Wikis and Copyright: Worth a Little User Training


From the Nobody Can Actually Be Surprised By This department:


The Associated Press is reporting this morning that Wikipedia Watch publisher Daniel Brandt, a critic and sometimes personal antagonist of the user-edited encyclopedia, has found 142 examples of plagiarized biographical articles at the site.


Wikipedia has pulled down the content in question, and its founder says that while some copyrighted materials do end up on the site, it's not as pervasive a problem as Brandt and other critics portray it to be.


Why should business tech care about what's going on over at Wikipedia? As wikis make their way into the enterprise -- and they were gaining ground well in advance of the Google/JotSpot deal -- business managers and IT need to be conscious that some level of control and verification needs to be in place, even for an open collaboration system like a wiki.


First off, you want to make sure that the information on the wiki is correct (this sometimes ribald parody at The Onion remains one of the smartest pieces we have ever read on the subject).


Then come copyright concerns. Certainly, most software vendors aren't going to care if your wiki republishes a piece of user documentation. A competitor might take a more dim view of your team republishing its services rate card or marketing materials.


Brandt says he discovered plagiarized materials at Wikipedia by running a scan against Google results. If you don't want to go to that much trouble, at the least user training on the basics of what's fair game to republish is probably advisable for companies just beginning to wiki.


The harsh reality is that in the era of Napster and BitTorrent, many people simply don't grasp the concept that some content belongs to somebody else.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 6, 2006 4:47 AM Michael J. Collingworth Michael J. Collingworth  says:
I don't have an axe to grind for Google, but it sounds to me as though Brandt himself has violated the Google Terms of Service.  I.e.:  "2. Use of the Service. You may only display the content of the Service for your own personal use (i.e., non-commercial use) and may not otherwise copy, reproduce, alter, modify, create derivative works, or publicly display any content. For example, you may not use the Service to sell a product or service; use the Service to increase traffic to your Web site for commercial reasons, such as advertising sales; take the results from the Service and reformat and display them, or use any robot, spider, other device or manual process to monitor or copy any content from the Service." Since Brandt seems to be concerned with issues of Intellectual Property, this might be an issue he should have considered before doing his "study" of Wikipedia. Reply

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