Can I use wikipedia content on my site?

Hi there,

I was wondering if I could basically copy wikipedia content and use it on my site without citing it? Have any of you had experience with this? Can I do this if I do cite them?


Stealing content is stealing content whether you identify where you stole it from or not. That site like 99.999999% of the web will be protected by copyright.

You can used the wikipedia content but you need to summarize it and used it in your own words. Wikipedia content will help as your guide in writing a content not on copying the whole content.

Why not go to the Wikipedia page that spells it all out? Wikipedia:Reusing Wikipedia content

Took all of twenty seconds to find. But then, I was looking for it.

First of all, the reason for asking here instead of looking up the Wikipedia page probably makes sense, since Wikipedia often has its own copyright issues. However, remember that here at SitePoint, we don’t give legal advice and you are ill advised to rely solely on the advice of members, including me.

On their page, they talk a lot about the US Copyright “fair use doctrine”. They get away with a lot of fair use because they are a non-profit encyclopedia. If your site is monetized in any way, you probably won’t. Fair use is not a right, it’s a defense. The accuracy of fair use is determined by a judge, in a courtroom, case by case. In other words, if you are sued for plagiarism, and say to the judge “It was fair use”. He might look at you, smile, and say “No it isn’t.”

If you want to use Wikipedia information on your page, this link is the place to start. Read the instructions, follow the directions and the various links to definitions and the fine points of reuse of Wikipedia content. It may take you an hour or two, but just consider it a part of your job in developing a web site.

Finally, what gain do you perceive you’ll get out of using their copy on your site? If you don’t follow their directions and use their copy word for word, in addition to plagiarized content you’ll also have a site that is full of duplicate content, which is something that may result in search engine penalties or outright banishment from their indices.

Moreover, if you’re developing a website, make it your website. If your visitors want Wikipedia information, chances are they already know where to get it… and you most probably will never outrank Wikipedia in search engine results.

You are better off to fill your site with original content that is directly targeted to your target market.

Good advice.

Thanks for the advice guys. I am planning on doing an informational site about AIDS. Some of the sections, like the history of AIDS, I thought I would just use information from wikipedia. Whereas other parts of the site are for people to blog and discuss AIDS issues, which will be totally unique content.

Whatever your reasons, as far as the Search Engines are concerned, duplicate content is still duplicate content and as far as “using” someone else’s content (no matter from what website), unless you follow the rules they attach to their copyrighted material, plagiarism is still plagiarism.

well most wikipedia articles are rehashed from other sites and books and not properly referenced for majority of time, not to mention recent decision of adding “nofollow” which in eyes of search engines doesnt credit the sources…

places like and display wikipedia content and profit from it… they just cite the sources. So couldn’t I just do the same as long as I cite it?

…and places like and have legal departments that make sure they operate within legitimate areas. Don’t you suppose they have permission to use the sources they cite?

The bottom line is that you don’t use copyrighted material without the permission of the intellectual property owner.

Just above the bottom line is the fact that search engines will recognize your content as duplicate content and penalize or ban your site from their indices.

Just above that is the fact that if you do infringe on someone’s intellectual property rights, they may file a DMCA report, notify your web host and you could end up losing your web site altogether plus incur litigation.

It looks to me like you want someone to tell you what’s wrong is right so that you can go ahead and do what you want to do. Sorry, but it just isn’t so. However, do go ahead and do what you want to do, but do it knowing the risks you are taking. When it doesn’t work out for you, you only have yourself to blame.

I don’t think it will be a problem if you can put the content of the wikipedia in your own words. Just copy and paste method is duplication. So make your own words.

Wikipedia are in enough trouble all the time with content published there that has been stolen from other sites. They have to deal with those issues by removing the stolen content etc. Of course if you had just happened to copy that content just before they were forced to take it down because of its being stolen then you will be in even worse trouble since you wont even be aware of what site your content was originally stolen from. Wikipedia need to educate people better that they can’t just copy content from elsewhere when updating the pages on Wikipedia. Their disclaimer page is just a part of their effort to protect themselves when people updating the pages there ignore the copyright on the content that they copy there.

If it is published on the web then unless it clearly states to the contrary the content is copyright to the person who wrote it and you need their written permission to do anything with it.

Wikipedia is just for reference. Though it has more contents than commercial encyclopedia like Britannica, it has less credible issue against the correctness of the contents, since anyone can simply change the content. And we come to the question why do you need to republish these types of contents? At least you still need human to review and validate the contents. Wouldn’t that cost you more time and effort :slight_smile:

I’ve seen pages copying wikipedia 1:1 (with a small source notice at the bottom). If you don’t want to come across as a cheap rip-off don’t do this.

I see nothing wrong with using wikipedia’s information in your articles, though.

shabooz, there’s something other than copyright issues that you might want to consider with regard to your content: accuracy.

From what I’ve seen and heard, Wikipedia is not a consistently reliable source of information. Too often, the content relies on the “wisdom of the crowd” rather than that of experts and citable, well-respected research.

You say that you’re creating a site about AIDS. People who are interested in information on the disease will probably be looking for credible, accurate, current, timely, expert content, not the kind of cobbled-together hear-say that can crop up on Wikipedia from time to time. You might want to consider writing your own content, with accurate expert references so that if readers are interested, they can access those references to find out more credible, researched information.

Yes, it means more research and work, but it also means you’ll be doing the right thing by your readers, and that you’ll provide real value, which will, presumably, put your site in a better position to attract visitors.

I cannot stress this enough: Wikipedia is not necessarily a credible source of information. It should not be relied upon for facts, though it can be an ok starting point for further, in-depth research. Always check your sources and ensure you provide expert references for every piece of information you’ve sourced from Wikipedia.


Well said Georgina, you put in words exactly how I personally feel about it.

There’s a reason why Wikipedia is using a licence such as GFDL. It’s because they WANT people to be able to copy, modify and redistribute the text. It’s just you have to do it according to the licence. You shouldn’t have moral oblications with using Wikipedia text. They encourage it and it should be free. That’s the whole point of copyleft licencing.

You may want to look into more public domain sites as well. You can use Wikipedia verbatim, just like Infopleas and

Just study more on “public domain” works and read all of the “fine print” on sites. You’ll discover that there are tons of materials that you can use, and actually reword (not Wikipedia) but other content building materials.



Just thought I’d tack on that this is true for all encyclopedias. They aren’t meant to be the final word on any topic, they are meant to be a general resource. For that matter, this is true for most general resources … there is usually a sacrifice of precision in exchange for succinctness and readability.

With that in mind, Wikipedia’s accuracy is actually pretty good … the most well known study from Nature magazine concluded that Wikipedia entries are “not markedly less accurate” than those found in Encyclopedia Britannica (both resources had a number of errors)

If you are creating a general resource, content from Wikipedia is likely reliable enough. If you are creating a specific resource, Wikipedia probably lacks the depth you’d want anyway.