If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby Peter » 06 Feb 2017, 17:51

I have seen that some games that are supposed to be free are using Creative Common licenses that requires "attribution" for their image and sound files. I fail to see how this could be considered free because it forces you to give attribution, unless I have misunderstood something.

CC-BY-SA v4.0 {l Wrote}:Section 3 – License Conditions.
Your exercise of the Licensed Rights is expressly made subject to the following conditions.
  1. Attribution.
    1. If You Share the Licensed Material (including in modified form), You must:
      1. retain the following if it is supplied by the Licensor with the Licensed Material:
        1. identification of the creator(s) of the Licensed Material and any others designated to receive attribution, in any reasonable manner requested by the Licensor (including by pseudonym if designated);
        2. ...
      2. ...
    2. You may satisfy the conditions in Section 3(a)(1) in any reasonable manner based on the medium, means, and context in which You Share the Licensed Material. For example, it may be reasonable to satisfy the conditions by providing a URI or hyperlink to a resource that includes the required information.
    3. ...


What exactly do they mean by "any reasonable manner requested by the licensor"? Do they really mean to say that the original author can request how I should show the information in my game, or are they only referring to what information should be included in the attribution? Who decides what is "reasonable"? Is it a legal term?

They say I "may" satisfy the conditions "in any reasonable manner based on the medium". Is this a requirement or only a suggestion? To me, as a non-native English speaker, the word "may" makes it sound like I can do it if I want, but don't have to. What is reasonable based on the medium is also not very clear but I suspect for a game that means you would actually have to give credits inside the game, is that so? In my opinion that would be a violation of my freedom to design a game the way I want (without in-game credits).
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Re: If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby onpon4 » 06 Feb 2017, 18:39

Just a heads up: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. I'm just explaining this to the best of my knowledge.

I fail to see how this could be considered free because it forces you to give attribution, unless I have misunderstood something.

It's libre because though it has the potential to be obnoxious, it does not take away any of the four essential freedoms.

What exactly do they mean by "any reasonable manner requested by the licensor"?

It means you have to call them what they want to be called as long as it's reasonable, and can require certain kinds of attribution as long as it's reasonable. For example, it could allow an artist to require the name "foohacker" to be listed in the game's credits. However, it could not be used to require use of a "name" 5,000 characters long, or to require overlaying the attribution on top of the game at all times as it is running.

Who decides what is "reasonable"?

Courts, of course.

They say I "may" satisfy the conditions "in any reasonable manner based on the medium". Is this a requirement or only a suggestion?

It means you can use your judgment to determine how to satisfy the attribution requirement. As long as it's reasonable, the author can't sue you for providing the attribution in a way that isn't exactly the same as requested. The URI example given there is a good one. Another good example would be if the author asks to be in the credits, but you don't have a credits screen, so you just create a text file called "credits.txt" to save time.
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Re: If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby eugeneloza » 07 Feb 2017, 08:43

fail to see how this could be considered free because it forces you to give attribution

Well... very short answer.
Air is free. But to live you have to breathe. There's some work on your part. There is no point arguing at nature that the air is not free.

So... the author created a piece of work and gives it away for free.
And he asks just for one tiny thing. Don't deceive, that you did it (and when you don't say "author is..." people are lead astray to think you did all the job). He is still the author. And he wants it clearly pointed out.
How come is that "non-free"?
Well... yes, that might be a minor (but forced) advertisement for the author. Emm... does it really that bad? Have you ever read game's credits? Does anybody "scan" game credits for potential authors to pay for some job? Even not knowing if the author accepting offers?
On the other hand, the author usually has his own page where his work (protfolio) is displayed. He would really like to link to your game there. And If people will see that he made the art for "this game" they'd also be interested in finding out if he is not lying. So they come to your game and see his name in the credits. Ok, he tells the truth, he really did some art for this game.

And finally... isn't it nice to be good??? It's MY pleasure to credit all the authors. Even those who released their works under CC0. Even those who died several centuries ago. Hey, guys, YOU ARE GREAT!!! I wan to thank you and I acknowledge officially you're great!
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Re: If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby Lyberta » 07 Feb 2017, 14:23

The OP would be surprised while reading such free licenses as GPL or AGPL. :)
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Re: If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby Peter » 08 Feb 2017, 00:26

onpon4 {l Wrote}:It's libre because though it has the potential to be obnoxious, it does not take away any of the four essential freedoms.

I looked it up on the GNU website and it seems like you might be right, but I think the Free Software Foundation is mainly concerned about making the code free. In a regular program the graphics are usually less important (if it has any) and what you really care about is the functionality of the program. Substituting the graphics is usually not a huge deal. For games it is totally different. Graphics (and other artwork) are often equally (if not more) important as the code so I think it might be necessary to use slightly different definitions in order to describe what it means for a game to be truly free.

onpon4 {l Wrote}:The URI example given there is a good one. Another good example would be if the author asks to be in the credits, but you don't have a credits screen, so you just create a text file called "credits.txt" to save time.

