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Wikipedia and Copyright

John Simkin

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I just produce materials on topics that interest me. Recently, I have been working on a detailed history of West Ham United (for those members from outside the UK, they are a fairly small football/soccer club from the east-end of London). I have a large collection of books on the subject (I have been a supporter of the club for over 50 years). I am also very proud of my photograph collection that I have accumulated over the years on the early history of the club (1895-1940).

I have not uploaded the history section yet. However, I have produced a few pages on these early players that include my collection of photographs. When I create a page I always carry out a search to see what else is available. I then provide a link to that page so that my visitor can get to as much related information as possible. For example, there is a site on the web that lists every game that every West Ham player has played in. This site took some finding as it does not appear very high in search-engine results.


The site that always appears first when you type in a West Ham player is Wikipedia. It seems that someone has written a biography of every player and put it on Wikipedia. However, a closer inspection shows that what this person has done is to copy out the entries that appeared in Tony Hogg’s book, “Who’s Who of West Ham United” (2000). That is of course what happens with Wikipedia. I am always getting emails from my visitors pointing out that Wikipedia is stealing material from my website. So far I have done nothing about this but I am now reconsidering my position on this matter.

These pages included no photographs or links to other pages such as the West Ham Statistics site that I mentioned earlier. I therefore added a link to my individual pages as they did include photographs and links to other related material (including those that a part of the Wikipedia encyclopedia).

To my surprise, within 24 hours, the links that I placed on Wikipedia had been removed by the name:


He/she claimed that the reason that the link had been removed was that I was guilty of advertising my own website. According to this person, you are not allowed to add links to sites you own yourself. This is of course ridiculous and is clearly not the real reason. I suspect the reason is Nzd is the person who copied the material from Tony Hogg’s book. He probably now plans to steal my photographs to go with the text he has stolen. If the link remained, others would have discovered what he was up to.

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As for the West Ham photo links, two other editors agree with me that the links should stay, and between us we put them back. Technically John was in violation of something mentioned on Wikipedia:External links, at


where it is written that "You should avoid linking to a website that you own, maintain or represent, even if the guidelines otherwise imply that it should be linked. If the link is to a relevant and informative site that should otherwise be included, please consider mentioning it on the talk page and let neutral and independent Wikipedia editors decide whether to add it. This is in line with the conflict of interests guidelines."

But in this case the enforcement of this seems well over the top.

Thank you for doing that. Does that mean that other links that I add to these West Ham biographies will remain in place?

It seems to me that this policy about not linking to your own website is ridiculous. I provide links to other websites on every page in my encyclopaedia. My judgement is not based on who owns the site, but on the usefulness of the information that the page contains.

What I am interested in is what went on in the mind of the person who removed these links. I assume he visited these pages and saw the photographs of the people concerned. Why would he have thought that it was best that Wikipedia visitors to its page, for example, of Len Goulden, should not see those photographs of the footballer in the 1930s? Did he really think, the most important factor in this is who owns the site?

One cannot help assume that there were other factors involved in this decision. For example, the possibility that my page on Len Goulden, etc. will end up being ranked higher than that of Wikipedia’s with search-engines like Google.

I think this explains why most Wikipedia pages include very few external links. I dare say, like my example, they are being put in, however, Wikipedia’s editors are busy taking them out again.

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