The comments period announced here for the minor tweak to the attribution language across all of our core licenses proposed for version 2.5 is drawing to a close. As befits a minor tweak, there has not been a tremendous amount of criticism or issues raised with the revised suggested language. Some important comments, however, raised some complex issues and require some discussion.
Firstly, concern was expressed that the attribution language would interfere with copyright notices; that because the attribution could now be, not to the author, but to a wiki or a university or funding entity, that this would cause a removal of copyright notices. This tweaked attribution language, however, does not to impact a copyright notice. The tweaked attribution language does not require attribution to follow copyright ownership or copyright notices. Who owns copyright in a work is a separate matter (a behind-the-scenes matter, if you like) between the parties involved in the process of creating the work. So, for example, an author may own copyright in an article they prepare but the agreement between the author and the institute that funded the work requires some form of attribution that acknowledges that the work was produced with funds from the institute. Similarly, an author may wish to be credited as the author of the work for reputational purposes but their university actually owns the copyright to their work, pursuant to their employment agreement. In the case of wikis, attribution can be to the wiki but each author may still own copyright to their contribution to the wiki (unless there is a separate agreement transferring ownership to the wiki). Finally, journals, particularly open access journals, may wish to be acknowledged as the source of first publication of the work even though they publish the article under only an exclusive or non-exclusive license (and do not take an assignment of title). It should also be noted that the status of copyright notices and the issue of correctly identifying the copyright owner(s) of a work are no more complex under the tweaked attribution language than under the existing attribution language. Under the existing attribution language, credit had to be given to the author; however, as noted above, due to employment relationships or other contractual relationships, the author may have transfered title to the work to some other party and retained only the right of accreditation.
Secondly, there was concern that the tweaked attribution language was somehow proscriptive – that it now dictated to wikis how they had to structure attribution. This is not the case. The tweaked attribution language contains “and/or” language – thus, it allows a variety of different attribution posssibilities – to the author, to a wiki, to an author and a publisher, to an author and a wiki – as many parties as the author or licensor see fit.
This minor tweak is important to enable flexibility in attribution and thereby facilitate a larger number of adopters, including those who have more complex requirements regarding attribution – such as wikis and academic journals. Consequently, Creative Commons is working to give effect this change as soon as possible. If anyone has any additional concerns, please feel free to contribute them to the discussion taking place here. We are looking to close the comments period on Tuesday May 31, 2005.