[Foundation-l] Proposed revised attribution language

Michael Peel email at mikepeel.net
Fri Mar 20 10:20:09 UTC 2009

On 20 Mar 2009, at 08:57, Tim Landscheidt wrote:

> Michael Peel <email at mikepeel.net> wrote:
>> The issue, from my point of view*, is that they do "suddenly become
>> devoid of meaning" as soon as those links stop working. This can
>> happen for a number of reasons, including article moves, deletions,
>> and (<insert deity> forbid) wikipedia.org going away. There are no
>> guarantees that I'm aware of that the links will continue to work for
>> even a decade, let alone the full length of copyright (and, given the
>> tendency to attribute authors even for PD works, afterwards).
>> On the other hand, a local copy of the author list (normally) stays
>> accessible as long as the work does.
>> [...]
> Is this problem really exclusive to online references? I'd
> guess there is plenitude of author references to "[...] et
> al." (or none at all) out there that cannot be resolved
> without access to a catalog or the source material itself
> and become "devoid of meaning" at the latest when these re-
> sources are destroyed or not accessible.

I'm not talking about references to a text, I'm talking about a copy  
of the text. That's completely different. Please, give me examples of  
where text is reprinted with the authors attributed as "[...] et al."  
or none at all.

>   If the shards of a coffee mug with a URL attribution get
> excavated 100 years in the future, I think a bit of research
> on the part of the archaeologists can be asked for.

The whole discussion of coffee mugs is a red herring. That's most  
likely using a quote from an article, which would fall under fair use  
anyway and probably wouldn't (or shouldn't) need URL attribution. I'm  
interested in the cases where a substantial part (or all) of the text  
is used.

Wikipedia has many uses, and I don't think a one-size-fits-all  
attribution-by-url works, technically nor logically (and possibly not  
legally, given the debates going on at this mailing list). I'd much  
rather see a sliding scale of attribution, based on how much of the  
content you're wanting to reuse and the situation in which you're  
reusing it. If you're printing a book with wikipedia content, then a  
full author list is reasonable. If you're using a paragraph online,  
then perhaps attribution-by-url is appropriate. If you're using a  
sentence in a news article or on a coffee mug, then attributing  
"Wikipedia" would probably be OK.

So long as the tools for the different levels of attribution exist  
(the only two lacking are an easy and obvious way to get an author  
list from wikipedia and a decent history URL), then why not set up a  
page on wikipedia (et al.) which the community can edit (and debate),  
defining the levels of attribution required?


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