Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Wolfram|Alpha's Surprising Terms of Service

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the badges-coming-soon dept.

Google 303

eldavojohn notes that Groklaw is highlighting the unexpected Wolfram|Alpha ToS — unexpected, that is, for those of us accustomed to Google's "just don't use it to break the law, please" terms. Nothing wrong with Wolfram setting any terms they like, of course. Just be aware. "We've seen people comparing Wolfram's Alpha to Google's Search from a technical standpoint but Groklaw outlined the legal differences in a post yesterday. Wolfram|Alpha's terms of use are completely different in that it is not a search engine; it's a computational service. The legalese says that they claim copyright on the each results page and require attribution. So for you academics out there, be careful. Groklaw notes this is interesting considering some of its results quote 2001: A Space Odyssey or Douglas Adams. Claiming copyright on that material may be a bold move. There's more: if you build a service that uses their service or deep-links to it, you may be facilitating your users to break their terms of use, and you may be held liable."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

slashdot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28016479)

assuming everyone knows everything about the story posted with no background since 1997

Re:slashdot (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017665)

try clicking the links.

Wolfram|Alpha just killed their business (0)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016481)

Hope they are not expecting to make any money by selling out their Customers at the drop of a hat.

Re:Wolfram|Alpha just killed their business (5, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017101)

Hope they are not expecting to make any money by selling out their Customers at the drop of a hat.

How are people who show up to use a free service "customers?" Google's customers, for example, are their advertisers, not the people who use the free stuff.

Re:Wolfram|Alpha just killed their business (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017351)

How are people who show up to use a free service "customers?"

They're the product, not customers.

Re:Wolfram|Alpha just killed their business (4, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017739)

How are people who show up to use a free service "customers?" Google's customers, for example, are their advertisers, not the people who use the free stuff.

They can both be considered customers. I'm Google's customer because I give them money; not directly, but through their advertising. Of course, that depends on the definition that you use for customer, but I'm giving Google something they want (pageviews and advertisement clicks) in exchange for them giving me something that I want (good search results). If we're not their customer, then we're very close. If I go to another site for my searches, then Google loses money.

Nothing new for Wolfram (4, Informative)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017687)

Anybody who has used Wolfram's products, such as Mathematica, for more than a few versions, knows that they don't have, how shall I say this? a very enlightened view of the relationship between the party that sells a product and the party that buys that product.

In fact, their user agreements have always been among the very worst in the software industry, that is, if you happen to believe that the consumer has any rights at all beyond the right to give money to the vendor.

They've always been pretty hostile toward their customers.

Database Rights? (4, Interesting)

gilgongo (57446) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016483)

This is a British company (god save the Queen!) - aren't they talking about database rights [wikipedia.org] ? If so, I think they're not enforceable outside the EU.

Re:Database Rights? (-1, Offtopic)

gilgongo (57446) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016579)

Lordy - I've just tried a few searches and it's really, really crap isn't it? Wow. Hope it gets better or they'll be toast in under a couple of years I would think.

Re:Database Rights? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28016583)

If so, I think they're not enforceable outside the EU.

Duh. That's a brilliant observation.

I'll never forget the CIO who told me (I was a consultant presenting a Help Desk application that we had been hired to implement and were about to deploy at his company) - "It doesn't look enough like Google. I want it to look like google - just one line that I type what I want into."

Now, to me, google (or google's address bar) is a huge improvement on the Command Line. I bet the same guy wouldn't have wanted to return to the days when you had to guess what the command-line needed you to type, much like an Infocom adventure game.

That's why Google is a huge improvement - it tries to figure out what YOU want. That's the reverse of a command-line, where you have to figure out what IT wants.

Re:Database Rights? (3, Informative)

Minter92 (148860) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016735)

Wolfram is located a few blocks from me in Champaign Illinois

Re:Database Rights? (4, Funny)

Fozzyuw (950608) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017555)

Wolfram is located a few blocks from me in Champaign Illinois

Or just do what I did and "wolfram Alpha it" [wolframalpha.com] * (well, that doesn't quite have the same ring too it).

