Monday, December 26, 2011

Why require attribution? A Creative Commons license discussion item

When you choose a Creative Commons license, attribution is a given. Why?

One might argue that the notion of the individual author or creator is an invention of the Enlightenment, and one that may be beginning to fall by the wayside as the potential of the web for social creativity is starting to emerge. For example, Wikipedia uses the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license. How does this make sense for a collaboratively produced encyclopedia where individual articles are not signed by authors?

Sometimes we want attribution; other times, however, attribution would slow down the spread of great ideas. The "Occupy" movement advanced so rapidly precisely through such sharing, and the Occupy leaderful approach would not fit well at all with a focus on individual attribution.

In my own area of scholarly communication, attribution through citing is a long-standing tradition, one that makes sense as citations are important to the career as a scholar, and (more importantly) citations are necessary so that the reader can review the cited sources. However, these practices have been in place for centuries without need of legal licensing, so why would this be required through a license now?

In order to have a way of checking for further permissions, a means of contacting the licensor is necessary. This is not the same as attribution.