Category Archives: internet standards

attribution and reuse

Play the Web is a blog with the premise of exploring technical hurdles for making chains of derivative works:

On this blog we want to talk about media reuse on the Internet and enabling reuse in a responsible way. Media companies’ reactionary response of restricting all use is throwing the baby out with the bathwater but conversely doing away with copyright on the Internet altogether is no better. There’s a middle way and we need to build tools to facilitate that path. Tools to recognise media and enable reuse.

They’re assuming that the end result of their work will be part of The Initiative:

Our immediate challenge is discovering what licensing and ownership attributes are associated with a given piece of media. There are millions of discrete pieces of media on the Internet, how can software tell which are reusable, which are licensed, which are public domain, etc.? A simple solution to this problem is offered by microformats. By embedding meta-data with media in a standardised, machine-readable way we open the door to all kinds of applications that rely on this knowledge.

And they already have an excellent post on how to do attribution for a reused photograph:

I’m now kind of concerned with what to call “Attribution”. In the Creative Commons attribution is a legal term, but what I really want to relate is:

  1. From where did I find the content: Miss 604’s blog. (The Copied Source)
  2. From where did the original content come from: Squeaky Marmot (The Original Source or at least the source Miss 604 found)

Do you reuse content? Do others reuse your content? If so, what do you think? How would you like to see the “attribution”?

I have a couple data points to offer.

One, non-commercial users don’t care about copyright. They know zero about it, they don’t know of any reason to care, and they aren’t going to change. (Software developers, who deal with free and open source software, are an exception to this rule). Commercial users may care, but can’t use content under a non-commercial license. So in practice the issue of attribution only has a real-world impact for derived works created by commercial entities. Source works which are licensed to allow both derivative works and commercial use are the ones we’re talking about.

Two, in XSPF there is an element for giving attribution to the sources of derived works. The idea is that one person would incorporate another person’s playlist into their own, and would use this element to give credit. It is defined as a chronologically-ordered stack:

An ordered list of URIs. The purpose is to satisfy licenses allowing modification but requiring attribution. If you modify such a playlist, move its //playlist/location or //playlist/identifier element to the top of the items in the //playlist/attribution element. xspf:playlist elements MAY contain exactly one xspf:attribution element.

Such a list can grow without limit, so as a practical matter we suggest deleting ancestors more than ten generations back.


The stack framework is a pretty elegant tool for handling this requirement, and I’m happy about how we did it. However this element is rarely if ever used because no current playlist sharing sites that I know of both expect playlists to cross site boundaries and expect users to make new playlists out of old ones.

no more passwords

When I forget my password, don’t use my email to confirm that I have authority to reset it, use my email to log me in. Just treat an email address as a flavor of Open ID and we’ll all get along fine.

I don’t even save passwords for a lot of sites. I auto-generate a new random password, use it to login or create the account, and use password recovery by email whenever the site logs me out.

hAudio in Yahoo! Media Player

This blog post is for techies.

It’s natural for Yahoo! Media Player to support hAudio. hAudio has valuable functionality and is generally well thought out.

But it’s too big a project. The syntax is very complex. Writing a parser and accurately supporting the features is a large job which is out of scope for the media player team. The verbosity of the syntax will turn off many users. And using the syntax is too complex to do by hand; users absolutely can’t write hAudio without a dedicated hAudio editor.

What my team needs is an open source library for parsing the syntax and managing the feature set. This library would have to be small — we have strict limits on code size that are already hard to manage. The library would have to be fast — we already have a long lag time to parse big pages, and our metadata syntax can be parsed much more quickly than hAudio. The library would have to be under a license that we could incorporate into a commercial project; this probably means a BSD license.

What users need is a user interface for authoring hAudio integrated into their working enviroment. For example, editors within Drupal, WordPress, Moveable Type, and social networking sites.

I appreciate the good work of the hAudio creators. They took on a difficult and practical goal and had both the persistence and skill to pull it off. So I’m sorry to say that their project is not yet at the point where my team can take advantage of it.