* © 2009 Wolfram Alpha LLCâ"A Wolfram Research Company

I JUST BROKE WOLFRAM ALPHA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017191)

Put in 4/0 (four divided by zero) and you get a divide by zero error, which breaks the page and outputs a bunch of database junk. They didn't think of this?

Re:I JUST BROKE WOLFRAM ALPHA (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017241)

Input:
4/0

Result:
infinity^~

Oh noes, I broke their terms of service.

Re:Database Rights? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017605)

*sigh*

"This is a British company..."

First thing that came to mind when reading that post was the Robot Chicken spoof of 300 called 1776.

"This is a British colony...."

Hah! (1, Redundant)

aero2600-5 (797736) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016485)

The easy solution: Just use Google.

Aero

Re:Hah! (4, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016675)

I'm not sure how revolutionary Wolfram Alpha [wolframalpha.com] really is. But, if you've tried it, you'll have discovered that it's not a google alternative - It's not even trying to be. It's a completely different tool. It's kind of fun to tinker with, but I haven't decided yet how useful it will be.

And, just so that I can blatantly violate their TOS (which I've yet to read except for in TFS and I've not agreed to), here are the results for 2+2:

Input:
2+2
Result:
4
Number name:
four
Visual representation:
* * * *

Re:Hah! (1, Redundant)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016931)

I think that being a google alternative is like being an ipod killer, and we've all seen how successful companies have been in that endeavor. Good on them for not trying to play follow the leader or at least claim not to, I haven't actually USED the service or anything to tell if they are or are not imitating/trying to replace google.

Re:Hah! (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017059)

Another cool thing, do a search for any website (here is slashdot for the click impaired [wolframalpha.com] ). It comes up with an element hierarchy for the page. I'm not sure how useful it is, but it's pretty.

Re:Hah! (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017323)

That is cool!

Re:Hah! (2, Informative)

Boronx (228853) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017149)

It'll solve differential equations.

Re:Hah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28016857)

Google can't do my calculus homework for me.

Re:Hah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017141)

That will be really useful come final exam time, too!

This just seals the deal. (2, Interesting)

CppDeveloper (829095) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016497)

Gave wolfram alpha a spin today and found it extremely uninspiring. Given these ToS I doubt I will ever go back.

Re:This just seals the deal. (1, Interesting)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016907)

It seems half finished. If I look up the catalogue number of an exoplanet, for example, it'll read me off it's orbital parameters. If I then try and ask what 'longitude of periapsis' means, it'll shrug it's shoulders and return absolutely nothing.

Re:This just seals the deal. (4, Informative)

Onyma (1018104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016993)

That's because that's not its purpose since it's not a search engine. That's like asking your calculator for the definition of the word 'derivative'.

Re:This just seals the deal. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28016975)

It seems to me that the only thing I could use Wolfram Alpha for is as a web frontend to Mathematica frontend that doesn't require me to fire up Mathematica just to integrate something real quick.

(I know, I know, I know, integrals.wolfram.com [wolfram.com] exists, but it doesn't do anything but integration and also doesn't let you specify integration limits.)

Re:This just seals the deal. (3, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016983)

I just tried a search for my hometown, Hickman, CA. It came up with a link to Hickman, Kentucky, and suggested I use Hickman Nebraska instead. Who wants Nebraska? Then I saw a link that just said "Hickman." I tried it, and it came up with a demographic breakdown, that didn't quite seem to match any place I've lived. Then I realized it was giving me the demographic breakdown for those with the last name of Hickman. Interesting, but not what I was looking for.

In fact, that's how I would characterize the entire system: interesting, but not what I was looking for.

Finally, I tried Hickman, CA again, and realized it had recognized California, but instead was comparing the location of Hickman Kentucky with California. So I now know how the lowest point in California compares to the lowest point of Hickman Kentucky. Except it didn't actually list the lowest point for Hickman Kentucky.

Then, a search for "Angelina Jolie nude" resulted in Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input. Hmmmmm.

Re:This just seals the deal. (1)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017133)

Then, a search for "Angelina Jolie nude" resulted in Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input. Hmmmmm.

Wolfram|Alpha is a Slashdotter??

That's pretty standard (5, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016509)

They aren't claiming ownership of the bits of data they provide, they're claiming copyright over the whole page. Sort of like how an encyclopedia will copyright the book even if it includes quotes from people. Basically over the presentation of the data.

