For Approval: Academic Citing License

Michael Sparks zathras at
Sun Sep 26 22:54:33 UTC 2004

On Sun, 26 Sep 2004, Johannes Kaiser wrote:
> I have written a relatively large (about 5000 lines in C and F90)
> scientific program and would like to distribute it to the wider
> community by making it open source. However, acknowledgment is vital
> for a scientific career these days. Thus the license would have to
> include a condition that all (scientific) publications produced with
> the help of my program or parts thereof must cite a specific journal
> article.

How do you define "(scientific) publications" ? Is it a magazine/journal
that is considered scientific, any article that uses your program's
output, or any article that is scientific? How about magazines which
contain articles which cover science related material? (eg New Scientist
contains lots of articles which might match, but rarely contains
citations) How about a scientific article in a scientific magazine aimed
at 7 year olds?

To me the key point is you're restricting use of the program. Whilst (say)
a GPL program is required by the license (2.c) to display a message to the
user of that program the GPL under certain circumstances, this doesn't
cover the *output* of the program, just the derived work - the program -
itself. What your license states is that users of that program are
restricted in which locations they can use the *results* of your program
without citation.

Suppose furthermore:
   * A diagram is produced using a program under this license
   * This diagram is included in a paper in (say) Nature, and the
     appropriate citation to your program occurs.
   * Suppose Reuters pick up the paper and place a summary of the paper
     on their newswire service, along with a reproduction of the image.
   * Further suppose that New Scientist (or similar) spot the story, and
     decide to summarise that story, but include the picture. (Various
     news sources do have standing arrangements to allow use in this
     manner base on contractual agreements)
   * Further suppose that CNN (or similar) spot the story, and
     decide to summarise that story, but include the picture....

How would New Scientist be aware of the restriction on use of the image?
(*Would* there be that restriction?) Would CNN hit the same restriction?
Would Reuters? Who would be responsible for telling New Scientist, CNN &
Reuters? Nature? Why would Nature know - the restriction is placed on the
user of the program?

Who owns the copyright on the image/output? One would assume that the
person who owns the copyright would be the person running the program. As
a result one would expect *they* get to decide use, not the person who
produced the program.

I'm not going to answer the questions, I'm asking you them to try to get
you to think again about what you're asking.

In my eyes it looks like a restriction of use, and an attempt to restrict
to redistribution of works produced using your program. Whilst I've seen
some proprietary software attempt this (such as cover disk versions of
compilers), I've never seen any open source (or anything I'd call
opensource) attempt it.

Whilst I understand the sentiment, I would suggest you'd be better off
*requesting* people cite your journal, rather than try *requiring* it. If
you're paranoid about citations (I don't know your field), and if program
produces images, you could *perhaps* include a (or similar)
url link in the image somewhere discreet. This would be trivial to remove
is someone wanted to, but I doubt many would. After all, as I mention
above, not all scientific publications contain citations (because it
depends on the defintion of "scientific publication").

FWIW, I'm not a lawyer, this isn't legal advice, I don't make any
judgement (and it'd be unqualified if I did) on OSD compatibility, but
hopefully you find it useful on some level :)



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