Requests for comment/Wikipedians and the CC-BY-SA license

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The following request for comments is closed. No consensus, largely due to a lack of a clear proposal. If the originators are still interested after all these years, they should start another more focused RfC. – Ajraddatz (talk) 02:47, 16 January 2017 (UTC)

I have noticed that many people appear to have forgotten about one of the terms of the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license, under which all the documents of Wikipedia are published (as well as those of some other Wikimedia projects).

The terms as mentioned on are:

  • Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner [...].
  • ShareAlike — [...] [Y]ou must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

The part about the attribution doesn't appear to be followed a lot, particularly on medium-and-small-sized wikis which translate content from other wikis (mainly, the English Wikipedia one). Here are some examples found on Special:NewPages (took some languages from the top of the List of Wikipedias (by number of articles) as well as some Romance languages for middle-sized Wikipedias...):

Properly credited Partially credited(*) Not credited

sv:Stormningen av Dünamünde (translated from enwiki)
sv:Bess Mensendieck (translated from dewiki)

nl:Felipe Avenatti (translated from enwiki)
nl:Composietboog (translated from dewiki)

nl:Elephanta (translated from enwiki)

de:Blues Peer (translated from nlwiki)

fr:Uwe Sauer (équitation) (translated from dewiki)
fr:Richard K. Sutherland (translated from enwiki)

fr:Wu Tingfang (translated from enwiki)

it:Spedizione Polaris (translated from enwiki)
it:Acta Eruditorum (translated from enwiki)

uk:Борковський Роман Ількович (translated from be-x-oldwiki)

uk:ДП (кулемет) (translated from ruwiki)

pt:Hatred (translated from enwiki)
pt:Casa de Courtenay (translated from enwiki)
pt:Barcelona Moon Team (translated from enwiki)

ca:Igbos a Jamaica (translated from enwiki)
ca:Festival de Cinema de Giffoni (translated from eswiki)

ca:Canvi de paleta (translated from eswiki)
ca:Tripofòbia (translated from eswiki)

ro:Izegrim (translated from enwiki)
ro:Confederația Jinhan (translated from enwiki)

(*) There is a mention that the article was copied from another Wikipedia in the edit summary.

This table resumes the states of these articles as they were on the 22nd of October. Subsequent revisions may have been committed meanwhile.

The smaller the projects are, the more there are examples. What I'm concerned about is that those were written by regular contributors, so there are surely many more of them.

I would like this RfC to be the opportunity for the community to discuss the proper ways to

  1. Credit the authors when translating from another Wikipedia (or when copy-pasting from another Wikipedia, in the event the two languages are close enough): Do we re-import the article onto the target Wikipedia? Do we use a template like en:Template:Translated page? On the article itself (frwiki, nlwiki) or on the talk page only (frwiki, enwiki, ukwiki, itwiki)? Or just leave a mention on the edit summary?
  2. Inform, or re-inform the communities about the terms of the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license, and possibly any other license that may be adopted in the future for the Wikipedia projects (like BY-SA version 4.0?).

Any input appreciated. Elfix 19:10, 22 October 2014 (UTC)