Additionally much of what they would be claiming copyright over isn't subject to copyright protections. Things such as birth dates and astronomical data aren't subjected to copyright protection.

Re:That's pretty standard (5, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016645)

Then I guess you should have read the actual terms before you posted, hmm?

Attribution and Licensing

        As Wolfram|Alpha is an authoritative source of information, maintaining the integrity of its data and the computations we do with that data is vital to the success of our project. We generate information ourselves, and we also gather, compare, contrast, and confirm data from multiple external sources. Where we have used external sources of data we list the source or sources we relied on, but in most cases the assemblages of data you get from Wolfram|Alpha do not come directly from any one external source. In many cases the data you are shown never existed before in exactly that way until you asked for it, so its provenance traces back both to underlying data sources and to the algorithms and knowledge built into the Wolfram|Alpha computational system. As such, the results you get from Wolfram|Alpha are correctly attributed to Wolfram|Alpha itself.

        If you make results from Wolfram|Alpha available to anyone else, or incorporate those results into your own documents or presentations, you must include attribution indicating that the results AND/OR [emphasis mine] the presentation of the results came from Wolfram|Alpha. Some Wolfram|Alpha results include copyright statements or attributions linking the results to us or to third-party data providers, and you may not remove or obscure those attributions or copyright statements. Whenever possible, such attribution should take the form of a link to Wolfram|Alpha, either to the front page of the website or, better yet, to the specific query that generated the results you used. (This is also the most useful form of attribution for your readers, and they will appreciate your using links whenever possible.)

        A list of suggested citation styles and icons is available here.

      Failure to properly attribute results from Wolfram|Alpha is not only a violation of these terms, but may also constitute academic plagiarism OR [emphasis mine] a violation of copyright law. Attribution is something we expect you to give us in exchange for us having provided you with a high-quality free service.

        The specific images, such as plots, typeset formulas, and tables, as well as the general page layouts, are all copyrighted by Wolfram|Alpha at the time Wolfram|Alpha generates them. A great deal of scholarship and innovation is included in the results generated and displayed by Wolfram|Alpha, including the presentations, collections, and juxtapositions of data, and the choices involved in formulating and composing mathematical results; these are also protected by copyright.

        You may use any results, including copyrighted results, from Wolfram|Alpha for personal use and in academic or non-commercial publications, provided you comply with these terms.

        If you want to use copyrighted results returned by Wolfram|Alpha in a commercial or for-profit publication we will usually be happy to grant you a low- or no-cost license to do so. To request a commercial-use license, go to this form and provide the input for which you want to use the corresponding output along with information concerning the nature of your proposed use. Your request will be reviewed and answered as quickly as practical.

DISCLAIMER: These results are the property of Wolfram|Alpha.

Re:That's pretty standard (2, Informative)

800DeadCCs (996359) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016777)

You didn't know what you were looking for, we did.
we found it for you, you WILL find that what we gave you is what you were looking for.
If you have a problem with this, we will kill you.
(or failing that, come close enough for a copyright suit... how about a copyright vest? trousers?... what about a copyright shirt and tie?)

Re:That's pretty standard (5, Informative)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017047)

Don't see what the big deal is, here. Since Google doesn't host any of the actual information, you don't need to cite them as a source. You do need to cite the page you get to from Google, though. Think of W|A like a procedurally generated encyclopedia/textbook/almanac. Just like any of those other sources, you should cite it as a reference.

The sooner people stop associating Google and Alpha in their heads, the better.

Re:That's pretty standard (2, Interesting)

rm999 (775449) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017551)

I don't see the problem here. It really would be plagiarism to copy paste one of those plots into your paper and claim you generated it yourself.

I think we would need a lawyer for any further analysis, but I never really did think I could just gather a bunch of PDFs from Alpha (e.g. pages of common probability distributions) and claim the compiled book as my own.

Re:That's pretty standard (2, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016887)

Things such as birth dates and astronomical data aren't subjected to copyright protection.

That's not for lack of trying [techlawjournal.com] , though.

Re:That's pretty standard (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017067)

The answer to 2+2 might not surprise you, but that it's copyrighted by Wolfram [wolframalpha.com] may!

