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The group behind the Wikipedia online encyclopedia has accused Baidu.com, China's most popular internet search engine, of being the worst violator of its copyrights. Florence Nibart-Devouard, chair of the Board of Trustees at the Wikimedia Foundation yesterday asked the company again to give credit where it is due.
The Wikimedia Foundation has never sued a copyright violator and has no plans to take Baidu to court. But Wikimedia is asking more publicly for the Chinese search company to respect its copyright licence by simply attributing Wikipedia entries that have been copied on Baidu Baike, the company's Chinese language web encyclopedia.
Wikipedia Criticises Chinese Search Engine [pcadvisor.co.uk]
On top of that, if Wikipedia admits there's no legal threat, then in effect they're saying there is no effective copyright at all. It makes you wonder if there's any real point in GNU-style attribution licences when there are no legal teeth to enforce them.
-- A hint to Baidu - just put a reference to Wikipedia using the nofollow tag just like Wikipedia does. --
Or what? What will happen if they don't? Absolutely nothing, Wikipedia themselves say so.
It can (in theory) be upheld in China too, but the problem seems to be Wikipedia/Wikimedia's reluctance to even bring a case against any copyright violators.
If they don't ever, EVER sue anyone, and publicly say they aren't going to sue anyone, then their copyright is effectively worthless. The licence might as well not exist.
They're caught between a rock and a hard place: their licence requires that they are credited, but if they enforce the licence there will be damaging headlines like "site fined for quoting from Wikipedia".
There's the added complication that many articles in Wikipedia itself are lifted from copyright sources, albeit without the knowledge of Wikipedia/Wikimedia. If they successfully sue other people for copying Wikipedia articles without permission, then the owners of sites copied by Wikipedia will start suing them.
Wikipedia is alleging that Baidu is using their content without giving proper citation as per Wikipedia's licence and terms. As I understand Baidu Baike is a large Wiki with some content taken from Wikipedia but the majority of content supplied by volunteer writers. If content is copied from Wikipedia to Baike then of course it should be cited correctly, but you run into the problem of whether the content is being copied in an official manner, or being entered by individuals on an ad-hoc basis which then affects the "policability" of said copyright. If individuals are copying tracts from Wikipedia, from snippets to whole pages, then the challenge of policing multitude individuals for infractions of various degrees is nigh on impossible. But at least they are trying to prevent such copyright ciolation in there terms:-
It [Baidu] expressly tells users that any contributions which quote works held under the GNU Free Documentation License, which Wikipedia uses, must follow the restrictions on that licence.
I might add, it is the same problem that Wikipedia faces itself by allowing anyone to enter content at will. How do you ensure that everything in Wikipedia is itself free from any copyright violation? One could play the "get thyne own house in order" card here.
Bu then, as always, there is more to the story. From the above article,
Wikipedia also finds it difficult to compete against Baidu Baike due to strict censorship laws in China.Wikipedia is facing the problem of the Great Firewall of China, having it's own content blocked from Mainland users, whereas the Baidu-Wikipedia content is available. One has to wonder then if there are other motives at play here.
The West has tried to lean on China to enforce copyright more strictly, perhaps Wikipedia is trying to get Baidu associated with this outside pressure?
And as you say, Wikipedia's own copyright clearance processes are so close to non-existent that they would find it almost impossible to successfully sue anyone else.
[edited by: Woz at 3:49 am (utc) on Aug. 7, 2007]
[edit reason] Tidying up. [/edit]
And in the spotlight of negative publicity, the other side hopefully will start to think about moving away from the bad neighbourhood of the "Chinese copying everything".
Go, Wiki, go.
AFAIK Baidu is expanding into Europe - copyright can be upheld there.
That turned out to be a false rumor. We covered it here: Baidu heading for Europe [webmasterworld.com]
My thoughts about this issue are very much in line with those of Woz. Wikipedia's own sources are very suspect so it's hard to throw all the weight toward the whole China = copyright infringement crowd. It does sound like there's some wholesale copying going on, but people, it's a wiki. ;)