1. kuanyin
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    kuanyin New Member

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    Copyright Use of wikipedia text and copyright

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kuanyin, Sep 3, 2015.

    I need some help and guidance on what is a kind of sticky problem. Well, maybe not so much a problem but a talking point. I have just finished 'writing' a book which, if published, would amount to about 250 pages. It is a specialised book on a number of famous people in their fields. Now, I utilised many Wikipedia website texts for the manuscript. The very nature of the book leant itself to acquiring data and other facts surrounding these people from Wikipedia. So, in a way, it was more of an editing job although I contributed much original text. The big question regards copyright of Wikipedia materials.

    Now, my question is this, am I legally entitled to use Wikipedia in my book considering, as far as I am led to believe, all Wikipedia material is free to use and free of copyright? I have asked others in the publications industries and the answers I received are just not totally definitive. I am aware of citing Wikipedia contributors from the copyright angle but this is a 250 page book!!

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I believe most Wikipedia text is under a Creative Commons license (not free of copyright; most text created has a copyright that attaches by law), which means you can use it but only if you release your own work under as permissive a license, which I doubt you want to do. They've also used different licenses over the years, so depending on when text was posted there could be different rules. You'll have to research it.

    Pictures, excerpts, and the like are probably based on Fair Use on Wikipedia itself but have copyrights owned by others, so you can't just assume those are fair game.

    Facts/data aren't protected in and of themselves, so that's OK.

    Wikipedia also isn't always right, so I wouldn't use it as a source without looking further into the subjects.
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    By the way, you should go to the Wikipedia site and look at their license(s) for the material you used. You can then see what the terms of each license are. Also, some use you make might be considered Fair Use in and of itself, but that is a fact-dependent analysis that turns on a number of factors, and really only comes up if the Wikimedia Foundation decided to go after you. But the material certainly isn't free of copyright. If someone started selling an unlicensed bound volume of Wikipedia (which is a dumb idea, but I'm using it for purposes of illustration), the Wikimedia Foundation would almost certainly come after them and win.
     
  4. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    It sounds like you have a non-fiction book on your hands. Then you have to add a "works cited" section in which you will have to quote all your sources. It can be a pain, but it's not just about giving credit to the original author. It also protects you from nasty issues. Imagine this scenario: Your sources included wrong details, and you publish them. Then you could be held liable for deliberately dragging the famous person's reputation through the mud, even if it was an honest mistake. If you explicitly reference the source of your information, you have a barrier of protection in such cases.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @rainy_summerday I'm not sure how much of a barrier that is. Republication of defamatory material can give rise to liability, and there have been cases where courts have found liability even when the writer cites the original source of the material. If you're working with potentially defamatory material, I think you're well-advised to do independent research to determine whether it is true, and especially not to rely on a site like Wikipedia.

    On the other hand, simply linking to such material has generally been found not to be a republication and not to result in liability.
     
  6. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    Well, I am not claiming you will not get into trouble. But it will help your case, like you stated, Steerpike. It's one of the reasons why it is preferable to reference too many sources rather than too little. Even though it can be very annoying to read texts overloaded with citations. But it is fundamentally asinine to get thrown out of university, lose one's job/degree, or be sued over being too lazy to cite properly. It does not really matter which method of citation one uses, or whether a dot or comma notation is more appropriate. Just have a complete list of your sources. In my opinion, that is the best prevention of trouble. But it's not fail-safe, that is true.
     
  7. tanger32au
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    tanger32au Member

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    This is a very interesting question. In my WIP I have used some information as the basis for my story, I need to check this for truthfulness before I go too far with it.
     
  8. kuanyin
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    kuanyin New Member

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    Thanks for your thoughts - very interesting. To cite all Wikipedia references would be a pain; I mean we are talking exactly 100 biographies and I would reckon the number of Wikipedia websites I visited would amount to around 150. I did check all material for accuracy so that part of the work is done. So I guess to be totally legal I would visit all the websites and list the references. Okay. Now, do you think it would be au fait to just create a kind of index at the back of the book and list all the citations? This would be quicker. Again, I do value your thoughts.
     

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