Re:That's pretty standard (1)

dmmiller2k (414630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017463)

It's not the ANSWER they're copyrighting, but the specific PRESENTATION of that answer.

To wit, the fact that they show the Input ("2 + 2"), the Result ("4"), the Number Name ("four"), and the Visual Representation (image of four dots) all together on the results page is their unique presentation.

Compare Google's version [google.com] . No spelled out number name, no image of dots.

First it would have to actually do something... (4, Insightful)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016513)

the legalese says that they claim copyright on the each results page and require attribution.

and that day appears a long way off, especially given the way they hyped it.

Besides, all their data comes from somewhere, and I don't see those attributions. And by all their data I mean symbolic integration, fractals, and Wolfram's formulation of a Turing machine which no one else uses.

I don't know what Alpha will be like in the future, but I was extremely disappointed in the present, and imagine Google^2 will make Alpha obsolete very soon anyway.

Re:First it would have to actually do something... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017071)

googol squared?
That's a lot of zeros....

Re:First it would have to actually do something... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017693)

I dunno, I was pretty impressed with the math example.

On the one hand, with Alpha, no one really needs to learn basic calculus any more. On the other hand, with Alpha, lots of people aren't going to learn basic calculus....

And yet (0)

bunyip (17018) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016517)

They don't attribute their sources, such as Wikipedia. They may be on a slippery slope here....

Re:And yet (4, Informative)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016549)

They don't? All calculations generate the sources under the "Source information" link on each page.

Re:And yet (1)

ais523 (1172701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017011)

The source information is ridiculously general; it tends to be either blank, or list every source used anywhere in a very general way. If all the results cite two different versions of the Encyclopedia Britannica and also Wikipedia, how can we tell which particular Wikipedia page the information came from? (That's needed to know the author list and thus know the information required by Wikipedia's license, whether it's GFDL or CC-by-sa.)

Re:And yet (1)

kaini (1435765) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017485)

there's already been quite a bit of discussion on wiki regarding whether it's okay to use WA as a source, and the general consensus seems to be that it isn't.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard#wolfram_alpha--_moving_discussion [wikipedia.org]

Re:And yet (2, Funny)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017789)

Irony: Wikipedia calling your information service non-authoritative.

slow searches (0, Flamebait)

NynexNinja (379583) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016519)

its nice if you like waiting several minutes to return any search results.... i ran a couple searches and i got so bored of waiting that i started doing something else and then completely forgot about it, came back about 3 minutes later and it was still searching!

Re:slow searches (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28016765)

It isn't a search engine; it doesn't search. I'm going to rip my face off if I hear another person refer to it as a search engine.

Re:slow searches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017001)

It showed no results for porn. What a crap search engine. /*hears ripping noises*/

Re:slow searches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017577)

I just searched for "rip my face off" on Wolfram|Alpha, but didn't get any results:
http://www28.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=rip+my+face+off

Google however does a much better job searching for results:
http://www.google.com/#hl=en&q=rip+my+face+off&aq=f&oq=&aqi=&fp=KNCTcOoW5w8

Google definitely has more of the internet indexed. Wolfram|Alpha sucks.

That's OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28016537)

We're all going to get sucked into a the black hole that will be formed when Stephen Wolfram's ego collapses under it's own weight anyway...

Nothing to worry about for academics (5, Informative)

jw3 (99683) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016543)

All they ask is that you attribute them when publishing results derived from their service. Example:

Methods: "The comparative population studies were derived from the Wolphram Alpha service (Wolphram, 2009)"

Regular thing for academics. I cite NCBI blast service, I cite PFAM, I cite dozens of other services out there. Most of these tools require or ask for an attribution; and in most cases, this is anyways necessary in a scientific procedure.

j.

Re:Nothing to worry about for academics (5, Interesting)

forand (530402) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017121)

How is it reasonable to ask for attribution for having a computer perform a calculation on someone else's data? Wolfram Alpha has do nothing except code a turing machine, I do not cite HP when I do a calculation on my calculator and I see no reason why more complex but equally wrote calculations should be. I ask the computer a question and it gives an answer, is the question or code used to find the answer the insightful/citable part of the idea?

