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The word "free" has so many loaded connotations in political theory, it's a useless, bogus term. Even the CopyLeft redefinitions of free as in libre is bogus, as that implies that it's the information itself that is being oppressed, which is a category error. Conversely, the opposite word "oppressed" is also overloaded and therefore bogus. Often the only one oppressing you is yourself, since if you live in a liberalist society you are probably already free. If you want the information either buy it or replace it; that's the beauty of CopyLeft: people are free to share. But you cannot yell at someone or even force someone to share. That's selfish, greedy, gluttonous, and occasionally theft, and it is very shortsighted.

So, it is wrong to say that "Meatball is not free" on several accounts. First, while it's true the MeatballLogo is not free, Meatball itself is only a label for a fuzzy set of people (cf. SpellingConventions). MeatballWiki is what is under discussion. MeatballWiki is very free in the liberalist sense. That is, because it uses the elegant DefaultCopyright, the authors are free to do whatever they like. Meatball makes no imposition on the writing on MeatballWiki except what's required to operate a wiki. By the general definition of free (cf. HumanRights), that makes MeatballWiki free, as in it is free from impositions by Meatball.

The argument below is that MeatballWiki is not republishable, but that is also wrong. Because

MeatballWiki is free

MeatballWiki's copyright is a social construction just like everything else here. If the authors choose to release everything as PrimarilyPublicDomain, they can. If they choose to dual license a page as CopyLeft, they can. So, even by the communist definition of "free", it is free because you have the option to allow republishing of text. See OpenMeatballWiki. You just have to negotiate for that. Negotiation is what Meatball and society is all about, after all.

Finally, by StewartBrand's capitalist conception of InformationWantsToBeFree, it's true that Meatball is not free. It costs a significant amount of money to run this place, including the tens of thousands of dollars of income and time lost studying this seriously. From my own personal point of view, since I've put the investment in and you haven't, like all academics I enjoy making plagiarists' lives as painful as possible. Others here have stated similar opinions.

Don't be a jackass. Help with OpenMeatballWiki instead. It's not an easy solution, but it's the easiest. -- SunirShah

I mean this essay as a counterattack to certain people. I just want to slap people who think we're all jerks. BarnRaising is about sharing effort, not the barn. You cannot just have my barn if you need to stable your horses. If you help me build my barn, I will help you build your barn. There is no such thing as a libre lunch. -- SunirShah

Less loaded titles would be MeatballIsNotOpenContent?, or MeatballIsNotCopyleft?, if people were interested being less inflamatory. ;-) -- StephenGilbert

Well, parts of Meatball are OpenContent. The real idiom is Meatball is not a big deal. I question those who will thwart potential friendships over a pretty humble copyright non-policy. Are they "People and people and computers and people"-type people? Are they really leaders, or zealots? How do you enter FairProcess with someone who doesn't want to listen, learn, and teach? Only in a patronizing way, as there is no BarnRaising. It's better to let them evaporate instead of worrying about them, so we can concentrate on building a more constructive theory of what the right thing to do is. Note that Meatball should not be a big deal to us either. (cf. AntiAuthoritarian: don't believe you are authoritarian.) -- SunirShah

I am concerned that MeatballWiki is non-free, because of the CompilationCopyright, and Sunir's statement that "I am responsible to prevent you from [forking]" -- DeepakGoel [from MeatballWikiFork?]

Deepak, Meatball was created before the FreeDocumentationLicense came about. In fact, we had a long MeatballWikiCopyrightDiscussion about these issues. After some debate, we decided two things. First, we probably could not enforce a copyright license upon anybody. Even the shoddy concept of a "clickthru" license that some sites employ breaks down when we consider that MeatballWiki does not guarantee its readers speak English, as we have recently been discussing on MeatballLanguage. Second, since we could not really do anything--or at least believe that we could do anything--our solution was to basically write down what authors' rights were by default.

This means that we do not restrict the rights of any author here. That means anything you write is free to distribute if you choose to make it such. Meatball does not impose anything onto its contributors, instead inviting the contributors to choose their own path. The RightToFork protects the rights of the readers, not the authors. It comes down to a choice to who is more important to building the site. In this case, we chose the rights of authors because they are the ones building the site, and they are building the site for themselves (i.e. for TheCollective as a whole, not individually). We also chose in favour of my neglible legal fund.

