2010-08-28 11:07:15Copyright and Creative Commons
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.125.135

An issue came up in the Getting to know authors thread which deserves a thread of its own - the question of copyright. If I was more organised, I would have got all this stuff nailed down before even beginning this project but well, I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants day to day. So apologies to all for my disorganisation :-(

My intention was always to have a creative commons license - I have no interest in holding the copyright of everyone's work here. Whenever people have asked to reproduce my content on their own websites, my response has been "yes please!" - the idea is to get our content as widely disseminated as possible. The phone apps, the firefox plugin, they're all part of the effort to get as many people as possible to understand what's happening to our climate. And the wonderful thing about this forum is now we're creating content specifically written for a broad audience (and at an extraordinarily prolific rate).

Another thing we're discussing over at the Technical Forum is creating an API feed where other websites can easily grab content from Skeptical Science to put on their website. I don't know how it'll work yet - I'm still getting my head around the technology - but it sounds like a wonderful opportunity to further spread the word - the word being all this incredible content being created at the moment.

So my thinking is I get a creative commons licence for Skeptical Science - probably the type where people can reproduce the content for non-profit purposes. I'm not familiar with the issues of creative commons - is there any pitfalls or issues I need to be aware of when signing up? Advice/thoughts welcome.

2010-08-28 12:38:19
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151

The only obvious pitfall I can think of is that of making sure acknowledgments and permissions for stuff reproduced from third-party sources is handled properly via an SkS-adopted Creative Commons license (CCL). For example, reproducing on SkS a graphic from a journal article might be proper "fair use" for noncommercial purposes as described here

http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

but what if the SkS article is then released under a CCL? If I were the publisher of a journal providing a "fair use" copy of a graph to SkS, I'd be concerned that my graph might appear to be covered by and included under a Creative Commons license if SkS released the article containing the graph under a CCL.

I suspect this issue has come up and been treated already but I cannot find anything specific to it as yet. Perhaps the safe course would be to require Creative Commons licensed SkS material to be more restrictive than usual in the inclusion of fair use materials?

2010-08-28 13:30:01Ouch!
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.125.135
Good point, Doug. Until now, I've been lax in the liberal use of graphics from journals. It's okay if I replot data in my own graph but if I use a graph as is from a journal, then technically, I'm meant to contact the publisher of the journal for permission. I haven't been doing that. So that does complicate the whole creative commons issue. Yikes!
2010-08-28 15:19:48
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151

A reasonable application of  "fair use" as it's described by the US copyright office in the above link seems to include what's done here w/graphs, without specifically seeking permission. This "FindLaw" article specifically cites reproducing a single chart from an article without permission as legitimate when combined w/certain other features, such as the chart being employed for illustrating an author's point in an article for a not-for-profit *and* educational endeavor:

http://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/copyright/copyright-using/fair-use.html

So fair use is a combinatorial thing and it seems safe to say SkS is a combination that fits the intent of fair use.

As you imply, it does look as though repackaging facts in a different presentation is entirely ok, at least as far as the US copyright office says.

Of course, a lawyer I'm not. 

With regard to CCL, I'm thinking more of the problem of wrapping or bundling an SkS article inside a Creative Commons license when the article includes material the copyright of which is owned by somebody else.


2010-08-28 16:00:08On bundled copyright
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17

I think we might be able to count on a little goodwill here. The copyright issue comes into play for SkS only when we include copyright graphics, but since attribution is very important to our work anyway, it isn't like we are trying to pass stuff off as our own. Not only that, but of course we're trying to protect and represent science in the best light, defend it from scurrilous attack and so on. I find it unlikely that any journal, institution or scientist would take objection to what is probably fair use in the first place, and most certainly appropriate use. Perhaps it is best to continue as we do, ensure we always give credit to copyright material, and if there's a problem you can always take down anything that draws unwanted attention.

To complicate matters, whose jurisdiction would apply? This is a website, which I assume is hosted in Australia, so it isn't US law that is likely to apply - although I'm guessing here mind you.

Anyway, I do think it is a good idea that every contributing author makes clear they assign copyright to SkS for anything the contribute. This is my statement to that effect - everything I write for SkS I waive copyright to, and assign it in perpetuity to John Cook.

2010-08-28 16:25:47
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151
Graham I think you should at least hold out for a credit when the feature-length John Cook biopic "Skeptical Science: Endless Summer" goes into distribution.
2010-08-28 17:59:18Lol re biopic
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.125.135
Is it too early to start talking about who plays who in the biopic? I bags Guy Sebastion for my role (Aussies will know who I'm talking about). I pick an academy award for best makeup as they show how a few years of science blogging can ravage a nerd's youthful good looks.

On a more serious matter, I've already received one dressing down email from a Uni professor who thoroughly disapproved of the fact that the basic rebuttals didn't contain academic references. One thing I really need to do is post a Style Guide and pin it to the top of the forum. Will get onto that shortly. It's good practice to give references for educational reasons but also for copyright reasons as Graham mentions.

Graham, appreciate the offer of copyright. I don't know if it's necessary - my plan is to make all this content freely available - hopefully things can stay free and simple. BTW, if we were to assign nicknames to all the authors, I already have one in my head for you in light of your prolific output - "The Machine".

2010-08-29 00:42:09shock!
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17

Never mind 'the machine' - there's something I haven't told you...er...I was hoping to play Wendy in the film of the book of the web site, but only if you can get Russell Crowe for the male lead, right?

