Friday, April 29, 2005

Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery

I supposed I should be flattered that someone anonymously added an entry last summer to Wikipedia on digital reference services that copies large sections of text from the "Digital Reference" page on my web site.

The author of the entry basically copied everything from my page starting from the heading "E-mail"and continuing through the paragraph under the heading "Collaborative networks for reference." Here for example, is my paragraph describing e-mail reference:

User sends the library an e-mail with a reference query, supplying whatever information he or she feels is necessary. The library may reply by e-mail, phone, fax, letter, etc.
Here is the section from the Wikipedia entry on e-mail reference:

User sends the library an e-mail with a reference query, supplying whatever information he or she feels is necessary. The library may reply by e-mail, phone, fax, letter, etc.

Here is what I had to say about collaborative networks for reference:

In this model, two or more libraries team up to offer reference service using any of the above online formats. The user would send to a member library his or her request, which would be forwarded to the library best able to answer the question. A library may get a question routed to it because it has particular strengths in its collection that match the needs of the user. Or a member library might get a question routed to it because it happens to be open when the user makes his or her request. For example, a user in New York who tries logging on at 3 a.m. Eastern time to the chat reference service of a member library in Boston could be automatically routed to a member library in Hawaii or Australia that, thanks to a time zone difference, is open.

Here's what the entry had on the same subject:

In this model, two or more libraries team up to offer reference service using any of the above online formats. The user would send to a member library his or her request, which would be forwarded to the library best able to answer the question. A library may get a question routed to it because it has particular strengths in its collection that match the needs of the user. Or a member library might get a question routed to it because it happens to be open when the user makes his or her request. For example, a user in New York who tries logging on at 3 a.m. Eastern time to the chat reference service of a member library in Boston could be automatically routed to a member library in Hawaii or Australia that, because of the time zone difference, is open. Most collaborative live reference services operate 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Hmmm...looks familiar. The cut and paste job is nearly untouched in the Wikipedia entry in the sections on "Web forms," "Chat reference using simple technologies," "Chat reference using web contact center software," and "Collaborative networks for reference." Here and there, the author excised a small parenthetical aside that I had on my page, but I'd say that most of my text was left unedited by the author of the entry.

The clever author thought that by leaving my web site off the bibliography at the end, no one would see the original source of the content. According to warnings like this one on Wikipedia, plagiarism is not part of the mission of Wikipedia:

DO NOT SUBMIT COPYRIGHTED WORK WITHOUT PERMISSION!

* All contributions to Wikipedia are released under the GNU Free Documentation License (see Project:Copyrights for details).
* If you do not want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, do not submit it.
* By submitting your work you promise you wrote it yourself, or copied it from public domain resources — this does not include most web pages.
So what to do? Since the plagiarism took place in Wikipedia, I could of course edit the material myself to either indicate the source or do enough work on it so that I could claim a sense of "authorship" to it. Since I feel like I've already done my work by putting the content up once on my own web site, and I've really got a lot of other things I want to take care, I'm going to leave it up to someone else who feels strongly enough about what digital reference is to rewrite the entry as they see fit. I want to let someone else make their mark on the web describing what forms digital reference takes (perhaps someone who sees that my descriptions on the Teaching Librarian are now getting out of date).

To be honest, I'm more saddened by this than angered. It's likely a librarian or a library school student or somone who knows a thing or two about libraries wrote and posted this entry (at least the plagiarized portions, as there seem to have been multiple authors who have worked on this entry since it was put up in July 2004).

3 Comments:

At 1:52 PM , Anonymous caleb t-r said...

If you're comfortable with Wikipedia having the content, log in and amend the article to cite yourself.

Post a copyright or license notice on your site. Wikipedia uses GNU Public License, and I've seen folks us creative commons also (I'm not one of them). If you prefer, use a stricter copyright notice.

 
At 2:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about just deleting the entry? It was yours and will always be yours. No copyright notice is required, IMHO. Just delete it from Wikipedia.

 
At 7:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I deleted the article (also see here) in accordance with Wikipedia's copyright violation policy. If someone wants to rewrite it, they can. Or if you want to permit them to use the text, check out this link and this one.

 

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