What did we decide to do with plagerized profiles?

+26 votes
Recently, I've run into a number of profiles with only Wikipedia as the source and a cut & paste of the Wikipedia article as the only text in the biography.

Other than stopping and re-writing the biography right then and there, has there been a consensus about what to do with the profiles or how we are going to ask the PM for a re-write? No one will appreciate being called out as a plagiarist. Has anyone set up a committee of individuals who are willing to deal with this bit of delicate maintenance, and to whom we can pass the profiles that need the re-writes?  

I ask because I suspect that my "shoot from the hip" style is a bit too much for this sort of issue.  Although, there is something to be said for speaking the truth. "I noticed that profile # yada-yada uses the text from the cited Wikipedia article verbatim. It has to be rewritten before that site brings charges of plagerism. Will you be doing that today? Or, shall I?"    That would fly with other Texans, but more delicate flowers might not be able to handle it.  So, to avoid mentioning it to the PM, My guess is to add [[Category:Needs Narrative/bio|Rewrite the cut/pasted from source]]. Will adding the portion after the "|" be sufficent to explain what's going on?
WikiTree profile: George Fredericksen
in Policy and Style by Michele Britton G2G6 Mach 1 (18.6k points)
retagged by Michele Britton

Good question. My biased point of view is connect Wikipedia/Wikidata with Wikitree

  1. Wikipedia has still much better information than Wikipedia ==> just link dont/copy paste more than the basic

    Compare Shakespeare-1 and Wikipedia William_Shakespeare
  2. Wikitree sometimes has added value that we have more genealogy information than Wikipedia ==>
    link the data between WIkitree with Wikipedia/Wikidata ==>

    Q692 <-> Shakespeare-1
    1. My suggestion add Wikipedia as a reference to Wikidata
    2. Add Wikidata id to the profile in Wikitree using a template {{Wikidata | Q692}}
      1. Shakespeare-1 on Wikidata is Q692 (Reasonator view) 

The future of internet is that we create those links between data from different sources. FindAgrave has already joined Wikidata ==> for some people you will in Wikidata you will have a link to Find a Grave ==> if the reader is interested in the grave he can follow that link...


I have tried start a discussion with the people in the Category group that we need to think outside the Wikitree box as the next WEB 3.0 will be much more linking between objects than pages...


Hello Mangus,

This is VERY cool.  Where can I find an index of Wikidata IDs and a primer on integrating Wikidata into other projects. This has given me a real intellectual energy boost just imagining the possibilities of this idea. :-D

Yes, I agree that we should hyperlink directly to web sources. The Shakespeare example is a well written Wikitree biography. It isn't what I was trying to describe in my question. For illustration  I've added Oldenburg-1 to the question.  

Unlike Shakespeare-1, in Oldenburg-1 there us no difference between the Wikipedia article and the text appearing under == Biography == on the Wikitree profile.  This is despite the profile having been created back in 2008 and having quite a few project members working on it over the years. Apparently, no one noticed the cut/paste or perhaps just didn't think it would be a problem since Wikipedia doesn't have the typical copyright protections to consider.

This isn't the only example I've noticed in the past few weeks - and I haven't been looking for anything in particular - just working on new profiles of {{Notables}} and {{Black Sheep}}.

Yes its Web 3.0 and cool and I think we will see that people intresting in reading a Wikitree profile is a Hypertext reader ==> ty to find more sources using links ==> that we should give the person the links they need.... 

see video https://youtu.be/yptfEUzivV4

Copyright issues: I think the problem is also about updating Wikitree profiles everyone can do copy/paste but who will update....... its better linking....  



Thank you once again! :-D

I feel like a child with a new toy to play with.

I had the same experience 3 weeks ago.... now life is more how to write SPARQL queries and can I create my own SPARQL endpoint with Swedish Parish info in RDF format.....   

My reading list

Wikipedia grants full use of their pages and may be copied in full without a copyright violation.
Joe, that doesn't mean we should. Rob Ton wrote a very good piece on why original content is better for several reasons. It's on the g2g discussion I link to elsewhere in this thread.

why original content is better for several reasons

​I think it feels odd to compare a page at Wikitree with a page at Wikipedia. I would choose everyday in the week the Wikipedia article.... If someone would like to spend time why not make the Wikipedia article better...

Page Info Wikipedia

I would like to rephrase the question 

Should we have a standard way of linking from Wikitree to Wikipedia when a better article is available at Wikipedia.... Maybe use Soft redirect

Wellll, alrighty then.

1) We've got Wikitree policies in place that prohibit copying and pasting.

