[Foundation-l] Attribution survey and licensing next steps

Erik Moeller erik at wikimedia.org
Sat Mar 7 07:45:01 UTC 2009

The author attribution survey is now closed. We have 1017 complete
responses.  I've posted results of the attribution data in the
following report:


I've posted the raw data of the attribution survey here:

Respondents from English Wikipedia:
Respondents from German Wikipedia:
Respondents from miscellaneous languages and projects:

(The survey was linked via the WikimediaNotifier bot, so we got quite
a bit of nicely dispersed traffic.)

As the report shows, and as I indicated in my prior e-mail, there is
wide support for simple attribution models, and fairly strong and
visible opposition to full author attribution (as well as complete
absence of any attribution). Full author attribution is the second
least popular option, at 32.82%. Many comments pointed out the tension
between free content and attribution, such as:

* "While the whole point of Wikipedia is to provide access to
information freely and easily, a balance must be struck between
recognising authors' contributions and the constraints on utilising
the information."  (User's preferred attribution model is link to the
* "Giving credit to all authors is ridiculous! I think the 'Wikipedia
Community' is sufficient credit, this project is not about personal
gratification, its about community collaboration."
* "Full list of authors is terribly impractical."
* "Including the full list of authors on a 'NOT online' resource would
be a waste of resources, i.e. paper and ink, most of the time. But
even for online use, who would read the version history? On the other
hand, a link can't do much harm..."
* "Establishing which editors to credit would cause enormous disagreement"
* "Although requiring credit may sound noncontroversial, it actually
is a pretty big can of worms in contexts of (a) editing
wikipedia-sourced content into rather different things (for example,
the way that some wikipedia articles grew out of 1911 Britannica
articles), (b) what if the wikimedia foundation has some kind of
meltdown and it is necessary to fork the project.  Therefore my
recommendation is to not think in terms of 'requirements' but
suggested practices."

Some users commented on the fact that Wikipedia is primarily written
by people under pseudonyms, and that being suddenly visibly attributed
would actually come as a surprise:

* "If any version of credit-sharing citing editors is made policy, all
editors should be given notice and allowed to change their monikers to
their choice. In my case, I choose a moniker I liked when I thought
the community would remain anonymous forever. If my contributions went
into print or were used similarly I would like to use my actual name."

Community credit proved a quite popular option, second only to a
direct link to the article. Many people viewed it as a simple method
to credit their contribution both online and offline. (At least one
user suggested linking to detailed histories online, and crediting the
community collectively offline.)

A few users felt very strongly about always giving author credit. The
strongest example I found:

"I won't accept nothing less than what I chosed above, and I'm ready
to leave my sysop status and other wmf-related roles if WMF will
underestimate the meaning of GFDL to our projects. GFDL is what we
would have chosen if asked 8 years ago, and is what we will stand up

Some users also pointed out that our options were constrained by the
requirements set forth in the GFDL.

I'd love to see deeper analysis of the survey. I want to restate my
original intent in running it: it's intended to be a feeler survey, to
get a rough impression of what attribution models are widely
considered acceptable by contributors to our projects, and which ones
aren't. It served this purpose, and I have no intent in running
additional surveys; we're on an aggressive timeline and have to move
forward. It's also not intended to dictate a solution.

My preliminary conclusion is that a simple, manageable attribution
model, while causing some short-term disruption, will widely be
considered not only acceptable, but preferable to complex attribution
models, in support of our mission to disseminate free information.
That being said, we probably still have to find a compromise, as well
as language that appropriate deals with single-author multimedia
contributions. I imagine that if we a) have a more prominent "list of
authors / list of people who contributed to this revision" credit link
on article pages; b) require that a link must be given, and that the
preferred linking format is to the revision that is being copied, c)
explicitly state in our attribution terms that for images, sounds and
videos that aren't the result of extensive collaboration, credit must
be given to the creator, we're covering most cases.

We then still have to resolve the issue of giving credit for content
imported into our projects consistently, which is a bit of a can of
worms. (We might want to set some limitations on what kinds of content
we import, to prevent "attribution pollution".) But it's secondary to
the main issue of a consistent attribution model within our projects.

A model like the above is consistent with CC-BY-SA. There is a
question as to whether it can be reconciled with our current
practices. I believe it can, and I also think we can find mitigation
strategies for contributors who vehemently disagree. I'll work on a
revision to the currently proposed language, and will post that next
week, alongside some further thoughts.

In terms of our timeline, I don't believe we can wrap things up prior
to the Board meeting in April, but I think we can still hit a timeline
to make a migration decision by mid-to-late April. SPI has committed
to help administer the vote as an independent third party. What still
needs to be done:

* We need to form a little workgroup/committee to help with the usual
process of tallying the votes;
* We need to translate all relevant text (including the vote
announcements), once it's final, into as many languages as possible;
* We need to implement a modified Special:Boardvote so it can be used
for this decision.
* We also want to allow sufficient time for the actual
decision-making, ideally 3-4 weeks.

We have a big all-staff meeting and an all-day tech meeting next week,
which will hamper us a bit in moving this forward aggressively, but
I'll see if I can move things along a bit before then. If someone
wants to create draft pages for any of the above (workgroup,
announcement, etc.), I'd be very grateful :-)

More soon,
Erik Möller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation

Support Free Knowledge: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate

More information about the foundation-l mailing list