Reading the comments in Zeeshan Ali’s blog make me a bit sad that the issue of giving credit was somehow brushed aside instead of fomenting a good debate on the nature of credit within our communities. I would have to agree that Zeeshan’s post was a bit polarizing and in any polarized situation people tend to retreat to their corners and bend their arguments around the space they feel they need to defend. For the sake of academics let’s take it from a different angle and examine the nature of credit in GNOME.
Being that no license that is used by GNOME has an attribution clause (besides having to keep copyright notices intact) is it legal not to give attribution in a document which references a licensed work?
Perfectly legal. It has been noted that there are attribution licenses but only one is accepted by the OSI and none are compatible with the GPL or its derivatives.
What about ethical, especially if the author has requested it?
This one is up for debate. If the author has not legally bound you to do so it is correct that it could be needlessly burdensome to list out every contributor in every press release. This is the number one reason why attribution licenses are frowned upon. However it behooves an entity to point out and acknowledge the contributions of others, a topic I will go into later. It is utterly unethical to claim credit for others work or use language that implies such.
Why is credit important then if things can be taken and used legally without attribution?
Like it or not, everyone has their own reasons for contributing to the Open Source ecosystem (shockingly we are a diverse bunch). Far from being the vestige of communism that many people tried to paint the Free Software and Open Source movements in the early days, the ecosystem is a true free market. Remember the free in Free Software is about freedom not price. The price paid for people releasing their code into the wild increasingly these days has been money but is still overwhelmingly supported by code being contributed back, recognition from peers and credit for the time spent not doing something else. To push aside giving people credit for that work that they have done runs the risk that they will not contribute in the future. Credit is the grease that allow our cogs to spin freely. Karl’s contribution to some may seem small but if it wasn’t him would anyone else step up to the to do the same things?
So if putting every author of every package on a press release is prohibitively expensive what should we be doing?
Language and attitude are key here, especially in public. If an author feels they aren’t getting enough credit it is something to look into. Words should spell out what has come from the hard work of external contributors, because if after all we are willing to praise ourselves for our own contributions then acknowledging that we stand on the shoulders of giants shouldn’t be a burden. Blogs and talks are excellent places to give credit. The kernel talks often do this very well even though they can’t list out every contributor, and I recently saw an animation of the development of python that excellently visualized all of the contributors over a period of time.
Credit where, credit is due. It is an important part of our culture. Without it the ecosystem breaks down and that is a large price to pay for not saying thank you. Viva La Upstream!!![read this post in: ar de es fr it ja ko pt ru zh-CN ]