What is to be an author? How much code does grant you authorship? #encirc13

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 09/12/2013 - 17:39

I signed up to take part of an online, massive course — «Arte y cultura en circulación: crear y compartir en tiempos digitales» (The circulation of arts and culture: Creating and sharing in digital times). As the activities of us the attendees are to be published by each on their personal blog/space, I will be publishing them here. I hope they are interesting to some of my other regular readers.

I am late in joining, and I should already be posting the second activity. Anyway, this text goes towards the first week's lesson: Qué es un autor: la (de)construcción histórica del concepto de autoría (What is an author? Historic (de)construction of the concept of authorship). Our homework is to find an example of a current discussion where the notion of authorship is discussed, and share it this way.

And I'm somewhat in a hurry right now, so this will be hasty. But I didn't want to delay my (late) submission anymore!

In the Debian Ruby mailing list, Hleb Valoshka asks basically how deep should copyright recognition be. Because, yes, while copyright attribution is simple (simpler, at least) in literary / artistic works, computer programs (and even more those developed following the Free Software distributed fashion) are harder to properly attribute.

Is a two-line patch to a tens-of-thousands-of-lines project enough to warrant mention in the copyright file? Most of us would agree it is not. Few would contend this were the amount of changes to make up, say, even 1% of that scale of project.

In the coding projects where I am the main author (which, yes, are usually very small — I cannot recognize myself as a good programmer, and the size of my successful works proves me), I try to take care to mention explicitly each of the contributors, even if their contribution is quite small. But were I to lead a larger development work, with enough following to generate on the order of one submitted patch a day, would it make sense for me to follow up with such detail the authorship information?

And as a minor side note: How much does the law require me? A very small patch can fix important functionality issues (think security or performance). If somebody sends a very small patch fixing an intellectually hard to grasp problem... I am sure it should be properly acknowledged!

Anyway, I have to flee now. I am just dropping some ideas on the table. Of course, if anybody is willing to discuss them further, I'm interested in any debate that springs off it!

(Meanwhile... I expect to spam you with this topic a couple of times. But it should not bug you much, as it's one of my usual blog topics!)

Mariana's picture

Super interesante. Todavía no

Super interesante. Todavía no habíamos discutido el tema del reconocimiento de la autoría en el software, que sin dudas se vuelve complejo en el trabajo de código abierto. ¿Cómo reconocer apropiadamente todas las contribuciones de una comunidad? Quizás a algunos les interesa solamente agregar la mejora y no esperan reconocimientos, mientras que otros seguramente esperan ser reconocidos para mejorar su reputación, su visibilidad. No sé cómo funciona esto a nivel de las comunidades de software libre, pero me imagino que es bien importante ser cuidadoso y mantener la atribución cuando se reutiliza una pieza de código generado por otro, no?

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