I spent more time than I would like to admit massaging the process that ultimately led to the release of the the GNU Free Documentation License 1.3 (GFDL) by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Hours counted, it was probably one of my biggest personal projects this year.
There are many reasons for this change but the most important is that the move reduces very real barriers to collaboration between wikis and free culture projects due to license compatibility. BY-SA has become the GPL of the free culture world and Wikimedia wikis were basically locked out from sharing with a larger community, and vice-versa; projects will no longer have to choose between sharing with Wikipedia and sharing with essentially everyone else. The GFDL has done a wonderful job of helping get Wikimedia projects to where they are today and Möller’s proposed switch seems, in my opinion, the best option to continue that work going forward.
The FSF gets a lot of credit (and a lot of flack) for what it does. Offering to "let go" of Wikipedia — without question the crown jewel of the free culture world — represents a real relinquishing of a type of political control and power for the FSF. Doing so was not done lightly. But giving communities the choice to increase compatibility and collaboration by switching to a fundamentally similar license was and is, in my opinion, the right thing to do.
Everyone who has worked hard to make this happen deserves the free culture movement’s thanks. This list includes Richard Stallman, Brett Smith and Peter Brown of the FSF; James Vasile and Eben Moglen of the SFLC; Erik Möller, Mike Godwin and Shunling Chen of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The FSF in general, and RMS in particular, deserves a huge amount of credit for what it has decided to not do in this case and for giving up control in a way that was responsible and accountable to its principles and to GFDL authors and in the interest of free culture movement more generally. It has not been easy or quick. If you support or appreciate work like this, please support the FSF and express this while doing so. Doing so is an important way to support these essential and almost inherently underappreciated efforts.