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Re: Draft Blog Post on Attribution

From: Doug Schepers <schepers@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2013 16:53:56 -0500
Message-ID: <51005BF4.5020504@w3.org>
To: Chris Mills <cmills@w3.org>
CC: Alex Komoroske <komoroske@google.com>, Eliot Graff <Eliot.Graff@microsoft.com>, public-webplatform@w3.org
Hi, folks-

Revised from feedback. Please let me know what you think:

====

==Credit Where Credit is Due: Content Attribution and Community==

One of Web Platform Docs' core tenets is attribution. Attribution is as 
central to our mission as our founding principles, the 3 Pillars of 
Pragmatism, Inclusion, and Consensus. A recent minor snafu on our 
project resulted in some of the attribution being inadvertently removed; 
it was quickly replaced, but as part of the community discussion, we 
reemphasized the reasons for attribution, so we thought we'd share that 
here.

So, just what is attribution? In our case, it is keeping track of who 
has contributed what, and sharing that information with our users. Web 
Platform Docs tracks attribution in two key ways: for content 
submissions by individuals, we log every edit by user name; for content 
contributed in bulk by organizations, or transferred over from another 
project like MDN, we explicitly set the original source.

As an open collaborative project, attribution is critical from a legal, 
practical, and motivational perspective.

On the legal side, our license is CC-BY, or Creative Commons 
Attribution. When users agree to the site license, we all agree to honor 
this. Failing to provide attribution, or removing past attribution, is a 
violation of the letter and spirit of this license. Note that there are 
a couple of exceptions to this:

     documents that only state facts, and not interpretation, are not 
protected by copyright, and are thus outside the bounds of licensing . 
But this line can be gray... a compilation of facts is protected by 
copyright if the selection and arrangement of the material is original. 
Thus, if the contribution is based on another source, it's safer to 
provide and preserve attribution;
     if all the original material from a particular source has been 
excised from the article, attribution for that source can optionally be 
removed; in practice, however, we are only using this to deliberately 
simplify the license the article is available under, e.g., if the 
original content was under CC-BY-SA (Attribution and Share Alike), we 
might remove all the old material so the replacement article can be 
reused under CC-BY. Even so, we may choose to keep the original attribution.

On the practical side, attribution is used for fame and blame. Fame is 
praising the original contributor for their content, so people know who 
to credit and thank when they are reading, learning from, or reusing the 
content; it also helps us to think about who to ask to do future work. 
Blame is the flip-side of the same coin... it helps users (and reusers) 
to evaluate any possible bias on the part of the original contributor, 
as well as identifying vandals or trolls or just those whose work needs 
some improvement. We are a friendly community that aims to value any 
positive contribution, even that of those who are not quite hitting the 
mark; in such cases we will help contributors to improve. Provenance is 
a powerful and versatile tool.

On the motivational side, we are lucky enough to have many primary bulk 
content contributors (such as Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Opera), 
and we hope to have large numbers of community contributors over time. 
Part of what motivates those contributors –in addition to altruistic 
desires to contribute effectively to the web community, to aid others in 
learning, and to help the web to evolve– is the aforementioned 
well-deserved fame... remove that attribution, and you undermine 
motivation, and the project suffers. Even people who don't want 
notoriety per se still have a sense of fairness, and may be discouraged 
if their contributions are not afforded equal treatment. This even 
affects people who are potential contributors... they see how 
contributions and attributions are handled, and that may affect their 
decision on whether they will start contributing.

It's worth stating that attribution itself is not enough, of course; the 
creator of the content must be willing to contribute it to Web Platform 
Docs. Even in the case where licenses are compatible, for example a site 
that uses CC-BY, we want to extend the courtesy to that source of asking 
to use their material, so we maintain our reputation as a good citizen 
of the web documentation ecosystem. If the source material isn't 
available under a compatible license, naturally we would need to seek an 
agreement with the source to reuse it under our license.

So, we encourage all of our contributors to always get permission and 
give credit when adding content, and only to remove existing attribution 
after community discussion. And we invite our users to feel free to 
reuse our content with confidence, knowing just where the material came 
from.
Received on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 21:54:05 UTC

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