Wiki submission license, credits, and policy.

Matthew East mdke at
Wed Nov 9 19:08:23 UTC 2005

On Tue, 2005-11-08 at 12:46 -0500, Jonathan Jesse wrote: 
> On Tuesday 08 November 2005 12:22, Matthew East wrote:
> > On Wed, 2005-11-09 at 03:15 +1100, Jamie Jones wrote:
> > > When looking into why my and other authors, authorship credits were
> > > removed from a document, I was told that it isn't appropriate to put
> > > authorship credits on the documents. Having not been aware of this, I'd
> > > contributed documents on the understanding that the wiki in question
> > > (edubuntu) was governed by
> > > as listed at the bottom
> > > here . My understanding of the
> > > linked license was that it was by attribution, which to me means leaving
> > > the authorship credits intact unless substantial changes to the content
> > > have been made.
> >
> > Obviously from a practical point of view it is desirable that the wiki
> > contains documentation which isn't cluttered with author attribution,
> > especially given the "wiki philosophy" that everyone can edit and
> > improve. If my hunch is wrong, then we'll have to think about what
> > licence we want on the wiki.

> One thing that the Kubuntu docs (per Riddell) did was to strip the revision 
> history out of anything published.  They can be seen in the svn repo and 
> through the history kept by svn.  By doing so it makes the doc look less 
> cluttered and at least to me, more professional.  But we can add it back in 
> if we are violating the license.

Removing revision history is no problem. Let's get something clear: we
CAN'T violate a licence, a licence is permission given by us to others
to reproduce and use the document. So we can't violate the licence at
all. The question is whether we can somehow invalidate the licence by
missing something out of our documentation.

Back to the issue of author attribution:

Having read the two licences more fully, I don't think there is any
problem with documents on the wiki omitting author attribution, for
loads of reasons.

First is that it's not necessary for the documents to have a record of
the authors on them at all. Licences deal with the way in which the
material subject to the licence (a wiki page in this case, or the whole
body of the documentation) can be reproduced, whether copied in its
entirety or modified. They do not generally impose any obligations on us
as authors and primary publishers of the work, whether to provide
details of authors or anything else.

There would only be a need for us to supply authors on the documents if
the licences stated that they did not apply AT ALL if the document did
not have author attribution on it. Neither of them say this.

Second, even if I'm wrong and the wiki somehow does not constitute an
original document, in any case it is only necessary to give attribution
which is "reasonable to the medium or means" used - in this case it is a
wiki, which implies by its very nature that every page is editable by
all and is the work of the wider community.

Third, if this is wrong, I still think the presence of the page history
would suggest that reasonable attribution is given. 

Fourth, again even if all the above are wrong, the nature of the wiki is
such that contributors can be taken to have waived any obligation on
people to attribute the work done.

Having said all of this I do think that there are one or two
improvements that we can make. First is to make it clearer what licences
actually apply on the wiki, perhaps by incorporating a link to the
licence on main pages such as FrontPage and UserDocumentation. Secondly,
I think we can also make it clearer that we are happy to waive the
requirement that authors are specifically attributed in any reproduction
of the document, whether copied or modified. In my opinion, this isn't
strictly necessary, for the reasons I've outlined, but it wouldn't hurt
to make this clear.

I'm happy to help out with that, if people agree.

my 2 euro cents.

mdke at
gnupg pub 1024D/0E6B06FF
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