as we went through the issues."

          The decision and the arguments for it are summarized in two relatively brief sections of the essay (links below). In short, Sanger argues that adopting the CC-by-sa license is most in line with the project's top goal, of "giving the broadest access to vast amounts of high-quality reference content," as well as the main mean to this end, of motivating participants. The project rejected a license (CC-by-nc-sa) that would forbid commercial reuse, an issue on which "Citizens" were evenly divided.

          The project will in coming months turn to recruitment and expanding its governance processes. The changes are anticipated to greatly increase the rate at which articles are approved by Citizendium expert editors.



Larry Sanger, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief; co-founder of Wikipedia