Attribution and copyright

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This is a fascimile on velum of the original engraved on a copper plate. Credit: Original by Thomas Jefferson et al.; Engraving & fascimile by William J. Stone (1798-1865).

Attribution or credit means to let everyone know who a piece of knowledge, even as small as a "least publishable unit", is from. Copyright is a matter of permission.


"Attribution is an important part of these licenses [Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License or GNU Free Documentation License]. We consider it giving credit where credit is due – to authors like yourself. When you contribute text, you agree to be attributed in any of the following fashions:

  1. Through hyperlink (where possible) or URL to the article to which you contributed (since each article has a history page that lists all authors and editors);
  2. Through hyperlink (where possible) or URL to an alternative, stable online copy that is freely accessible, which conforms with the license, and which provides credit to the authors in a manner equivalent to the credit given on the Project website; or
  3. Through a list of all authors (but please note that any list of authors may be filtered to exclude very small or irrelevant contributions)."[1]

On "each edit page we have "By clicking the “Save Page” button, you are agreeing to the Terms of Use and the Privacy Policy, and you irrevocably agree to release your contribution under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 License and the GFDL. You agree that a hyperlink or URL is sufficient attribution under the Creative Commons license.""[2]


Main sources: Laws/Copyrights and Copyrights

"Copyright records serve a variety of information needs from finding the current owner of a work to a survey of cultural development in the United States. Users of the records approach them in different ways depending on their particular need at the moment. Similarly, there are different approaches to how we can make the currently non-digital Copyright records available online. The general notion right now is to create a data record with enough information to allow title, name, and assigned number searching with links to images of the respective paper records including the catalog cards, applications, transfer and assignment records, and other related items."[3]

Theory of attribution and copyright

Def. "[a]n explicit or formal acknowledgment of ownership or authorship"[4] is called attribution.

Def. "[t]he right by law to be the entity which determines who may publish, copy and distribute a piece of writing, music, picture or other work of authorship"[5] is called copyright.

Least publishable units

A "least publishable unit" (LPU) is an older expression for the smallest possible fact that has been determined to be a fact that just might be publishable, and has not as yet been published.

LPUs seem to be everywhere yet each one probably has an originator who may have included it in a published context somewhere. When one occurs in a text without attribution to an earlier source, the author including it usually gets the credit, and the honor, of introducing that little fact to everyone.

Some LPUs require extensive research and exploration to determine what they are and prove that they are. The phrase "dominant group" initially appears to be an LPU. Its earliest origin on Wikipedia is not known.

Attributions in copyrights

"Attribution in copyright law, is acknowledgement as credit the author of a work which is used or appears in another work. Attribution is sometimes required by licenses that specific the usage rights, such as the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons licenses.[6]

Attribution is often considered the most basic of requirements made by a license, as it allows an author to accumulate a positive reputation that partially repays their work and prevents others from claiming fraudulently to have produced the work. It is widely regarded as a sign of decency and respect to acknowledge the creator by giving him/her credit for the work."[7]

Exclusive rights

Def. "[t]he power, granted by the government to persons, to allow or disallow others from taking certain actions (through legal force)"[8] is called exclusive right.


Main sources: Laws/Plagiarisms and Plagiarisms

Def. "[t]he act of plagiarizing: the copying of another person's ideas, text or other creative work, and presenting it as one's own, especially without permission"[9] is called plagiarism.

Here's a simple example: from the Wikipedia entry about Edmond Halley, "In 1718 he discovered the proper motion of the "fixed" stars by comparing his astrometric measurements with those given in Ptolemy's Almagest." A least publishable unit is that Halley had a copy of the Almagest available to him that he compared his efforts to. While it makes sense considering his position at the University of Oxford, he'd have access, but how did anyone know that he made this comparison? This little tiny fact (hopefully) has no attribution or citation. Okay, maybe the fact is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. I want to know who found that out or where that little fact came from. While it may not be plagiarism that no citation for this little fact is given, one may have to search high and low to find out. Worse, let's say someone just found this out by reviewing an old handwritten note left in the University of Oxford archives that Halley really did this. Whoever found this out has had a part of their soul stolen and appropriated by whomever put this in the article without a citation.

