Feel free to discuss this page on the Documentation Team mailing list or at the bottom of the page.


There is currently no licensing policy expressed on the documentation wiki and this has caused confusion about whether material can be copied into it and from it. This spec attempts to develop a licensing policy for the documentation wiki only, and leaves open the question of licensing on the development wiki.


The Ubuntu wikis do not currently contain any express definition of licensing policy. This means:

There is confusion about whether material can or cannot be copied (for example into official Ubuntu documentation released in the distribution). The current copyright notice states that the copyright belongs to Canonical. However given that power of the wiki for developing community contributed documentation, it is necessary for the material to be freely licensed, for use in the system documentation and elsewhere.

Licensing the material on the wiki under a free license will also mean that it will become possible to copy material from other free sources, such as the Ubuntu forums, the Official Ubuntu Book, and the system documentation. Encouraging the free exchange of material between the documentation wiki and the system documentation will allow the two to draw closer together, which is ultimately the aim of the documentation team in order to permit easier access to contribution.

Further, there are reasons of principle to implement such a policy:

  1. Ubuntu is an operating system promoting free software, and has promoted a book releasing documentation under a free license.
  2. The very nature of a wiki is that it should be a collaborative effort which encourages the free use of information.

Use cases

  • Chiara works on the Ubuntu Documentation Team. She is writing a section of the Ubuntu Desktop Starter Guide about multimedia support. She would like to use the material from the wiki page MultimediaApplications, but is unsure of whether she will be breaching copyright by doing so.

  • Anthony wants to work on the Ubuntu Wiki by contributing a guide, but is only prepared to do so on the basis that he retains copyright in the work and he wishes to find out whether this is possible on the Ubuntu wiki.


Choice of License

  • It was originally planned to put material on the wiki into the public domain. However, after extremely wide consultation with the community on this issue, many users objected that they would be unhappy with material contributed by them being used in non-free derivative works. As a result it seems clear that a free sharealike license should be used.
  • The CC-By-SA license is a good choice, for many reasons:

    • It is used by the system documentation,
    • It is used by the Ubuntu forums,
    • It is used by the Official Ubuntu Book,
    • It is a popular and well known license.


  • The copyright notice on the wiki states that the material is copyright of Canonical. As a result, relicensing the material under a free license is (arguably) within the power of Canonical - however, we also want to try and reach out to as much of the community as possible to justify and communicate the change of license.


  • An email will be prepared here to explain the reasons behind the transition, and to encourage any users who disagree to come forward to discuss and resolve any potential problems. This email will be sent to those users who have posted to the wiki since it has been running on moin (a script will be necessary to get a list of those users with their email addresses from the Launchpad authentication and wiki databases). The email should also be sent to the main ubuntu mailing lists, and in general the information should be distributed widely. Then, after a reasonable period, the following things will be done:

  • Details of the license will be put on a prominently linked wiki page, or in the footer.
  • Some Moin code will be added to make it clear that when creating, editing and/or saving a page the user knows that the material added is released under the CC-By-SA license (there is a configuration switch to achieve this; see HelpOnConfiguration)

Outstanding issues


All existing comments now addressed.

WikiLicensing/HelpWiki (last edited 2009-08-29 14:03:38 by mdke)