Are you saying you think a credits.txt would be enough for a game? That would be acceptable I guess.


eugeneloza {l Wrote}:So... the author created a piece of work and gives it away for free.

Remember that we are talking about free software here. Just being free of charge is not good enough.

eugeneloza {l Wrote}:And he asks just for one tiny thing. Don't deceive, that you did it (and when you don't say "author is..." people are lead astray to think you did all the job). He is still the author. And he wants it clearly pointed out.
How come is that "non-free"?

I'm OK with the "don't deceive" part, but I don't think I deceive anyone by not mentioning people. If I lied or refused to answer questions about the authorship that would be deceiving.

Everything we do is a continuation of what other people have done. We never start from scratch. A painter has learned from other painters. He also uses a brush. A brush was at some time invented by some person. The particular brush is design by yet a another person. And so on. But still, the painting only got one name on it.

We are not forced to include credits for all authors of compiler, libraries, and other software so why should images be different?

eugeneloza {l Wrote}:Well... yes, that might be a minor (but forced) advertisement for the author. Emm... does it really that bad?

I think so. It's not so much the exact nature of the credits, but more the fact that it forces things onto the end product. I think the observable behaviour (including the interface) of a program that is free software should be allowed to be modified in any way one wants.

eugeneloza {l Wrote}:And finally... isn't it nice to be good??? It's MY pleasure to credit all the authors. Even those who released their works under CC0. Even those who died several centuries ago. Hey, guys, YOU ARE GREAT!!! I wan to thank you and I acknowledge officially you're great!

I'm not opposing credits. I'm only opposing being forced to have them. Go ahead and have credits if you want.

This thread was started because I had serious doubts if attribution licenses should be considered to be in the spirit of free software. This is important to me on an ideological basis, but it is unlikely to affect my own games because I prefer doing all "artwork" myself (I'm not claiming to be good at it).


FaTony {l Wrote}:The OP would be surprised while reading such free licenses as GPL or AGPL. :)

What do you mean? I don't need to include all copyright holders of the GPL licensed code in the credits.
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Re: If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby onpon4 » 08 Feb 2017, 01:27

Peter {l Wrote}:I think it might be necessary to use slightly different definitions in order to describe what it means for a game to be truly free.

http://freedomdefined.org

Are you saying you think a credits.txt would be enough for a game?

It's what I used for Pacewar.

Peter {l Wrote}:We are not forced to include credits for all authors of compiler, libraries, and other software so why should images be different?

Libre software licenses do have attribution requirements, it's just that they're more simplistic. Moreover, there's the original BSD license with its "obnoxious advertising clause". We consider that to be libre even if we advise against it for practical reasons, so why would we reject a much less obnoxious attribution requirement?

I'm not opposing credits. I'm only opposing being forced to have them. Go ahead and have credits if you want.

I think it's a little inconvenient too, but you really need to pick and choose your battles. This is not a serious problem, just a minor potential annoyance. Just put the attribution in the game and move on. Better yet, indicate the license of each file too so everyone knows their rights (too few projects do this). If you really want to get rid of this, push to end copyright altogether.

What do you mean? I don't need to include all copyright holders of the GPL licensed code in the credits.

Yeah, but you still have to keep all existing copyright and license notices intact. So I can't remove the copyright notices on the title screen and in the credits of Project: Starfighter, for example (except for the ones I've added).
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Re: If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby Lyberta » 08 Feb 2017, 16:28

Btw if you are making Debian packages you need to specify the license of each file in debian/copyright so the Lintian can check it.
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Re: If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby c_xong » 10 Feb 2017, 07:25

The popular free software definitions (FSF, OSD, DFSG) largely ignore the issue of attribution. This has caused issues in the past, like the whole "badgeware" nonsense.

In this regard the CC licenses are superior IMHO. They require "reasonable" attribution. Now as programmers you might be against such vague terms as "reasonable", but keep in mind that law operates differently, and in legal terms it does mean there are limits to how much attribution you have to give.

The only problem is that it does not lead to clear instructions on how to fulfil those attribution requirements. CC have published some guidelines on how to do so, and they differ between different media. For example, for podcasts/radio shows they recommend mentioning the fact that you use CC-licensed material and a URL, and there you list the material in full.
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Re: If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby Peter » 13 Feb 2017, 15:04

onpon4 {l Wrote}:Libre software licenses do have attribution requirements, it's just that they're more simplistic.

