Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Plagiarizing Wikipedia

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This page documents a possible copyright violation by a book published in 2006 by a major US publisher, John Wiley & Sons. The book is Black Gold: The New Frontier in Oil for Investors (ISBN 0470048034.) The text of this book can be searched using Amazon's Search Inside function, Its author is George Orwel, an experienced reporter.

According to the Wiley web site:

George Orwel is an Oil Analyst and Senior Writer for both the Oil Daily and Petroleum Intelligence Weekly. Previously, he covered the oil market for six years as a staff reporter for Dow Jones Newswires. Orwel has appeared on key media outlets, including CNN, BBC, and NPR, and contributed articles to the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor, as well as other publications. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The book contains a two page description of the Khobar Towers Bombing that appears to be lifted from the English version of Wikipedia.

I wrote much of the copied text. Complicating any charge of copyright violation is the fact that I have released most of my contributions into the public domain. However, the copied passage contains text written by others also. Even if this is legally not a copyright violation, it is an ethical problem for an established reporter.


If I was requested to write about things like World War 1 or earlier, I would have to write, may be imprecisely, about things I read or studied in books written by some who read and studied on somebody else's books.
Writing with different words doesn't change the fact that I report about things I knew thanks to the report of somebody else.
I wouldn't feel like doing plagiarism.
With this copyright issue we have gone too far.
One thing is copying an original idea, or a patented discovery, and another is reporting what somebody else said. And when it comes to something like Wikipedia which is already in the public domain I think that, copying and pasting what is already written, is actually much better than what somebody WOULD write reporting the same things and it is doing a favor to the ones who read.
When you write something, you do it because the others know.
So copying is many times the way to spread a little bit more what you wrote... What I would certainly do is writing where I got the information (or copied) from
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