Will Wikipedia Survive? – Threats Wikipedia Faces

It is unlikely that Wikipedia will survive in its current format for the long term. There is a weird trend with technology wherein people seem to temporally forget that a bad idea remains a bad idea despite being presented by new technology. Wikipedia has a lot of moral, and perhaps legal, issues that it seems it will have difficulty facing unless it makes some major changes. Herein, the threats Wikipedia faces will be discussed in detail.

Wikipedia Logo Large

Copyright

Wikipedia really is a major copyright violator because it unfairly hides behind fair use. The fair use rule for copyrighted material is designed to enable   people to comment on, criticize or elaborate upon another person’s work. For instance, Person A can quote Stephen Hawking’s work but only to comment on it. Person A cannot just have the work in itself, nor a paraphrased version of the work. They also cannot use a mixture of quotes to make up their work, there must be original material. Their own voice must be present in the work, commenting on the work of those quoted.

This is precisely where Wikipedia has a major problem. At present it hides behind the argument that there is a large group of people writing the articles and it is their voice, but ultimately they do not add any original content. They just paraphrase and quote other people’s content, much of which is still protected under copyright. For this reason Wikipedia will very, very likely face a legal challenge eventually as the Kim Dotcom case shows the law is beginning to slowly catch up with the Internet.

The solution to this is to actually give a voice to the Wikipedia akin to more formal Wikis such as Plato Stanford’s philosophy wiki. However, there is a problem here as well in that the question immediately arises: who’s voice? Which of the huge amount of people editing content gets to have their voice selected and which do not?

No Payments

The editors of Wikipedia are quite franky stupid. Why work for free? The moment the editors realize they could have created their own websites and work, potentially making money from it, if they have any sense they will quit. It is actually amazing that they have managed to get people to contributed in the first place, although its not real surprise when you consider that the content is just copied and reworded from experts. These experts need to work full-time to gather that vast knowledge and when they do not get paid because no one is spending money on books, what will Wikipedia do then? The most amazing thing is that the various colleges and universities of the world have allowed their works to be pillaged in the way that Wikipedia has given how much it cost them to create the original content.

This is the central problem of not-for-profits like Wikipedia: the people that create the content still have to eat, and Wikipedia does not provide that. Research takes a lot of time and energy, too much for someone to just post the results to everyone in the world for free. Granted, the patent system still exists but the point remains. It is not that expensive to buy a book that summarizes organic chemistry and in doing so you support the academic community. Wikipedia does not and when people realize this something will give. I suspect Wikipedia.

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