Copyright in user submissions

WikiJob
Enable
The Source
#1

I’m extremely disappointed to see that WikiJob claims copyright in all user submissions (except, possibly, those in the forums - the ‘Terms and Conditions’ and ‘Contribute’ pages are ambiguous on this). On the ‘Information for Companies’ and ‘Information for Candidates’ pages it is claimed that “WikiJob is a wiki - an open source website”, in the ‘Terms and Conditions’ the term “open-content” is used - well, it benefits from using an open source Content Management System, and the source code for the pages can be viewed and edited on this website, but this would not meet the most common definitions of Open Source.

Common practice elsewhere is for submissions to be given with a perpetual, non-exclusive licence to reproduce the content, with copyright remaining with the writer. (It appears that WikiJob may be trying to say this in regard to forum submissions, but as mentioned above this is by no means clear.) Creative Commons and similar licences are widely used to enable and control what may be subsequently done with the content. Alternatively, some projects specify release into the Public Domain.

Contributors should take note of the fact that not only are they forbidden from submitting the same content to any other site, publication, etc (since the copyright has been assigned to WikiJob), the right to view it may be taken away at any time - for example by introducing subscriptions (“Such licence is revocable by WikiJob at any time without notice”).

To be charitable, it may be that the originators of the site have not thought about this. I’m sorry to say, though, that this is not the way it appears - the impression is that some buzzwords have been thrown in to appear modern and attractive, either without an understanding of what they mean, or with the cynical intention of misleading the casual and unwary. (Please note that I am not making a judgement either way.)

I’d be interested to see what the originators of the site have to say on the matter, and what contributors think about it. In my opinion, it’s fine to make everything proprietary (though it’s not in the spirit to which the site lays claim), but it is most certainly not ok to misrepresent yourself as is currently the case.

In the meantime, I suggest that the site’s authors look up some definitions of “open source”. (I’m forced to assume that the site’s authors are responsible for this claim because pages do not have a viewable revision history - this is a major disadvantage, as it is one of the key ways of assessing how reliable information in a wiki is.)

While I’m complaining, two other things:

  1. The link to the ‘Terms and Conditions’ is unobvious - it only appears as a subpage of ‘About Us’ when that page is selected, but is not in the page content and the design means that the link in the sidebar is well below the bottom of the page body. A fairly standard place to put a link to the T&Cs is at the bottom of every page, where the copyright notice appears - this would make it much easier to find.

  2. The videos on the site - for example on the ‘Information for Companies’ and ‘Information for Candidates’ pages should not be set to play automatically - it is extremely irritating when a page (perhaps opened in the background) causes a user’s computer to start making sounds without them telling it to, and with absolutely no indication that this will happen. Not only is this poor usability design, in the context of the site it is unprofessional - people may be viewing it in the office, for example.

This post is offered as constructive criticism. I’ll be interested to hear others’ views.

#2

You have a point. Actually the main reason the license is the way it is is because we couldn’t afford lawyers to draft us one. The reason it contains technical jargon/legalese is because it is a cut-copy-and-paste job, and then we added a few extra terms. Moreover though, the content in the wiki’s is very valuable and we need to protect ourselves from competitors stealing it (which they do regardless). When content from our site gets ripped onto a competitors site, it usually looses the ‘wiki’ format, and becomes out-of-date and hence wrong, which we want to avoid. Furthermore, content is the only thing WikiJob has- if everybody could rip it off and republish it we’d probably die out. Unlike Wikipedia, we have a lot of competitors that would eat our breakfast if we let them!

So there-in is the dilemma. I’m open to discussions though- it is supposed to be the users’ site!

Regarding the videos- yep that is annoying- that’s a result of the host of those particular videos, which isn’t us. We’ve just started hosting videos ourselves so maybe we’ll look at moving those over where we can control how they play.

Regarding the link to T&C’s- duly noted. If I haven’t done it by the end of next week, remind me and I’ll make sure it happens.

#3

Chris, thanks for your reply.

The thought occurred to me that perhaps crowdsourced was meant rather than open source - whilst the concepts are often complementary they are very different. Crowdsourced would seem to be applicable here.

My feelings about people providing content that then becomes the property of WikiJob remain the same. The circumstances are different, but look at the controversy over CDDB / Gracenote, and compare attitudes towards (and success of!) OpenStreetMap with Google MapMaker and People’s Map.

I did suspect that there might well be a copy-and-paste involved, but as you grow it’s something that it would be a good idea to think about sooner rather than later. It doesn’t have to be all legalese - simple plain English should be fine, as long as it’s unambiguous.

I sympathise with your fears about competitors using the content, but remember to also look at it from a contributor’s point of view - they have to take on trust that you won’t exploit their work / time / effort. I suppose it partly depends on whether you are looking to make money from the site - in which case should you be asking people to give you content (=money) for free? - or whether the information is the important thing and you seek only to cover your costs. A simple change would be to leave copyright in people’s submissions with them, with them agreeing to give you a permanent, non-exclusive licence to use it. Beyond that, it would be worth you looking at things like the various Creative Commons licences (they can require attribution, non-commercial use only, that the same conditions are imposed on subsequent users - in various combinations), or the Open Database Licence (ODbL) might well be suitable. This would still let you take action against people not using the data in accordance with the licence, but would protect the data against - for example - this site folding.

There’s also nothing to stop you creating “Value-added” content around the user submissions to bring people to the site, and in creating a strong brand - which you appear to be doing - you make yourself the ‘go-to’ destination even if the information were available elsewhere (for example, despite Wikipedia’s content being available in many other places (competitors? :wink: ) under its various licences - answers.com being a prominent example - the overwhelming majority of people read it (I imagine - I haven’t looked for any studies) on wikipedia.org). It can also open up opportunities to draw users to the site - an admittedly not great example off the top of my head is the wikipedia, panoramio, etc snippets layers on Google Maps.

These are some fairly fundamental questions - but I think they are worth the site owners (and hopefully the community that there seems to be here) thinking about. They are also questions that have arisen frequently elsewhere - with many examples of the various approaches - but the more open philosophy does have proven benefits, including some that are not immediately obvious.


On the subject of the videos - it’s a pain having to use someone else’s API, isn’t it! It might be that something like works - there seems to be a support community at realitydigital which might get you the answer, though it appears to have virtually no content…


I don’t know which wiki module you’re using, but I would recommend looking to see if it can generate a ‘History’ tab on the wiki pages. As I said upthread, the ability to see who changed what when is invaluable - and as you become more popular vandalism, astroturfing, etc may well become a problem.


I hope this has provided some food for thought, at least. Best regards, and good luck!

(PS: sorry for the essays! :wink: )