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One of several AB projects.

This page is for documenting suggested best practices (status: under development by the AB) for attribution in W3C specifications, when referencing or using any part of other specifications, whether from W3C, or other organizations.

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Authorship of this page is available from its revision history.
This page itself is provided under a CC0 license. By contributing to this page, you agree your contributions are offered as CC0 as well.


When referencing, quoting, incorporating, or including large sections (perhaps the entirety) from other specifications, whether from W3C, or other organizations, you should provide a hyperlinked reference to the source specification, regardless of whether the source specification's license requires or even suggests it.

An attribution reference should have at a minimum the following:

  1. precise hyperlink (including fragment identifier) to the location of the original referenced/quoted/incorporated text
  2. name of the human author or editor of that text
  3. name of the organization that is the host of that specification
  4. name of that specification


Our highlevel goal for this document is to foster growing cultural conventions for attribution both inside W3C, and beyond W3C, to making attributions a part of cultural norms rather than depending on any legal (copyright) requirements.

Attributing and citing references to text used in specifications is:

  • more intellectually honest (as opposed to copying someone else's text and omitting external authorship, thus falsely implying original authorship, AKA plagiarism)
  • more respectful, and
  • provides better provenance information to make it easier to see where portions of a specification came from.

Each of these is sufficient reason to provide proper attribution beyond any licensing requirement or request to do so. Even if the source specification is provided under a very liberal license like CC0, you should still attribute for the reasons given.

Even if you don't copy normative spec prose, e.g. only copy ideas, or APIs, or informative examples, it is beneficial (for the reasons above) to attribute and cite the sources of those.


The new HTMLWG charter allows for working group members to contribute HTML5 Extension specifications using CC-by, and then places attribution requirements on any derivative works.

These attribution requirements are a good start for growing cultural conventions for attribution both inside W3C, and beyond W3C, towards a goal of making attribution founded in cultural norms rather than legal (copyright) requirements, potentially allowing for use of CC0 for contributions to W3C in the future.

See also