I wanted to write this blog post yesterday, but ran out of hours in the day.  Yesterday was the world’s biggest collaboration tool’s birthday and today I am celebrating Wikiedia’s birthday.  Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that is edited and maintained by online editors all over the world turned 12.  Ironically, even though it is free in terms of not selling advertisements and not  charging a fee to users, it is projected to be worth 5 million dollars, according to Business Insider

The purpose of collaboration is sharing freely.  Unfortunately, Wikipedia does not have governance over its content.  Even though Wikipedia’s rules, which are not firm, state that the content is free that has not stopped unaccountable users from trying to make a penny off of Wikipedia.  One such example is the publisher Tebbo or Roebuck that has compiled free Wikipedia articles into books that they sell online.  Ben Rothke, who has researched the topic more thoroughly then I reports the following:

Given that Tebbo is following Wikipedia guidelines, they are seemingly breaking no copyright or intellectual property laws.


Wikipedia content is meant to be shared is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.  According to its terms of use “all users contributing to Wikimedia projects are required to grant broad permissions to the general public to re-distribute and re-use their contributions freely, as long as the use is attributed and the same freedom to re-use and re-distribute applies to any derivative works”.


In other words, as long as someone using the Wikipedia content acknowledges the source, they have complete license to reuse the content. And that is precisely what Roebuck/Tebbo does.  Tebbo is completely compliant with Wikipedia guidelines, but make no effort to let the buyer know they are paying for free content.

You can read his full analysis at his blog Infosecisland.  

Information is a currency.  Wikipedia is one of the greatest information charities out there, but unfortunately without firm information governance policies, publishers like Tebbo have taken advantage of them and their users.  This is only the preteen years of Wikipedia so it will be interesting to see how it grows and matures.