Monday, November 19, 2007

This from the NYTimes this morning.

Now this is just silly -- and doesn't really teach me anything about oil -- but does underscore two of my enormous pet peeves just now. WIKIPEDIA IS NOT A RELIABLE SOURCE! Tell your students, tell your children -- tell your publishers -- tell your dog! Furthermore -- the reason that they kick people out of college for cheating is IT'S CHEATING. Ugh.
We will now return to our regularly scheduled programing.

Part of an Oil Book Relied on Wikipedia

Published: November 19, 2007

The publisher John Wiley & Sons confirmed last week that its book “Black Gold: The New Frontier in Oil for Investors” by George Orwel had lifted almost word for word about five paragraphs from a Wikipedia article on the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.

The book discusses the 1996 terrorist bombing, which killed 19 United States servicemen, as part of an overview of the situation in the Middle East as it affects the oil supply. Mr. Orwel, who lives in Brooklyn, has written about the industry for a variety of specialized publications; reached at home, he said his publisher’s statement spoke for him.

True to the ever-changing nature of Wikipedia, a comparison of Mr. Orwel’s book, which was published in 2006, and the current article on the bombing would show significant differences. But when compared with a 2005 version — available on a discussion page there about the incident — the text is virtually identical. A typo or two has been fixed, a phrase or two added, and the word “saw” had been changed to “witnessed,” for example.

The principal author of the Wikipedia article, reached via his user page there, wrote in an e-mail message that he considered the damages “insignificant,” and had “made no effort to contact the author or publisher.” He described himself as follows: “I’m male, in my 40s, have a Ph.D. in physics, and work as a professor at a university in California. I view my Wikipedia writings as a form of procrastination from real work, so I’d prefer to remain anonymous and not reveal the extent of my procrastination to colleagues.”

Copying from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia produced by tens of thousands of contributors, does not raise the same legal complications as copying from a copyrighted book. According to Mike Godwin, the lead lawyer at the Wikimedia Foundation, under Wikipedia’s license anyone can reprint material found there as long as Wikipedia is given credit and the license itself is reprinted, assuring that the material continues to roam free.

“Wiley’s concern is not over copyright trouble,” Mr. Godwin said. “They want to represent their work as scholarly work. Their name is on the line in terms of scholarly ethics, more than the copyright issue.”

A Wiley spokeswoman said in a statement that the publisher would “provide corrections to all future reprints of this book.” In its statement, Wiley, which is based in Hoboken, N.J., said the passages were “inadvertently added by our author to the text without attribution.”

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