I was under the impression the GPL and similar licenses only required you to maintain copyright notices in the source files but it seems like you're right because I found something called "Appropriate Legal Notices" in GPLv3. Maybe it's better to use GPLv2 for that reason?

onpon4 {l Wrote}:Moreover, there's the original BSD license with its "obnoxious advertising clause". We consider that to be libre even if we advise against it for practical reasons, so why would we reject a much less obnoxious attribution requirement?

Well, if the BSD and GPL contains clauses that restrict the freedom of derived works too much I think the only right thing to do is to degrade them.

onpon4 {l Wrote}:Yeah, but you still have to keep all existing copyright and license notices intact. So I can't remove the copyright notices on the title screen and in the credits of Project: Starfighter, for example (except for the ones I've added).

If you have a special in-game credits screen you probably can remove the copyright notices from the title screen and instead put them in the credits if you want (assuming the copyright is for the GPL-licensed source code and not for the background image).

onpon4 {l Wrote}:Better yet, indicate the license of each file too so everyone knows their rights (too few projects do this).

FaTony {l Wrote}:Btw if you are making Debian packages you need to specify the license of each file in debian/copyright so the Lintian can check it.

I have no problem with having to keep track of copyright for each file as long as it's outside the game.

c_xong {l Wrote}:The only problem is that it does not lead to clear instructions on how to fulfil those attribution requirements. CC have published some guidelines on how to do so, and they differ between different media.

I don't think this is a small problem. We need to know the requirements in more detail, how else can we decide if we are OK with them?
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Re: If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby onpon4 » 13 Feb 2017, 15:21

Peter {l Wrote}:I was under the impression the GPL and similar licenses only required you to maintain copyright notices in the source files but it seems like you're right because I found something called "Appropriate Legal Notices" in GPLv3. Maybe it's better to use GPLv2 for that reason?

The exact same requirement is in version 2. It's just worded differently. Condition 2c.

Well, if the BSD and GPL contains clauses that restrict the freedom of derived works too much

They don't. Freedom to not give credit where credit is due is not one of the four essential freedoms.

I don't think this is a small problem. We need to know the requirements in more detail, how else can we decide if we are OK with them?

If the author doesn't indicate any particular requirement, then you can attribute them however you wish. So it is not even a small problem, it's not a problem at all.
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Re: If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby Peter » 06 Mar 2017, 12:24

onpon4 {l Wrote}:The exact same requirement is in version 2. It's just worded differently. Condition 2c.

I somehow got confused with the meaning of "the Program" and thought that it referred the derived program and as long as I didn't show any copyright notices the "exception" case would always apply. What they really mean is probably that if the original program shows an announcement (including an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer) the derived program also has to show an announcement. What I don't understand is how this would work if you take part of an interactive program and put it in a library.

It's still not very clear what "an appropriate copyright notice" (GPLv2) or "Appropriate Legal Notices" (GPLv3) should include. Is it enough with the project leader or should it contain all copyright holders that can be found in any of the source files? Should copyright of libraries used also be included, and in that case how would that work if there are many different implementation of a library. Does it matter if the library is included in the source distribution or not? Modified or not modified?

I have looked at the ScummVM project and it doesn't seem like their copyright notice contains libraries such as SDL. I also noticed that Maxim Stepin, the original author of hqx, is not mentioned, not even in the COPYRIGHT file. The hqx code included in ScummVM has been heavily modified but it's clearly based on the original code. It has not been rewritten from scratch.

I can't find anything that says that the Appropriate Legal Notices need to stay the same so I guess it can be OK to remove names. There is an additional term 7.b that prevents you from doing this but it has to be explicitly stated.


onpon4 {l Wrote}:If the author doesn't indicate any particular requirement, then you can attribute them however you wish. So it is not even a small problem, it's not a problem at all.

Seems like you're right. Section 3.a.1.A of CC-BY-SA only says you need to "retain" the information "if it is supplied by the Licensor". Section 3.a.3 says the original author can force you to remove such information, but I don't think he can do the opposite after it has been released.


I give in...
Both Debian and FSF (the two organizations I trust most when it comes to free software) are OK with these types of attribution licenses. I still don't like it but I'm not prepared to go against the free software community on my own. I will probably continue using the GPL for future projects even though it has similar requirements (at least when 7.b is applied).
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Re: If I'm forced to give attribution, how is that free?

Postby c_xong » 06 Mar 2017, 12:54

You're making it more complicated than it is. GPL was written when software was distributed via physical media, and when binary-only distributions were a common way to convey free software. This is why you can satisfy GPL with a "written offer" for source - that's how anachronistic its language is. If you provide this "written offer" in the form of say, links to the source alongside the download links for the binary, like how ScummVM does it (https://www.scummvm.org/downloads/#libs), that is satisfactory as well. You'll find all the necessary copyright notices within the source distribution.
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