"If you have referred material from the writings of earlier scholars, please be bold enough to give the reference. Not doing so is plagiarism - an academic sin which must be avoided at all costs."[10] "The act of stealing from the writings of another person and passing the material off as one’s own is a form of intellectual property theft. In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and pretending that this is to be one’s own and, lying about it afterward."[10]

“Plagiarism is the act of using the words of another without giving the originator credit.”[11] Yes, but more importantly is the phrase "put it into your own words". Briefly this means some kind of factual synonymy. But, the 'synonymizer' didn't determine the fact, the apparent originator who put it in the literature did. "Within these quotes is a short sentence that may contain a fact, even a little tiny inconspicuous fact."[1] Let's say the quotes were left off, who cares why, but the citation [1] is still there. Credit has been given! No plagiarism. It's better with the quotes there but in the past and in some disciplines quotes are forbidden, but the citation is not. What about the synonymy "put it in your own words". Not an excuse to uncite anything. I don't care whether the synonymizer understands the fact or not. I want to know where the synonymizer got it from. And, the person who determined that fact is going to want to know why the cite was left off.

Some authors, editors, writers, article creators "think that changing the words is sufficient to avoid plagiarism."[12] So they leave off the citation.

"Plagiarism also can be an unintentional or accidental [act] when there is careless omission of citations and failure in using quotation marks".[10]

Everyone makes mistakes too! But, here's the important part. Let's say someone writes 100 sentences that should have an attribution or citation after them or within them somewhere and misses one. Is that plagiarism? Well, for that one sentence, yes. But, the other 99 are cited. The rule of thumb is "beyond reasonable doubt", that's better than 98% certainty. So is it beyond reasonable doubt that the author who wrote those 100 sentences is not plagiarizing. Yes! Should we go after the author for that one - no! But if you find it let the author know so it can be cited. If you don't, you could be considered an accessory after the fact. In addition, give the author the benefit of the doubt (assume good faith, AGF). It's not only the good thing to do, in many countries, it's the law - to do anything else may be a serious crime! When the author is no longer with Wikipedia, Wikiversity, or other Wikimedia resources, then it's up to you. You found it, please have the courage to fix it (be bold). At the other extreme is to put the whole page up for deletion (AfD) on Wikipedia, (RfD) on Wikiversity, where each Wikimedia resource may have its own version.

Intellectual properties

Def. "[a]ny product of someone's intellect that has commercial value"[13] is called intellectual property.

"Intellectual property (IP) is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized under the corresponding fields of law.[14] Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs."[15]

"Common intellectual property can be observed as discoveries or inventions; names of original, created characters or objects; original, created words or phrases; original images, designs, or symbols; and original musical, literary, and artistic works."[16]

Copyright violations

Def. "[t]he unauthorized use of copyrighted material in a manner that violates one of the copyright owner's exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, or to make derivative works that build upon it"[17] is called copyright infringement.

“One of the least understood laws that affects or potentially affects perhaps 90% of the school teachers in the country is the Copyright Act.”[18] “The primary violations are of two types: illegal copying and illegal display or performance.”[18] “Illegal copying occurs when public educators copy music, poetry, literature, current news articles, and computer software without permission of the copyright holder.”[18]

Often a copyright notice will say "whole or in part", so how much is that? Whole is the easy one. So don't copy the whole thing without permission, unless it's been proven to be in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. Even when it is I still like to give credit with a Credit: line, as for images. There are arguments pro and con about copyright and payment. Usually there's an initial lump sum, salary, or wage, sometimes followed by a royalty, say 5% for each individual reuse of the whole thing, or for a neat part design the assembly line manufacture of which is being used on automobiles. But not forever with every penny you have.

