Attribution Issue

Peter Prohaska pitrp at
Wed May 26 04:58:12 EDT 2004

On Wed, May 26, 2004 at 03:13:27AM -0400, Evan Prodromou wrote:
> >>>>> "PP" == Peter Prohaska <pitrp at> writes:
>     PP> I personally think that a reason for so many "by" licenses is
>     PP> that people missinterpret the meaning.
> How do they misinterpret it, and how should they interpret it
> correctly?

You can find an earlier post of mine where i stumbled about that "by"
understanding problem at

This might clarify part of the problem.

I thought about what people (who are no lawers) interprete
into images like (CC) and (By:).
What happens in most people's mind IMHO is something like this:

I fire up my editor and start to write a book.  So I write:

   "Copyright (C) <Year> by <my name>"

Now i want to add a nice open content licence and i check the
creativecommons page.  There i see:

   ... (CC) ... (BY:) ...

The rest is your imagination at work.

I think that is why people choose a "by" license subconciously.
If i hadn't been helping with open source software in the past,
i'd probably know nothing about the BSD license and the attribution
notice in the older version. Therefore i would probably have chosen
a "by" license happily without studying the lawyer's version in detail.

I think that people add "by" in their heads as soon as they mean "not
public domain".  The problem is that copyright is often understood as
something you put onto your work and not as something you automatically
own/have. I'm not sure if i'm describing this with the right words here
since i'm from germany and the destincions are a bit different.

Perhaps another try...
This work was created by me, i admit it. Therefore, my licence should
have a (By:) on the license page...

I think this confusion is based on the fact that people find and publish
information on the internet and think of "TheInternet(TM)" as an anonymous
media where everything is owned by everyone/noone if there is no copyright
notice jumping into your eyes.
The tendency is IMHO that this perception changes a lot these days.
Part of the reasons are certainly the p2p networks and all the patent
right debates in the EU countries that brought rights online into focus.

IANAL, TINLA and all your boilerplate wossnames...
- peter

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