Talk:Founding Agreement

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Founding Agreement comments by David Welbourn on 1-19-2005 at 22:13 CST

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)

My response to DavidW's comments

Information wants to be free, the saying goes. But somebody's got to pay the bills. It's 1 AM, and I may not be entirely coherent, but I think I want to respond to this while at least some of my thoughts are still clear in my head. Therefore, in an entirely haphazard order:

Ownership: Dave says that he doesn't own IFwiki. Yet, he is actively promoting it, and trying to guide it. Do these conflict? I'm not sure. I think that it would be laughable if we required him to not try to help build IFwiki, just to make sure he wasn't in a position to claim ownership of it, especially since he currently pays the hosting bills. The wiki hasn't hit critical mass yet, whatever that may be; we're unlikely to see people taking an interest in it the way they do with Wikipedia. Once there's active community interest, I could see asking Dave to not take so much responsibility, but then, once there's active community interest, such a request probably wouldn't be necessary. I can imagine a system whereby anyone who wanted to could download a server executable and run a mirror. The wiki would give it copies of the most-accessed articles, up to the disk space the user was willing to devote to it, and the whole thing could be run with a load-balancing scheme, thus freeing Dave of any particular responsibility with server costs. At present, the wiki does not even approach the kind of situation that would make the effort involved in setting this up worthwhile, though it does fulfill some of my Gibson-inspired daydreams. I guess what I'm saying is, in a perfect world, Dave wouldn't take ownership, because there would be no need for it. This world isn't perfect, though.

Copyright and information: As I understand it, the classic legal example of this situation involves a dispute between phone companies over telephone book information. The thing is, telephone numbers have very little to do with prose writing. It is well enough to say that "So Far is a game written by Andrew Plotkin in 1996. It is written in Inform, compiled for the Z-Machine, and won four XYZZY awards in 1996." This is all information, quite clearly copyright-free. But it tells you very little about the game. It's part of a taxonomy, not an actual description. Baf's guide says that So Far is "haunting and dreamlike". That's description. That's useful for the person who wants to know a bit more about the game. Baf's description of the game is also copyrighted, I think, because this is actual prose writing about what kind of game So Far is, and what the player can expect from it. If I have caught the vision of IFwiki properly, there will be far more description on the wiki than there will be taxonomy, so the concerns about attributing names to informational lists seem a little overplayed.

Two licenses?: To the extent that some of the material available on IFwiki is purely informational, I do not think it ought to be covered by a license at all; indeed, the judicial decision I referenced above may make it impossible to do so. At the same time, original material, including those essays that DavidW derided, can be copyrighted, and these are a valid target for a license. It seems to me that the history mechanism in the wiki provides a valid reference for individual contributions to articles, so that it would be appropriate to have them attributed generally to IFwiki. The difficulty there is that IFwiki is not a person, and cannot own a copyright or license content, or so my understanding goes. Perhaps we need a IFwiki foundation (which also might hold the domain name and help manage the complicated mirroring scheme I mentioned above), but that is probably something for the future.

Attribution: I don't see why it is wrong to have attribution for genuinely creative content on the wiki. If we really want to be a resource for people, then when people see an article reproduced elsewhere, they should be able to follow a link to IFwiki and find more material of interest to them. Of course, tables of information, like the 2004 games for XYZZY awards, need not be attributed; Eileen's perfectly capable of saying whatever needs to be said about the source of that collected information on her own.

Okay, no solid conclusion here, but I think I said what I wanted to say. I know I'm not around for much of the discussions, which is part of why I'm putting this here. Feel free to remove it or move it elsewhere, should that be appropriate. --Jon 01:51, 20 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)


I (Sean--note that starting an essay with "I" and signing at the bottom just makes everybody scroll) am a little surprised to see nick respond as if everything about the license is obviously hunky-dory and act like DW is the only one to have ever expressed these concerns, since, lo and behold, I made many similar points on ifMUD while we awaited DW's written reply.

The CC-SA license is a complex piece of legal writing, and it is not always particularly clear how things are meant to apply to a wiki-like scenario. (Please forgiving my lack of clever formatting here, but the 'editing help' popup is empty.) For example, DW asks: "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." Nick replies, "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." I would guess DW's point was, in terms of the CC-SA license, is the "Work" to which it refers supposed to be the whole wiki, or the individual contribution. The answer is (I assume) that each editor licenses each individual contribution ("to the wiki", in some sense) as its own Work under the terms of the CC-SA. The entire Wiki is a "Collective Work" under the terms of the CC-SA.

Note that authors don't actually license anything to the wiki; they license their content in general, and the wiki is reproduced under the terms of the license.