Re:Nothing to worry about for academics (4, Insightful)

jw3 (99683) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017397)

You think it's not reasonable? Then write your own Wolphram Alpha, if you really think it is that simple, and use that instead of WA for your work. Man, you have no idea what you are talking about here. Modern biology would be nowhere if people who build such "turing machines" were not credited for their work, and consequently get grants for their research.

For example, tons of software in bioinformatics is written with a completely open source and well known algorithms, using data gathered by experimentalists, and yet they get the recognition -- because someone had to come up the with the idea, gather (and maintain!) the data, run tests, implement, etc. etc. Believe me, even with simple ideas and algorithms and for simpler data sets this is a shitload of work. Heck, even re-implementations of existing tools get recognized.

Secondly, a scientific procedure requires that you publish your methods -- you have used software X to generate figure Y and table Z, then you have to write how you did it. And noone in her or his right mind will reimplement existing tools just for the sake of the current work without a very good reason.

That said, sometimes a tool like that allows you to "get on the trail" -- which you then pursue using something else. For example, WA would give you a hint that there might be a connection between cancer and, say, cigarettes, and you show this connection using clinical trials. In such a case, however, when you do not publish the data from WA directly, nor any figures derived from it, you are not required to cite it.

Note that I am in no way convinced that WA is of any use. The parts of it that overlap with my area of expertise (biology / biocomputing) are naive and rudimentary, and mostly useless to say the least.

j.

Re:Nothing to worry about for academics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017475)

if people who build such "turing machines" were not credited for their work, and consequently get grants for their research.

Credited is not the same thing as cited.

Re:Nothing to worry about for academics (1)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017719)

Which is exactly why academics will ignore the Wolfram|Alpha terms-of-service and simply use their own best judgment to decide when to cite it.

No academic would cite Wolfram|Alpha (or any other software package) when they use it to perform some simple calculation, like sin(x) or whatever. But if the piece of software is performing a non-trivial calculation, then it should be cited, both to provide proper credit/attribution, and to make the methods section of a paper complete (it is possible that there is something idiosyncratic or even buggy about how it analyzed the data).

Like I said, academics will use their own judgment to decide whether or not to cite W|A, just like they do will all other software packages. If it's routine and trivial, and could have been just as easily calculated with some other software package, no one will mention it. If it's novel and complicated, people will gladly cite the provenance of the analysis.

Re:Nothing to worry about for academics (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017177)

Yeah, but such a citation is also very useless for the readers of an article, since a search engine/computational service does not produce immutable results. You never know when you read the article and check the stuff in Wolfram Alpha yourself, if the results you get are the same the authors used.

Basically a service like Wolfram Alpha is not usable as an academic source.

Of course. (5, Funny)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016553)

Wolfram Alpha doesn't just provide you with knowledge. It provides you with a new kind of knowledge. Any knowledge you gain from it must be attributed to Stephen Wolfram ... because he invented it. It is actually safer to attribute all citations to Stephen Wolfram, in fact, because he is smarter than you.

Re:Of course. (3, Funny)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016705)

Sorry, I thought it was Wolfram, not Colbert. Guess I'll pay closer attention next time. :)

Re:Of course. (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016921)

Funny, I thought it was the other way around...

Re:Of course. (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017465)

Wolfram Alpha doesn't just provide you with knowledge. It provides you with a new kind of knowledge. Any knowledge you gain from it must be attributed to Stephen Wolfram ... because he invented it.

Note: you may not fully appreciate this joke unless you have read some or all of Wolfram's voluminous tome A New Kind of Science.

Re:Of course. (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017599)

Wolfram deserves a big wet raspberry from everybody who thinks he is nothing more than an insufferable ego-maniac windbag that like the rest of us ride along on the coattails of the really great minds that came before.

Re:Of course. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017753)

"Knowledge"? Don't you mean Wolfram Knowledge(TM) 7? ;)

I don't really see a problem... (4, Interesting)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016595)

Of course I can see them wanting to be attributed for calculations? But what's the problem with that? I *want* to see attribution when a blog, newspaper, or scientific report spits out a series of numbers anyway, especially if it involves something else than raw mathematics, like statistics. That's something I see as important as they can just as well demand it in my opinion. I consider it a service to me.

