Currently, the most widely cited case in the United States and in other Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions is Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Sew. Co. [499 U.S. 340 (1991)], where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a simple alphabetical listing of telephone numbers did not merit sufficient originality to be copyrighted. WikiPedia:Feist_v._Rural covers that, the West Publishing cases and Assessment Technologies v. WIREdata, which is an excellent decision to read for an introduction to the originality issues.
Nonetheless, the CompilationCopyright is encoded in the BerneConvention, and the legislation around the world will probably be extended to include databases in jurisdictions like the United States that don't already do so, although the lack of originality may make such a law in the US unconstitutional and even a treaty doesn't enable Congress to make law contrary to the Constitution.
Some discussion resulted...
You mentioned "don't duplicate the structure" or "summarize wiki making links and pages as we have done". Do you mean that just as an advice (as you clarified to me---"this would be silly anyway" "do not read too much into this"), or do you mean to expressly forbid this? If the former, I think you should clarify the same on fermentwiki---that you mean them just as advice because "it will be silly", if the latter, why? I am no fan of forking, Sunir. I just believe in the RightToFork, or atleast in the right to "emulate". -- DeepakGoel
We agreed [when the site started] that the structure of the site was in keeping with an edited compilation, the "editing" being done by the software, which the site controls. Thus, as Editor, I think I'm expected to make such things clear as necessary. The main reason is to prevent unauthorized mirrors of the site. Mirroring is really unethical. The community here must be able to control its work. Right now we do this by investing the copyright to me. Believe you me, this is yet another "GodKing" power I will devolve to the community at large when appropriate (i.e. when we figure out how to do this stably). -- SunirShah
There is a discussion on that site as to what exactly is forkable. Obviously MeatballWiki itself is not forkable due to the MeatballWikiCopyright (actually, the MeatballWikiCopyright claims that the structure is copyright Meatball as well, but that is what is being debated nevertheless).
I am of the position that although detailed content is under copyright (although bits and pieces of it are quotable), that the general structure of the site is not. I.e. there is no reason that a page just like our CategoryConflict with text like this couldn't be included on a MeatballWikiFork?:
Pages dealing with aspects of conflicts and conflict resolution in general:
1. AssumeGoodFaith 2. CommunityExpectation 3. GettingToYes ...
Pages dealing with conflict on a social scale, within communities, and ways of dealing with it:
1. ParableOfTheBook 2. PeckingOrder ...
And there is no reason that someone else couldn't create summaries of each of those pages, provided it is in their own words. I mean, can the subject headings of an encyclopaedia be copyrighted, or can a PatternLanguage be copyrighted?
Really? Well, in that case, that's ridiculous.
1) We shouldn't support that sort of thing (the principle of copyrighting subject headings and the like; even if they can be copyrighted, they shouldn't be able to be).
2) I don't think we gain anything to forbid that; what does it buy MeatBall to disallow a "structure fork"?
3) I still have some misgivings as to whether this can be copyrighted, although on balance I have to admit that you may be right.
Although #1 and #2 are the most important arguments here, here's a lot more detail on #3.
First, it seems clear that individual wiki titles are not copyrightable, although the compilation of them may be. [This page] cites (I think from US Code of Federal Regulations, 37 CFR 202.1) the following things as "not copyrightable":
(the Code also lists "blank forms") (I dunno what the asterix was for but I assume an exception for compilation).
It seems to me that the subject headings of an encyclopedia and a pattern language would fall under the exemption for "titles, short phrases, slogans, logos", and that the titles of wiki pages would follow similarly.
Second, the fact that titles of a wiki are subject headings of a public discourse may make them uncopyrightable. For example, if you take the first two words out of 5,000 subject headers off SlashDot and then write your own messages to go with each of them, can the company that owns Slashdot get you? I doubt it -- you didn't really copy any "content", just meta-information about the discussion. You are allowed to report on copyrighted content, it is the specific expression which is copyrighted. Meatball is sort of different, however, because in addition to discussion, part of the idea is to make a collaborative document -- so our titles are more "content"ish.
However, that brings up another objection that I think is more valid. To the extent that the collection of subject headings constitutes a concept in itself, that collection may not be copyrightable. I certainly think a PatternLanguage is a concept. For instance, the Big Five personality model has the dimensions Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. I would assume that list isn't copyrightable, even though I would say it "shows originality".