  • One problem is that most editors are completely oblivious of that the policy about translations of text between Wikipedia even exists, let alone how to use it. On sv.wikipedia it has even gone so far as to use en.wikipedia as source in refs in GA articles (example ref #10) instead of using existing template. The first step in this would be to better inform about translation policy, maybe encourage admins and teahouses on Wikis to include a sentence about it in welcoming messages to newcomers or make the policy about translations more visible in some other way. W.carter (talk) 10:26, 23 October 2014 (UTC)
  • About the options you listed in question one:
    You mentioned importing the article. Are you talking about Special:Import? If "User:X at xxwiki" made an edit on xxwiki, and the edit history is imported to yywiki, then yywiki credits the imported edit to "User:X at yywiki", who may be a different person. In the event that "User:X at xxwiki" and "User:X at yywiki" are not the same person, this seems to be a licence violation. The licence says that you should attribute the author, which implies that you can't attribute the authorship to someone else who happens to have the same user name. For example, I made an edit to English Wikipedia. The edit is now at German Wikipedia, where it is attributed to someone else. This edit is presumably below the threshold of originality, so there are presumably no legal problems with this particular edit. I don't think that there are any legal problems in the situation where "User:X at xxwiki" and "User:X at yywiki" are the same person, so this method will probably be fine after the SUL finalisation.
    Templates and edit summaries: You wrote that sv:Stormningen av Dünamünde is correctly attributed. Try clicking on "Download as PDF" (Ladda ner som PDF) in the menu to the left. On page 2, the text is attributed to "Alexander Alejandro och Disembodied Soul". However, the article on English Wikipedia was created by "Volunteer Marek" and then edited by others. The attribution method in the PDF seems to violate the copyright of "Volunteer Marek" et al, as the authorship statement seems to suggest that they didn't contribute with any material. See also w:WT:Copying within Wikipedia#Proposed change to Copying from other Wikimedia Projects section. --Stefan2 (talk) 20:52, 25 October 2014 (UTC)
    Thank you for your comment, it is interesting to see that even the ideal method (Special:Import) is not appropriate. In fact, there is no appropriate tool at this time to allow fully crediting the authors of other pages from Wikimedia projects. (Perhaps there will once the SUL finalisation is complete?) Elfix 17:48, 4 November 2014 (UTC)
    Special:Import seems to create sufficient attribution provided that there are no username conflicts, so I assume that there won't be any legal problems with that after the SUL finalisation (but I am not convinced that the SUL finalisation itself is fully legal). However, the tool creates other problems. For example, you may need to delete revisions at multiple places if a copyright violation is discovered. --Stefan2 (talk) 17:45, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
  • I agree, problem exists. I don't really like idea of giving attribution to authors on article page itself, and on hy:wp we think that giving attribution in Edit summary is sufficient (e.g. EditSum like "this piece is translated from en:Article"). That way you have attribution on page history, when all other authors are attributed. Still in that case, even if people put link to English Wikipedia article, author names are not 1 click, but 3 clicks away (click on page history, click on link to en:WP article, click on en:WP page history). But there's no easy and sane way to mention all hundred contributors of en:WP article in summaries, unless we come up with some technical solution for that. And yes, in most cases people don't really understand, or often forget about this. If edit summary is not enough, we may put something on Talk page (but not instead). --Xelgen (talk) 19:59, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
  • (*) There is a mention that the article was copied from another Wikipedia in the edit summary.. The authors of a Wikipedia article are given by the history. As such, if a edit summary contains the proper attribution, ie whether the name of the authors, whether a link to the article allowing to consult local history, it's satisfied. --Dereckson (talk) 17:23, 1 November 2014 (UTC)
    The edit summary of the mentioned article (Elephanta on the Dutch Wikipedia) is: "bron, wp-en, bron:" (bron = source). I agree that this is an acceptable form of attribution, since a link to an exact page version is given. I am in favor of attributing in the article itself, since it's also a matter of decency — both towards the original authors and towards the readers — not to hide the attribution (and the fact that the article is a translation) on a talk page or in the edit summary (which most readers, also those re-using the article, won't bother to check), but openly give credit where credit is due. You say "whether the name of the authors, whether a link to the article" is sufficient attribution. It is (in my view unfortunately) common practice on the Dutch Wikipedia to only mention "translated from en:", "translated from en-wiki" or "from en:" in the edit sumary. Would you consider any of these sufficient attribution? Woodcutterty (talk) 18:22, 1 November 2014 (UTC)
