Ideas, Linked; Ideals, Inked.

Associated Press: “It’s Okay If WE Do It.”

I saw this article (from the AP on ESPN) today, about a push to bring the to bring a version of cricket called Twenty20 to the US. According to the article:

A Twenty20 game is a shortened version of cricket, completed in about 3½ hours to bring it closer to the length of other sports played in the United States.

Emphasis added. I wanted more information, so I went to the Wikipedia page on Twenty20 cricket, where I saw this sentence:

A Twenty20 game is completed in about three and half hours, with each innings lasting around 75 minutes, thus bringing the game closer to the timespan of other popular team sports.

Emphasis added. If you’re me, you’ll notice immediately the parallel structure of the sentences, and the fact that a thesaurus appeared to be used to change the words in the last clause (without actually changing the meaning). I cannot fathom that these are NOT copied from each other. The question is which came first.

This could have been an enthusiastic Wikipedia editor, so I checked the history page of the article, which tracks every change. It turns out that Wikipedia had it first. Here is a link to the 10 July 2009 version of the article.

Let me repeat, to be clear: Wikipedia Had It First. Which means an AP writer or editor cribbed directly from Wikipedia, changed some words, and put it in the article.

In and of itself, that is not the problem. Wikipedia is, in fact, fine with this.

The problem is copyright licenses. According to the copyright license that Wikipedia uses, if you use or re-purpose content from a Wikipedia article, the new work must have a “compatible license”.  In this case, that means the article must…

  1. Attribute Wikipedia as the source.
  2. Have a “share-alike” provision in the license which allows others to copy and re-purpose the entire adapted work as they see fit.

That means the entire AP article should, by rights, be open to re-use. However, the AP violates Wikipedia’s license – the restrictive AP copyright license is NOT compatible with Wikipedia’s open “share-alike” license. So, the AP, as far as I can reasonably tell, is violating Wikipedia’s copyright by not attributing and not having a compatible license.

Of course, in a vacuum, this is an isolated incident. But, in the real world, this flies in the face of the AP’sclaims against Shepherd Fairey, the artist who created the iconic “Obama HOPE” poster. Details of this case, in bullet form:

  • Mr. Fairey used a photo (found on Google image search) to inspire the look of the painting.
  • Nobody (Fairey included) knew the the owner of source photo of the iconic painting at first. It was thought to be a Reutrers photo for a time.
  • Someone tracked down the original, Fairey said, “yup, that one”, and the AP claimed ownership.
  • Incidentally, the photographer claims to be the owner of the photo as well, and that the AP doesn’t own it.
  • The AP claims that they deserve to “get permission”, and that the poster is a copyright violation.
  • Fairey’s lawyer and the AP’s lawyer started talking.
  • According to Fairey at a talk at the New York Public Library in March (which I attended), he was happy to pay the original usage rights he should have paid, but he did not know the identity of the owner.
  • According to Fairey, the AP had some demands (take with grain of salt, but the guy seemed like a straight shooter).
    • Demand 1: usage rights for the value of the photo after Mr. Fairey’s painting made it valuable. (Prior to that, it had one of the lowest usage rights for that type of image, which alone is anything but iconic.)
    • Demand 2: Damages.
    • Demand 3 (Possibly): A piece of the profits (since it was their photo that led to the poster).
  • Fairey claims the use of the photo was clearly within the bounds of “fair use”.
  • Fairey sued for declamatory judgement against the AP’s copyright claim on his poster.

Here’s an article on the Fairey matter.

So… The AP can crib other people’s work without following the rules, but a guy can’t use a photo in what is widely considered to be a CLEAR case of fair use? Well done, AP.

Yup… I got all that from an article on cricket in the US.


Filed under: Culture, Politics, Tech, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

9 Responses

  1. […] AP plagiarizes Wikipedia Permalink […]

  2. […] Associated Press: “It’s Okay If WE Do It.” This could have been an enthusiastic Wikipedia editor, so I checked the history page of the article, which tracks every change. It turns out that Wikipedia had it first. Here is a link to the 10 July 2009 version of the article. […]

  3. David Gerard says:

    I have suggested that WMF should ask AP for a donation this year …

  4. Jeff Nixon says:

    AP’s license does not have to be compatible with Wikipedia’s. Any reuser can have a more restrictive license, so long as they follow the proper process for crediting Wikipedia.

  5. Greg says:

    I call bs on this one.

    There are few ways to state the definition of Twenty20 in two sentences or less. Inevitably, any attempt will sound similar. Here, let me give it a try:

    “Twenty20 is a version of cricket which takes about 3.5 hours to play. This is a similar timespan to other American sports.”

    It’s pretty tricky… you could go with something like, “This shorter timespan is easier to digest for American sports fans,” but now you’re changing the meaning… You’re stating the conclusion instead of letting the reader draw that conclusion, which is different rhetoric and different meaning altogether.

    It’s not plagiarism. A substantially larger selection would need to have been “rewritten” in order to make that case. 2 structurally basic sentences doesn’t cut it.

  6. vijtable says:

    Thanks, all for the comments. A couple responses…

    @ Jeff: I’m not an expert on what ‘compatible license” means, so I’ll trust you on this one. The credit thing is still a problem, though.

    @ Greg: Three things…

    1) Maybe you’re right, and it was simply a matter of an idea that really can’t get across in many ways. However, word choice plus sentence structure are fishy to me. “Completed in” and “bring(ing) it closer” are two red flags because they are consistent style choices that reflect voice, not content.

    2) You were able to construct a pair of sentences which I wouldn’t think twice about. In fact, you didn’t use those two key pieces which raised my hackles :)

    Here’s my go: “Unlike ‘traditional’ cricket, Twenty20 takes only about 3.5 hours to play – similar in length to baseball, football, and other US sports.”

    The point is the same, and even some of the words are the same, but I’m actually synthesizing and providing my own voice.

    3) Finally, and most importantly, I never claimed that this was plagiarism. I said that they “cribbed” (e.g., cheated a little), implying that they are not playing by their own rules with regards to fair use. And now I’m saying it.

  7. Greg says:

    Cool, cool… I must’ve been unduly and subconsciously influenced by other people’s use of the word “plagiarism” (eg. the linkbacks).


  8. wow – it’s a brilliant picture!nlook at those droplets of water… woOt! Click

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s



Blog Stats

  • 7,948 hits
Creative Commons License
Idealink by vijtable is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work by various sources, as cited.
%d bloggers like this: