Wikipedia:Copying within Wikipedia

Wikipedia's licensing means that the person who wrote the content must always be credited for their work. This is called "attribution". For most pages, attribution is done through the page history. This cannot be done if the page includes things that have been copied from another Wikipedia page, or if some parts have been deleted. In these cases, crediting the authors will need extra steps. This can be done with a link back to the source page, if available, or a list of authors. An edit summary that explains and links to the source of the content is the least that should be done. It is good practice, especially if a lot is copied, to make a note in an edit summary at the source page as well. People who are reusing content should also consider leaving a note at the talk pages of both the page copied from, and the one copied to.

Why attribution is needed change

People who write content on Wikipedia do not have to give up their copyright to the material they contribute. However, they must license their changes under the copyleft licenses Wikipedia uses, which are the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC-BY-SA-4.0) and GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). Both of these licenses allow people to use and change text that they find on Wikipedia, but only as long as attribution is done.

The CC-BY-SA, section 4(c), states that:

You must ... provide ... the name of the Original Author (or pseudonym, if applicable) ... and ... in the case of an Adaptation, a credit identifying the use of the Work in the Adaptation (e.g., "French translation of the Work by Original Author," or "Screenplay based on original Work by Original Author"). The credit required by this Section 4(c) may be implemented in any reasonable manner; provided, however, that in the case of a Adaptation or Collection, at a minimum such credit will appear, if a credit for all contributing authors of the Adaptation or Collection appears, then as part of these credits and in a manner at least as prominent as the credits for the other contributing authors.

The GFDL, section 4-I, states that:

... you must ... Preserve the section Entitled "History", Preserve its Title, and add to it an item stating at least the title, year, new authors, and publisher of the Modified Version as given on the Title Page.

The Wikimedia Foundation's Terms of Use are clear that attribution will be supplied:

in any of the following fashions: a) through a hyperlink (where possible) or URL to the article or articles you contributed to, b) through a hyperlink (where possible) or URL to an alternative, stable online copy which is freely accessible, which conforms with the license, and which provides credit to the authors in a manner equivalent to the credit given on this website, or c) through a list of all authors. (Any list of authors may be filtered to exclude very small or irrelevant contributions.)

If material is used without attributing the original authors, then these licensing terms have been broken. This violates the Reusers' rights and obligations clause of Wikipedia's copyrights policy.

Where attribution is not needed change

Not everything copied from one Wikipedia page to another needs to be attributed. If the text being copied was written by you, then you do not need to credit yourself. Content which you have rewritten in your own words also does not need attribution. However, attribution must be done when copying material by other users which is "creative" enough to be copyrightable under US law (which is the law for Wikipedia).

As guidance, none of the following are "creative expression" requiring attribution, for Wikipedia purposes:

  • Bare references;
  • Common expressions and phrases;
  • Simple, non-creative lists of information (such as a list of actors in a television program by order of appearance or alphabetical order);
  • Basic mathematical and scientific formulae;
  • Material that will be reverted and deleted in full, with no copy kept on the public wiki. (This means that vandalism, private information, nonsense, and other problematic text that are being deleted or redacted by an administrator do not require attribution.)

Quotes from external sources do not need to be attributed to the original Wikipedia contributor, but the original source must still be cited. However, even though attribution is not required in these cases, including a link is often useful.

Proper attribution change

Attribution can be provided in any of the ways found in the Terms of Use (listed above), although methods (a) and (c) — that is, through a hyperlink (where possible) or URL to the article or articles you contributed to; or through a list of all authors — are the most useful for transferring text from one Wikipedia page to another. Either of them meets the licensing requirements if properly done.

If material has been added by more than one author, providing a link in the edit summary is the easiest method of providing attribution. A statement in the edit summary such as copied content from [[article name]]; see that article's history for attribution will mean that people who are looking for the attribution can find the edit history of the source page, where they can trace exactly who added what content when. One problem with this method is that the page history of the original article must be kept in order to maintain attribution. If the source page is moved or deleted, this is no longer the case. To help with this, it is helpful to make a note of the copying on the talk page of the source article. The template {{copied}} can be used to do this.
List of authors
When dealing with a page edited by many, a hyperlink is the simplest solution. However, if the content being copied has only one contributor, it may be easier to just name them. Using this method, the edit history of the source page is unnecessary, and it will not matter if the source page is later deleted or moved. A statement in the edit summary such as text originally contributed by [[User:Example]] on 1 January 2009 serves as full attribution. If the material being copied has more than one author, attribution requirements can technically be satisfied with a note in edit summary directing attention to a list of contributors on the talk page, but as the Terms of Service show, a hyperlink is preferred where possible.

