[Wikimedia-l] Copy and paste

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sat Oct 20 22:43:56 UTC 2012

On 10/17/12 10:26 PM, James Heilman wrote:
> We really need a plagiarism detection tool so that we can make sure our
> sources are not simply "copy and pastes" of older versions of Wikipedia.
> Today I was happily improving our article on pneumonia as I have a day off.
> I came across a recommendation that baby's should be suction at birth to
> decrease their risk of pneumonia with a {{cn}} tag. So I went to Google
> books and up came a book that supported it perfectly. And than I noticed
> that this book supported the previous and next few sentences as well. It
> also supported a number of other sections we had in the article but was
> missing our references. The book was selling for $340 a copy. Our articles
> have improved a great deal since 2007 and yet school are buying copy edited
> version of Wikipedia from 5 years ago. The bit about suctioning babies at
> birth is was wrong and I have corrected it. I think we need to get this
> news out. Support Wikipedia and use the latest version online!
> Further details / discuss are here
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Medicine#Can_we_still_use_books_as_refs.3F

This situation was entirely predictable, even if its particular 
circumstances weren't. I ran into something of the sort as far back as 
2003. I have long since lost track of references to the incident; it had 
to do with literary biographies of long dead authors, and thus much less 
critical than in a medical article. The broader question goes well 
beyond simple matters of plagiarism or copyright infringement. The 
passages will often be short enough that a fair dealing claim is 
available, and the moral right to be credited for one's work has no 
meaningful legal enforcement to back it up. To those familiar with these 
things that right isn't even controversial.

The disputed version in this case is a mere five years old. Over a 
longer time that could encompass the entire validity period of a 
copyright we could easily see such a thing bounce back and forth many 
times over without ever  being discovered.  A bot could do some of the 
search for infringing material; it may even look through archived and 
archaic versions of a document. I believe that at some point any such 
processes reach a limit. That broader solution will need to be more 
imaginative than more police work.


More information about the Wikimedia-l mailing list