What about the 'part' part? Usually, that refers to one page of many. Of course, if the entire thing is one page, then copying it is a violation without consent, when it's copyrighted. But, sentences that are cited with or without quotes are a part. Here again I use the "beyond reasonable doubt" principle. Let's say an article has 10,000 words and I quote 150 in ten sentences either all together or scattered about. And, I cite them. The part used is less than 2%. Is it a copyright violation? I say no. It's Fair Use. Even more than that is something most don't think about. I'm citing the source. The usual argument is that by taking any small part I've lowered the value of the creator's work. No, what I've done is increase the value of the creator's work. Because anyone who reads what I've written knows where it came from and can check it out. Every time that happens, the original and its creator have their value increased. From an author's perspective, the worst that can happen is no one reads what you've written any more. Now that's zero value or even negative value. It's just a journal on a shelf, now in microfiche, or in a memory chip somewhere, maybe.

It has been written that “any work can be reduced to plagiarism if enough research is done.”[11] Paraphrasing this regarding copyright, 'any work can be reduced to copyright violation if enough research is done.' This is where the nebulous concepts of 'fair' and 'reasonable'; hence, fair use, come in. Also, within fair use is the idea of "likely to be replaceable by public domain material."[19] This is better providing the PUBLIC DOMAIN text serves the exact same purposes. If it does not, then the referenced source should remain.

Wikipedia and to a lesser extent Wikiversity have an added problem as I see it. Free use suggests that someone eager to make a profit can take anything from these websites with almost no cost and become billionaires. Maybe not! Each such commercial user had better have someone perform due diligence just in case. Do the wikis have a responsibility to profiters or non-profiters to ensure that whatever they take from the wikis is free? Perhaps; hence, the rules in use. Prefer to do no harm and strive for the better good. Unpaid, unsolicited contributory efforts are covered by the 'good samaritan' principle. Does that mean someone won't try to take the contributor to court and take their every dime? No, it means that if they try, the contributor can counter sue them and hopefully win, and collect lawyers fees from them. And the contributor should! But wikimedia will be sued! There is a legal way to separate wikimedia from contributor's efforts and for the contributor to go after the suer.

Short quotations

Here the word 'short' means something less than quoting the full written work. "[T]he right of quotation and criticism ... is a basic prerequisite of any journalist's or scientist's works."[20] "This right should also be effectively protected under the conditions of DRM [Digital Rights Management] and access to the relevant information should not be prevented by technical measures."[20]

"According to Copyright Law of the United States: ... Short quotations of a copyrighted publication may be reproduced without permission in books, articles, and other publications. This is often interpreted as fewer than 250 words (in total) from a book-length work or less than 5% of a journal article."[10] Just to illustrate: all of the quotes from More[10] total 160 words of a total of 5704; i.e., 2.81%. While this is above my preferred less than 2% rule, it is below the 285 words of the 5% rule indicated.

"[T]he French copyright act recognise[s] a right of short quotation".[20] But, "the complete representation of a protected work [is] not covered by the right to make short quotations."[20]

An older ruling by the Landgericht Berlin (District Court) in 1960 indicated that there are "statutory exceptions for quotation" with respect to copyright law.[20] But, "the German Copyright Act [does] not allow quoting protected works in their integrity in the press."[20] "[A]n integral reproduction of caricatures must be allowed under special circumstances, such as political debates, where the possibility to quote the political adversary is necessary."[20]

From the German Constitutional Court back in 1978, of the legislator, "He shall bring into just equation and balance the constitutionally guaranteed requirement of a reasonable use of the creative accomplishment and the interests of the general public worthy of protection".[20] This statement is to provide guidance for resolving conflicts "between the individual proprietary interests and the general cultural, social and political interests arising in the digital environment."[20]

"Considering that DRM systems will most probably affect the general conditions of intellectual freedom in democratic societies this issue is too important to be left to the industry to determine."[20] The Supreme Court of Austria "the (OGH) on 3 October 2000" noted "the exception for the use of copyright protected works in quotations." in the Austrian Copyright Act.[20]

Over on Wikiquote are several quotation guidelines (unreferenced):

  1. Length of quotes - "a maximum of 250 words per quote", that's about 20-25 lines from a journal article,
  2. Books - "[a] recommended maximum of five lines of prose or eight lines of poetry for every ten pages of a book not in the public domain. This is equal to about 1.25% of the total content of a book."
  3. "Adding unsourced quotes to articles will be reverted." - plagiarism!

On Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises/Dissent Brennan are many excellent points regarding use of quotations (Fair Use) by Supreme Court Justice Brennan. Also, Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises/Opinion of the Court contains a few additional, albeit limited points. The case was actually focused on using quotes prior to original publication as a violation of copyright, but the justices took the opportunity to clarify the fair use issue to some extent.

Policy and laws

All of the following points are at present opinion only.

"True copyright violation is a matter of policy".[21]

  1. Within the boundaries of the United States of America, excepting ambassadorial stations, no entity, corporate, non-profit, or otherwise, can legislate (make policy) against the Constitution, Bill of Rights, constitutional legislative law, or case law.
  2. Standard operating procedures (SOPs), statements of policy (SoPs), or other similar internal policies cannot contradict, suggest, or appear to suggest contradiction to point 1 above. They are considered legal documents that indicate entity compliance with stated laws.


Main sources: Laws/Calumny and Calumny

"Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, traducement, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image. It is usually a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).[22] "In other words, making a negative statement about another person is not defamation unless the statement is false and represents something as a fact (for example, 'Vladik cheats on his taxes') rather than a personal opinion (for example, 'Vladik is a jerk')."[23] "Simplifying a very complicated decision, the court said that because the plaintiff must prove a statement is false in order to win an action in defamation, it is impossible to win an action in defamation if the statement, by its very nature, cannot be proven false."[24] "A statement can only be defamatory if it is false; therefore true statements of fact about others, regardless of the damage rendered, are not defamatory (although such comments might represent other sorts of privacy or hate speech violations). Defamation may occur when one party (the eventual defendant if a case goes forward) writes or says something that is false about a second party (plaintiff) such that some third party "receives" the communication, and the communication of false information damages the plaintiff".[25] "There are five essential elements to defamation: (1) The accusation is false; and (2) it impeaches the subject's character; and (3) it is published to a third person; and (4) it damages the reputation of the subject; and (5) that the accusation is done intentionally or with fault such as wanton disregard of facts."[22]"[26]


Main sources: Laws/Libels and Libels

"[L]ibel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images.[27]

"Libel refers to written defamatory statements; slander refers to oral statements. Libel encompasses communications occurring in 'physical form'... defamatory statements on records and computer tapes are considered libel rather than slander."[27]

"Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism."[26]

"False light laws are "intended primarily to protect the plaintiff's mental or emotional well-being."[28] If a publication of information is false, then a tort of defamation might have occurred. If that communication is not technically false but is still misleading, then a tort of false light might have occurred.[28]"[26]

"In most civil law jurisdictions, defamation is dealt with as a crime rather than a tort.[29]"[26]

"Libel is defined as defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.[30] The law of libel originated in the 17th century in England. With the growth of publication came the growth of libel and development of the tort of libel.[31]"[26]

"There are several ways a person must go about proving that libel has taken place. For example, in the United States, the person first must prove that the statement was false. Second, that person must prove that the statement caused harm. And, third, they must prove that the statement was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement. These steps are for an ordinary citizen."[26]


Main sources: Laws/Usurpations and Usurpations

Def. "the wrongful seizure of something by force, especially of sovereignty or other authority"[32] is called usurpation.

If "warranted neither by the letter nor by the spirit of the supreme law of the land and is, therefore, rank usurpation."[33]

"Under constitutional law, particularly in Canada and the United States, constitutions give federal and provincial or state governments various powers. To go outside those powers would be ultra vires"[34].

Consensus and majority rule:

While usually majority or plurality rule is acceptable, it cannot violate point 1 above. Nor can any majority, plurality, or consensus determination force any group, minority, or individual against point 1.

Written expression in defense of civil or individual liberties guaranteed by point 1 above cannot be abridged by majority, plurality, consensus, group, minority, or individual.


Main source: Hypotheses
  1. Civil liberties cannot be given away by contract to an employer.