2) We will use our own thoughts and words when writing and will footnote each fact represented and cite our sources as we learned in school.

3) We will allow lawyers to get their panties in a bunch and argue over whether or not any of that steps on anyones copyright toes.  Meanwhile we'll do our best to give credit where it's due.

4) We will point to the appropriate links in the style guide on occasions when cut & pastes get noticed.

And if there's any push back, we'll lead the individual to this conversation thread and let them talk with the group at large.

6 Answers

+17 votes
Best answer
To go back to Michelle's original question -- what should we do with plagiarized profiles?  The simple answer is they need to be fixed.  

In a sense profiles comprised simply of an entire unedited wikipedia article are worse than profiles filled with GEDCOM debris because the ones filled with debris carry the message, "surely someone plans to fix this, they just haven't gotten to it yet" while the plagiarized profile carries the message, "oh my, some poor soul imagines this is an acceptable profile."

So we probably need a group of volunteer fixers competent to do simple fixes.  I would certainly volunteer to take on a few from time to time if we agreed on what a simple fix would be.  The discussion so far has led to all sorts of valid and important discussions on how profiles should be enhanced in the future, but in order to solve the immediate problem we need to agree on a minimum fix to be done by a fixer.    

I would suggest the simple fix would consist of this:

1.  Verify where the current profile material came from.  If it says Wikipedia or some other source, check and make sure you have a working link to the source.  If it clearly came from somewhere but the where is not specified, pick an unusual phrase from it and run it through a Google Advanced Search and see where it came from; get a working link.

2.  Create a reference to the source.  I personally find the the following reference format the simplest:  <ref name="wiki"> Wikipedia.  "George Smith"  http..the specific working link you got in step 1.... </ref> with subsequent references in the profile simply to <ref name="wiki"/>.  Other expert WikiTreers use other reference formats.  They all work.

3.  Find the "vitals" information from the copied article;  arrange it in chronological order, birth, parents, marriage, death, issue, etc, with dates and places.  Put a heading for each kind of information either with === Paragaph=== or '''Bold''' headings, and slap one of our source references after EACH fact.  As RJ Horace says, sometimes the original wording carries more information that you don't want to lose.  One or two sentences at a time is acceptable use -- set it in quotation marks.  

4.  Hide all remaining wikipedia material at the end,  set off with <!-- and --> with the heading:  " Note:  resources available for future editing and sourcing."   

This is absolutely not a recommended way of creating a profile from scratch, but a "quick fix" to move an unacceptably plagiarized profile just across the line into the realm of acceptable profiles with a minimum of effort.

I'm sure there are even better recommendations out there, but this seemed like a good way to start a conversation about how to address Michelle's question with a minimum of effort!
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (390k points)
selected by Stephanie Ward
+12 votes

Back in late 2014. We had a lengthy discussion about this. 

We modified the Copying Text policy to reflect some of that. 

As for what to do when encountering such text, if the profile manager(s) is (are) active, you can add a comment on the profile, linking to that style guide page, pointing out that the profile narrative therefore needs attention. I like your offer of doing it yourself. Within a day? That might be expecting too much. A week seems more reasonable. 

On those profiles that are under the umbrella of a project, I think editing could happen right away if you're part of that project. For example, the PGM project has a more strongly written guideline about copying text and we try to remove such text as soon as we find it. Be sure to use the "reasons for editing" box to explain what you're doing. 

I periodically run across profiles with such content managed by PMs who I know. I have written them privately. 

In all communications, I try to acknowledge their good intent but remind them of the guidelines. 



by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (822k points)
If we added a Wikipedia template to Wikitree it would be easier to track those profiles...
We also have a style guide page specific to copying from Wikipedia


On the profile you link to, do you know what it's plagiarizing? It doesn't appear to be Wikipedia but something else. There's a footnote number at the end but doesn't link to anything suggesting it was a copy/paste from something else.

Last, I'd add that I wouldn't "open" a conversation with the term plagiarism. My experience is that most people don't realize what they've done. Or, these were internal notes in their gedcom that transferred to wikitree upon upload.  In any case, use care when starting such an exchange.

"most people don't realize what they've done." ;-) 

Maybe we should have an internet driving license 

+20 votes
We have to distinguish between copyright and plagiarism.

Plagiarism is passing off somebody else's work or discovery as your own.  It needn't be copyrighted.  It needn't be verbatim.  It may be unpublished.

Plagiarism is uncool but not illegal.  It's mostly a concern for professionals.  It damages reputations, but it can't hurt you if you haven't got one.  In any case, it's nobody else's problem.

It's also a concern for students seeking to prove their own talents.