One could argue that the particular choice of titles in a wiki is less of a "concept" and more of an expression of the underlying concept, though. Because of the sheer number of such titles it doesn't seem like each and every particular one can be core to the "concept". For example, AssumeGoodFaith could be replaced by BenefitOfTheDoubt?, right? So is this a specific expression rather than a concept? But, why is it that a new wiki would want to use the same names rather than invent new ones? Precisely because there is a number of people with a shared understanding based on those words. I say that this shows that the pages names (along with the philosophy binding them together) are actually concepts, topics in their own right in the public discourse rather than a specific way of expressing those ideas. So, I don't think a PatternLanguage is copyrightable.
However, MeatBall may have more in its structure than just a single PatternLanguage, so there are probably still specific expressions and collections of things that fall under a compilation copyright. But the solution is to not go through methodically, but rather to just make the new page when it comes up in the forker's mind or the forked site's conversation -- or to copy blocks of pages only as they correspond to a single PatternLanguage. The result will be similar enough to just copying the structure of MeatBall. -- BayleShanks
It's important to also remember that the ownership policy here at MeatballWiki has been carefully designed to make it moot. Cliff hosts the physical site on usemod.com somewhere in the U.S., but much of its functionality is actually on sunir.org in Canada. While Cliff "publishes" the site, I am the Editor. However, each author maintains control of their own contributions. Nonetheles, I claim the compilation, which is also interesting because I am Canadian and live in Canada. So, is the site Canadian or American or global based on its contributors? Is the site Cliff's, mine, or yours, or ours (collectively)? And most importantly, does it matter? -- SunirShah
Well, it does matter legally, but I don't know which laws bind us or how to interpret them. I bet that the law would turn out to be somewhat ambiguous anyhow since much of a wiki is truly a mass community document.
But, still, why would we want to restrict a structure fork even if we could? I don't think the reasons the one would want to disallow a content fork even apply here:
Donating the compilation copyright to the public domain would DevolvePower by leaving the MeatBall project (which is legally identical to SunirShah) with no formal, legal powers in relation to MeatballWiki (as far as we can tell) except for its ability to decide to release time-stamped snapshots of MeatballWiki's content. Note that it does not take away any of the MeatBall project's freedoms, but it does increase the freedoms of everyone else. Clearly, it would however take away some of the MeatBall project's exclusive power, namely the power to sue for violation of the compilation copyright. One effect of this that some consider undesirable is an increase in the chance of a MeatballWikiFork?.
We've been discussing the copyright of this site as if it were immutable, and it is, for the most part, because we can't track down the authors of past content to get their permission to change it. But the compilation copyright is different. It is not owned by hundreds of random people, but by one entity, the MeatBall project. If we don't like the idea of a compilation copyright on MeatballWiki, we can get rid of it.
Most of the arguments in support of closed copyrights on the level of individual contributions don't apply to compilation copyrights.
There is no danger of our reputation being attacked by ContextSwizzling, because our individual contributions are still under individual copyright. It is hard to see how our context could be swizzled in a reputation-damaging way by a competing compilation which has the permission of any individual authors whose content is copied.
No one is making any money off the compilation copyright. Individuals can't. Legally, MeatBall could eventually publish a book, but Sunir has taken the reasonable position that he doesn't want to permanently release anything which was not written explicitly to be released, to avoid violation of ForgiveAndForget, and to avoid ContextSwizzling damage to any contributors. This rules out most of MeatballWiki, and the remaining parts (stuff like TextFormattingRules) wouldn't sell that well.
In fact, the only function that I think the compilation copyright can have is to allow the MeatBall project to legally attack certain sufficiently copy-ing [[MeatballWikiFork?]]s. It also allows MeatBall to threaten forks for which the relevance of the compilation copyright is ambiguous. I don't think either of these activites are productive, in fact, I think legal threats in this context are destructive.
So, one benefit of this petition would be the cessation of legal threats against perceived [[MeatballWikiFork?]]s. The second benefit is elimination of unnecessary power. A disadvantage is the increased chance of a fork (but bear in mind that the only way that the compilation copyright helps to prevent forks is by threat of legal force; you may feel that that cure is worse than the disease). -- BayleShanks
The MeatballWikiCopyright is clear about the purpose of the compilation copyright. It is specifically intended to allow one party (rather than collecting many parties) to prevent mirrors of the site. Forks are mirrors. Changing the copyright in such a major way would require notifying all of the authors of the corpus. It is not clear who owns the compilation copyright either. Is it only Meatball or the authors and Meatball or just the authors? I maintain that it is still valuable to have one point of reference to protect the site from hostile mirrors (the only kind) as we chose initially to deny the RightToFork. Those are the terms of engagement. Now, as Editor, I defend them, to the detriment to my personal reputation.
