Cut and Paste Citation from OpenAttribute.com

Review written in 
March 2011
Funding base 
This is an initiative coming from the Creative Commons[1], who have a well-established reputation in the area of providing licensing for work, and descriptions for those licences. The interest of Creative Commons is in methods of sharing descriptions of licenses for works, including data. As part of the Public Domain Mark initiative they are also proposing a lightweight mechanism by which data can be cited, which is referred to as cut and paste citation [2]. The idea has now spun off into the separate Openattribute.com initiative, a volunteer-run effort. [3]
Partners 
The Openattribute.com web page describes the project as a Mozilla Drumbeat project with volunteers from all over the world collaborating to design, build and distribute openAttribute [3]. A list of six people is listed in the OpenAttribute team. As a project that is run by volunteers it is open to participation by those who can offer useful skills (developer skills in Drupal and WordPress were in demand in February 2011). [4] There is a project wiki, a Google mailing list and a code base.
Length/Duration 
The project is described as having been born at the “Learning, Freedom and the Web” festival (no date given), and is described as being in the strategy/scope/story/design phase, inviting people to get involved.
Specification 
There is a version 0.1 specification, dated November 2010. [5]
Version 
There is some code [6] and early test versions [7] are available.
Applicability 
The initiative applies to resources using CC licenses and adopting HTML/RDFa to encode their attribution metadata. The tool is also not intended to be a complete “citation generator” i.e. a citation formatter but a simpler ‘attribution’. [11]
Functionality 
The intention is to provide tools that act as “attribution generators” for openly licensed content. The tools are intended to overcome the perceived problem that people get confused and find it difficult to attribute content licensed using CC licences. It is intended to promote properly attributing creators when openly licensed content is re-used, by making it a simple process to give the correct attribution. This is achieved by providing simple tools that users activate with a simple click of a button. The text or HTML for the correct attribution is then generated, which the user can copy and paste.

These tools will query the metadata around a CC-licensed object and exit in a properly formatted attribution that users can copy and paste wherever they need to. The aim is to re-use RDFa from any site where it’s available and produce formatted attributions; plugins and widgets for open content publishing platforms like WordPress and Drupal, will allow creators to facilitate proper attribution of their work.

Creative Commons uses RDFa to express license and other information about works for the semantic web (in machine-readable code). RDFa is a way of expressing RDF in XHTML. This creative commons page explains how this works: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/RDFa and this http://labs.creativecommons.org/2011/ccrel-guide/ is a guide to CCREL, the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language.

The metadata fields that can be queried are defined as follows in the FAQ [11]
Required attribution elements (metadata fields to query):

1) Title of the work being attributed

2) Attribution name (e.g., author, company, username)

3) Source URL for the attributed work

4) CC license name (i.e. CC-BY, Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial)

5) CC license URL

Optional attribution elements (CC+)

1) URL for the author site

2) Contact information for additional permissions

Two tools are described in the specification: the first is a browser add-on which can re-use RDFa data (or else data from HTML tags) to generate a formatted attribution in plain text or HTML, in a separate browser window, that can then be copied and pasted. Manual modification to the generated attribution should be possible.

The second tool works similarly, but is developed as a plugin for PHP based platforms (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Zotero, dSpace, ccMixter) Ajax or javascript popups can be used for interacting with the cut and paste attribution.

A sample of the output of the tools is given in the FAQ [11]

Example plain text attribution

My Drumbeat Experience / Pieter Kleymeer (@bagabot) / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Example Code for the pasteable HTML attribution, with RDFa


<a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/">
<img alt="Creative Commons License" style="border-width:0" src="http://i.creativecommons.org/l/by/3.0/88x31.png" />
</a><br /><span>My Drumbeat Experience</span> by <a href="http://open.umich.edu" rel="cc:attributionURL">Pieter Kleymeer (@bagabot)</a> is licensed under a <a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/">Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License</a>.<br />Based on a work at <a href="http://flickr.com" rel="dct:source">flickr.com</a>.

Openness/Access 
The intention is to provide tools for a range of platforms, although the focus is on browsers and PHP-based platforms to start with. “To make automated attribution generation really useful, we need to enable it in a variety of contexts. We need several tools in several places.” [10] The aim is to re-use RDFa from any site where it’s available and produce formatted attributions. The initiative is open to anyone to join and provide their own tools or plug-ins for other platforms. There is currently no formal process for deciding which metadata (in HTML, RDFa) the tools are expected to be able to work with. Some closed platforms will also be supported e.g. Flickr, Vimeo
Flexibility/adaptability 
By basing the approach on standards like HTML and RDFa, and targetting popular and open platforms like WordPress, the general idea is flexible and easy to adapt.
The current focus of the initiative is to take metadata presented in association with CC licenses, and although the generic approach of re-using embedded tags and metadata and representing it to the user is more widely applicable, it looks likely that the tools offered by the project will need to find CC-associated metadata. However the approach could be adapted to produce similar tools looking for other metadata. The key will be in defining the set of metadata that can be operated on by the tools, and in encouraging the embedding of that metadata (and in making the tools flexible enough to cope with dirty or imprecise metadata or missing content). It is too early too tell how easily the tools could be modified to work with other metadata.
Penetration/adoption 
This is a relatively young initiative; the discussion list is fairly busy and active with messages dating back to November 2010. The first targets for tools are browsers and Word Press, which are widely used and should help adoption. First versions of the tools have already been released for testing. It builds on the use of CC licenses which have good take up in some quarters and these tools could get popular with the same communities that use CC – for example the UK OER community was very excited by news of the download of the test version becoming available. [9] The initiative has the support of the Creative Commons, which is a highly reputable activity with good penetration. OpenAttribute could benefit from this association.
Support 
See the section on contacts and links. As this is a volunteer run initiative support is provided on an as time permits basis. Responses made on the blog of one of the developers were helpful and timely [7] The emphasis is on getting volunteers involved There is also a bug submission process associated with the github project [8].
Contact/Links 
The google group should be used for making contact, sending comments and suggestions or to get involved: attrib-generator@googlegroups.com Updated August 2011: email can be sent to contact@openattribute.com
References 

[1] http://creativecommons.org/
[2] http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/22940
[3] http://openattribute.com/ visited 14th February 2011
[4] http://openattribute.com/get-involved/ visited 14th February 2011
[5] https://wiki.mozilla.org/Drumbeat/Attribution_generator_Functional_Specification
[6] https://github.com/nyergler/openattribute-firefox
[7] http://yergler.net/blog/2010/12/31/minor-update-for-openattribute/ [blog]
[8] https://github.com/nyergler/openattribute-firefox/issues
[9] http://groups.google.com/group/attrib-generator/browse_thread/thread/c2e645713051f98d?hl=en#
[10] http://etherpad.mozilla.com:9000/OpenAttribute-one-page-overview visited 2nd March 2011
[11] http://etherpad.mozilla.com:9000/OpenAttribute-FAQ visited 2nd March 2011