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Owl of Wisdom
(or is it the owl of humor?)

Dual licensing

The option to relicense material copyrighted under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) relicensing provisions under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license {CC-BY-SA} was exercised on May 27, 2009. Unless some other copyright license has been selected by the original author of an article all contributions to Wikinfo are considered to be released under both licenses.

Although some material in Wikinfo may have been released under some license other than the GDFL and CC-BY-SA it remains a goal of Wikinfo to create an open content information source in an encyclopedia format that is freely available. The GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license used for most articles grants free access to content in the same sense as free software is licensed freely. That portion of the Wikinfo content which is published under the GDFL and CC-BY-SA can be copied, modified, and redistributed so long as the new version grants the same freedoms to others and acknowledges Wikinfo as the source. Most Wikinfo articles therefore will remain free forever and can be used by anybody subject to certain restrictions, most of which serve to ensure that freedom.

Users' rights and obligations for material covered by GFDL

If you want to use Wikinfo materials covered by GFDL in your own books/articles/web sites or other publications, you can do so, but you have to follow the GFDL, which entails the following:

  • your materials in turn have to be licensed under GFDL,
  • you must acknowledge the authorship of the article (section 4B), and
  • you must provide access to the "transparent copy" of the material (section 4J). (The "transparent copy" of a Wikinfo article is its wiki text.)

The latter two obligations can be fulfilled by providing a conspicuous link back to the home of the article here at

Example notice

An example notice for an article that uses the Wikinfo article Foo might read as follows:

This article is licensed under the <a href="">GNU Free Documentation License</a>. It uses material from the <a href="">Wikinfo article "Foo"</a>.

("Foo" and the Wikinfo URL must of course be substituted accordingly.)

Other Copyright Options

The original author of an article created or used on Wikinfo has the option of using one of the Creative Commons licenses. To select a license go to or and select a license that meets your needs. These materials may not be available for other uses depending on the license selected. That is the case if you chose an nc license, which forbids non-commercial use. Clearly set forth the terms of any license you select in the text of the article, otherwise the default licenses, the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license {CC-BY-SA} will take effect by default (as a practical matter, you may "do over", should you mistakenly save before doing this, but do not go back and change previous pages).

Fair use materials and other restricted use materials

Occasionally, Wikinfo articles may include images, sounds, or text quotes used under the "fair use" doctrine. In this case, the material will be identified as from an external source (on the image description page, or history page, as appropriate). However, what is fair for us to use may not be fair for your intended use of the media.

For example, if we include an image under fair use, you must ensure that your use of the article also qualifies for fair use (this might not be the case, for example, if you were using a Wikinfo article for a commercial use that would otherwise be allowed by the GFDL).

Wikinfo does use some text under licenses that are compatible with the GFDL but may require additional terms that we do not require for original Wikinfo text (such as including Invariant Sections, Front-Cover Texts, or Back-Cover Texts). When using these materials, you have to include those invariant sections verbatim.

Images, particularly, may be used on Wikinfo under terms with restrict other uses, such as commerical use, as may material used under the Creative Commons license and other alternative copyrights. In the case of images please consult the description of the image by clicking on the image.

Contributors' rights and obligations

If you contribute material to Wikinfo without specifying some other copyright such as Creative Commons you thereby license it to the public under the GFDL (with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts). In order to contribute, you therefore must be in a position to grant this license, which means that either:

  • you own the copyright to the material, for instance because you produced it yourself, or
  • you acquired the material from a source that allows the licensing under GFDL, for instance because the material is in the public domain or is itself published under GFDL.

In the first case, you retain copyright to your materials. You can later republish and relicense them in any way you like. However, you can never retract the GFDL license for the versions you placed here: that material will remain under GFDL forever.

In the second case, if you incorporate external GFDL materials, as a requirement of the GFDL, you need to acknowledge the authorship and provide a link back to the network location of the original copy. If the original copy required invariant sections, you have to incorporate those into the Wikinfo article; it is however very desirable to replace GFDL texts with invariant sections by original content without invariant sections whenever possible.

Spotting possible copyright violations

This is a guide to spotting violations of the Wikinfo's copyright policies that are simple cut-and-pastes from other websites.

Signs that an article might be cut-and-pasted

There are a number of signs that an article might be cut-and-pasted. None of these are conclusive evidence, but more than one of these signs tends to be apparent in a cut-and-pasted article.