The big issue is attribution and how this interacts with being edited. Jon says (and people said this on mud), "It seems to me that the history mechanism in the wiki provides a valid reference for individual contributions to articles", and it's great that it *seems* so to him, but does it really mean that? Do you want to take a chance on that interpretation and get burned later? (Some of these issues might be helped by writing a "what the license means to the wiki" article that documents all of these sorts of assmuptions. This might have no true legal standing, but it might actually help in that in some hypothetical legal case, someone says, "no, our interpretation of the license was _blah_", and you can point at the interpretation article and say the person contributed after reading it. This is something like how legal decisions sometimes make reference to the congressional record to understand what the intent of the law was.)

Nick produces the big, central, troubling quote from the license, commenting, "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," he adds.

This presents a number of problems for the process of continuous editing and refactoring that goes on a living, healthy wiki. First is the problem of copyright notices; second is the problem of attribution; third is the problem of 'crediting the use of the Work in the Derivative Work'.

There is subtle context in applying these to a wiki. At any instantaneous moment, the wiki is a collection of static pages that can be browsed. Over time, the wiki is an editable document in which one editor can edit the documents of another. So the question is how the three items above apply in these two cases.

Well, to understand that, we need the clause nick dropped from the front of that paragraph: "If you distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform the Work or any Derivative Works or Collective Works," [insert above]

So, the first case of this ("distribute [...] or [...] perform the Work") isn't about editing, it's just about displaying. If the Work (an article submission or article update by an editor) contains copyright notices or other attributions, then these must be shown when distributing / publically displaying the work. Well, that's trivial; the wiki shows everything the author submitted. Done.

Now, what are the cases about editing? Well, the wiki hands an editor a page to be edited. The editor creates a Derivative Work of that Work, and hands it back to the wiki. The wiki will then publically display it. But the important constraint is on the editor while handing it back to the wiki, which is presumably the 'distribute' case of it. So, an editor of an existing page, pressing 'save page', has the following obligations to the Work on that page that he is creating a Derivative Work of:

1&2. "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": so you have to preserve copyright notices and bylines that are in the actual text (unless you delete all of the text to which the copyright or byline applied, presumably, although this isn't entirely clear)

3. "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")": this would seem to require you to write something like "based on the previous wiki page". People are assuming that the infrastructure of changelogs (or simply the fact that it's a wiki) means that you don't have to do this, but I think a close, literal reading of the license, there is no other "valid interpretation", as nick said. When you press "save page", surely you're submitting _the contents of the text box_ as a (Derivative) Work, not the entire constructed page that the wiki will create out of it that provides the context and changelogs? The text box contents are all that you personally are "distributing", so surely that submission itself is the Derivative Work, and you personally are the person who bears a responsibility to make your Derivative Work meet the terms of the license.

So I don't think this is even close to cut & dried trivial the way nick thinks it is. Sure you can make a case for interpreting it as he suggests, but there are lots of other cases you can make. They may be dumb, stupid, cases, but this is a legal document, and the whole point of that is supposed to be to nail things down concretely and specifically and as unambiguously as possible.

Now, I don't think this legal nit-picking is really all that helpful or useful--I just think it's disturbing to pretend that the complexity of this legal document isn't there.

The most important point, which I think people agree on, is that it requires preservation of copyright notices and bylines. This makes editing a wiki really a chore. How much of the content does a given copyright notice or byline apply to? This matters if you decide to split a page up into multiple pages.

I think people may have missed DW's points about the essays: his point wasn't that he disagreed with the contents of the essay, but that the essay format is a problematic use of the wiki for exactly the same sorts of reasons. It doesn't invite collaborative editing. Now, there's nothing wrong with using a wiki to collaboratively edit a collection of documents that are themselves not collaboratively edited; it's just not his vision of a wiki. The question is, is that really other people's vision of it? Because if so, then worries about how you refactor and split pages and deal with copyright notices and bylines are irrelevant. But if you think a wiki page is supposed to be a flexible and fluid thing, they seem to become a serious hassle.

Now, one solution, as nick says, would be to have rules against bylines and just delete content involving them. But then it's not clear what the attribution part of the license requirement buys you, and you might as well have a non-attributive license. (The only thing it buys you is attribution of the whole thing to IFwiki, and that leads to DW's conspiracy-theory self-aggrandizement concerns. I don't see it that way myself, but I can see why he'd draw that conclusion given no other evidence about the reason for attribution.) The thing is, there aren't many non-attributive licenses. Wikipedia's requires attribution to Wikipedia. In fact, the only really 'allow derivative works, no attribution, share alike' license is putting things in the public domain.