If there's something that annoy me, it's unsourced calculations. If it's attributed to WA, then I can at least use the same query on WA and in turn see what WA used as sources for that specific query (under the "source information" link at the bottom of each page)

Copyright what!? (1)

darealpat (826858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016631)

So they are saying basically that since it is a "computational service" that they have the rights to the question that I used in order for them to do that particular computation? How does that work exactly?

Isn't that a little like saying that since you are a chef and I give you the ingredients for chicken pot-pie and tell you to make it since I don't know how, and you do so, you have the rights to the pie you made?

As far as attribution, I don't have a problem saying that they helped me, once they can also state their attributions.

Re:Copyright what!? (1)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017167)

Though IANAL, their copyright would be on the way they express the search results on the page (the way the content is displayed, ranked, any graphic design elements, etc.). They do not actually have standing to claim copyright on the content that is displayed (e.g., song lyrics, citation from a book), but only the way they display it.

Well, WolframAlpha didn't tell me much . . . (0)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016723)

I asked: "My mother and your mother were hanging out clothes. My mother punched your mother right in the nose. What color blood came out?"

WolframAlpha answered: "Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input."

I guess folks say that to me a lot, though, whenever I ask them something.

Google with the same question gave me a link to "Ghastly Games," which I though was pretty amusing.

So it depends on what type of service you are looking for on the Internet . . . answers to serious questions, or just plain amusement.

Must anyone care about their rules for links? (1)

Shoe Puppet (1557239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016769)

Is there actually anywhere (US or EU) a legal basis for them to bar people from linking to their site?

Re:Must anyone care about their rules for links? (1)

ais523 (1172701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017055)

The Terms of Use claim to be a contract. If they are, and if visitors agree to it, they can probably do anything. Obviously, those are two rather significant "if"s.

Of course (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28016783)

Of course it requires attribution; it's used to create original data. You shouldn't use BLASTN or CLUSTALW without citing their authors, why would it be any different for something like this? As has been mentioned numerous times already, W|A is not merely a search engine. It's a set of algorithms for manipulating the data that you specify.

And how pathetic/dishonest a scientist or professional would you have to be not to want to attribute it? Sources of information should be cited and experimental results should be verifiable.

Re:Of course (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016949)

What original data does it provide?
Quoting books and solving formulas are not examples of original data.

6*9 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28016801)

Service is broken, anyway. Six times nine is fourty-two, not fifty-four.

Re:6*9 (1)

cheftw (996831) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016969)

http://www97.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=6*9+in+base+13 [wolframalpha.com]

you just got shown.

Re:6*9 (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017089)

how is this original data? This is just a public fact.

Re:6*9 (1)

el3mentary (1349033) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017671)

All your base are belong to them!

I'm not sure what to do with your input (4, Funny)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016879)

(c) Wolfram Alpha. From now on, I'm going to make sure that I attribute all failures to understand to Mr. Wolfram.

It's not a bold claim (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016917)

The law already protects databases of public facts. Why would a spontaneously generated list not be copyrightable? Personally, I hope that the courts will see through that argument and call it a violation of the spirit of the law, but I won't hold my breath that they won't say that a list of copyrighted quotes isn't protected if the creator of the list claims that THAT list is protected.

Re:It's not a bold claim (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017063)

Indeed,

There's a number of decided cases where lists are copyrightable - the list have to be intelligently arranged or there must be some discrimination in the list selection, and in the US, as I understand, the list cannot be the only logical way to present the data, like a phone book.

Not Surprising (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016935)

Wolfram got bit, BAD by its case with mathworld and the corresponding book.

End of story, the tail wag the dog and CRC turned (almost stole) an 'pre-wikipedia' and turned into its own property.

It's not surprising he's being extra careful now.

not quite what it says (4, Informative)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28016941)

The Wolfram terms of service says that Alpha is capable of generating content from several data sources,and sometimes Alpha considers the content sufficiently original that it will attribute the content to itself. Otherwise, it will attribute the content to the source where it was derived. What is interesting is that we have a machine generating what is essentially one time use content, and the machine then gains a copyright to the content that others, even humans, have to respect. It is no more crazy than assigning a copyright to a corporation, so we should not be surprised. In any case, Wolfram does have a point that content should always be attributed to a source, and that people have become quite lazy on this issue, as various accusations of high level plagiarism have shown. Since Google only indexes, it does not really know Providence and cannot claim copyright to anything in particular.

