As Dave and Nick already know, I am NOT in support of the current proposal to put the ifwiki under the Creative Commons license. My reaction on hearing the proposal was immediate, negative, and violent. So much so, that Dave has suggested that I owe him and Nick an apology. Also, Dave would like me to comment on my position, in the hopes that this issue can be somehow resolved.
Where do I start? My reaction was so negative because of the disgust and horror that filled my mind as I imagined what such a proposal would do if implemented, coupled with the certainty of what would be the result if I declined the proposal. Such a wonderful choice I have been given. As if putting "proposal" in big capital letters or reiterating that it is merely under discussion makes the choice easier. I can capitulate and become someone I despise. Or I can hold my ground and be mocked, pitied, or shunned, risking the loss of friendship.
And I am to explain myself. In print. Again, I have a choice. I can either write to Dave privately. Or I can try my best to describe it here, publicly. The option of silence is denied me. I'm not permitted to let "FUCK" be my final word on the matter. Neither silence nor profanity is useful. Such is not what teamwork is all about. Teamwork is about gathering information, asking the difficult questions, presenting the options clearly, rephrasing what has been already said to make certain the points are understood, and so on.
So if any of the following (or the proceeding) sounds like melodrama, I hope you'll be able to forgive me for it. Explaining my position is something that has been explicitly asked of me.
I suppose I need to start with the IF Theory wiki, the one that contained the Glossary items. If you'll look at how they were done, it became the fashion to sign or put one's initials as the end of an entry. "Original definition by DGlasser", perhaps. Or a more discreet "[ES]". Even I, sheep that I was, did it. Because I thought it was the right thing to do. Because everyone else was doing it. But no printed dictionary or encyclopedia does this. I don't see someone's initials after the definition of tomato, or a signature at the end of a write-up about Japanese culture. Instead, contributors are credited in the opening pages, once, as a group.
And it began to bother me, that these attributions were there. One of my submissions was Zarf's cruelty scale. Who should really get the credit for that? Me, because I copied it into the glossary? Or Zarf, for writing it up in the first place? Why did I sign the entry for "red herring"? Was I really making an honest contribution? Or did I want people to read it and see my name and think, heh, that was pretty good. That David Welbourn, he sure can be funny sometimes.
Greedy David Welbourn. Polishing up a paragraph or two in the hopes for a tiny bit more glory in the "IF Community".
Further developments revealed the shallowness of this attempt. Items in a wiki can be edited. And, of course, if it's proper to credit the original author, then it must also be proper to credit all subsequent editors. "I fixed the grammar and added some links. And here's my name," the neo-contributor thinks to herself. "Well, she didn't know what she was doing," thinks a member of the old guard. "I'll edit her mistakes. And add my name." A simple definition of a term somehow became overloaded with asides and attributions.
Or the entry can be deleted. Gone. "'ROY G. BIV'? What's that got to do with IF Theory? We can delete that." Maybe the official line is that everyone can contribute. But somehow, the prejudices and agendas of a few gets to decide what's important and what isn't.
So. When Dave comes along, a year or so later with IFWiki, I'm a little uneasy. I remember the previous wiki, and my ego, and my foolishness. But lo, the old Glossary is still available, and we can "absorb" it. Dave says Dennis is happy that we're resurrecting it. So, I guess that means it's okay. Since Dennis gave us permission. Even though I'm sure Dennis didn't ask DGlasser, Emily, me, or any of the other original contributors what we thought about the Glossary being "absorbed". Maybe we'd like to think that the Glossary belonged to all of us. But in practical terms, the decision was up to Dennis.
Time for my ego to assert itself again. I think I can say, without contradiction, that I have a rare gift for grunt work involving a lot of repetative typing, cutting and pasting, and formatting. I know I have this talent, and I'm eager to display it. So I quickly copy the vast bulk of the Glossary into the IFWiki. When Dave points out that the discussion parts should be moved into the relevant Talk pages, I don't hesitate to go through the entire Glossary again to do so. Likewise, when the decision is made to put them into a Glossary category, I am happy to go through the Glossary a third time to make these changes. Everyone will be so happy and impressed with me. I wonder when would be a good time (if ever) to start removing the "Original definition by DGlasser" and "[ES]" -type lines, hangnails that they are. Not yet, I think. Maybe when things are more settled, then we can discuss it, I think.
