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Carradine

Citing Parts of Wikipedia Text in a Video Game.

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Hello, I am currently developing a game that has many real object in it, and in the description of these objects I would like to show a little "educational" excerpt of text in order to add some "flavor text" to the objects in the game.  I usually just take a few sentences or a paragraph of text from a Wikipedia page and put it into the game.

 

Is there a specific way I need to cite the text?  After doing a bit of reading it looked like I could just reference the article like using "Parenthetical Reference" like so:

 

Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust ("Sandstone," Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia )

 

Later I wish to start doing my own research on the subjects, but for now I just want to get a quick bit of information into the game.

 

This this type of reference acceptable for citing text in wikipedia?  Do I need to provide more information?  Do I have to search for publish dates, or Authors each time I want to do this and add them in?

 

 

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Ah thanks, I knew of that page but I was unsure of how much information was legally needed, but then I was the "cite this page" link on the side of the article.  And that was the answer I was looking for, sorry, I guess I wasn't looking hard enough :)

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Here Be Dragons. I was going to say:
 

Manners and the fact that Wikipedia content is under CC will require you to attribute them somehow (any way you like, hyperlink is fine, but "from Wikipedia" or one of many citation fomats as used in scientific papers would work too, if you want that), but other than that you are certainly fine. It's what Wikipedia is about.

Wikipedia explicitly states that all content is free and libre, which it further explains as having no significant restriction on people's freedom, in particular allowing you to (verbatim) profit from the work, make copies, and distribute derived works.

 

Except this is very wrong.

 

First because of a misconception of mine (the license is CC-by-SA coupled with GFDL) and second because Wikipedia is not 100% truthful (or, at least, one could say "misleading") about their explanations if you go by what's immediately accessible -- unless you dig deep and very carefully research. In particular, wordings like "any contributions can and will be merciless edited and redistributed" such as under "Five Pillars" or "What will remain depends upon whether the content is free of copyright restrictions" on the about page suggest that there are no restrictions.

 

CC-by-SA (and GFDL alike) means that you are not free to merciless distribute derived works, and it is not free of copyright restrictions. You are only free to do so under the exact same license. That's a very substantial restriction, and one to be aware of.

 

By using the above sentence in your example (which concisely explains what sandstone is), the dialog in your game would thus be under CC-by-SA+GFDL -- it is without doubt a derived work -- whether you want that or not. No possibility from your part to choose something different.

Now it's questionable whether that means your entire game is under CC-by-SA, but I guess Wikimedia Foundation might just argue that way (Richard Stallman surely would).

 

Be sure to ask your lawyer to avoid a surprise.

Edited by samoth

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Hmm, a very interesting point.  Yea I was planning to have educational descriptions in my game just as interesting "flavor text" so players could actually "learn" something if they wanted to.  I may have to do my own independent research to the point where I am not citing any specific texts for this to work.  My plan was just to throw some quick information in about objects in the game for a quick read.  I guess this may prove to be a much more delicate matter than I originally believed.  My reason for this was so I could focus on game development instead of doing exhaustive research for a non-critical portion of my game.

 

I may have to abandon this whole idea for now.

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Citing as such is usually OK (millions of authors do that every day, and it is a well-accepted and allowed thing).

If you write a 75-page thesis about the phyisical and chemical properties of materials used in medieval architecture, and you include something like "Previous findings show that most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust [Wiki2015]", then that will most certainly not make your thesis a derived work. This is how you write a thesis, it's what everybody does.

On the other hand, if you for example hover the mouse over a sandstone wall in your game, and a tooltip pops up saying "This wall is made of sandstone. Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust." then it could be argued that this is not a citation, but the substantial part of that text has been copied verbatim from Wikipedia. Which would make it a derived work (or a plagiate if you don't attribute either).

Drawing the line can be tricky, hence my suggestion about consulting your lawyer first before running into unexpected trouble.

You can still always use Wikipedia to learn the facts, and write down your own version. You can always link to them as a reference, or under "further reading", too. That should always be fine (I cannot imagine a case where this might be illegal, after all if you don't want someone to link to your website, then don't put it on the publicly accessible internet...).

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This very forum does this.

Go into the tags list and hover over a tag.

Descriptions of the tags are drawn from Wikipedia. Be aware that this is often BAD as if you hover over for example "rendering" it might tell you it is cement on the front of a building.

In short there is no context so if you just use keyword searching make sure what you put in your game is relevant!

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On the other hand, if you for example hover the mouse over a sandstone wall in your game, and a tooltip pops up saying "This wall is made of sandstone. Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust." then it could be argued that this is not a citation, but the substantial part of that text has been copied verbatim from Wikipedia. Which would make it a derived work (or a plagiate if you don't attribute either).

 

 

I have absolutely no problem putting the citations into the game for the excerpts of the text that I use if that was the issue.  

 

But I suppose I will play it safe, and just do my own research as you suggested if even posting citations after the text still may cause an issue.  It is a little extra work but I can do that.  I greatly appreciate all your responses, there was a bit more to doing this than I originally thought!

 

Just one more question just to be safe:

 

In the worst case scenario that for some reason I got called out for violating some copyright in my game by posting text from another website.  Could I just immediately remove the text in question to avoid any other legal issues?  Or is there a "It's too late, I caught you" clause?

Edited by Carradine

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