[Foundation-l] RfC: License update proposal

Erik Moeller erik at wikimedia.org
Wed Jan 21 18:32:15 UTC 2009

2009/1/20 Nikola Smolenski <smolensk at eunet.yu>:
> Don't know about this wording thing, but as a Wikipedia author, I have to say
> that I do not think that attributing me in this way is sufficient. As a
> Wikimedian, I believe that a lot of people will feel the same.

That's probably true, Nikola. The proposed attribution language is
intended to balance the various positions (ranging from 'an URL should
always be fine' to 'names should always be given'), the established
practices, and the language of the GFDL (principal author
requirement). Our hope is that a strong majority will recognize the
value of such a compromise, and the improvement over current state:
huge complexity for re-users, legal barriers between groups that
should be able to cooperate, inconsistent and confusing
interpretations of the rules.

And I don't think we can or should take the easy way out and not make
a decision as to what the terms of re-use should be. But any decision
is likely to offend a sub-group of people who feel it's going too far,
or not far enough. Nor do we have complete freedom to pick any
solution we want: we need to make an effort to be consistent with past
practices. So there will be a certain degree of unhappiness, as is
always the case when a time period of inconsistency and arbitrary
standards is followed by a time period of equal and shared standards.
(The same happened, as you will recall, after the Board implemented a
licensing policy prohibiting NC licenses, etc.)

I realize that some community guidelines have asked or encouraged
print re-users to include a complete list of usernames alongside
articles. (This, by the way, does not satisfy the GFDL's history
inclusion requirement.) Under the proposed language, that would
continue to be necessary for articles which have no more than five
authors. The proposed language recognizes the value of direct name
attribution in those instances: for articles that are essentially the
work of just one or two people; for static multimedia works; etc. It
is consistent with the GFDL's standards of visible byline attribution
through naming the principal authors of a document.

There are various problems with making a distinction between print and
online use when it comes to name inclusion. The first problem is that
there are related questions which immediately pop up: Is it reasonable
for a one page print document to have half a page or more of author
metadata? Is it reasonable for a t-shirt to have to include a metadata
text-block? Is a DVD substantially different from a print product? Is
a screen in a flight information system? So in order to deal with
those cases, you start making more complex rules which, again,
discourage meaningful re-use. This in spite of the fact that the
usernames we are talking about, in a large number of cases, will only
be unambiguous and meaningful if resolved to username URIs; the extent
of their contributions can only be meaningfully ascertained when
reviewing a page history.

That's why I think history or credit URIs are a reasonable attribution
mechanism for works that are the result of the work of many people. I
also feel that they represent a compromise between your position and
that of others who have contributed.
Erik Möller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation

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