I don't really comprehend your statement that Meatball is somehow "nonfree" nor do I understand how it could be less than "nonfree." It's more free than the FreeDocumentationLicense allows, if you think about it. Don't forget that law is nothing without enforcement. If you think that Meatball is somehow part of my evil plan to sell orphans to witches, then you lost me... ? That's not a Meatball project, but more of a personal one. -- SunirShah

Thanks for the MeatballWikiCopyrightDiscussion link, Sunir. I see that the policy of meatball is that "every contribution belongs to its author". If that is so, I think you should let authors care about protecting their copyright. Your current stance "you may not fork meatball" automatically assumes that the particular authors whose work gets copied will not want it. How do you know? I don't think meatball's "rights belongs to the authors" policy forces you to defend their copyright or make assumptions about what they want ---you are doing that of your own accord ATM.

P.S. You mentioned that Meatball precedes FDL. I would like to point out that both emacswiki and hurdwiki retroactively changed their licenses to the FreeDocumentationLicense, as far as I know. -- DeepakGoel

I think it is fair to assume that the authors don't want to contribute to a site they haven't seen before, simply because they haven't said anything explicitly about allowing such duplication. While it isn't my legal responsibility to do anything about it, I am trying to be ethical when I tell people not to do this. It's not fair to the authors to assume other than what they claim, which is why the world has Berne.

P.S. It's not legally tractable to change your copyright, plus there is the problem that Meatball's legal defense fund is my bank account, which remains at zero. -- SunirShah

But, if we wanted, we could change the copyright to something else for future contributions only. I think this may become helpful later on despite the obvious problem of distinguishing future contributions from past (in fact, some sort of snapshot should maybe be made at the time of licence change to refer to if we ever need to distinguish). -- BayleShanks

As to wording: "investing the copyright to me" -- this makes no sense. Nobody is assigning any copyrights. Every author is just licencing his work to be read, modified, and deleted on Meatball when he contributes. This is done implicitly, knowing how a wiki works. -- AlexSchroeder

More on wording: "It's more free than the FreeDocumentationLicense allows, if you think about it. Don't forget that law is nothing without enforcement." -- it all depends on your definition of Free. I am certainly not allowed to take from Meatball and use it elsewhere. Perhaps you would not prosecute me, but perhaps somebody else will prosecute me. We try to DefendAgainstParanoia, but we also AvoidLegalRisk where possible. -- AlexSchroeder

Sunir, you talked about legal tractability of changing the copyright and Meatball's legal defense fund. I honestly don't foresee a lawsuit arising from the changing of meatball's license, for the following reasons:

It is sad that meatball is not free. I hope the editors decide to make meatball free. If not, I hope people remember every time they write here, that what they write is not freely distributable. -- DeepakGoel

Deepak, I'm not a main contributor but I've written a small number of contributions here and I feel as a part of the MeatBall community. I'm quite happy with the current copyright state of MeatBall. Duplication of my contributions to other wikis would mean that I couldn't maintain them and take part and follow discussions about them. So I think ForkingOfOnlineCommunity? is unhealthy. It makes only sense if you need the safety that the content is not lost, but I perfectly trust Sunir to keep MeatBall running. An OC has to try to gain critical mass and to attract contributors by its content, community and culture. Spreading content by forking is a bad idea for this reason but also because it creates a disbalance: the content looks as if the visitor could jump in and join the discussion and the community and count on the culture - but the discussion and the community and the culture just aren't there. This would create frustrations for visitors that otherwise might become wiki enthusiasts. -- HelmutLeitner

We've been here before... Meatball being non-free is making life harder for everybody. Some information on this wiki might be of interest for everybody. For my fork of the UseMod engine, I cannot reuse what other people wrote on UseMod and MeatBall. Examples: TextFormattingRules cannot be copied. WhyWikiWorks cannot be copied. And I cannot just link such information, because my manual must be distributable on its own. Not all information on this wiki needs permanent discussion and maintenance. Even if I wanted to do the maintenance myself somewhere else, I cannot. It is forbidden. The content is in a CopyrightTrap. Perhaps we should discuss the rest on RightToFork and FreeDocumentationLicense, as this page is only for the forking of Meatball. -- AlexSchroeder