Specific situations change

Merging and splitting change

While there may be many reasons to copy text from one page into another, there are other steps and templates, which may be needed in certain cases. For merging two articles together or content from one article into another, see Wikipedia:Merging. For splitting one article into two or more, see Wikipedia:Splitting.

Copying from other Wikimedia Projects change

If copying or moving by transwiki import from another Wikimedia project that is licensed under CC-BY-SA (such as Wikimedia Commons, Wiktionary, and Wikispecies), attribution can be done either by providing a complete list of authors of the original content (the complete list can be generated by copying the history of the other page) or by providing a direct link to the original material. If the list of authors is short, this may be provided in the edit summary. A direct link (such as an InterWikimedia link) should be included in the edit summary; the template {{Interwiki copy}} can be used for the article's talk page. If leaving a list of authors, please also provide a URL to the original page in case it becomes necessary in the future to access that history. (See Help:Transwiki.) Although most Wikimedia projects are licensed under CC-BY-SA and require attribution consistent with the Foundation's Terms of Use, some projects are handled differently. For example, content from Wikinews is licensed under CC-BY and may be reused with attribution only to "Wikinews." (See Wikinews:Copyright.) It is the responsibility of the editor importing content to find out which license applies and make sure that attribution is satisfied.

Translating from other language Wikimedia Projects change

Translations of copyrighted text, even from other Wikimedia projects, are derivative works, and attribution must be given to satisfy licensing requirements. When translating material from a Wikimedia project licensed under CC-By-SA, a note identifying the Wikimedia source (such as an interlanguage link) should be made in edit summary and a link left to the original at the article's talk page. The template {{Translated page}} is available for this purpose.

Content forking change

There are also some situations in Wikipedia where copying may not be appropriate, such as if two articles are being created on the same subject because editors of the original cannot agree on what the article should say. This is called "content forking". The proper solution to disagreement like this is to seek consensus through dispute resolution.

Reusing deleted material change

If an article is deleted, its history is removed. This means that its content cannot be reused on Wikipedia—even under the same article title—unless attribution is otherwise provided (or the page undeleted). Deleted articles should not be recovered and reused from Wikipedia mirrors, Google cache, or the view-deleted administrator right.

Sometimes, specific parts of an article's history are deleted. This may be because some of the revisions included copyright violations, attacks against other people, or personal information. This is done through Selective History deletion, Revision Deletion or Oversight. If the article still contains text which was placed by users whose revisions have been hidden, those must be attributed. Dummy edits should be used for this purpose, when it is possible; otherwise, talk page attribution will be necessary. A typical dummy edit summary could read, for instance Revision deletion for reason XYZ: Article was started by and retains contributions from [[User:Example]], as well as contributions from [[User:Example2]] and [[User:Example3]]

Userfication change

If an article is "userified"—copied or moved into user space—it must be fully attributed. If an article is being moved to userspace to avoid deletion (or to work on after deletion), the full history should be visible (restored if necessary) and then moved using the move button. If a user wishes to copy all or part of an article to work on in userspace, he or she should use an edit summary like creating page with content copied from revision 123456789 of [[article title]].

Mending incorrect attribution change

Technically, failure to attribute correctly is a copyright violation. However, pages that contain unattributed text do not normally need to be deleted. Attribution can be supplied later by the methods above, using dummy edits to record new edit summaries, or via talk page attribution using the {{copied}} template. Such delayed attribution should make clear when the copied text entered the page.

When possible, the user who copied the text should be informed about the rules for copying text between pages. The template {{uw-c&pmove}} is available to help explain cut-and-paste moves. For other copying situations, the {{uw-copying}} template can be used.

Repairing cut and paste moves of a page change

If a Wikipedia page was moved to another title by cutting and pasting, leaving a redirect at the previous page, the licensing violation can be repaired through the use of the {{histmerge}} template. If the situation is more complicated—as for example if a new article has been started at the source page on a subject with a related title—the situation should be taken to the administrator noticeboard for administrator attention.