Wikipedia:Text Copyright Violations 101

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When looking at a Wikipedia article, you suddenly spot something that looks like it may have been copied and pasted or closely paraphrased from elsewhere (typically from one or several of the sources), or it looks like a machine translation from some foreign text. What can you do?

Copyvio handling in under a minute[edit]

If the entire article is a problem[edit]

If the entire article is a problem and any text that doesn't look like a copy / paste could not survive alone as an article:

  • Click on the history tab and look at the earliest edit.
  • If the article was started as a copy / paste and there's no permission or ownership asserted, nominate it for speedy deletion with {{db-copyvio|url=link to the source text}}
  • If the article was started with different text, check to see if the copyvio was recently added. If it was, revert to a clean version.
    • You can put {{subst:cclean|url=link to the source text}} at the article's talk page to explain your action.
    • You can alert the editor who added it with {{subst:uw-copyvio|article}} at his or her talk page.
  • If it looks like the copy / paste has been there for a while or if it's foundational but there's reason to believe the person who added it here is the copyright owner, tag it for investigation with {{subst:copyvio|url=link to the source text}} and then look at the bottom right of the big boilerplate template that now replaces the article: it will contain two pre-set lines to copy / paste, one on today's listing on the Copyright Problems board, the other one on the article's creator or the person who most likely added the copyrighted content.

If only part of the article is a problem[edit]

  • Check the history. If the text was recently added, revert the article to a "clean" version or remove the text and place {{subst:cclean|url=link to the source text}} at the article's talk page to explain your action.
    • If you can identify the contributor, alert him or her by placing {{subst:uw-copyvio|article}} at his or her talk page.
  • If the text was not recently added, tag the article for investigation with {{subst:copyvio|url=link to the source text}} and then look at the bottom right of the big boilerplate template that now replaces the article: it will contain two pre-set lines to copy / paste, one on today's listing on the Copyright Problems board, the other one on the article's creator or the person who most likely added the copyrighted content (if you can tell who it was).

If you have a bit more time[edit]

If you are a bit less in a hurry and the article has been tagged for investigation rather than speedy deletion, you can:

  • Double-check the source. Look for a specific statement that it is public domain or has been licensed compatibly with CC-By-SA. If it has, you can attribute it or leave a link at the article's entry on the Copyright Problems board to the licensing statement so that somebody else can. Even if there isn't a specific statement, you can check against Wikipedia:Public domain to see if the content looks usable. If you aren't sure if it's usable, you can add a note of explanation at the Copyright Problems board listing for an administrator to evaluate.
  • Identify with what edit the dubious content has been copy / pasted, and mention that on the article's talk page and / or on the article's entry on the Copyright Problems board.
  • Once you identify when the dubious content entered, check to see if other content entered at the same time or by the same contributor looks like a problem. If it seems like the copy / paste problem exists in only one part of the article, you can place the {{subst:copyvio|url=link to source}} template at the beginning of the problematic text and add a </div> at the end of the problematic text. If he or she added other text, you can check to see if you find other sources that have been copied.
  • Check the talk page of the contributor who added the content. Are there other warnings? Consider whether it is appropriate to request a Contributor Copyright Investigation.
  • You can also click on the link for temporary space and rewrite the problematic text. If you do, mention it on the article's talk page.

Are you an admin? Here's how you can handle it[edit]

If the copyvio or the processes for handling them are unclear, you can do the same as above and the admins who work at the copyright problems board will address it.

  • Copyvios might be unclear if:
    • The source has a license, but you are unsure if it is compatible. (Note that GFDL-only compatible texts imported before 1 November 2008 are acceptable, but texts from GFDL-only compatible sources imported on or after that date are not.)
    • The source may have copied from Wikipedia, but there is not enough evidence for you to decide that it is a {{backwardscopyvio}}.

Partial infringement[edit]

If the copyvio only concerns a part of the article and has been added in a manner that it can be reverted to easily without also removing non-infringing content added in other parts of the article, handle this as though it were a Complete infringement (below).

If the copyvio only concerns a part of the article that cannot immediately be reverted to (because other parts of the article have been expanded in the meantime):

  1. excise the copyvio
  2. use the {{subst:cclean|url=link to source}} tag on the talk page to indicate that you did.
  3. check to make sure that the contributor (if registered or recent IP) has been properly warned about the infringement and consider whether additional actions, such as a block or Contributor Copyright Investigation is necessary. (See Wikipedia:Copyright violations)
  4. if appropriate request revision deletion of the reverted edits by adding {{copyvio-revdel}}

This is unfortunately a situation where we have to balance clearing infringements vs. causing unnecessary collateral damage to other editors. In other words, we're between a rock and a hard place.

Complete infringement[edit]

Articles that seem to be complete infringements are handled in one of three ways:

  • If the infringement is foundational and there is no reason to believe that permission could be forthcoming:
    • process through speedy deletion in accordance with WP:CSD#G12
  • If there is reason to believe that permission could be forthcoming (foundational or not):
    • Tag the article with {{subst:copyvio|url=link to the source text}}, list it at WP:CP and use the notification generated by the template to let the contributor know how to verify. It will be processed when permission arrives or, failing that, after a week.
  • If the infringement is not foundational and there is no reason to believe that permission could be forthcoming:
    1. Revert the article to the last known good version with a relevant edit summary
    2. Recover any non-creative content you can (references, infoboxes, ELs, CATs and other)
    3. Enter the article's history
    4. Tick the checkbox for the last version before your revert
    5. Hold the shift key and tick the checkbox of the version where the copyvio was inserted
    6. Click the "Del / Undel Selected Revisions" button
    7. In the Revision Deletion interface, set "Hide revision text" to yes, and leave the rest untouched.
    8. Pick Criterion RD1
    9. Submit and exit.

Important note: Do not hide contributor names, in particular if you recover any content contributed by others, as you would otherwise infringe on their right to be attributed under the CC-BY-SA and GFDL licenses.

Sample scenarios[edit]

  • A film stub has a 2-line lede and some cast information. Someone copy / pastes the synopsis from IMDB. After that, one or more editors create sections for production notes and reception, but the synopsis remains untouched. This is a safe case where you could revert back to the stub before the IMDB plot synopsis was added, then reintroduce the other sections (remember to credit the contributors in the edit summary), and revision delete.
  • The same film stub gets the same synopsis, and the synopsis is then gradually expanded and partially rewritten, and only the first two paragraphs of the original material remain. This is a case where the original copyvio has led to an unauthorized derivative work, and you cannot delete the two remaining infringing paragraphs while retaining the rest of the synopsis - it remains "tainted" by the original copyvio.

Sounds too complex? Tag it with {{subst:copyvio|url=link to source}} instead; volunteers at WP:CP will deal with it.

Tools[edit]

Wikipedia has several tools that may be useful in checking for copyright problems.

  • The Copyright Violation Detector will scan an article against the internet, excluding known mirrors (though not less common ones), which may be helpful in determining the point of origin of suspect text.
  • Madman Bot/manual replaces Coren Search Bot/manual (offline since 31 Dec 2011) to compare an article against the internet; follow the instructions at the link.
  • VWBot/manual backup to CorenBot and MadmanBot to campare an article against the internet; follow the instructions at the link.
  • The Duplication Detector will compare an article with another document, online or uploaded (including pdfs), looking for text string duplication.
  • Wikiblame. Accessible under the "history" tab of every page on Wikipedia as "Revision history search", this tool can be useful in determining when a run of text first entered an article.