WeRelate talk:Licensing


The question that we're trying to answer in the discussion below is: what rights would you like other people to have to the copyrightable content you contribute to WeRelate? Please contribute your opinions! We hope to reach a consensus on this question by the end of August.

(We have put section headings at the start of each topic, which should make discussion be easier for others coming in later to follow. The first paragraph or two under each heading was written by Amelia and/or Solveig and/or Dallan, but the new headings may have obscured the authorship a little. Please indent responses (by using colons at the start of your paragraphs) and sign and date your contributions (by using four tildes or the squiggle in the editing bar), so that readers know "who to talk to" and can see which comments are possibly superseded. An "original" author replying to responses can start a new non-indented para.)


Licenses for particular pages or types of page

License for ancestor pages


At the end of August we plan to provide specially-formatted wiki pages on WeRelate to make it easy to publish biographies and factual information about your ancestors. These pages will encourage users to create biographies of their ancestors. Eventually we plan to provide a mechanism so that people can create these pages automatically by uploading GEDCOM files. The first question we would like to discuss is whether these ancestor wiki pages should be covered by the GFDL or a less-restrictive license such as CC-BY-SA or CC-BY.

Let's compare GFDL vs. CC-BY-SA. If you published a book containing biographies written by others that you found on WeRelate, you would need to include a copy of the GFDL somewhere in the book (probably in the back). And if you published more than 100 copies, you would need to include an electronic version of the book or a URL where others could download an electronic version of the book. If ancestor pages were covered instead by CC-BY-SA, you would just need to include this URL somewhere in the book: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/.

Let's compare CC-BY-SA vs. CC-BY. Suppose you wrote a biography about your grandmother on WeRelate, and someone found that biography, extended it with two more paragraphs, and published it in a book covered by a traditional "all rights reserved" copyright. Do you have the right to cut-and-paste those two new paragraphs into the biography on WeRelate? If ancestor pages are covered by a CC-BY-SA license, then you do, because the extension of your biography is considered a derivative work, and must be made available under the same CC-BY-SA license, which gives you a right to re-use it. If the ancestor pages are covered by a CC-BY license, then you do not, because CC-BY does not require derivative works to be published under the same license. So long as you are properly attributed as the source of the biography, the other person is free to restrict rights to the derivative work.

License for articles and user pages


If ancestor pages are covered by a license other than GFDL, and articles and user pages are covered by GFDL, it will not be possible to copy-and-paste copyrighted information between ancestor pages and articles and user pages. You could copy-and-paste if you were the sole author, but if you find a great story about one of your ancestor in an article that you did not write or that others also contributed to, or you found it on someone else's user page, you would not be able to copy that story into an ancestor page if the article was covered by the GFDL and the ancestor-page was covered by CC-BY-SA or CC-BY.

Given the above, a question is: If the consensus is to change the license for ancestor pages to CC-BY-SA or CC-BY, should we change the license for articles and user pages to the same license? In addition to being able to copy-and-paste between ancestor pages, changing to one of these two licenses would also allow people to include articles and user pages in books without having to include the text of the GFDL in the book. The CC-BY license would further allow people to take articles and user pages from WeRelate, extend them with additional information, and charge to view the extended articles without needing to make them freely available.

License for names, places, and sources pages


We should also ask: Should we change the license for names and places and source pages to a less-restrictive one like CC-BY-SA or CC-BY? There are two complications:

  • The descriptions and histories found on some place pages have been copied from Wikipedia articles and must therefore remain under the GFDL.
  • The descriptions found on some source pages have been copied from the Open Directory Project and must therefore remain under the DMOZ license.

The license chosen for the content of name, place, and source pages would therefore apply just to contributions coming from WeRelate users, not to the text from Wikipedia or the Open Directory Project.

Dual licensing


If we decide to go with a Creative Commons license for some or all of the pages on WeRelate, another option available is to "dual license" the content under both the Creative Commons license and the GFDL. Dual-licensing the content means that people are free to use the content under either license. For example, a dual-license GFDL and CC-BY-SA would allow someone to copy pages from WeRelate into Wikipedia or other websites that are under GFDL, so long as proper attribution to the content authors was given. A non-dual-licensed CC-BY-SA license would not allow people to copy pages from WeRelate into Wikipedia.