There are couple of really scary things in the terms of use. For instance, minors are not allowed to use the service without the permission of adults, and adults become fully responsible for the actions of the child. I am unsure of why they felt they had to put that in there. Then there is the first sentence "The Wolfram|Alpha service may be used only by a human being using a conventional web browser to manually enter queries one at a time". I hate to have to define what a conventional browser is. For may people it would be only IE.

More scare is the ambiguous policy to deep linking. To wit "It is not permitted to use Wolfram|Alpha indirectly through another website that has created a large number of deep links to Wolfram|Alpha, or that automatically constructs links based on input that you give on that site, rather than on Wolfram|Alpha. You may not in effect use Wolfram|Alpha through an alternate user interface presented by another website." Clearly they want to not have bots and third parties writing code to hijck the site. Disappointing given the wonderful work they did with Mathworld.

Re:not quite what it says (1)

Shoe Puppet (1557239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017229)

What is interesting is that we have a machine generating what is essentially one time use content, and the machine then gains a copyright to the content that others, even humans, have to respect. It is no more crazy than assigning a copyright to a corporation, so we should not be surprised.

I disagree, it is more crazy. A company at least consists of and is owned by humans, so assigning copyright to one could be interpreted as collectively assigning copyright to the owners or the people of whom it consists.

There are couple of really scary things in the terms of use. For instance, minors are not allowed to use the service without the permission of adults, and adults become fully responsible for the actions of the child. I am unsure of why they felt they had to put that in there.

No one gives a shit on clauses like that. Anyway, what danger can you do with a query? (Has anyone asked it about Little Bobby Tables yet? :) )

Wolfram Copyright (1)

SiliconSeraph (996818) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017033)

Anyone else find the fact that locational searches link to Google maps satellite images to be somewhat ironic?

They are sending results back as images... (1)

dvh.tosomja (1235032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017035)

They are sending results back as images, I would expect everything from them!

Does it cut both ways? (5, Insightful)

Bill Dimm (463823) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017129)

If attribution is required because (according to the TOS):

In many cases the data you are shown never existed before in exactly that way until you asked for it, so its provenance traces back both to underlying data sources and to the algorithms and knowledge built into the Wolfram|Alpha computational system. As such, the results you get from Wolfram|Alpha are correctly attributed to Wolfram|Alpha itself.

Does that mean that Wolfram|Alpha can be sued for slander if its algorithm generates a false statement about some individual or corporation by "misunderstanding" the data it is digesting? In other words, if the result is something uniquely generated by Wolfram|Alpha, deserving of attribution in the same way that an author of a book deserves attribution, do they also deserve to be held liable if the content they are generating is incorrect or slanderous?

Search Engine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017159)

What sort of search engine is this!?

I typed in 'porn' and it gave me pie charts.

Is what the Internet has come to?

Re:Search Engine? (2, Funny)

SiliconSeraph (996818) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017183)

"Narrower terms: child pornography" Nice, Wolfram. Thanks.

eigenvectors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017181)

I searched for

eigenvectors {{1,2},{3,4}}

and it copyrighted the answer. Calculus students beware ...

Good Attribution, Useless Result (4, Interesting)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017189)

I typed: airspeed velocity of a swallow

Input Interpretation: estimated average cruising airspeed of an unladen African swallow

Result: there is unfortunately insufficient data to estimate the velocity of an African swallow
(even if you specified which of the 47 species of swallow found in Africa you meant)
(asked of a general swallow (but not answered) in Monty Python's Holy Grail.)

Of course, now I know there are 47 species of swallow in Africa.

Re:Good Attribution, Useless Result (4, Funny)

riskeetee (1039912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017287)

I asked it "Who farted?" and got:

Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

Related inputs to try:

People: ted

Of course, the correct answer to this question would have been "He who smelt it, dealt it". I remain unimpressed.

