GNU Free Documentation License


November 28, 2021

The GNU Free Documentation License (GNU FDL) is a free content copyleft license created by the Free Software Foundation for the GNU project. It was created to distribute software documentation and educational material. The purpose of this license is to make a manual, text or other written document "free" in the sense of ensuring everyone has the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modification, for profit or not. Secondly, this license provides a way for authors and publishers to obtain proper recognition of their work, while preserving them from being held responsible for changes made by others. It states that each copy of the material, even if modified, must be distributed under the same license. Such copies can be sold and, if reproduced in large quantities, must also be made available in a format that facilitates subsequent modifications. Wikipedia is the largest collection of documentation to have used this type of license until the switch to Creative Commons in June 2009. The Debian project, which initially did not consider the GNU FDL a free license, has decided, by public vote, that works redistributed under this license are to be considered free, in relation to the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG), as long as they do not contain sections that are not editable.

Historical notes

The GFDL was released as a draft form for feedback in September 1999. After some revisions, version 1.1 was released in March 2000, version 1.2 in November 2002, and version 1.3 in November 2008. The current version of the license is 1.3. The first draft of the GNU Free Documentation License version 2 was published on September 26, 2006, together with a draft of the new GNU Simpler Free Documentation License. On 1 December 2007, Jimmy Wales announced that after a long period of discussion and negotiation between the Free Software Foundation, Creative Commons, the Wikimedia Foundation and others, that he had produced a proposal supported by both the FSF and the Creative Commons to modify the Free Documentation License in order to give the Wikimedia Foundation the possibility to migrate its projects to the similar Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (CC-BY-SA). These changes have been implemented in version 1.3 of the license, which includes a new provision that allows certain materials published under the license to also be used under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license.


The licensed material, under the current version of the license, may be used for any purpose, provided its use is in accordance with certain conditions. All previous authors of the work must be attributed. All changes to the work must be registered. All derivative works must be published under the same license. The full text of the license and other added warranty disclaimers and copyright information of previous versions must be retained. Technical measures such as DRM cannot be used to control or obstruct distribution or document editing.

Literal copies

You may copy and distribute the document in any medium, for profit or otherwise, providing for all copies this license, the copyright notices and the notice that this license applies to the document, and that you do not they add other conditions outside those of the license itself. You may not use technical measures to prevent or control the reading or production of subsequent copies of copies that are produced or distributed. However, you can get a fee for the copies you provide. Copies can also be lent and under the same conditions mentioned above they can be used in public. If more than 100 c

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