I bet you guys have on occasion been to Wikipedia site, where anyone can edit its articles as they see fit. Back in March 2004 when I chanced upon it, its development has been nothing short of spectacular. Granted, its articles in its early days do not impress me much and what many bulk of the articles which you can edit are so uninspiring and uninviting that what you can say is thanks but no thanks.
Forward to September 2004 and I had been editing stuff about Johann Strauss II and his career bio and some other stuff for close to 2 months. Alright, I saw a great project taking shape and the signs were healthy. I mean, what is there not to like about a site where you can write about an issue you feel like indulging in? Problem is, when something goes ahead too smoothly,there’s something possibly not right. Note that this experience has only altered my enjoyment at writing Strauss family articles for Wiki and not other articles of which I frequently update as I see fit. (PSV Eindhoven etc.)
Up to late October 2004, I have extended the Strauss family articles to include the bios of Strauss father, Johann 2, Josef and Eduard and have essayed a short bio on Johann 3. Then there’s a thought, what good is a composer’s bio without some exposure to his works ( i.e. individual music compositions). Fair enough, so I included them (read:waltzes for the Strauss family) and other trinkets of music they have offered to the adoring Viennese centuries ago. Sounds simple? Wrong. For those with legal sense, one can make from all this business that plagiarising is wrong but misconceptions would still be there,whether shit hits the fan or not.
Here’s how I extended ’em articles. Used to have this grandiose idea of documenting each major Strauss work (Not all of his works sound heavenly,see) into a text which made Wiki visitors easier to access and to at least read a short history. Think of the magazine sold in M’sia eons ago;- ‘the Classical Collection’ where great Classical composers’ works are literally explained and music milked into words, but think also- in my hands;bundled together with the actual signature keys and more documented in my own words.
The form of my essay of the family’s compositions are thus:- the Work’s background (sourced from internet sources and correspondence with Strauss site webmasters) and the layout of the work in key signs and other descriptions of the mood of the work usw.
It was to be a master project to help escape the horrors of daytime CLP lectures and nothing like a good article writing at night can’t help to soothe. Wrong.
Once (long after submitting about 10 or so essays about Strauss family compositions), when signing as usual into the Wiki site, saw a new love letter for me. Ok, no prob, must have been a moderator’s message about the site being down temporarily for so and so time period or something politically correct like that anyways. Turns out to be a passionate love letter but one which can provoke controversy. Was accused of plagiarising the biographical work of a certain Peter Kemp from the Johann Strauss Society of GBR (someone who painstakingly wrote tons and tons of Strauss trivia and has researched Strauss’ family archives that his work is the common starting point for those who would like to know the musical family better, having, of course listened to the heavenly waltzes in the first place.) The love letter concluded:- my association with writing these articles is terminated with immediate effect. Not to continue working on these stuff again. Peter Kemp IS the law. And no good would result from pursuing it.
From both sides of the coin, deduced the following…
The Wiki moderators have informed me that they have been notified by an anonymous source that the articles which I have written contained much info culled from Peter Kemp’s writings on Strauss’ works (most probably the history of the individual pieces) and that due credit has not been offered graciously to the celebrated Strauss biographer. And how could this be? Internet sources about those pieces are aplenty all over the net. Try searching for e.g the ‘Blue Danube’ and tons of stuff can be read about this piece. It’s that common. Is Wikipedia’s 007 informer trying to imply that ALL internet sources also belong to Mr. Kemp and remains exclusively within his copyrighted work? Just because the dates and events I’ve written looked the part, then there’s where the assumption of plagiarism sinks in? Brilliante!
Drawing information from internet sources legally can be difficult to resolve should problems arise. Here’s why. Most of the information which I have sourced from the internet may have been themselves drawn from music booklet authors about Strauss (most record companies often write a short biography of their own about the composer) and then aligned with most other online sources to confirm that the information is, at the very least, credible enough to be historically accurate. But to say that I have photocopied Mr. Kemp’s work without restraint is certainly too much. But the question remains. What information about Strauss is such that some bits must be copyrighted and some not so. The most obvious is that those information which has not been readily known to the public in general must have only been done by someone with that special effort to flesh out the tasty morsel of knowledge and must therefore be given credit where due.(As if who doesn’t know?).
But I deny these claims. (Ya, like who wouldn’t?) I did so write an original work based on the structure of the work and that some sources are given free on the net (try e.g. Planet Vienna etc and many Strauss CD recordings containing information which I believe to great extent, owe no allegiance to Kemp’s detailed biographies of those pieces). I do, however, recant in my mistake (owing to great satisfation in writing a new essay for Wiki) to have carelessly ignored to quote my aforementioned sources at the time of submitting the work(s). But to falsely accuse me of being a Kemp camper before sorting their utter shit straight first has taken the issue too far. If the moderators have asked me to quote the info’s sources without first alleging being a Kemp follower, the pleasure would have been mine. But the damage was done and to me, irreparably so. About the informer, he should have come face to face and drop a note in my message slot first instead of taking this up with the Wiki people. Amazes me, many people have been quick to try to impress others but end up making themselves look like pathetic retards who cry foul at every opportunity.
So I’ve not condemned Mr Kemp in here. And what for? On the contrary, I’m grateful, as without his back-breaking research into the Strauss family, how can the masses be informed about (and quite probably enjoy) the lesser-known works of the illustrious Strauss family? He almost certainly did not do it alone, but his monumental works alone stood up for his reverence for the family, as did my adulation for the same subject matter. Finally, since I’m on this matter, I’d also refuse to condemn another author’s work (be it in a blog or published work) as it is inherently better to have something to write about whole-heartedly than to write rubbish and show the whole world how a beached whale must have felt. I’m certainly FOR the idea of preventing plagiarism where it exists but get the damn facts straight first.
Of course this trifle of an issue doesn’t affect my contribution rate to Wikipedia in anyway conceivable. Re-reading the previous essays of mine pertaining to the so-called offensive entries has brought a new sense of knowledge that the effort in penning entries for Wiki CAN possibly be wasted (be prepared for your essay to be beaten and literally raped into unrecognisable shape after matter of weeks or days!) but safe in the knowledge that I’ve tried what I could and that I’ve done it and done it well.