When I wanted to use Wiki:WhyWikiWorks (it was different then), I asked the author Peter Merel for permission to use it. What could be simpler? I was happy this way because it gave me the opportunity to thank him for his contributions, tell him a bit about my intentions and create a social contact. Needless to say that I got his permission. I don't think that "taking without asking and without obligations" will bring us a step forward in growing "community". -- HelmutLeitner

That is simple enough when there is a small, well-defined list of contributors for each page. Many pages here have text that is unsigned, however.

I doubt that asking for permissions all the time will bring the community forward. As the number of contributors grows, you have two problems: Identifying them (as noted above) and asking them (finding contact information, sending question, waiting for all the answers, double checking). This takes more and more time -- bureaucracy to the max. This does not scale. It is already a major pain to take code from XEmacs and get copyright assignments by all the authors for inclusion into Emacs. We could determine all the authors (because we have VersionControl?), but doing the asking is daunting. -- AlexSchroeder

I think unsigned contributions can be seen as gifts to the community. The community are those that care and take part in discussions. So it should be possible to reach an agreement with the host and the active members. I'm asked every now and then for permission of "my" German wiki pages and I've not yet denied them to anyone. -- HelmutLeitner

This is just wishful thinking. If I ever get into a fight with you because you steal some unsigned contribution of mine from Wiki, for example, where I am no longer an active member, your excuse "But I asked the active Wiki members" will avail you nothing, because you did not ask me. -- AlexSchroeder

Our DseWiki copyright statement says that a contributor must sign contributions for which he wants to retain his personal copyright. While anonymous or unsigned contributions become property of the community. Whatever that means. There are also a number of users that explicitely give away their copyright on their signed contributions. I wouldn't use contributions in doubt, so I don't feel in danger of stealing, do you? -- HelmutLeitner

By the way, I think one main reason behind this type of copyright is to keep the wiki attractive for professional writers, who live from and value their copyright. To force them into something like FDL might keep those from contributing that have the ability to add the highest value to our wikis. I've got permission to quite a number of copyrighted materials, e. g. newspaper articles or Steve Summits (know him?) introduction to programming (we translated it in the community) for publication in the wiki. I doubt that we would have gotten unrestricted permissions in these cases. -- HelmutLeitner

Asking the permission of the author is usually unworkable on a wiki, since there usually isn't a single author. It's like trying to pull individual eggs out of an omelette. -- StephenGilbert

Stephen and Alex, you seem to be interested how to get the eggs out of the omelette. I'm interested in how to get the eggs *into* the omelette. -- HelmutLeitner

The two are not mutually exclusive; if I didn't like omelettes, I wouldn't contribute my eggs. ;-) I'm simply pointing out that asking the author's permission to reuse a wiki contribution is often difficult after discussion and refactoring take place. -- StephenGilbert

On unsigned contributions: First, the MeatballWikiCopyright does not, like DseWiki, distinguish between signed and unsigned contributions. Here, even unsigned contributions arguably retain the copyright of whoever wrote them. In my opinion, this is a bad thing. Second, I'm not sure that DseWiki's policy is much better. If someone else really wanted to (ab)use someone else's signed contribution, couldn't they just remove the signature on that contribution on the wiki, thereby forcably converting it to the less restricted class? (I don't know, I haven't read DseWiki's policy; maybe this is forbidden). If so, AvoidIllusion would seem to suggest that professional authors not be assured that their copyrights are safe when in fact they are so vulnerable.

Then again, maybe professional authors are willing to accept that risk.

On getting the eggs into the omlette: how about if the default wiki content were "free", whether signed or unsigned, but if someone signed their contribution "-- copyright BayleShanks," the contribution would retain author copyright and it would be forbidden for anyone to remove the tag? Editing or fully deleting such a contribution would still be allowed. So the professionals (of which I bet there are relatively few) could keep their copyright while allowing most content to be free.