Meanwhile, Dave starts the absorption process with Gunther's Speed-IF pages, and has started a chat on IFWiki itself. Dave starts talking foolishly about how everyone is being wasteful with their efforts to catalogue their own little parts of IF separately, when most of it could be in the IFWiki. Dave starts eyeing Baf's Guide, and wonders how that information might be brought on board. Even though I don't say anything at that time, I knew that sort of talk would not be beneficial. Even as I start copying the Speed-IF information over, I know that this will likely be the last direct absorption. Baf's Guide is too huge to copy, and it would be pointless to try to copy everything in it when it already works so well. Even if Carl were to permit it. Roger Firth flat out denies Dave's request to absorb pages from his site.
And I expect Roger's reaction to be typical. Would Robin Lionheart permit the absorption of the Chronology of Quendor? Would Paul O'Brian permit the absorption of SPAG? Would Stephen Granade permit the absorption of Brass Lantern? Somehow, I don't think they would.
Which brings us to the realm of new content. If IFWiki is to be any sort of resource to be proud of, it's gotta offer something more than rehashed Glossary and Speed-IF blurbs. Nobody quite knows yet what this content should be.
I take a couple tentative stabs at it. I create the Current Events page, and I start work on a list of games from 2004, in the hopes that the list will be viewable and editable by the IF Community in preparation for the Xyzzy Awards in March. In previous years, the list wasn't available early to the community at large, and never directly editable, and I thought this and the Current Events pages would make good use of a wiki's abilities.
Of course, grunt work is a lot easier, and I found myself raiding Baf's Guide and IFMudders' homepages for author info, so I could assemble authors pages that went a bit beyond what Baf's Guide does. There is a tendency to think that Baf's Guide covers everything that everyone does, but this just isn't true. Baf's Guide is primarily a guide to the games in the IF Archive. But not all games are in the archive, and there are other contributions people make besides writing games.
Also, by gleaning information from two places and reformatting it for the IFWiki, I feel confident that I'm not violating any copyrights. I'm copying information, yes, but not the display of it. And further, I make sure that every author page I write has a Links section where I can list the sources for the information I used. It was my hope that by doing it that way, the original authors of the information I used would be acknowledged, and that I would be okay, morally and ethically. And once the pattern was set, others would be able to follow it and do likewise with new pages. I felt I was doing a good thing.
While I was doing all this, other people started their own attempts at new content. To my considerable dismay, they were all of the outlined essay variety. Standalone pieces that were outlined to present a biased viewpoint. Essays that invited you to help "fill it in" if you agreed with the viewpoint, and disinvited related pages on the IFWiki that addressed the exact same topics. Even though I'm dismayed by these developments, I keep it to myself. After all, we're all still trying to figure out what we want. Better to let them have a fair crack at implementing their schemes and discuss what needs changing later. If I criticize now before they've even tried, they're going to get defensive. Perhaps when they see on their own that these essays are top-heavy and don't play nice with the other pages, they'll be willing to change them on their own without my having to say anything.
And then comes the day when the proposal is proposed. And all my worst fears of all the proceeding flit through my mind at high speed:
- Page after page of (c) David Welbourn. Imagining: Marnie Parker (c) David Welbourn. Or worse, Marnie Parker (c) David Welbourn, David Cornelson, etc. My private shame with the Glossary would be nothing compared to this. How dare I claim to own in any way the names and works of all these other people, even tangently? The information isn't mine! I got it from Baf's Guide and their own pages! How dare I try to wrap these tatters around me, adding my name to each and every one?
- Imagining those copyright notices propagating outside the IFWiki like a virus. Never to be erased or expunged because a Creative Commons license won't let you revoke it once applied. Ever.
