This FAL-licensed photo was selected as Wikimedia Commons’ 2013 Picture of the Year.
Like CC Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA), the Free Art License (FAL 1.3) is a copyleft license, meaning that it requires licensees to share their adaptations under the same license. Therefore, it’s impossible to create an adaptation that combines works under both BY-SA and FAL. Until now.
With this compatibility declaration, anyone remixing a work under FAL can license her remix under BY-SA. Similarly, people can adapt works under BY-SA and license them under FAL, or mix works under both licenses and license the resulting works under either license or both.
From the beginning, Creative Commons ShareAlike licenses were designed with interoperability in mind. We believe that the commons is at its best when there are as few walls as possible preventing people from mixing and combining its works. As CC co-founder Lawrence Lessig noted when speaking of compatibility between BY-SA and the FAL, “Our idea was eventually that it [wouldn’t] matter which of the free licenses you were in as long as you could move into the equivalent free license that would be CC compatible.”
Today, this idea has been realized, and there is one less barrier preventing licensees from remixing and combining openly licensed works.
This is a special moment for another reason. Originally drafted in 2000, the Free Art License is one of the first copyleft licenses designed for content, not software. It’s only fitting that it become the first third-party license to be declared compatible with CC BY-SA.
What’s next? Since the CC licenses launched, many people have dreamed of compatibility between BY-SA and the GNU General Public License (GPLv3), a widely-used copyleft software license. Sometimes when reusing openly licensed content in software, it can be difficult to discern where the content ends and the software begins. Allowing developers to license their adaptations of BY-SA content under the GPL would prevent a lot of licensing headaches.
CC will begin to tackle GPL compatibility with a proposal and preliminary analysis in the coming weeks. If you’d like to listen in or get involved, subscribe to our license development list.