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Introduction to Wikiversity scholarship: Wikis

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Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

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This Introduction to Wikiversity Scholarship allows participants to explore the application of high standards of scholarship to Wikiversity editing.

Scholarly copying

Creative works (text, images, audio, video) automatically qualify for copyright protection. Copyleft licenses allow holders of copyright to make their works available for re-use and copying by others. Wikiversity is devoted to free culture and a process by which copyrights are respected and authorship is attributed but information is licensed so as to be freely copied and widely used. 1) If you copy material from Wikipedia to Wikiversity and do not give attribution for the source, then you are violating the terms of the GFDL. 2) As long as you follow the terms of the GFDL, you are free to copy and re-use Wikiversity content. 3) Under special circumstances, some works that are not licensed for re-use and copying can be used to illustrate a point in a scholarly discussion or in a review (See the section of this page about fair use). 4) In general, works that are not explicitly licensed for free/libre re-use are assumed to be protected by copyright and should not be used at Wikiversity.


Part of how Wikiversity is being created is by the legal practice of taking someone else's images or writing and presenting them in new ways of your own design. Within Wikiversity we need to discuss both legal and illegal ways of using the work of others and do so within the context of a project that is devoted to a wiki culture in which building upon the work of others is encouraged.

Plagiarism is an illegal way of using the work of others. In most cases, plagiarism is not a matter to be treated by a law suit. Usually plagiarism has serious implications that fall outside of the formal legal system. At Wikipedia this definition of Plagiarism is offered, "Plagiarism is the practice of dishonestly claiming original authorship of material which one has not actually created". Plagiarism is usually handled outside of the legal system by social groups such as educators and journalists that take action to penalize members of the group who practice plagiarism.

Wikiversity has two policies that implicitly condemn plagiarism. The Wikiversity Policy for citation of sources requires that sources be cited. When this policy is followed it is impossible for Wikiversity participants to dishonestly claim authorship of material used within Wikiversity webpages. The Wikiversity policy on scholarly ethics excludes, "illegal, deceptive, dishonest or otherwise unethical accounts of facts or ideas".

Ethical and legal problems are avoided when Wikiversity scholars cite verifiable and reliable sources and make use of copied materials according to the requirements of their use license(s). Since even unintentional plagiarism and licensing violations are not welcome within Wikiversity, it is important for Wikiversity scholars to learn about good and bad practices for using copied materials.

Fair use

The doctrine of Fair use is part of United States copyright law. Fair use allows copyrighted materials to be used without permission from the copyright holder, but only under special circumstances. Note: United States law is important because the Wikimedia Foundation is incorporated in the United States. Copyright law is explicitly designed to promote the advancement of discovery and learning. Educational institutions and anyone engaged in sharing knowledge can receive special consideration under copyright law. Limited use of copyrighted material to illustrate scholarly works or reviews is allowed if the use is for a nonprofit educational purpose. "Limited use" usually means that the copied material is not distorted except to limit its size or length or quality (resolution). For example, in discussing a copyrighted book, only short passages should be copied, passages that are explicitly discussed by a scholar or reviewer. It is also important that any "fair use" of copyrighted material not decrease the value of that material for the copyright holder. The Wikimedia Foundation has a policy that regulates the use of non-free content and "fair use" within Wikimedia wiki projects. In general, the goal is to use as little non-free or "fair use" content as possible.

See the Wikiversity Fair use learning project.

See also

  • Wikiversity NPOV policy
  • Policy for citation of sources
  • Copyright
  • Wikiversity copyleft
  • Wikiversity policy on scholarly ethics
  • Wikiversity:Research
  • Wikiversity scholarship
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