Policy for attribution

Arnoud Engelfriet arnoud at engelfriet.net
Wed Jul 12 07:32:40 UTC 2006

Philippe Verdy wrote:
> Do you know that any media without a clear attribution of its author
> is illegal in many countries, because it's impossible to assert if
> the licencing terms are valid, or to contact the true authors to see
> if the publication was authorized and not simply stolen?

It's usually against the law to _remove_ existing attributions,
especially when the author insists on having them (see Berne
Convention art. 6bis (1), which provides for moral rights). 
Similarly, it's against the law to add a false attribution.

But if the author publishes anonymously, and you publish the
work, that does not require you to add an attribution of the
author. Of course you need to have a license to publish the
work, but if the license does not require you to add an attribution
and there's no attribution on the work, you have no obligation
to add one.

> Without the attribution of authors, it's all the licencing scheme
> that collapse: why would then a licence be needed, if it's not to
> protect authors and users of open-source programs? Without
> attributions or contracts, there's simply NO intellectual property,
> and in fact NO property at all.

The existence of a copyright on a work does not depend on the
ability to identify its author. Berne does not allow that. 
(This BTW is causing problems for so-called "orphan works" where
the authors are unknown so they cannot be contacted to obtain
a license). 

If there is a license but no author identification, there's of
course the risk that the license was added by someone else than
the author. In that case, if you use the work, you risk getting
sued by the real author and you'll find that the license you
were relying on is worth nothing. How big a risk that is is
something you should determine for yourself. The law only says
"do not use without license", and leaves it up to you to obtain
a valid license somehow.


Arnoud Engelfriet, Dutch & European patent attorney - Speaking only for myself
Patents, copyright and IPR explained for techies: http://www.iusmentis.com/

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