See also


  1. "Terms of Use, In: Wikimedia Foundation". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 5 December 2014. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  2. Marshallsumter (24 November 2015). "Wikipedia copies#Discussion, In: Wikiversity". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  3. Mike Burke (19 January 2012). "How would you search Copyright records? — Building a system with you in mind". Washington, DC USA: Copyright Office, The Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-12-16. 
  4. "attribution, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. January 21, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  5. "copyright, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. April 6, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  6. Creative Commons, FAQ
  7. "Attribution (copyright), In: Wikipedia". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. July 4, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  8. "exclusive right, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. October 25, 2010. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  9. "plagiarism, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. May 5, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Trupti More, Vandana Shelar (March 2011). Plagiarism and Copyright Violation: A Need of Information Literacy Framework towards Ethical Use of Information, In: INFLIBNET's Convention Proceedings. INFLIBNET Centre. ISBN 978-93-81232-01-9. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Judy Anderson (1998). Plagiarism, Copyright Violation and Other Thefts of Intellectual Property An Annotated Bibliography with a Lengthy Introduction. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc.. pp. 201. ISBN 0-7864-0463-9. 
  12. Stephen Marshall and Maryanne Garry (2005). H. Goss. ed. How well do students really understand plagiarism, In: Balance, Fidelity, Mobility: Proceedings of the 2005 ASCILITE Conference. Brisbane, Australia: Queensland University of Technology. pp. 457-67. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  13. "intellectual property, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. March 23, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  14. Intellectual Property Licensing: Forms and Analysis, by Richard Raysman, Edward A. Pisacreta and Kenneth A. Adler. Law Journal Press, 1998-2008. ISBN 973-58852-086-9
  15. "Intellectual property, In: Wikipedia". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. July 12, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  16. "Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006, In: Wikipedia". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. July 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  17. "copyright infringement, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. January 17, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Maddox (1995). "Copyright Violation and Personal Liability in Education: A Current Look at “Fair Use”". BYU Education & Law Journal 97. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  19. S Larctia (September 23, 2011). "Requests for Deletion#Dominant group and subpages, In: Wikiversity". Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  20. 20.00 20.01 20.02 20.03 20.04 20.05 20.06 20.07 20.08 20.09 20.10 Christoph Beat Graber (2005). Christoph Beat Graber, Carlo Govoni, Michael Girsberger, Mira Nenova. ed. Copyright and Access - A Human Rights Perspective, In: Digital Rights Management: The End of Collecting Societies. Bern: Staempfli Publishers. pp. 71-110. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  21. Abd (September 29, 2011). "Requests for Deletion#Dominant group and subpages, In: Wikiversity". Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 False: Ron Hankin, Navigating the Legal Minefield of Private Investigations: A Career-Saving Guide for Private Investigators, Detectives, And Security Police, Looseleaf Law Publications, 2008, p. 59.
  23. Roger LeRoy Miller, Gaylord A. Jentz, Business Law Today: The Essentials, Cengage Learning, 2007, p. 115.
  24. Michael G. Parkinson, L. Marie Parkinson, Law for advertising, broadcasting, journalism, and public relations, Routledge, 2006, p. 273.
  25. Edward Lee Lamoureux, Steven L. Baron, Claire Stewart, Intellectual property law and interactive media: free for a fee, Peter Lang, 2009, p. 190.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 26.4 26.5 "Defamation, In: Wikipedia". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. July 3, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 Linda L. Edwards, J. Stanley Edwards, Patricia Kirtley Wells, Tort Law for Legal Assistants, Cengage Learning, 2008, p. 390.
  28. 28.0 28.1 False light by Professor Edward C. Martin - Cumberland School of Law, Samford University
  29. The Law Reform Commission of Ireland - Consultation Paper on the Civil Law of Defamation (see item 360 in bold)
  30. "Libel". 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  31. R Benenson (1981). "Trial of john peter zenger for libel". The CQ Researcher. doi:cqresrre1981102300. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  32. "usurpation, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. April 19, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  33. Charles A. Beard (March 1912). "The Supreme Court--Usurper or Grantee?". Political Science Quarterly 27 (1): 1-35. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  34. "Ultra vires, In: Wikipedia". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. July 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 

Further reading

  • David Schmidtz (2006). The Elements of Justice. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-53936-6. 

External links

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