Cengage sends DMCA notice to Wikipedia over Tonga article. Turns out the Wikipedia material under question came first...

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Summary: Cengage sent a DMCA takedown notice to Wikipedia to have elements removed from an article. After investigation, turns out the Wiki article was first. No harm, no foul, this time, but surely more incidents like this will happen in the future...

BLOT: (28 Jan 2012 - 06:51:28 AM)

Cengage sends DMCA notice to Wikipedia over Tonga article. Turns out the Wikipedia material under question came first...

I found the DMCA takedown notice on Chilling Effect, first: Cengage, a company whose materials I have used a bit at the reference desk, filed the notice against the Wikimedia Foundation for a Wikipedia article on Tonga, specifically the #Economy section. Sounded plausible to me, I had no doubt that someone could have went through, copied entire paragraphs from the Cengage text, pasted them in and then slapped, maybe, a solitary reference at the very end. I work at a college. I see this all the time and have to explain to students that merely citing something isn't enough, that sticking quotes around half your paper doesn't protect you from plagiarism, and so forth.

Except when I got to the article to look how it was being handled, I found a Wikimedia follow-up that the Wikipedia article had in fact came first. This is not to say that Wiki is claiming Cengage infringed on them, but merely that they both went from the same base source. Cengage admitted the mistake and has withdrawn the notice. I am curious as to how much of the base source was copied by both for Cengage's no-doubt wide-lens IP search to have spotted the supposedly illicit materials. Of course, there will be those who doubt the goodness in man's heart that might think that maybe someone at Cengage went to a Wiki article, followed a link to a source material, and dug deep. I don't know.

All I do know is that this latter scenario [which for now I will assume that Cengage did not do], people using Wiki as a major source of jumping off and then, an edition or two down the road, maybe forgetting they did or "forgetting" they did, and then turning around and attacking Wiki for committing the same crime of which they themselves were the perpatrators...my guess is that we are going to see more of it. Going are the days with two professors and five grad students writing reference books in a close-knit process. More and more references are being compiled, almost blog like, from sources diverse and authors numerous and algorithmically, at times, from many founts and springs, with even the more personal forms of reference compiling coming across hopscotch across emails and time zones and differing time commitments, and then all bounded under the concept of a corporate author. This is when the resource isn't already just a website maintained exactly like a blog. And so many now just use Wiki as a starting template that if Website A did not realize it was copying Website B's copy of Website C's direct copy of Wiki's article, it might take offense that Wiki would dare rip off its copypasta secondary/tertiary/etc-ary sources. It's the conundrum where Source 2 uses Source 1 which uses Wiki which then quotes Source 2 to prove it was right, except in something like reverse.



Written by Doug Bolden

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