Is this plagiarism? [closed]

+19 votes

This is an example of something I commonly see ...

Most of the biography in Farar-393 is copy & paste from the work of Lynn Mayes, "Capt. William Farrar (b. Bef. April 28, 1583, d. Bef. October 1636)."    It came with a merge in 2013, and this was at the top, "Taken from:"

Later in 2013, "Taken from:" was moved under Sources, and then in 2015, it was deleted altogether.  A couple of more edits were made; a few words were changed, and more sources added under Sources, but the bulk of the copy & paste remains, without any citation.

The "source" (a link) wasn't really adequate in the first place, and it didn't make it obvious what portion of the biography was being cited.  Then, probably because it didn't seem to contribute any real value, it was deleted.

This seems to be a common WikiTree problem, and I'm not quite sure what to do about it.

edit: linked the urls - didn't realize they don't work, unless I specifically link them


WikiTree profile: William Farrar
closed with the note: resolved, thanks to Liz!
in Policy and Style by Cynthia B G2G6 Pilot (129k points)
closed by Cynthia B

Thanks Cynthia. In a word, yes.

I've posted to his profile that I intend to edit it Sunday to remove the copied text.

Cheers, Liz

edit: not the Sunday I'd meant, but the edit is done. ~ June 26, 2016

To me plagiarism is using someone's work without giving them credit and permission from them. If either of these are missing then it is plagiarism.
You bypass plagiarism by citing the source and using quotation marks.
just wanted to note that the profile looks vastly different now than when the question was asked (June 9). Changes included "step one of revision (delete existing bio with extensive copy/paste information)".
Liz, thank you!  "Vastly different" is actually an understatement!  You have done a fabulous job on this profile.

I think this question can be closed, unless you think differently?
yup - no reason it can't be closed. And thanks :D

3 Answers

+11 votes

A couple of points. Our Honor Code states:

  • We care about accuracy. We're always aiming to improve upon our worldwide family tree and fix mistakes.
  • We know mistakes are inevitable. We don't want to be afraid to make them. We assume that mistakes are unintentional when others make them and ask for the same understanding.
  • We know misunderstandings are inevitable. We try to minimize them by being courteous to everyone, even those who don't act accordingly.
  • We respect copyrights. We don't knowingly copy information that's owned by someone else. If we ourselves want to preserve a copyright, we're clear about what's copyrighted so others don't accidentally copy it.
  • We cite sources. Without sources we can't objectively resolve conflicting information.

So there's that. I always assume it's an honest mistake before getting too worried. A lot of people are still learning genealogy, and may not understand why to source things or where to draw the line when it comes to copying word-for-word from sources. Even so, it's possible that this was their own Family Tree Maker site they copied from, and perhaps they wrote the original. It's even possible that they did not source the original, and so a "no source" profile pointing to a "no source" profile still means - no sources.

To answer your question, though, even if someone hasn't formally "copyrighted" something, it's still protected - you can't just take someone's work and copy it elsewhere without at the very least giving them proper credit. And we do our best to guide someone in the right direction if they have a misunderstanding on this point.

I would recommend reaching out to the Profile Manager and asking if they currently have any sources they can help you out with on this profile. I've found asking nicely to partner up and improve a profile goes a lot further than accusing someone of deliberately doing something wrong. If they respond in turn cooperatively, then you might resolve the problem easily. Often you'll find they appreciate recommendations you might have for profile improvement and learn from your guidance.

by Scott Fulkerson G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+10 votes
It would be pretty easy to add the working link to the webpage in the "See Also" section at the bottom of this profile along with a citation that lists the title of the page and the user at
by Kyle Dane G2G6 Pilot (102k points)
+11 votes
When I first started serious genealogy I got FamilyTree Maker connected to and they asked you to upload your tree to them to back it up.  But when you did you had to agree to let them do what they wanted with it; which was to bundle them onto disks which they sold for a pretty low price.  At first I didn't allow that but eventually did for a while.  Trouble is that while I don't mind sharing data, many people do and also my tree was far from perfect so there are mistakes I regret ever letting get out.  Anyway, if these trees come from that era, the data was sold as is and I don't know that there's a copyright to worry about. was sold to and the connection to switched to on FamilyTreeMaker.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (411k points)
Good reminder. And also remember that the bulk of wikitree profiles were created from gedcoms that came from personal family trees on people's own computers who use the notes section for just that. We paste a lot of stuff into our notes. The problem comes when we upload or otherwise share all that raw and rough stuff onto a public site like wikitree. We forget to take it out or don't know that we should. Glad to see we are working away at cleaning this stuff out.

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