    From my view attributing authors of original article on the page itself creates inconsistency with our long-time approach of not mentioning authors on article pages, but using history pages for that. If we start mentioning authors of page content was translated from, why don't we mention rest of authors on that wiki after that? Signing articles was one of most common newbie mistakes, untill we took away signature button from toolbar on main namespace. --Xelgen (talk) 16:13, 4 November 2014 (UTC)
    It is of course impractical to mention the authors of the original article, and it's also not what I'm suggesting. A link to the original article or page history is sufficient, as we have all agreed to the terms of use which provide that "you agree to be attributed in any of the following fashions: [t]hrough hyperlink (where possible) or URL to the article to which you contributed". On the Dutch Wikipedia we use a template of which the text can be translated roughly as follows: "This article or an earlier version is a (partial) translation of the English Wikipedia, which falls under the license Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike. Please view the article history there." Hyperlinks are provided to a specific version of the original article, the license and the original page history. I don't believe this to be inconsistent with the approach of not mentioning author's names in the article itself. Rather it is a decent and sufficient attribution according to the license and the terms of use and provides the readers with (in my opinion) essential information which they might not find, or even be able to find (it is my experience that a lot of readers (i.e. non-contributors but potential re-users of text) don't know about talk pages and page histories) when provided on the talk page or in the form of a URL in the edit summary. Woodcutterty (talk) 16:36, 4 November 2014 (UTC)
    As the edit summary is ignored by the PDF tool, having any text in the edit summary seems to be insufficient. In the PDF files, you see a list of authors and expect the list to be complete, but the PDF tool fails to include the names of those authors who need to be derived from the history of pages mentioned in edit summaries. --Stefan2 (talk) 17:45, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
    Interesting point. It would seem to me that the same goes for attribution via the talk page. Now, if someone downloads a PDF version of an article for personal use only, I don't believe lack of attribution in that file is a problem. It is the responsibility of the distributors (i.e. the authors of the article) to comply with the license, and they have done so by providing attribution in the online version (which one has to come across when wanting to download the PDF version). If, however, the person downloading a PDF version were to distribute the file further, he would also need to comply with the license. The question then is: is it the original authors' responsibility to make sure the PDF file contains proper attribution so that the file may be redistributed, or is that the responsibility of the redistributor? I believe the latter to be the case. Woodcutterty (talk) 18:28, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
    If someone downloads a PDF file, then the Wikimedia Foundation has distributed a copy of that PDF file (unless the person has installed the PDF generation software on his own computer). It is then my understanding that the Wikimedia Foundation needs to comply with the licence as the Wikimedia Foundation is distributing the file. Online distribution is a bit complex, though, since it involves safe haven rules. It is much more simple in paper form, where (at least under Swedish law) a single identified person takes all responsibility with regard to copyright violations, defamation and other crimes. --Stefan2 (talk) 18:36, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
    You're right, it is complex. I compare downloading a PDF version to copying the article and saving it to your computer. You wouldn't need to copy the list of authors along with it if you were doing that, unless you were going to distribute the article further. But I can definitely see that you might also say that the WMF is distributing the file and therefore has to comply with the license. The safest approach would be to include attribution in the PDF file, which would require attribution in the article itself. Woodcutterty (talk) 18:56, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
The real question is Does Wikipedia understand it ? See, the text of that license gives us , the copyright holders, the right to void that method and use a different method of copyright , but Wikipedia doesn't seem to think so. They seem to think that they can use the license, but just ignore parts of it. Hmmmmmm methinks not! Necromonger Wekeepwhatwekill 21:25, 30 November 2014 (UTC)
Wikipedia is generally permitted to use any content under 17 U.S.C. § 512 as long as the copyright holder doesn't complain. Wikipedians do not have that right, though. --Stefan2 (talk) 21:45, 30 November 2014 (UTC)
So what's the consensus above? This seems affecting the ContentTranslation as some users who used that tool are probably just "translated", ignored any credit issues. --Liuxinyu970226 (talk) 09:52, 27 August 2016 (UTC)