Tuesday 28 June 2011 by Bradley M. Kuhn
Island theme song, in its first season, left out mentioning
the Professor and Mary Ann characters by name, simply including
…And the Rest in that lyric where their names later
were heard. Mystery Science Theater 3000 even spoofed this issue
screening of This Island Earth, in which the
Johnson (The Professor) appeared. When Johnson first appears on
screen while viewing This Island Earth, MST3K's Mike says
over the film:
Hey, what's this . Indeed, what's that all about?
…And the Rest
Anyone would get easily annoyed if they've contributed some work but,
when credit is giving, they were just relegated into
… and the
rest. Anyone who is thrown into that group would assume their contribution
is somehow also not important,
or that the contributions of the credited are somehow better.
Some Free Software projects websites, however, often relegate many of their
contributors to being
And the Rest, just like The Professor and
Mary Ann in their first season of Gilligan's Island. This is a mistake that ought to be
addressed when it occurs.
The example of this problem that was recently brought to my attention
was on Fedora Project's website.
At the bottom of all of the pages of Fedora's website,
© 2011 Red Hat, Inc. and others. I've dubbed this a
“Gilligan's Island copyright notice” because, while Red Hat
is probably a copyright holder some of Fedora, Red Hat employees are
also fond of pointing out how many contributors they have from outside
Red Hat. Yet, with regard to the website, those contributors aren't
considered important enough to appear in the copyright notice. They're
secondary characters that Red Hat is indicating don't matter that much:
like The Professor and Mary Ann in Gilligan's Island's first
However, the solution for this problem isn't completely clear. Obviously, listing all the copyright holders at the bottom of every web page is completely unreasonable. In projects themselves, we usually have a CREDITS or COPYRIGHT file that has everyone's notice collected, but rarely is every copyright notice put in the single files of the project. Perhaps website could do the same. Certainly, Gilligan's Island copyright notices can't continue; they relegate everyone but the main entity into a supporting character role, when in fact, in Free Software projects, everyone should be equal.
I've been discussing discussing this issue on identi.ca lately with Richard Fontana of Red Hat, and he's started a thread on Fedora list about this. I hope that it gets resolved soon, and I'm grateful to Fontana for addressing this issue.
It's worth noting that a few examples of other distributions, such
as Debian, Arch
Linux, and Ubuntu, are even worse
in this regard, because they list only a few authors (or a single
corporate entity) that may or may not have all the copyright on the
project and the website; they don't do the minimal
… and the Rest. For example, Debian's copyright notice
Copyright © 1997-2011 SPI. Such notices
are even worse than Gilligan's Island Copyright Notices,
because they fail to even acknowledge at all that a diversity of
contributors are present and hold copyrights. Note that
Debian bug on this issue (and the related issue of poor licensing of
I suppose Gilligan's Island Copyright Notices are better than marking the work as an organization's own when in fact there has been no assignment of copyright. Still, I think Free Software projects should take more care on this issue. As is noted in the GNOME Foundation Guidelines on Copyright Assignment (which I co-authored), many developers want to see their “name in lights” under the copyright notice when they contribute to a project. It's important that we give them that opportunity.
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