Signs of concern, but possibly innocent :

  • they are typically not wikified
  • or if they are, they are excessively linked, with every occurrence of a word or phrase made into a wiki link (as if search-and-replace had been used to insert the links)
  • they are typically submitted all at once in finished form, rather than "growing" in stages with multiple users editing
  • lacking even minor edits, such as spelling mistakes and corrections
  • the writing style is "too good to be true"

Strongly suggestive signs of cut-and-paste :

  • HTML tags that are not commonly used or valid in this Wiki, such as "HEAD", "BODY", "TITLE" and "HTML" tags. These suggest an attempt to cut-and-paste from a Web page's HTML source, rather than from the rendered page.
  • give-away phrases like "this booklet"
  • they may also have isolated or out-of-context words or phrases such as "top", "go to top", "next page", "click here", that were originally part of the navigation structure of the original website
  • They may contain non-standard characters such as Microsoft "smartquotes" (but may have been composed in MS Word or something similar)
  • they often contain trademark signs (â„¢,®) and similar typical signs of commercial text
  • ASCII art that does not render properly when copied to the Wiki (but may be a newbie who doesn't understand wiki-formatting)
  • the writing style is that of an advertisement or press release
  • Has the contributor made other recent suspected copyright violations?

Dead giveaways:

  • Some copied pages even still contain the original site's copyright notice, copied intact! In this case, you can assume that they are almost certainly a copyright violation unless the poster is in fact the copyright owner, in which the burden of proof should lie on them to show that they are that person.

Checking it out

Once alerted by one or more of these suspicious signs, you can then check the article by highlighting a sentence or non-trivial sentence fragment that is unlikely to be found by chance in many documents, copying and pasting it into Google, and searching for it (the Mozilla browser is good if you do this often). You should then check the matching pages, if any, for further correspondence to the submitted article.

For extra thoroughness, you may also want to check out the "groups" option in Google, to check that the article is not copied from Usenet.

If you suspect that a page is a copyright infringement

It is not the job of every editor to police every article for possible copyright infringement, but if you suspect one, you should at the very least bring up the issue on that page's talk page. 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.

  • Remember: please don't bite the newbies -- many cut-and-paste contributors may not understand that what they are doing is wrong, and some may turn into valuable contributors if educated rather than punished. You can use the user's talk page to discuss your concerns with them.
  • Some cases will be false alarms. For example, if the contributor was in fact the author of the text that is published elsewhere under different terms, that does not affect their right to post it here under the GFDL. Material from public domain resources is sometimes republished with unclear or misleading copyright notices which may obscure the origin. Also, sometimes you will find text elsewhere on the Web that was copied from Wikipedia and is also present on Wikinfo.
  • List the page on the article talk page - describing the problem, if you get no response, the original poster may not know what to do.

If you find a copyright infringement

If a page really is an infringement, then the content can be deleted. A note to that effect will be made on the talk page, along with the original source. If the author's permission is obtained later, it can be restored.

If a page consists of nothing but a suspected copyright infringement, then you can also note this on its talk page, or the editor's user talk page. If, after a day or two, the page still appears to be a copyright infringment, then it may be deleted.

In extreme cases of contributors continuing to post copyrighted material after appropriate warnings, such users may be blocked from editing to protect the project.

Please bring up serious problems like this on the Village pump so that it will come to the attention of Wikinfo administrators who can delete pages or block users.

Using copyrighted work from others

If you use part of a copyrighted work under "fair use", or if you obtain special permission to use a copyrighted work from the copyright holder under the terms of the GFDL license, you must make a note of that fact (along with names and dates). It is our goal to be able to freely redistribute as much of Wikinfo's material as possible, so original images and sound files licensed under the GFDL or in the public domain are greatly preferred to copyrighted media files used under fair use. Never use materials that infringe the copyrights of others. This could create legal liabilities and seriously hurt the project. If in doubt, write it yourself.

Note that copyright law governs the creative expression of ideas, not the ideas or information themselves. Therefore, it is ethical and legal to read an encyclopedia article or other work, reformulate it in your own words, and submit it to Wikinfo, provided the source is identified. (See plagiarism and fair use for discussions of how much reformulation is necessary in a general context.)

Linking to copyrighted works

Linking to copyrighted works is usually not a problem, as long as you have made a reasonable effort to determine that the page in question is not violating someone else's copyright. If it is, please do not link to the page. Whether such a link is contributory infringement is currently being debated in the courts, but in any case, linking to a site that illegally distributes someone else's work sheds a bad light on Wikinfo.

Notes and references