And seriously, you need my copyright assignment, and I suggest you should have it from everyone else. By default, a writer has the best claim to disputed copyright when no other precedents are clear. You haven't addressed this issue at all on the site, so in the case of some later dispute - and who knows how or why it might occur - it's better to get these things sorted out. Leaving it to goodwill and a bit of luck is generous, but people don't always respond in kind. Anyway, by getting a creative commons license and putting everything in it, you encourage people to repost, reprint or reuse, which I think we're agreed is exactly what we want to happen.

It's one of those things that, from experience, is best taken care of before something crappy happens rather than afterwords. Would you like me to sort this out for you by way of a bit of admin assistance?

2010-08-29 01:11:33
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151

Second Graham's point about getting a release from authors contributing blog or rebuttal material to SkS. No need to go crazy anticipating intricate details but good policy is about future-proofing, making bad things impossible. The scenario to which Graham alludes is not hard to envision, something many informal collaborations eventually bump into.

That style book would be really great to see. 

2010-08-29 02:05:09What about translators?
BaerbelW

baerbel-for-350@email...
93.231.146.123

Just wondering...

If authors should be giving a release for their contributions to SkS should the translators also do that? Is the translated content already covered via the original text we are "just" translating or are we creating something new which therefore needs to be "released" separately?

Would it perhaps be easiest to collect the waivers/release from authors (and translators) in a new thread once the wording has been agreed? The first post would then contain the text and the reply from the authors would constitute the release?

Cheers
Baerbel

2010-08-29 05:05:46Author's release
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.114.10

- A lot of international standards organizations have a standing policy that for any paper you bring into them, you give them the copyright. That way, you can't claim the text, or prevent modifications to it. (For the curious: This applies to text, but not to intellectual rights for patents.)

 - One way to incorporate explicit agreement to giving up copyright would be to build it into the final approval process: Require a check-off on a box that indicates, "I have read and agreed to the Skeptical Science copyright policy with respect to this text."

- If you want to get really thorough about it, you could state the policy at the bottom of every "Post a Reply" page in the Authors' Forum, and require a check-off on the box that says, "I agree." That would cover you for every comment made in the Authors' Forum.

2010-08-29 05:59:11On comments
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17

Concerning Neal's point, I worked through the Guardian's copyright boilerplate a while back, and they do not try to assert copyright over comments, which I think is sensible. It is also the case that commentators would be obliged to pursue copyright issues outside of SkS, because no copyright breach can be said to occur within a site in which one has commented - the contribution precludes ownership assertion, or restrictred rights of usage. Copyright infringement of comments would only occur if someone reused the comments, which is frankly rather unlikely and not SkS's problem. 

But Doug is right - sooner or later, misunderstandings occur in the vacuum of unclear admin policy. However, this is not a hard thing to sort out - no wheel reinvention required - and as I said, I'm happy to help if that's acceptible.

On BaerbelW's point: translations do not count - the original material rights remain with the author in the language in which copyright was first asserted. All other versions are considered copies of the original for copyright purposes and translators cannot assert copyright over the material they translate - the legal implication should translations be subject to separate definitions of copyright.

2010-08-29 06:46:43blog authors etc...
TonyWildish

Tony@Wildish...
92.153.85.237

I have no problem with handing over copyright, but when I finish my own rebuttals (OK, I'm starting my first tomorrow!) I would like to be able to post it on my own blog too, after it comes out here. I want to give it a wider audience and lead more people to this site. Is that OK?

re: the Uni prof complaining at the lack of academic links in basic rebuttals, I disagree with him. It's good to have academic references appear in the intermediate or advanced rebuttals, but not necessarily in the basic ones. The basic level rebuttals, in my opinion, should not assume the person reading them will understand an academic paper, but should put the emphasis on 'basic'. (sorry for straying off topic!)

 

2010-08-29 09:12:23
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151

Neal:

- One way to incorporate explicit agreement to giving up copyright would be to build it into the final approval process: Require a check-off on a box that indicates, "I have read and agreed to the Skeptical Science copyright policy with respect to this text."

Simple, easy, great idea.

Tony, rest easy in knowing the Creative Commons license is designed to promote propagation of ideas, not to help synthesize artificial shortages of information. More info on Creative Commons licensing is here.

For something philosophically related to this issue, folks might be interested in Richard Stallman's The Right to Read*, originally published in the journal of the ACM. Think about Amazon's recent ham-fisted removal by night of Orwell's 1984 from DRM-laden "ebooks" and we can better understand Stallman's prescience.

*Communications of the ACM (Volume 40, Number 2)

 

2010-08-29 14:03:21Tony's blog
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.125.135
Tony, one thing is certain, you can certainly publish your rebuttals on your blog. Please do! My vision is making all the content at skeptical science available for other websites to freely use. We want to get the climate science out there as widely as possible. I also want the authors here to feel like they can make a difference. That the work they do here won't just sit in a dark corner of an obscure blog. Instead, it'll spread through other blogs, get tweeter, read on iPhones and android phones (and fingers crossed, on ipads). There are two important elements to skeptical science - content creation and content dissemination. Until now, dissemination has been the stronger element but with this forum. I think content creation is now kicking dissemination's butt. I'm veer excited about that.

Graham, I gladly accept the offer to help with the copyright issue. Whether it be a checkbox in the forum Post a Thread/Reply form or a checkbox when someone first enters the forum, I'm open to suggestions.

2010-08-29 15:45:49Research
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17
Ok - I'm on it! I'll prepare the material, summarise your options and provide you with the links to the right materials, forms, logos etc, plus suggestions about implicit mechanisms like the check box idea. Should be able to advise by the end of the week.
2010-08-29 17:18:55Thanks The Machine Graham!
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.125.135
Yer a legend!