Wikipedia:Copyright violations

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For further information on close paraphrasing, see Wikipedia:Close paraphrasing.
"Wikipedia:CV" redirects here. For Courtesy vanishing, see Wikipedia:Courtesy vanishing.

One of the most important aspects of Wikipedia is that its text (not media; but that will be discussed shortly) may be freely redistributed, reused and built upon by anyone, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA) and, except where otherwise noted, the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) (unversioned, with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts). Contributors agree to release their original content under both licenses when they submit it, and material from public domain sources or other compatibly licensed sources may also be used in accordance with the copyright policy, provided correct attribution is given.

However, copying material without the permission of the copyright holder from sources that are not public domain or compatibly licensed (unless it's a brief quotation used in accordance with Wikipedia's non-free content policy and guideline) is likely to be a copyright violation. Even inserting text copied with some changes can be a copyright violation if there's substantial linguistic similarity in creative language or structure; this is known as close paraphrasing (which can also raise problems of plagiarism). Such a situation should be treated seriously, as copyright violations not only harm Wikipedia's redistributability, but also create legal issues.

The situation for images and other media is slightly different, as a wider variety of licenses is accepted. But, in short, media which is not available under a suitable free license and which does not meet the non-free content criteria, should be assumed to be unacceptable. See Wikipedia:Image use policy and Wikipedia:Non-free content for details of this and Wikipedia:Guide to image deletion for some suggested steps for handling problems with images or other files.

Copyright infringing material should also not be linked to.

Dealing with copyright violations

Policy shortcut:

Handling of suspected violations of copyright policy depends on the particulars of a given case. If you suspect a copyright violation but are uncertain if the content is copyrighted or whether the external site is copying from Wikipedia, you should at least bring up the issue on that page's discussion page, if it is active. In that case, please tag the page {{copypaste | url=insert URL here, if known}}, unless your concerns are swiftly resolved. Others can then examine the situation and take action if needed. The most helpful piece of information you can provide is a URL or other reference to what you believe may be the source of the text. You may also make a note of your concerns at Wikipedia talk:Copyright problems.

Some cases will be false alarms. For example, text that can be found elsewhere on the Web that was in fact copied from Wikipedia in the first place is not a copyright violation – at least not on Wikipedia's part. In these cases, it is a good idea to make a note of the situation on the discussion page. Also, if the contributor is the copyright holder of the text, even if it is published elsewhere under different terms, they have the right to post it here under CC BY-SA and GFDL – the text may still be unsuitable for Wikipedia for another reason, but it is not a copyright violation. They may donate the material through the procedures described at Wikipedia:Donating copyrighted materials, although until the donation process is complete the article should be replaced with the {{subst:copyvio | url=insert URL here}} tag. Similarly, if they can verify compatible license through a notice at the external site or can prove that the content is public domain, this is not a copyright violation. A note explaining the situation should be made on the talk page (including, if there is a release, the URL of where the release can be found; permission conveyed through e-mail must be confirmed through the procedure at Wikipedia:Requesting copyright permission) and proper attribution given on the article's face. See guidance on attribution for sources under copyleft or released into public domain.

If you have strong reason to suspect a violation of copyright policy and some, but not all, of the content of a page appears to be a copyright infringement, then the infringing content should be removed, and a note to that effect should be made on the discussion page, along with the original source, if known. {{subst:cclean|url=insert URL or description of source here (optional)}} has been created for this. If the copyright holder's permission is later obtained, the text may be restored. If all of the content of a page appears to be a copyright infringement or removing the problem text is not an option because it would render the article unreadable, check the page history; if an older non-infringing version of the page exists, you should revert the page to that version.

If there is no such older version, you may be able to re-write the page from scratch, but failing that, the page will normally need to be deleted. In limited circumstances, administrators may delete obvious copyright violations on sight; see the relevant section of the speedy deletion policy. Contributors may list pages that meet these conditions for deletion using the {{db-copyvio}} tag.

If the criteria for speedy deletion do not apply, you should blank the article or the appropriate section with the {{subst:copyvio | url=insert URL here}} template, and list the page at Wikipedia:Copyright problems; see instructions. This will give interested contributors a week to verify permission for the text or propose a rewrite. If, after a week, the page still appears to be a copyright infringement and no usable rewrite is proposed, it may be deleted by any administrator or reduced to a non-infringing stub.

Addressing contributors

If you can determine the original contributor of the content, please notify them of Wikipedia's Wikimedia:Terms of Use and copyright policies. When an article has been tagged for speedy deletion or masked for copyright investigation, it will generate a template that can be used for this purpose. You can also use the templates posted at Wikipedia:Template messages/User talk namespace.

Contributors who repeatedly post copyrighted material despite appropriate warning may be blocked from editing by any administrator to prevent further problems. Contributors who have extensively violated copyright policy by uploading many copyrighted files or placing copyrighted text into numerous articles may be blocked without warning for the protection of the project, pending satisfactory assurances that infringement will not continue. In extreme cases administrators may impose special conditions before unblocking, such as requiring assistance with cleanup by disclosing which sources were used. If contributors have been shown to have a history of extensive copyright violation, it may be assumed without further evidence that all of their major contributions are copyright violations, and they may be removed indiscriminately. See Wikipedia:Contributor copyright investigations.

If a contributor has been previously clearly warned of copyright infringement but persisted, they may be reported for administrator attention to the administrators' incidents noticeboard.

Information for copyright owners

If you are a copyright owner or represent a copyright owner, and you believe that Wikipedia is infringing your copyright, we can assist you best via e-mail. You may contact info-en-c@wikimedia.org with an informal request; please cite the exact URL (the "address" or "location" of the page as shown by your web browser, beginning with http://en.wikipedia.org/...), and provide enough information to substantiate your claim of copyright ownership. Be aware that correspondence is answered by a small number of volunteers, and an immediate reply may not be possible.

If you prefer to use the process of a formal OCILLA request, you should send it to the Wikimedia Foundation's designated agent.

If you are a copyright owner who would like to license content for reuse, please see Wikipedia:Donating copyrighted materials.

Resources

Policies, guidelines and information pages

Noticeboards

Other resources

Templates

  • {{backwardscopy}}: template used on talk page to provide notice of reverse copying
  • {{copyvio}}: replaces the page with a copyright violation banner
  • {{db-copyvio}}: tags a copyright violation page for speedy deletion
  • {{copy-paste}}: adds notice to a page that the contents may be a copyright violation
  • {{copyvioel}}: places a banner that the page may contain external links to copyright violations
  • {{copyvio link}}: inline citation to tag a specific external link which may go to a copyright violation
  • {{Copyright violation}}: inline citation to tag a specific sentence that may contain a copyright violation
  • {{cclean}}: template used on talk page to provide notice of removed copyrighted content
  • {{Uw-copyright}}: template used on contributor talk page to alert to removal (not tagged deletion) of copyrighted text
  • {{Uw-copying}}: template used on contributor talk page to alert to process for copying content from one Wikipedia article to another
  • {{dual}}: a template used on an article's face to note the import of text under CC BY-SA and GFDL
  • evidence should be documented at the talk page of the article, unless the license is clear at the source
  • {{CCBYSASource}}: a template used on an article's face to note the import of text under CC BY-SA only
  • evidence should be documented at the talk page of the article, unless the license is clear at the source