Re:Good Attribution, Useless Result (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017541)

Yet google returns an estimated "11 meters per second" in the summary of the first search result. http://www.google.com/search?q=swallow+airspeed [google.com] Interesting.

I farted in bed and it sounded like a dolphin (0, Troll)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017247)

Naturally, I asked WolframAlpha about it.

Wolfram didn't know what to do with that input.

I have no use for such a shoddy search engine.

And they are soliciting donations of effort (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28017409)

Haha, they want donations of effort and data organization from "experts" in various fields. This would not make me want to contribute.

The machine is basically computing stuff, that's great, but it's dynamically generated content. Their copyrighting the presentation as well as some of the data (according to the TOS) but aren't specific about what is and what isn't.

Basically that boils down to just trying to copyright facts and always have the upper hand so they can slap anyone they don't like.

Their 15 minute video was intriguing, but in practice they have almost none of the medical crap you claimed actually in your dataset. Also, I found it very amusing to have tried some of the terms in their examples yesterday and get a "crappy service doesn't know what to do with your search terms" or whatever it says.

Case sensitivity (1)

The Moof (859402) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017431)

It looks like its results are case sensitive, but the redirects don't know that.

Did a search for 'hockey' and got some general information (as expected). Tried a new search for 'ice hockey' which attempted to redirected to 'Hockey' which apparently isn't a doesn't exist (the capital 'H' throws it off).

Then it asked for my e-mail address for some reason...

Oops! The Vulcan Academy cheer is now copyrighted (5, Funny)

Otis P. Foont (1090971) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017439)

I innocently entered "Secant Tangent Cosine Sine 3.14159" into WolframAlpha. The result, 74.69263, now belongs to Wolfram. Sorry about that.

deep links (5, Interesting)

zarathud (255150) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017581)

I note that Wolfram|Alpha happily deep-links to Google Maps.

Needs a little work with it's data (1)

cjjjer (530715) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017583)

I typed in my home town and it placed it somewhere in the North West Territories (Canada). So I used Coordinate Distance Calculator [boulter.com] to calculate the distance to the actual coordinates, it seems that Wolfram|Alpha was only 6478.05 kilometers / 4025.27 miles out. Not bad...

Category error (1)

Branestawm (1558103) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017589)

Seems pretty desperate to insist on citation to me - I note it suggests being the 'primary reference' in articles and essays! Well, no - if my students cite W|A as their primary reference there's going to be some low marks flying around. Similar paranoia surrounds Mathematica - download their 'home' version and you're apparently forbidden to publish anything 'discovered' with it. This is apparently a privilege only afforded to purchasers of the 'full' version. Fine. I'll keep using my existing software - imagine being stymied by having your breakthrough at home only to be sued by Wolfram for having your idea on your own time instead of, oh... your own time. Wolfram needs to take himself and his products less seriously.

who fucking cares (0, Flamebait)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017643)

intellectual property is a house of cards built on higher and higher imaginary concepts and baseless arrogant demands on otherwise normal behavior, ignored outside of the western world, which supposedly champions freedom, but provides carte blanche to corporate entities to claim rights and priveledges over your cultural inheritance. i applaud the creativity of variosu lawyers as they extend the tentacles of what can be owned into higher and higher levels of cognitive output, but it means nothing more than shit, because its all founded on a flawed imoral premise that any of this output can be controlled and owned in the online world in the first place

fuck it all. fuck the entire house of cards that is intellectual property. i'm beyond ignoring it, i'm outright hostile to the notion of intellectual property nowadays. we need some sort of outright sabotage on these fuckers. by which i mean: not real world violence, but outright purposeful disobedience to any of these notions of "i control this" when applied to material which can disseminated and consumed in digital, online form

fuck this western corporate arrogance called intellectual property. its an immoral sham, and kind of a joke, that nayone expects you can control any of this

WolframAlpha says... (1)

dgun (1056422) | more than 5 years ago | (#28017777)

copyright | a document granting exclusive right to publish and sell literary or musical or artistic work

So, would that output be literary, musical, or artistic?

Meanwhile, the search term "a document granting exclusive right to publish and sell literary or musical or artistic work" [google.com] , produced 523 results on Google.

I wonder if WolframAlpha just forgot to name the source?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?