Tricki
a repository of mathematical know-how

Licensing policy

Licensing policy

Several people have asked about the Tricki's licensing policy, so I thought I'd start off a thread about it. I don't know much about such matters, but there seem to be two main types of 'open' licence, the Creative Commons licences and the GNU Free Documentation License. As far as I can tell, the latter seems to be aimed more at software documentation, though it's also used for material on Wikipedia. I think I read somewhere that Wikipedia is gradually moving towards Creative Commons-type licences, however, and these seem more applicable to us as well since they relate more directly to creative work rather than documentation. I therefore suggest that we adopt a Creative Commons-based licence for material uploaded to the Tricki. As a preliminary suggestion to kick-start discussion, we might go for the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike licence. I think it would work as follows.

Any content uploaded to the Tricki would automatically be placed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike licence. Copyright of that piece of content would thus remain with the author, but certain rights would be granted to others, as specified by the licence. These rights include copying and redistributing the content, but only under certain conditions. The copyright holder, i.e., the original author of that piece of content, would not be able to revoke those rights, but would be able to grant additional ones, such as allowing for commercial use. This description would apply to all content, whether it be in the form of a new article, an addition to an existing article or a comment.

There might be some issues about what happens with minor edits: which edits would be considered minor and would thus not require the permission of whomever made them if someone wanted to publish an article commercially? I would imagine that this would not be a big problem, however, since if someone wanted to publish an article and include an edit they considered minor, and if the person who made that edit disagrees with its 'minor status', then the person wanting to publish the article would probably not have much of a problem re-editing that bit of text, seeing as they consider it minor.

There are several other flavours of Creative Commons licences, and one can choose whether one allows commercial use or not, which I'm guessing might be the biggest point of contention.

Comments?

Copyright of that piece of content would thus remain with the author

This seems a bit strange — if someone wrote an article and other people came along and changed it beyond recognition, the original author would still own the copyright, even though he would no longer have anything to do with the article?

For example, suppose someone creates a stub with a single sentence describing what it should be about, and then someone comes along and turns it into a proper article. It seems that the copyright holder shouldn't be the person who created the stub.

What I meant is that the copyright of the actual content that is uploaded remains with the author. This content is not the same as the article as it may evolve over time – it is only the original piece of content.

It's not clear to me how copyright would be affected by restructuring an article – moving paragraphs around and changing the order of the content significantly, for example. Whoever did significant restructuring would probably be able to claim copyright over the new structure.

But the only time I can see these things ever being important is if someone wants to use an article for commercial purposes without rewriting things, which I'm not sure is a very likely scenario (though I may very well be wrong there).

If we opt for a 'commercial use allowed' licence, then we wouldn't really have such problems, but some people may find the idea of having someone try to make money directly out of one's work a bit distasteful, even if proper attribution is required.

It isn't clear that the contributors to Tricki are of the same mind about who owns the article. I received a suggestion (perfectly reasonable) for minor rewording in my article and wondered, why didn't they just change it? Anyone can change Wikipedia articles. At some other sites (PlanetMath?) authors own their articles. I vote for anyone-can-change.

The idea is definitely that people should feel comfortable changing things. If someone has significant doubts that the change would be for the better, then posting a comment makes sense, but if one is reasonably sure that the change would be good then one should just go ahead and make it.

The reason that the original author isn't listed on the article is because we don't particularly want articles to be thought of as belonging to someone. Collaboration is what it's all about.

I have put up a draft for a proposed licensing policy on the Tricki. I would appreciate comments, particularly from existing contributors and people who know more about licensing than I do. (I know very little about the subject.) If the consensus seems to be that this policy looks okay, then I shall go ahead and a link to it on the edit page for articles so that everyone is aware of it. Also, if anyone who has already written an article or made other contributions is not happy with the policy, then it would be good if you voiced your concerns here. We shall have to request that everyone who has made non-minor contributions retroactively licenses their contribution under whatever site policy we settle on.

I think CC is good enough for our purposes. Nevertheless, I would add to the Attribution the condition that the words "via Tricki (www.tricki.org)" be explicitly written (in a decent size) somewhere (in addition to the link for the original page). It will help the Tricki to get an entity (and gives the site the publicity it deserves - because they are citing or copying from it).

Collaboration is definitely what it's all about. I personally think that such commercial issues should be avoided. Although such issues are not common,they can turn really nasty. Whatever policy Tricki decides, it should settle the matter once and for all.