Meatball does not have permission to publish the site as a book; it does have permission to reprint the AllPages index though. It also has permission to restructure navigation of the site, even if those new interfaces change the character of the site from the original. We would like to improve navigation of the site, even if that means moving away from the traditional HTML 1.0 model of interaction, such as through the TouchGraphWikiBrowser.
You cannot in general remand copyright to the public domain without the permission of all contributors. I don't think it's particularly ethical. I wonder if DaveHarris would agree with your plan. -- SunirShah
But there's no need to even discuss that issue. If the project doesn't actually own anything, then it would make me happy to say, "The MeatBall project gives up all the copyrights that it owns". Then we could figure out who owns the compilation later. If MeatBall owns nothing, then give the empty set.
Simply put, we added the collection copyright at the time because it seemed sensible. To me the copyright still seems sensible. Talking endlessly about the copyright does not seem sensible because I just don't believe it can be changed. I don't think the copyright policy is tragic. You have multiple solutions. Putting direct pressure on me does not help, and that definitely is not sensible because it doesn't add any new knowledge or come to any new or better solutions. Trying to create an artificial imbalance in the forces of the situation does not work well with the Meatball approach to find resolutions to these forces (you know, Patterns). The idea of devolving the compilation copyright was a new idea, but writing about it in terms of a petition was not the way to introduce it.
If you feel you have room to redesign the copyright of the site, do it in a more rigorous and reasonable way than just continuously punking. Find out what the exact legal situation is (consult lawyers); outline all the possibilities discussed so far; enter into a clear, directed discussion with the stakeholders; and then determine what decision has the highest value based as closely on reality--not on idealism--as possible (and that means remaining cogniscent of the particulars of the situation). -- SunirShah
The question is who made the selection and arrangement of the contents? Is it Meatball, the owner of the script that does all the magic, or the IncidentalCollaboration of TheCollective who are writing cogniscent of the magic? I could argue the latter, but I could also argue the former as we have put creative effort into creating IndexingSchemes that authors are not generally cogniscent of when writing. However, we could argue that since authorship of the arrangement is generally anonymous, that copyright reverts to Meatball as described [above]. If, however, someone wrote a small PatternLanguage elsewhere and decided to import it here, that author could claim copyright to that sub-collection by simply saying so--even if we made a derivative work later. Note that we demand a license to do "wiki stuff" to that sub-collection if it is contributed here.
Therefore, I think I could remove the claim to the collection copyright from the copyright proper, even if I may comment on it in the Rationale. But I don't know if I have to. But see the Mirroring section [below]. -- SunirShah
Well someone has to own it. I want to make it a NonProfit corporation. There is no real Meatball, which makes the situation legally ambiguous, possibly involving Cliff. The intent is that I would hold the legal rights so I can go off and create an NPC. -- SunirShah
A few thoughts, not legally founded, though.
I don't think that encyclopedias are really copyright-able. Of course, there is a copyright and they can't be copied in a strict sense, but you can take any information, arrange it and put it in different words - best from three different encyclopedias - and create a new encyclopedia. That's the way encyclopedias were created, are created and will be created in the future. The only really protectable parts of encyclopedias are expert articles about special topics.
The same is true for words and phrases. They are a common good and it doesn't make sense to claim a copyright. Even if we think that in terms like "BarnRaising" some magical insight is caught, I think they are just language and as such they are a common good. We should be just proud when others start to use it. Any such example would show the intellectual influence of MeatBall. Anyone is allowed to cite parts of text in the framework of "fair use" as far as no larger parts (whole chapters) are copied and the relationship between copied text and "original reflection work" is reasonable. This is easily the case with page names, as long as they are far from a 1:1 list copy.
I think that our problems come from not having CommonContent.
Encyclopedia articles are copyrightable. Even if your work is derivitive, maybe even fully derivitive, it is still an original expression. If encyclopedias weren't copyrightable, they wouldn't exist. Words are not copyrightable. Phrases are questionable depending on the country you live in, but generally short phrases are not even if they are trademarkable. Indices and tables of contents are copyrightable, just as tables compiled by someone else are copyrightable.