- Even if that's not how it works, even if it's just a (c) IFWiki rather than (c) David Welbourn, is that really any better? Is there any good reason to forcefeed the name "IFWiki" onto everyone who just wants to use the information? Is there some hidden agenda to brand information under the IFWiki name?
- If a page starts (c) IFWiki, and someone edits it, does it stay that way? If someone wants to add their name specifically, do all the other names in the page's history become explicit also?
- What would this mean to my list of games from 2004? If the list is (c) IFWiki in such a way, how could I then give it to Eileen? To accept it, wouldn't that mean part of XyzzyNews has to be (c) IFWiki also? Is she likely to go for that? Not bloody likely.
- Would places like CAAD, an Italian site which quietly documents much of what happens with English IF, shun IFWiki if it had such a license? Or would the desire to document us be enough that they would welcome being infected with the Creative Commons license? Or, if they ignore the license and copy IFWiki anyway, what am I supposed to do about it? Am I being forced to police my contributions? If I don't agree to be a good Gestapo member, doesn't that make the license worthless? What am I being asked to do here, really?
- Why are Dave and Nick suggesting this? Are they looking forward to seeing their names or "IFWiki" plastered onto all things IF? Spreading like the clap? A stain that can never be erased? They say they're not interested in attributions, but what else is the license for?
- What if I say 'no'? Then what happens? Dave is going to press and press and press until I say 'yes', isn't he? He says it is 'just a proposal', but he's already got Nick's support. Nick, who is a proven author and authority on IF. How am I supposed to compete with that? Nick has prestige value. Nick is someone you want on your team. How am I supposed to say 'no' to something both Nick and Dave want? What counterarguments can I possibly say?
- But I have to say no. Saying yes is too awful. I'm going to be the bad guy. Again. And again, it's friends who are screwing me over. By "doing the right thing". They will be acting in the IFWiki's best interests, they'll say. And it'll be unfortunate that I'm upset about it, but it really couldn't be helped. They'll be sorry I'm hurt. But they won't be sorry about their decision. That's a life lesson I've learned the hard way: that good people, your friends even, acting for the best of reasons, will hurt you.
- In pain, fear, and frustration, unable to explain, I say "FUCK" and leave the channel.
- It's not clear to me whether the proposal plans to have IFWiki as a whole covered by one license, or if each and every page of IFWiki is to get its own individual copy of the license.
- It's not clear to me who will own the license(s). As Dave keeps reiterating, the IFWiki is not owned by any one individual or even a specific group. And yet, as the example of Dennis agreeing to let Dave absorb the Glossary shows, the owner of the IFWiki is Dave, no matter how he tries to present it as otherwise.
- It's not clear to me what the license(s) protect, since the nature of a wiki is that its content and format is changeable by anyone and anytime. Remember, copyright protects format and presentation, not raw information. But if the format and presentation can change freely, in what way can this license protect the wiki?
- Nick's bracketed explanation within the proposal about how we should interpret the license is, I believe, not part of the license itself but a suggestion. There is no reason for me to believe that anyone reading the license has to apply it that exact way, and I believe that once the license is applied, contributors would be within their rights to insist on equally valid but differing interpretations.
-- David Welbourn 22:13, 19 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)
I appreciate hearing about your thought process, but yes, you do also owe me an apology, even if it's only in a virtual space that you reply by shouting an obscenity and storming off.
I do not believe the fundamental problem that you see with my proposal exists. If it does, I think we should simply do something else that everyone agrees on. We could figure that out by discussing it.
Your ideas about the Creative Commons being an infection and requiring authors to be like the Gestapo are, to put it kindly, very confused. Although you've brought us to the end result of Godwin's Law in record time, I think it would be best to leave unfounded fears and analogies to the Nazis aside and just consider what effect this license would have on ifwiki. My proposal is not about hating you, or calling you greedy, or screwing you. I'm just trying to figure out, along with everyone else on ifwiki, how to best set up this new collaborative writing and publishing system.
I will reply to your "afterthoughts" first because they include the actual relevant questions you have:
It's not clear to me whether the proposal plans to have IFWiki as a whole covered by one license, or if each and every page of IFWiki is to get its own individual copy of the license.