Need to obtain permission if we change


If the consensus is that we should change the license for articles, user pages, and/or names, places, and sources, we will then need to contact all contributors and get their permission to change the license. If we can't find a contributor, or they don't agree to changing the license, their contributions will have to be removed from the wiki.

No, I think discussion elsewhere on this page suggests that we need only tag those pages separately. Robin Patterson 18:57, 15 August 2006 (MDT)

Facts are not copyrightable, so what's the big deal?


My main issue: There is almost no such thing as "copyrighted information about your ancestors on WeRelate." I'm not going to give you legal advice, but it looks like whoever is is being extremely over-cautious. "Information about" people consists of facts. Facts are not copyrightable. Even when those facts are combined into pedigrees, there is no "choice" or "creativity" that goes into a pedigree - the relationships are facts themselves. Even if the pedigree isn't actually correct, it is presented as fact and thus there is no copyright protection.

Furthermore, because the facts about people (or places, or names, for that matter) are not copyrightable, while the actual narrative of a story about an ancestor is copyrighted, that story can be rewritten using the same facts without implicating copyright. Giving credit to the person who passed on the story is polite (and academically honest) but not legally required.

The reason I bother to point this out is that it changes the framing of your questions. Because so much information on this site is fact-based, pretty much all that is left for licensing purposes are the actual words used on the site. While it is important to control verbatim copying of those words, any license used on this site will not have very much effect on the information gathering research most people are engaged in because they can still use virtually all the information they find. They can even copy it verbatim, it sounds like. So we're talking about how the attribution should work. It seems to me that should be as simple as possible. Simple might mean having one consistent license, or just clearly stated rules. I don't think I have an opinion, but I do think whatever approach should aim to educate the casual users, beginners, and the just lazy - the ones most likely to run afoul of the license requirements. --Amelia.Gerlicher 11:10, 9 August 2006 (MDT)

Whether genealogical fact sets are copyrightable is not really the issue. Although most, if not all, non-wiki gen-sites assert copyright on their content, I don't believe the courts have ever addressed the issue. The real question is how do we want the content we contribute (articles and biographies) to be treated by others. Amelia for one, has contributed a wonderful research guide for Massachusetts. She has obviously spent untold hours gathering the information and creating tables to coherently display the information. I continue to be impressed with her scholarship. Many have written articles, added information and generally contributed to the knowledge base of the community. I salute you all. How do we want our work treated by others? Do we want to share and share alike or are we willing to contribute material to someone's research and not have free access to the extensions? If someone uses your article as a foundation for their work, adds to it, and then publishes the combined work--do you want to the right to freely use the new material? Or, do we want to let other people republish our work combined with theirs under the a more restrictive copyright of their choice? Finally there is a practical issue concerning the republishing of the license. The GFDL requires the republication of a lengthy license agreement whereas the Creative Commons licenses require only that you publish a url. It really comes down to how do we want other people to treat our contributions.--sq 00:02, 11 August 2006 (MDT)
I agree that most of the information on the site is going to be fact-based, so maybe the license isn't that big of a deal. But for material that is copyrightable, I think it is good to talk about the license for it. For example, someday someone might want to publish a book containing printouts of their ancestors on WeRelate, and several of them might include biographies written by other people. Are we ok with asking them to either rewrite the biographies or include a copy of the GFDL in their book? If we are, then we can probably continue to use the GFDL since that's what we're already using. If not, we should switch over to a license that doesn't have an "include a copy of the license" requirement on distribution. It's probably not a huge deal, but since it's difficult to change the license once there are a lot of contributors (because you have to get everyone's buy-in to the new license), we thought now would be a good time to discuss it.--Dallan 20:56, 11 August 2006 (MDT)
Yes, best to discuss it now if not sooner!! Robin Patterson 18:57, 15 August 2006 (MDT)

