A Local Coffee Table Book Plagiarizes Wikipedia

6:50 pm PHT

My fellow Wikipedian TheCoffee has spotted in a locally-produced coffee table book what appears to be plagiarism of text from Wikipedia. The book, titled Central Philippines, seems to be a tourism-oriented book containing pictures taken in and around the Visayas with brief introductory prose of the constituent provinces. It is these introductions that manifest the plagiarism. TheCoffee gave an example of Negros Oriental from the book:

Oriental Negros is located in the Central Visayas region. It occupies the southeastern half of the island of Negros. It faces Cebu to the east across the Tañon Strait and Siquijor to the southeast.

Dumaguete City is the provincial capital and seat of government. It is also the most populous city, despite having the smallest land area.

With its fertile land resources, Oriental Negros’ major industry is agriculture. The primary crops are sugarcane, coconut, corn and rice.

The province is emerging as a technological center in Central Philippines with its growing business process outsourcing and other technology-related industries.

TheCoffee correctly pointed out that all of these sentences were culled from the Wikipedia article on Negros Oriental with hardly any alterations. The first paragraph is actually my text—it’s been there in the Wikipedia article ever since the first version that I created back in July 2003:

Negros Oriental is a province of the Philippines located in the Central Visayas region. Its capital is Dumaguete City and occupies the southeast half of the island of Negros; Negros Occidental is at the western half. Negros Oriental faces Cebu to the east across Tañon Strait and Siquijor to the southeast.

TheCoffee later mentioned in his post’s comment section that practically every province’s description in the book took passages from the province articles that I contributed to Wikipedia. I guess that makes me a co-author of the book alongside Ms. Honey Jarque Loop and Mr. Daniel Carpentier?

But isn’t Wikipedia free? Yes, Wikipedia is the free (as in free speech) encyclopedia. But the problem is, the free-ness of Wikipedia is rooted in the copyright license which allows any person to use the content freely but that he or she must properly attribute it and inform the end-users that the content is available for free. What the publishers of Central Philippines did is blatant copyright infringement and since they did not follow the copyright terms, I could sue them if I wanted to.

I can forgive the copyright infringement but what is completely inexcusable is the plagiarism. Take note that plagiarism is a distinct—though related—issue from copyright infringement. Plagiarism is the act of passing off another person’s work as one’s own while copyright infringement is the copying of works without the consent of the copyright owner. If you look at the book, it would seem as if Ms. Loop and Mr. Carpentier wrote (or at least approved) those province blurbs. Well, in practically every academic setting, plagiarism would instantly merit the erring student a failing mark. So I guess Ms. Loop and Mr. Carpentier deserve a BIG FAIL from this.

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