A wiki, (often pronounced “wick” “key” or “wee” “key”) is defined as a ” web application that allows users to add content, as on an Internet forum, but also allows anyone to edit the content”. This is often used to quickly create sites that house a large volume of information that is regularly maintained and updated.
It’s a very powerful tool and the best known wiki, Wikipedia, is probably the best encyclopedia available on the Internet, bar none.
However, many copyright holders found that their texts and images, in particular those related to research, have been appearing in wikis without any credit or acknowledgement.
In particular, one librarian was stunned to find that large portions of his Digital Reference page appeared in a Wikipedia article. Confused, he debated the best way to handle the situation before deciding to rewrite the article himself.
The big fear regarding wikis is that most of them place their content under the GPL, which allows verbatim copying of works, for both commercial and non-commercial use, so long as the GPL notice remains intact and further copying is not obstructed. This causes many to fear that they might “lose control” of their work and that copies of it, without any attribution, might wind up legally circulating the Internet.
Luckily, these fears are unfounded. Your work can’t be placed under the GPL unless you consent it and copying verbatim from wikis is, generally speaking, a rare occurrence. Also, no wiki that I know of allows copyrighted material to be posted and anything found to be plagiarized is removed quickly. Furthermore, the very structure of a wiki, which allows anyone to edit them, makes such incidents of plagiarism very easy to deal with. Since anyone, including copyright holders, can edit the articles, it’s a trivial matter to remove plagiarized materials.
Even with all of that though, it’s important to monitor wikis pertaining to the information you work with to make sure none of your material winds up there. Even though it’s a trivial matter to remove infringing work that is posted, you can’t stop what you don’t know.
Besides, it’s probably a good idea to check wikis regularly just to stay up to date on the information that’s important to your field, Wikis are a potentially invaluable source of information and no longer can be ignored.