I didn't mean to imply I don't think we should talk about the license, I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that the explanation page makes this sound like a larger issue than it is: attribution for a specific and fairly narrow type of sharing material. (Plus I admit over-claiming copyrightability is a pet peeve of mine, particularly in this context.) As for which license, I don't think we should get rid of the requirement that additions be freely available. I also think including a copy of the license is not a useful requirement, and if we can drop that without increasing confusion (because there are different licenses), I'm all for it. --Amelia.Gerlicher 21:33, 11 August 2006 (MDT)

Thanks for the feedback. It sounds like you'd be in favor of switching to CC-BY-SA as long as it didn't increase confusion, since place text from Wikipedia would have to remain under GFDL. Hopefully we can get opinions from other people as well. We'll be including a reference to this disucssion in our newsletter soon.--Dallan 11:21, 12 August 2006 (MDT)

Amelia said "Facts are not copyrightable. Even when those facts are combined into pedigrees, there is no "choice" or "creativity" that goes into a pedigree - the relationships are facts themselves.". If we take facts from several sources about a person named "John Smith", isn't there some choice or creativity when a researcher claims that the various people named "John Smith" are in fact all the same person?--

This is a good question, and one which we're trying to avoid because there are people with opinions on both sides and we don't want the licensing discussion to become a discussion of whether or not GEDCOM's are copyrightable. For now, let's avoid the issue by focusing on things that are clearly copyrightable, such as biographies and research guides.--Dallan 12:36, 17 August 2006 (MDT)
Our discussion is really, "How do you want your wiki contributions treated by others? Do you want the right to use any extentions to your material? Do you want the license (and if so which license) printed with any republication? Reprinting the license keeps your freely contributed material free. Or maybe, you'd just like to share what you've learned and don't really care what other people do with it. Whether or not, (and for that matter, what type of) genealogical material is copyrightable really doesn't matter for this discussion. Its all about what copyright notice and restrictions you want displayed with your articles, ancestor pages, and other text. How do you want other people to treat your material?--sq 11:45, 17 August 2006 (MDT)

Move this material??

Note: this page used to be called "Licensing issues discussion page" It has since been changed.

A "discussion page" should not be such a mixture of fact and discussion. And a MediaWiki site shouldn't even have a page with "discussion page" in its name. Please see project:licensing and move some of this to it and the rest to its automatically-created discussion page! Robin Patterson 19:29, 14 August 2006 (MDT)

I'm with Robin. Can we make this a watercooler topic or something? Cheryl

Done. I've also added a link to here from the WeRelate:Watercooler page.--Dallan 10:33, 15 August 2006 (MDT)

Haven't you all done WELL? (Yes!) So this para can be archived or deleted quite soon. --Robin Patterson 18:24, 15 August 2006 (MDT)

I added discussion links for each factual section... One thing that I hate about wiki is the chaos in the discussion section that usually results. By adding sub discussion links discussions can be kept focused and somewhat orderly. H0riz0n 00:03, 17 August 2006 (MDT)
I saw that page and moved the discussion back here before I read your comment on this page, because the page was oddly-named Talk:WeRelate talk/Facts are not copyrightable. Having pages for discussion sections could be a good idea, but could we have them be sub-pages of the discussion page; e.g., WeRelate talk:Licensing/Facts are not copyrightable, and move the content from the discussion page section in question to that page?--Dallan 12:44, 17 August 2006 (MDT)

GFDL distribution requirements questions

The GFDL has two requirements on distribution that go beyond what CC-BY-SA requires:

  1. include a copy of the GFDL with any distribution of the material, and
  2. include an electronic copy (or a link to an electronic copy) of the material if they distribute more than 100 copies of the material.

Why not just have the two requirements at the bottom of each page so that they could be easily copied and pasted to whatever documents the person is working on? Would that not be easy and still fill the requirements? --FamOlson 17:33, 14 August 2006 (MDT)

The text of the GFDL is a four-page document, so it would be awkward to include it at the bottom of each page. We could pretty-easily include a link to the page at the bottom of the printed version of the page, but that doesn't help us with the first requirement.--Dallan 10:33, 15 August 2006 (MDT)