-- BayleShanks

Redistributable timestamps

''We've been here before... Meatball being non-free is making life harder for everybody. Some information on this wiki might be of interest for everybody. For my fork of the UseMod engine, I cannot reuse what other people wrote on UseMod and MeatBall. Examples: TextFormattingRules cannot be copied. WhyWikiWorks cannot be copied. And I cannot just link such information, because my manual must be distributable on its own. Not all information on this wiki needs permanent discussion and maintenance. Even if I wanted to do the maintenance myself somewhere else, I cannot. It is forbidden. The content is in a CopyrightTrap. Perhaps we should discuss the rest on RightToFork and FreeDocumentationLicense, as this page is only for the forking of Meatball. -- AlexSchroeder''

The MeatballWikiCopyright suggests that the site can make redistributable timestamped snapshots at its discretion. -- SunirShah

Good point. We should definitely create a small "about wikis/about usemod" snapshot ASAP with

and a few others. See MeatballWikiBasicsSnapshot. -- BayleShanks

I wonder if it is actually ethical to make snapshots of pages that haven't been clearly marked for such purpose. That being said, TextFormattingRules isn't very critical, though I wonder why Alex didn't just ask Scott to let go of WhyWikiWorks? I'm sure he would have. -- SunirShah

It was an example of the general case. Replace WhyWikiWorks with UseMod:Actions. -- AlexSchroeder

I think the general case for something like this is too general. -- SunirShah

If one looks at the page history for the Ferment:MeatballWikiFork? page, you'll see that I always acknowledged that the copyright here did not allow a fork of the entire corpus itself. To what extent other aspects could be forked remained a question open for, uh, discussion. Yeah, discussion! That's what it was! -- JoeAnderson

The only thing I see as a problem is that by not making Meatball use a copyleft is that it gets rid of the benefits of the "RightToFork" (Mirroring, "What if the founder dies" resilliance, etc). It creates a lack of portability. If someone wanted to take the wisdom of Meatball they would have to refactor the entire thing and put it under a CopyLeft. --MahyarMcDonald?

My problem is that I'm not so much interested in the 2000+ pages that have been written, but in the 5000+ pages that will be written during the next 10 years. I'm writing to get to know these people who will advance the state of online communities and who will write these pages. I want to know them, communicate with them, learn from them, and if possible even be a friend of them. Perhaps you are one of them. Redundant copies won't solve my problem, as long as there are no provisions that discussions and people will focus at a single place.

By the way, CommunityWiki started to do pretty much what you project. But it seems that their mission got out of control. -- HelmutLeitner

Mahyar, I hear your complaints regarding the RightToFork. We are looking at some solutions, like redundant administrators, a NonProfit corporation, and OpenMeatballWiki. Copyleft tends to propogate myths about copyright. One is that the wisdom contained on the site is stuck here in a CopyrightTrap. That isn't true. Copyright only protects the expression of an idea rather than the idea itself. Once you read the site, you are free to take the ideas contained here elsewhere, just not the paragraphs of text that express them. FairUse allows limited quoting.

Admittedly, it isn't perhaps as "ideal" (depending on your requirements) for the RightToDerive as copyleft or (even better) PrimarilyPublicDomain, but CopyrightLaw is wholly incapable of dealing with OnlineCommunities. We aren't publishing the words here. They aren't fixed and permanent. Everything here is in constant dialogue, much like a conversation, except we only communicate through "recordings". It's the process of dialogue that we often seek to protect, the sense of community here. After all you have a RightToDerive the text here, but only within our community, unless we choose to export the text for general consumption.

However, note that the original argument still stands that having anything weaker than the DefaultCopyright will limit the kinds of content that can be put into the PageDatabase. -- SunirShah

PrimarilyPublicDomain wouldn't have any more limits than DefaultCopyright.

Ok. Now my only concern is that there is nothing guarding the "What if Sunir gets hit by a bus" situation. Hope it's made soon. --MahyarMcDonald?

Don't worry, Cliff is paying for the servers. Also, if I get hit by a bus, I'll be dead. Rest be assured, I'm taking all precautions to ensure that eventuality does not occur. -- SunirShah

Perhaps we should write about the MeatballSafetyNet and more general about the different possible forms of a community SafetyNet. -- HelmutLeitner

CategoryCopyright CategoryMeatballWiki


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