[Foundation-l] Attribution survey and licensing next steps

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sun Mar 8 17:45:44 UTC 2009

Erik Moeller wrote:
> 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.
Whatever the model chosen, enforceability still needs to be taken into 
account.  Copyright laws have worked for the last three centuries 
because the rights owners were willing to accept the responsibility of 
enforcing those rights.  In recent years there has been a greater shift 
to treating of these in quasi-criminal legislation, thus transferring 
the responsibility for enforcement to governments.  This creates a 
separation between the rights and the responsibilities.

If we grant individual authors the right to be directly attributed, who 
will enforce that.  If that individual clearly contributed only one 
identifiable sentence in a long article (assuming that that is at all 
determinable), is it reasonable to expect that he will undertake 
judicial proceedings to enforce his economic rights to that one 
sentence?  Rightly or wrongly, we certainly have no evidence that the 
Wikimedia Foundation will ever take legal action to protect the 
collective legal rights of all the contributors to an article.  Who does 
that leave to enforce rights?  Governments?  That too seems unrealistic, 
even where copyrights have been made a part of the criminal law.

I am a frequent buyer of books from eBay.  Occasionally when I'm 
shopping there I encounter a book description that uses material from 
Wikipedia, and credits it as such.  Some even include the red links to 
non-existent articles.  Can we expect anything more there?  Are we going 
to convince eBay to cancel an auction offering because the seller failed 
to include a full list of the authors to the material that he used, or 
failed to sort out the authors of the part of the article that he used?  
If so, who will be the "we" who takes the responsibility to make sure 
that this gets done?

We waste a lot of electrons worrying about what might be proper 
attribution, or the fine points of distinction between GFDL and CC, with 
very little, if any, litigation to back any interpretation of these 
licences.  Sometimes I wonder if all of this activity is anything more 
substantial than an exercise in stacking intellectual Jenga blocks.

The principles of free access are just fine, and I am left to wonder 
whether a statement of such principles would be just as or more 
effective as an elaborate licensing scheme.


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