Clickable Culture   Official Research Blog of Phantom Compass
  Wikipedia’s Clumsy Correction Process  
Posted 2005-12-05 by Tony Walsh
My biggest issue with the collaborative online encyclopedia Wikipedia was that it was editable by anyone with any amount of expertise, any time, and for any reason. Now I can add a few more issues to that list. Today I found an entry on graphical chat software IMVU that reprinted verbatim an original paragraph from Clickable Culture without proper attribution, without quotation marks, and without permission--I have since been forced to correct the entry as the most obvious form of recourse (all I corrected was the citation and quotes, if you're interested).

On the one hand, I should be pleased that someone regarded my entries on IMVU so highly that I was linked to several times in the Wikipedia entry. On the other hand I resent having to correct an entry written by someone who clearly doesn't understand basic copyright law. This person didn't just fail to credit me properly, they submitted an entire paragraph of my writing under the GNU Free Documentation License. Thanks for nothing.

This particular situation is only a minor problem for me, but imagine if it was a piece of writing I really cared about filed under a popular Wikipedia entry--suddenly my work is completely out of my control, floating all over the internet in its original and altered forms, showing up in school reports, quoted in newspapers, used in books...all resulting in zero benefit to me as the original author. That's where collective responsibility gets you: Nobody is responsible for legal and factual correctness. It's like a bus full of school-kids rolling at highway-speed with no driver in sight.

But the icing on the cake was that in correcting the offending Wikipedia entry, I had to agree to license my "contribution" under the GFDL. The simplest route for me would have been to deleted the stolen material, but this would have detracted from the value of the entry, as weak as it was/is. So, today I contributed to the Wikipedia for the first time ever, and am utterly resentful about it.
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Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
December 6, 2005 @ 9:57 am
I went into the page's history tab to see when and who added your content to the 'pedia. Seems to just be an anonymous "contributer" (they just have the IP), they also did some work on the There page. You might want to check that page too.

While i'm am an admitted Wikipedia booster, this kind of thing is hard for me to contend with. Wish i had something more constructive to add.
Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
December 6, 2005 @ 10:02 am
Also, did you read or checkout how Wikipedia deals with possible case's of copyright violation? You can read about it here.

I know this only helps if you know/find that your work has been taken and added to the 'pedia without consent.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
December 6, 2005 @ 10:23 am
Jos, I did look around for info on how Wikipedia deals with copyright infringements, and the best I could come up with was their "Contact Us" page. So finding the info isn't obvious, and that's a big problem as far as I'm concerned. How did you find the "Copyright Problems" page--via a search? Counter-intuitive, in my opinion.

I find it interesting that only if an article steals from a commercial content provider is it eligible for high-priority attention. As if non-commercial content creators are less important.
Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
December 6, 2005 @ 10:54 am
I went to the Contact Us page too. Then followed the Report a Problem link to the Copyrighted Content link. I didn't find it difficult to find, but, obviously, YMMV.

I was dismayed by that wording too. I can sort of see that they would want to deal with issues (of infringement) that have the most potential to be litigated, and that would most likely be commercial content. But it still is a spit in the eye of anyone who produces non-commercial content, and has concerns that it has been used in the Wikipedia without consent.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
December 6, 2005 @ 11:04 am
Hehe, yeah that's 3 links to follow, not including what content-creators actually have to do after reading the instructions. Hardly usable, but as you say, that's a matter of opinion. I think the process should be extremely simple and obvious, particularly to non-techies. Because you don't need to know how the Wikipedia works in order for your work to be stolen.

It seems to me that aside from quality issues and vandalism, that the Wikipedia's biggest liability is legal trouble arising from contributor error, bad intent, or sloppiness. So does the Wikipedia, apparently, otherwise they wouldn't give commercial content-creators priority. Given this, you'd think they'd have the foresight to implement an easy 1-click link to flag entries for immediate review.

I suppose it will take a high-profile theft where measurable, uncontrollable damage is done, followed by a major lawsuit for the Wikipedia to smarten up.
Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
December 6, 2005 @ 11:11 am
While i was able to find the the copyright problem page, i agree that it should be made more obvious.

Putting a link, or some kind of widget, on each page for reporting errors sounds like a good idea to me. There are already "tabs" for some of the different functions (history, discuss), why not add a "report a problem" widget right there.
Comment posted by DojangWeb
January 2, 2007 @ 6:00 pm
A few years ago Wikipedia scraped my website, stealing all the descriptions for Korean martial arts for which they didn't already have descriptions. I sent them an email asking to at least receive a link to my site, but I never received a reply. About a week later, I checked the articles and all of them except one had been replaced with complete articles. The article that wasn't replaced had been rewritten.

Here is Wikipedia's rewritten article (the first was a verbatim copy):
"Goongdo literally means "the way of the bow." It is sometimes called Korean traditional archery.

In Korea, the bow was used mainly as a military weapon. Korean soldiers used the bow as their primary weapon until modern times.

What distinguishes Goongdo from other archery methods is that the drawing of the string is done with the thumb and index finger using a thumb ring. This is called the "Mongolian Draw". Other methods use the first three finger."

Here is the description from my site:
"Goongdo, which literally translates 'the way of the bow,' is often refered to as Korean traditional archery (Korean archery is also called Kuk Kung).

The bow has a long and distinguished history in Korea where it was used primarily as a military weapon. Unlike Japan, where the Samurai considered the sword to be the ultimate weapon, Korean soldiers chose the bow as their primary weapon until modern times.

Probably the most significant difference between Goongdo and other archery methods is the use of the "Mongolian Draw." Using a thumb ring, the draw is done with the thumb and index finger instead of the more common method using the first three fingers."

I first noticed Wikipedia's plagiarism through a Google search. Before Wikipedia stole my descriptions, a search for most obscure Korean martial arts returned my site first. Then one day I did a search and found Wikipedia was first. I clicked on the link and found my copyrighted description. That's when I contacted them.

Since then, my description by way of Wikipedia has found its way onto dozens of sites. Now, directly because of Wikipedia's theft, is no longer even near the top of the list.

Before Wikipedia stole my content, my site was the most popular Korean martial art site on the web. Site stats showed that most visitors were coming to my site through Google searches for individual martial arts. Now, all of these visitors are directed to the thieves at Wikipedia. Basically, their plagiarism cut my site's traffic in half.

I'm sure I'm not the only webmaster with this problem. Perhaps a class-action lawsuit is in order.
Comment posted by DojangWeb
January 2, 2007 @ 6:09 pm
But it still is a spit in the eye of anyone who produces non-commercial content, and has concerns that it has been used in the Wikipedia without consent.

What about a commercial site that looses half of its traffic because of Wikipedia's plagiarism. If someone builds a business based on original content, it is immoral and illegal to steal it. I suspect that Wikipedia responds more quickly to requests from commercial sites because of the potential for lawsuits.
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