Draft Blog Post on Attribution (was: Important: Preserve Content Attribution)

Hi, folks-

On 1/22/13 10:27 AM, Alex Komoroske wrote:
> On Sat, Jan 19, 2013 at 11:06 AM, Eliot Graffwrote:
>> I also agree that a statement of our policy around licensing and
>> attribution and the reasons that this encourages and protects
>> content submission would make a fine blog post.
> +1
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Chris Mills [mailto:cmills@opera.com <mailto:cmills@opera.com>]
>> Sent: Saturday, January 19, 2013 1:16 AM
>>> Nice overview Doug, this kind of information might be interesting
>>> as blog post
>>> ... hint hint ;-)

I've taken a stab at a blog post on this topic, mostly reusing what I'd 
already written. I'm not completely satisfied that I've hit the right 
points, or struck quite the right tone, to interest a general audience, 
so I welcome feedback and suggestions.



One of Web Platform Docs' core tenets is attribution. Attribution is as 
central to our mission as our founding principles, the Pillars. 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 
two exception 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, 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.

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 reusing the content. Blame is the 
flip-side of the same coin... it helps users (and reusers) to evaluate 
any possibly bias on the part of the original contributor. Provenance is 
a powerful 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 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.

So, we encourage all of our contributors to always 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 13:51:55 UTC