Acknowledging the source always avoids plagiarism.  Copying Wikipedia isn't plagiarism if you say it's Wikipedia.

Most of the genealogy on WikiTree is somebody else's work.  But then, we don't claim it isn't.  Nobody expects WikiTree not to be full of second-hand stuff.

It's annoying how many bios contain obvious cut and pastes without saying where from.  But it's not necessary to delete them.  Even if somebody were saying "I wrote this myself" when they got it from an old book, that only reflects on them, not on WikiTree.


Copyright infringement is a whole different issue, but I won't go there.


Then there's verbatim text which is sourced and not copyrighted.  This is just a policy and style issue.  Personally I wish a lot more people would quote their sources verbatim.  Too much gets lost in paraphrases.
by Living Horace G2G6 Pilot (573k points)

"Personally I wish a lot more people would quote their sources verbatim.  Too much gets lost in paraphrases." Good point....

I agree; we have to be very careful what we define as plagiarism and copyright violation. Plagiarism is not illegal, it is immoral. Copyright violation can be defined differently depending on the country you live in. Quoting a small portion of a larger document with or without references, is neither. Of course giving proper credit to the original author should always be a standard procedure.
Quoting verbatim rather than paraphrasing can get WikiTree into a lot of trouble if the source is copyrighted. If the paraphrasing is losing important content, improve the paraphrasing!
But copyright isn't necessarily avoided just by not quoting verbatim.
+11 votes

Wikipedia is probably not a good example of copyright violation.  It is perhaps to a small degree an example of plagiarism.  Wikipedia releases its pages under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike agreement.  It directly says you may copy, distribute, transmit, remix and adapt the entire Wikipedia page.  In other words, a Wikipedia page is 100% in the public domain and may be copy-pasted in full on WikiTree.  In fact there are many other sites which mirror Wikipedia – i.e. copy and distribute every single page of Wikipedia

This license is restricted in 2 ways –

1. if you copy the information it must be distributed under a similar license (you can’t copy WikiPedia and then sell the information).

2. The page and authors should be attributed.  Wikipedia says all that is required for this is a simple link back to WikiPedia.

So, there is absolutely no problem with copying Wikipedia pages in full.  If you copy a WikiPedia page you should include a source link back to the page where you found it.

Wikipedia:Reusing Wikipedia content 

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike: Creative Commons Deed


by Joe Cochoit G2G6 Pilot (233k points)
Just to add that citing the source (although it avoids plagiarism, as I said before) doesn't avoid copyright in general.  It's just a special term that may be imposed by outfits like Wikipedia when waiving their copyright.
Wikitree does not have the same Creative Commons licensing as Wikipedia so we are not able to comply with wikipedia's requirements. Hence we should not copy/paste from there. It's why there's a separate page in the style guide just related to using Wikipedia content. So please don't do it.
Jillaine is right. Wikipedia does NOT give away all its rights. Probably the most important thing is that it demands that people who use Wikipedia information simply say they are doing so. So we should do that. (And people copy-pasting from Wikitree should do it too.)
+13 votes
Just because the Wikitree biography matches the Wikipedia biography does NOT mean it was copied from Wikipedia TO Wikitree.  It could also be the other way round.

For instance, I was working on a pre 1500 profile.  In the course of researching it, I discovered he was a Member of Parliament.  Members of Parliament are "notable" for Wikipedia, even if they never did anything else.  I discovered he did not yet have a Wikipedia article, so I created one for him.  The wording is very similar, if not identical, because I wrote both.  But someone who didn't know that, might think I just copied from Wikipedia to Wikitree.


by Janet Gunn G2G6 Pilot (124k points)
i went down a rabbit hole not too long ago, checking a source for a WikiTree profile that cited MyHeritage... which cited WikiTree!
+6 votes
It's much more serious when it's HOP and there's quite a bit of that around and it feels just awful when it's from Thepeerage.com with the computer generated stuff. We have that as well. Presumably both are copyright protected unlike Wikipedia.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (294k points)
I agree that I see a lot of C & P from HOP
Use of HOP
"You can cite from it and make short quotations from it without asking us, as long as you provide a reference to the original (up to about 250 words, as long as this does not constitute the entire article). Any other use requires written permission from the History of Parliament or from the other copyright holder."

Whether or not it is copyrighted, the first quick and easy thing to do when you find such quotes, in most cases, is to put quotes around it and give a reference to where it came from. In most cases this already clears up copyright concerns.

Using quotes is not the problem, it is that editors here (or of gedcoms) do not say where they got information from.

We should also BTW do this when we cite things like online forums even.

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