To quote the Copyright FAQ :
As content starts to build in the alternate-license wikis, we create a parallel collection of pages that is fair game for transplanting. This erodes the "compendium copyright". I don't feel strongly about enforcing the "compendium copyright", but I wanted to point that out. -- anon
I'm not overly sure that the compendium copyright is valid. If you consider the reverse mode too where someone wrote a bunch of pages on their own wiki and then copied them to MeatballWiki, who owns the compendium copyright? Kind of both of us? Only the original author? But then can we edit the compendium? -- SunirShah
I don't quite understand why we are talking about a compendium copyright on OpenMeatballWiki at all. The whole point for me is to create an open repository, i.e. one where someone else could, if they wished, just fork the whole thing and take all the content in there. I want my content (and all the content there) to be forkable. I think that nothing less would be acceptable to me.
A restriction on what you can contribute there would serve the function of crippling the site enough to prevent it from becoming a primary place of discussion (if that's what you want), but a technical restriction to that effect would be awkward, for the reasons that Sunir pointed out.
Personally, I would like to eventually either move MeatBall to an open policy, or have a companion community which is open (or both), so I guess I think it's silly to cripple the site in this way. But I don't have the time to even begin to think/argue/move forward on this eventual goal now. All I want for now is a data repository for us to store stuff that we write for use in the future (by us or by others). Such a repository can always be forked if someone wants to allow non-meatball submissions later. So we can socially prohibit non-meatball submissions at our site; it's fine by me. -- AnonymousDonor
I don't think the compendium copyright can cover a PatternLanguage at all, just specific writings about it. So, if we build a parallel page database which has entries like SoftSecurity, TechnologySolution, etc, yes, someone can then transplant that and have most of MeatballWiki's graph, but no, I don't think they couldn't have done that legally anyway, as long as they were willing to populate each of those pages with only new content or OpenContent. So I don't think anything is eroded.
But then again, if there is ambiguity in the law and my interpretation there is only one possible interpretation, then certainly such a parallel site would tend to erode/slant things towards my understanding. Fine by me :)
Also, as pointed out above by Sunir, it may be a moot point in this case. To give the example in more detail, say the community here decides against OpenMeatballWiki, and let's say that none of its proponents start one on their own. I will still save copies of my contributions on my website, and I expect others will start to do the same. If a small group of frequent contributors does this, eventually our saved contributions will span a large proportion of the pages in the active page graph.
Now let's say a third party wishes to create an open companion site without Meatball's permission. There is certainly nothing to stop them from visiting my site and others' in sequence and copying everything there. So they will end up having pages with names identical to a large proportion of the active page graph anyway, without touching MeatballWiki or its scary copyright. -- AnonymousDonor
Compendium copyrights, as far as I understand them, are meant explicitly to cover such things as PatternLanguages, hardly the reverse. After all, as there is significant creative work put into the structure of a PatternLanguage, and that is precisely what the compendium copyright protects. Otherwise, all the hard work in putting the structure of the corpus together could be stolen by someone else. I personally do not want people just to take SoftSecurity and structure a book around it without the appropriate academic citations and FairUse limited quotations. (Note that I don't care that they do it provided they give credit where credit is due.) -- SunirShah
What original creative effort did Meatball, the corporate entity, carry out? What original, non-obvious selection or ordering did Meatball perform? Absent there being some, Meatball appears to have no basis for any copyright claim. It appears that both the creation and selection were carried out by the individual authors and that Meatball has no basis for having a copyright under US law, the law of the jurisdiction where the work resides. -- JamesDay
Meatball resides in Ontario. See AboutThisSite. The MeatballWikiCopyright explicitly claims the CompilationCopyright. Whether or not we should remove that notice is what we are discussing on this page.
Yes, I saw that MeatballWikiCopyright claims that Meatball has a compilation copyright. I'm exploring the merits of that claim. That may make the rest of the discussion moot.
Gotcha. In that case, I'll declare that now in May 2004, I've personally come to the conclusion that I want the community to remain capable of doing (at least) two things: 1. continue to have the right to alter the script; 2. PublishData? feeds to allow others to tie themselves tighter around the site (qua TheProcessedBook, e.g. CommunityWiki) without resorting to the RightToFork, which I still think is not good for a community like MeatballWiki. -- SunirShah