We don't need to have any copies of the license on the site, just links. We just change a line in the config file for the wiki. I'm proposing that whole wiki be covered.
It's not clear to me who will own the license(s). As Dave keeps reiterating, the IFWiki is not owned by any one individual or even a specific group. And yet, as the example of Dennis agreeing to let Dave absorb the Glossary shows, the owner of the IFWiki is Dave, no matter how he tries to present it as otherwise.
A license is a grant of rights from one party to another, so no one would own it, as far as I know. IANAL, as I remind everyone on ifMUD every time I connect. In my plan, the people who write things on ifwiki keep their copyrights (just as they do now); but they would also grant the wiki a right to grant everyone access under by-sa 2.0 (which they don't do now).
I agree that the owner of ifwiki is probably Dave, and a court of law would probably agree, too, if the RIAA or someone else was looking to sue "ifwiki." That's one reason it's good to have a statement on upload pages and edit forms that requires the user only to upload content that he or she has permission to upload. Dave could delete any material that violated copyright as soon as he was notified, and while he'd still be hassled, he'd at least have an argument that the uploader/contributor was to blame, not him.
It's not clear to me what the license(s) protect, since the nature of a wiki is that its content and format is changeable by anyone and anytime. Remember, copyright protects format and presentation, not raw information. But if the format and presentation can change freely, in what way can this license protect the wiki?
The license is not for the protection of the wiki at all. It does not add protection. It is a grant of rights to other people, allowing the material on the wiki to be freely shared. The license does not change the copyright status of material on the wiki. It just gives others the right to take it and do something else with it, if they also share.
A wiki article is certainly protected by copyright, and is not just raw information.
Nick's bracketed explanation within the proposal about how we should interpret the license is, I believe, not part of the license itself but a suggestion. There is no reason for me to believe that anyone reading the license has to apply it that exact way, and I believe that once the license is applied, contributors would be within their rights to insist on equally valid but differing interpretations.
The license itself says you only have to convey the name of the original author if it is supplied:
You must keep intact all copyright notices for the Work and give the Original Author credit reasonable to the medium or means You are utilizing by conveying the name (or pseudonym if applicable) of the Original Author 'if supplied;' the title of the Work if supplied; to the extent reasonably practicable, the Uniform Resource Identifier, if any, that Licensor specifies to be associated with the Work, unless such URI does not refer to the copyright notice or licensing information for the Work; and in the case of a Derivative Work, a credit identifying the use of the Work in the Derivative Work (e.g., "French translation of the Work by Original Author," or "Screenplay based on original Work by Original Author").
I don't know what other valid interpretations there are of this. I tell ifwiki that it can offer my stuff and only require a credit of "ifwiki" and a URL, and ifwiki makes my writing available without supplying my name as part of the article. Then, everyone else can take my writing and just credit ifwiki, without legally being required to mention my name, as long as their stuff is also by-sa 2.0. Where is there a license violation?
Only if we had "bylined" articles on ifwiki would you need to credit the author upon copying, republication, or creating a derivative work (which would have to be sharable under the same license). There are none of these bylined articles now, but somebody could add some if they wanted. Allowing them would seem to make ifwiki more flexible rather than less, although it might cause additional licensing issues and wiki management issues to arise. If we don't want any to appear on ifwiki ever, we could just prohibit them, and make it a condition of posting that you not add a byline. Then, only people willing to post under those circumstances would post, and use of ifwiki material would not ever require that a person be named as author.
Now, on to the pre-afterthoughts:
Why are Dave and Nick suggesting this? Are they looking forward to seeing their names or "IFWiki" plastered onto all things IF? Spreading like the clap? A stain that can never be erased? They say they're not interested in attributions, but what else is the license for?
To ensure that material on ifwiki can be shared by those who want to use it. It does not have to do with venereal disease or with assigning credit. It does not have to do with propagating copyright notices everywhere, which would not happen. Offering the materials on ifwiki under by-sa 2.0 does not restrict the use of materials on ifwiki at all. It offers people strictly more than they currently have.
