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Plagiarizing Wikipedia For Profit 223

Posted by kdawson
from the ip-is-on-the-other-foot dept.
An anonymous reader sends word of a dustup involving the publisher John Wiley and Sons and Wikipedia. Two pages from a Wiley book, Black Gold: The New Frontier in Oil for Investors, consist of a verbatim copy from the English Wikipedia article on the Khobar Towers bombing. This is the publisher that touched off a fair use brouhaha earlier this year when they threatened to sue a blogger who had reproduced a chart and a table (fully attributed) from one of their journals.
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Plagiarizing Wikipedia For Profit

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  • by artifex2004 (766107) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @07:01AM (#21334245) Journal
    Although the author of the linked page says he wrote much of the disputed text and released it into public domain, the license governing Wikipedia is GNU FDL, as can be seen by a link at the bottom of every page. The combined work, because it includes work by others, is covered by that license.

    If Wiley published this text without citing the FDL, they're in violation of it. Seems pretty clear. Further, the license says that if the work is modified, the resulting document must also be released in FDL, according to section 4. This is where it gets interesting. :)
  • by malkavian (9512) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @07:02AM (#21334251) Homepage
    Because GDFL allows copying only if you allow the work to be freely copyable, and release the work it is included in under the GDFL.
    If this is the case, then the whole book that this text is in becomes freely copyable, as long as it's source is attributed. If the publisher chooses not to conform to this license, then it becomes in breach of copyright (as the works on Wikipedia are covered by copyright law, they're simply globally available on a license backed up by copyright law).
  • by someone1234 (830754) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @07:06AM (#21334275)
    Copyright doesn't require proof of damages, but damages could be calculated from the sold copies of the book.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @07:24AM (#21334331)
    No, that's just silly.
  • by ta bu shi da yu (687699) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @08:04AM (#21334493) Homepage
    Bingo, got it in one.

    However, the prize for most shameless copyright infringement goes to The Times Of India [].
  • by harmonica (29841) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @08:11AM (#21334545)
    There are (or were) at least two articles in Wikipedia that are my texts (from my site) with slight variations on sentences. So whoever visits those Wikipedia articles (or did so in the past) and then my pages must come to the conclusion that I stole the stuff from Wikipedia without giving credit. I can't even prove that because I don't have a public version history, and is spotty when it comes to my site.

    In this case (Wiley book) the articles were there way before the book, so the case seems to be clear, but in general, I recommend to keep an open mind about who copied where.
  • by CarpetShark (865376) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @08:50AM (#21334751)

    How are they going to claim...losses, when they give away their work?

    They're not giving ANYTHING away. They're licensing a copy of their product to you, under certain conditions.
  • by PhilHibbs (4537) <> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @08:55AM (#21334781) Homepage Journal

    But if you chose to place your work under, say, the Creative Commons, you've just told the world at large, "here, take it and use it as you wish, I don't want anything in return, I don't forbid anything, have fun with it."

    They neither wanted nor did that, the Wikipedia text is under the GFDL which requires attribution of source. The WP author mentioned released his contribution to the public domain, but the wider Wikipedia community has the right to be outraged that this writer a) plagiarised Wikipedia and b) didn't credit the authors of the text that he plagiarised. He claimed the words as his own, which is unlawful in many copyright jurisdictions regardless of any licence that the original author may have used. If the publisher sells that book in Finland, then they could find themselves in hot water. And I don't mean a nice invigorating sauna.
  • by ReallyEvilCanine (991886) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @08:58AM (#21334817) Homepage

    But if you chose to place your work under, say, the Creative Commons, you've just told the world at large, "here, take it and use it as you wish, I don't want anything in return, I don't forbid anything, have fun with it." So please have the _decency_ then to not act enraged when someone does just that.
    That would be all well and good and I'd be right there with you applying the LART to dotancohen were it not for the minor inconvenience that Wikipedia is not covered by the Creative Commons license but rather by the GFDL: From Wikipedia's Copyright FAQ []:

    * Can I reuse Wikipedia's content somewhere else?

    Wikipedia's textual content is copyrighted, but you may reuse it under the terms of our licensing requirements, summarized below.

    Text in Wikipedia, excluding quotations, has been released under the GNU Free Documentation License (or is in the public domain), and can therefore be reused only if you release any derived work under the GFDL. This requires that, among other things, you attribute the authors and allow others to freely copy your work. (This is a summary, see the licence text for the exact details.)

    If you are unwilling or unable to use the GFDL for your work, use of Wikipedia content is unauthorized. Small quotations of Wikipedia content, with its source attributed, may be permissible under the "fair use" clause of U.S. copyright law. See Wikipedia:Citing Wikipedia for information about the proper citation of articles. No permission is needed to create a hyperlink to Wikipedia or its articles.

    Emphasis mine, used to highlight the important bits.
  • by Bogtha (906264) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:02AM (#21334845)

    But if you chose to place your work under, say, the Creative Commons, you've just told the world at large, "here, take it and use it as you wish, I don't want anything in return, I don't forbid anything, have fun with it."

    In addition to what Phil has pointed out in another reply, it's worth pointing out that there are many different Creative Commons licenses, and they vary in what they permit. Some of them do not permit commercial use, some of them require attribution, some of them are more permissive.

    Please, if you are going to make claims about what something does and doesn't permit, at the very least you should be vaguely familiar with it yourself. Creative Commons is a brand name for a bunch of different licenses, not a license itself.

  • by Stewie241 (1035724) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:04PM (#21339751)
    *even if they remove the offending pages from future copies*, since the entire book is now contaminated.

    This is untrue. First, because the license doesn't automatically become FDL, it becomes a license violation which should be dealt with through law. Second, because there is nothing that states that once something is released using FDL it always has to be released in that license. The author is free to release his portion of the work using any license he/she chooses, in the same way that software publishers can dual license their software.

    If the license did automatically become FDL, then the author would still be able to publish the book under a different license without those portions. Those who received the original release that was forced FDL (if this hypothetically did happen), could redistribute the work under the FDL, but those who purchased the other version would not have received it under the FDL and thus could not redistribute it.
  • by bball99 (232214) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:09PM (#21339843)
    - except it was an application included on a CD in David Pogue's Palm PDA book: []

    - my client's simple license clearly stated 'no distribution on media without permission,' but it was included...

    - i never busted o'reilly's chops about it, 'cause i met him one time at a Perl conference in Monterey and he was very nice to me...

The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work. -- Richard Bach, "Illusions"