Here’s something unsettling: a Wikipedia editor claims that a published book contains a verbatim copy of an old version of a Wikipedia article.
The book had been listed (innocently, it seems) as “further reading” in a subsequent revision of the Wikipedia article, as follows: Biographiq (2008). D. B. Cooper: Portrait of an American Hijacker. Biographiq. ISBN 1599861984.
Wikipedia editor Harry Yelreh caught and removed the mention of the book, leaving the following edit summary:
This raises a couple interesting issues: first, Wikipedia’s role in a potentially disastrous “feedback loop,” where sources that are trusted by the public merely cite one another; and second, the ethical and legal impropriety of republishing Wikipedia content without proper attribution.
On a technical level, Wikipedia’s policies cover all the right bases. The license covering Wikipedia’s works, the GNU Free Documentation License, requires that any work republished in another medium be properly attributed. The authors of the text (not the Wikimedia foundation) have standing to take legal action against anyone violating this policy. (Some editors, myself included, choose to multi-license their contributions under less restrictive licenses, but most editors don’t bother, or prefer not to do so.) In other words, while much is made of the “free” nature of Wikipedia, there are in fact some limits on what can be done with its content.
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