The text currently on ifwiki is protected by copyright right now, whether or not it has a (c) symbol (not necessary for copyright protection) and whether or not Dave knows who the copyright owner is. (If some of Shakespeare's sonnets have been pasted in or something, those would be in the public domain, but I assume the content is mostly original, fairly writing by someone.) Right now, it is not offered to anyone else in the world for copying or modification, except under fair use -- it is otherwise restricted. A Creative Commons license grants people the right to copy and modify the content under certain terms (in this case, attributing the source and sharing what they derive), without taking away of their existing rights. It does not infect anyone.
If Dennis wants to include some printouts in a course packet for his students for easy printed reference, he should be able to point the copy center to a license and prove to them that it's legal to copy the stuff. If he can't, they may very well refuse to copy the material for his class -- it happens all the time. If graphical adventure gamers or the people at CAAD or others want to start a wiki and rip off some of our stuff and modify it, allowing others to similarly rip them off in the future, I think that should be fine. Right now it is not: there is no license.
If we went with by-sa 2.0, CAAD or some other party could still ask the original contributors (the copyright holders) of a particular article to let them have it under different and even more liberal terms, and they could -- nothing would prevent that. But that's a cumbersome process -- it's the process people would have to go through right now -- and by-sa 2.0 would give blanket permission to everyone willing to attribute and share alike.
If you don't want to share the content of ifwiki, then I think you should oppose a license, but right now it seems that you're vehemently opposing what you support.
The "credit" issue is not really an issue, as I tried to explain above, but I'll try to address another point where this non-issue comes up:
it became the fashion to sign or put one's initials as the end of an entry. "Original definition by DGlasser", perhaps. Or a more discreet "[ES]". Even I, sheep that I was, did it. Because I thought it was the right thing to do. Because everyone else was doing it. But no printed dictionary or encyclopedia does this.
I really don't think your last statement there is true. I feel certain that every printed dictionary and encyclopedia in the world does do this in some form or another. This initialing isn't done for the purpose of assigning credit after publication, but for editorial purposes, before it is finalized. If I'm an editor or fellow writer and I have a question about something in a particular sentence, and I know that "ES" wrote it, I can ask her about it. If I don't know that, I can't discuss it with the person who put it there, and it's harder to figure out whether I should revise it, remove it, or leave it. It's responsible, rather than greedy, to say what you're changing, which is one nice thing about MediaWiki's automatic tracking of changes by username (if users are logged in). I put my initials into a definition for the same reason that, when I edit a text file and email it back to someone, I might put notes in brackets and my initials at the end of those notes. It might have been unnecessary given the way the software tracked changes, but lots of us were new to wikis at that point.
I don't think anyone was under the impression that the glossary entries in the printed book IF Theory would list all the contributors to each short definition, or even one contributor, were they? I could be wrong, but that would seem like an unreasonable expectation. Perhaps people think they will be acknowledged as having helped all together in a paragraph somewhere, which seems reasonable.
by gleaning information from two places and reformatting it for the IFWiki, I feel confident that I'm not violating any copyrights.
If you should not feel confident that something you added was added legally, you should really think about it and consider removing it from the wiki, not because I'm telling you to, but based on the agreement you made upon submitting that material and because you are exposing Dave to potential legal problems if you don't. If you, for instance, pieced together sentences from other people's writing without permission to do so, I would suspect that that was a copyright violation. You can of course include any facts that you learn from anywhere, if you write the text describing them yourself.
Finally, I am really sorry about your fears, disgust, horror, troubled imaginations, displeasure about the way other people have contributed to ifwiki, and the other negative parts of the internal narrative you included in your post. My belief is that a wiki is a collaborative writing system; for people to write together effectively, they need to discuss problems they have with the writing process or the overall direction of their project. I appreciate your starting the discussion, although I wish you had done it sooner. Please keep us actively in the loop about what you think of the project, and of other people's proposals and contributions, as we continue to work on ifwiki together.
--Nm 01:26, 20 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)