I'm not actually saying you _want_ to put this project in the public domain (although I'm not sure where else DW could have been going), but you should probably enumerate the reasons why that would be unsatisfactory. Here are some possible reasons it might be unsatisfactory:

  • 1. "People can take my essay and turn it into their own essay and not credit me!" -- you'd have the same problem if you disallowed bylines
  • 2. "People can reproduce our wiki and not give us credit" -- is that so bad? this reason opens you to DW's complaint ("Are they looking forward to seeing their names or "IFWiki" plastered onto all things IF")
  • 3. "It prevents us from putting copyrighted materials from non-wiki sources onto the wiki" -- so will _any_ license unless the original material was already licensed under a compatible license; e.g. if IFwiki uses CC-SA, then this argument applies to any source material not CC-SA. How much of that material is there really? How much would you be giving up?
  • 4. "It may discourage people from contributing if they don't want their material in the public domain." How so? What would those people actually be losing, compared to a no-bylines-no-copyright rule with CC-SA? (This is just #1 in more ambiguous guyse)
  • 5. "People can make money off our stuff." That's already true under CC-SA; you want "by-nc-sa" if you want a non-commercial license.
  • 6. "It's not share-alike: people don't have to public-domain-ify things they make out if it." Well, yeah, that's the main reason to prefer Copyleft. I don't know why there's no non-attributive but share-alike CC license. Aha, there is one, but it's an "old" one and it doesn't show up in their chooser. I'm not sure why they deprecated it. Hmm, looks like they used to have a full suite of non-attributive ones and deprecated them all. No explanation, though they still link to them all, so I assume they didn't conclude that they were unenforceable.

I presume there are some other reasons I haven't thought of. Of the above, the only one that seems a serious issue to me is #3, and I think that's just evidence of why trying to make IFwiki be all things to all people is going to be problematic for licensing reasons. You don't really want to absorb all other content into a wiki under one big license.

I don't think it's wrong to call CC-SA viral. The "SA" part _is_ viral, pretty much by definition. (Just to point out what a non-viral thing looks like, consider public domain; it doesn't put any restrictions on derivative works. You can copyright a work derived from the public domain. Yes, CC-SA gives you more rights than no license, but that doesn't make it non-viral.) It may well be that it's perfectly fine to have a viral license, but why pretend it's not?

However, DW gets one thing wrong about the viral nature of the copyright notices in CC-SA. He says, "Never to be erased or expunged because a Creative Commons license won't let you revoke it once applied." This is not true. First off, you can of course relicense anything you created under some other, less restrictive license (e.g. one that doesn't require the copyright notice). Second, CC-SA has an explicit clause allowing you to DEMAND that people remove attribution to you (so you can disassociate yourself from derivative work you don't like), and it seems to me you could apply this to strip copyright notices in the wild for other purposes. (At least, legally; the technological/sociological problem is still there.)

I don't know under what terms people uploaded material to Dennis' IF Glossary wiki. Perhaps it was the "we're all friends here" license. If there was something more explicit, and the relicensing to IFwiki is incompatible and yet people are undertaking it lightly, that's a bit disturbing. Otherwise, though, it doesn't seem like that big a deal as an analogy to the future of IFwiki, since the whole point of this exercise is to make clear under what terms such a transfer could ever happen in the future.

I hereby place this section in the public domain (so I don't need to sign a founder's agreement). --Sean 06:33, 20 Jan 2005 (Pacific Standard Time)

What the Portland Pattern Repository has done in this area...

The Portland Pattern Repository was the first ever wiki. They've had their own discussions about copyright and licensing. I hope this doesn't add to confusion, but I thought that looking at similar discussions that have happened before might help somewhat. Or cloud the water. I hate not having MUD access at home... --Jon 12:32, 20 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

I don't understand your perspective on "viral," Sean. I envision the license I suggest allowing exactly the sorts of use that I described. Dennis would not somehow "infect" his whole course packet if he wants to modify an article from ifwiki and include it; the modified article would be the thing covered under by-sa 2.0. I still see the proposal as a way to grant strictly more rights to people to use ifwiki's content. I don't see it changing anything about editing or updating ifwiki -- it's a license for other people, not for ifwiki. If you submit something to a wiki (or any other site), of course it can be used as part of that site and people can do whatever they do with it usually -- edit and update it, in the case of a wiki. Why else would you have submitted it? There's even an agreement on every submission page to this effect, so there's no question about it.

But I'd suggest we take a step back. At a high level, the options as I see them are:

1. Do not license any of the material on ifwiki; that is, do not make it available to others for publication, modification, etc. This is the current situation, so we can just do nothing if we want to do this case.

2. Make the contents of ifwiki more available by declaring all or part of ifwiki to be available under some license.

I thought everyone would want (2), and I thought CC by-sa 2.0 would be a noncontroversial choice, as it's one of the most liberal 2.0 licenses that imposes the restriction that modifications are also covered by it. (A reasonable restriction, I think.) Also, Dave is the only one would would discuss this with me on ifMUD at first, so since no one else wanted to comment or object online, I went ahead and posted the proposal. Clearly, it is controversial, so I was wrong.

Can someone now suggest an alternative? Either (1), or a different form of (2)? Or some option I'm missing, even though the law of the excluded middle seems to suggest there is nothing else but "no license" and "some license"?

--Nm 15:04, 20 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)