I am trying to create a card game. Physical cards from paper will be used (no computer / mobile game). However, I guess that the form does not matter when considering the folowing question.

It will be a kind of a quiz game. I would like to use a lot of numbers that are available in articles on wikipedia.org. Consider e.g. the following article. It contains a list of 100 largest cities including the population for each such city.


I will choose some subset of these cities (e.g. 50 of them) that are suitable for my game and I will use the statistical numbers from this Wikipedia article. I will find tens of other Wikipedia pages and I will use statistical numbers of this type in the same way. The quiz game will be based on hundreds of numbers taken from tens of Wikipedia articles (articles of the list type like the one mentioned above). There will be no other source of the data.

I would like to sell the resulting card game.

My question is whether I can use the informations from Wikipedia in this way from the legal point of view.

The footer of all the articles I would like to use states that the text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.


I admit that I am always in doubts when trying to understand licences and applying their impact to my particular case.

I have several hypoteses of what the license means to me.

1. As I do not copy the article itself nor a single sentence from it, my card game is not restricted by the license. The information (i.e. the statistical numbers about population etc.) can be used arbitrarily. I need not even state that I have found these numbers on Wikipedia. Selling such card game is not any problem either.

2. The game must contain the information that I have found the numbers on Wikipedia. The articles I have used must be named. I must state that the game itself is subject of the same license. However, it is possible to sell the card game.

3. As the game contains numbers that are recognizably taken from Wikipedia articles, the game must be considered to be a derivative work. Therefore, it cannot be sold under any circumstances.

Which one of my hypoteses is right? ...or are all of them wrong?

Btw. is there some discussion directly on wikipedia.org where similar questions can be asked?

Thanks for help.

  • Short, incomplete answer: Insofar as the numbers are subject to copyright (or possibly to sui generis database rights), hypothesis #2 holds. Insofar as they are not covered by copyright (or similar), hypothesis #1 holds. Whether these numbers (or their particular selection or arrangement on Wikipedia) could be subject to copyright is a more nuanced question.
    – apsillers
    Jul 29, 2016 at 12:37

1 Answer 1


For a short guide on reusing Wikipedia content, you can refer to Wikipedia itself.

Here two questions arise: if the material you are using is copyrighted and if you can reuse it in a paid game.

As it is stated in Wikipedia:Copyrights, "Note that copyright law governs the creative expression of ideas, not the ideas or information themselves." Therefore, you can freely copy statistical numbers about population or similar information. Just beware that you can't copy its creative expression, that is, you can't freely copy text with that information.

And if you want to copy text or other copyrighted material, you must abide to its license. As explained in Wikipedia:Reusing content, you can reuse Wikipedia content and distribute it under the same license - while properly attributing authorship. That is, if you make a text by modifying a Wikipedia text you can publish it but you must let people reuse it, giving to everybody the same rights than Wikipedia contributors give. That doesn't mean that you can't sell your game, it just means that the people that access to your game can copy the freely licensed content - they even made a cartoon explaining why they in use licenses without commercial restrictions to allow reusers like you to spread knowledge from Wikipedia. In general, it also doesn't mean that all your game need to be under a free license, if the copied part can be identified and seen as a work in itself. Probably, you can keep your game under a proprietary restrictive license, but the quiz questions with Wikipedia content must be released under a free license.

Anyway, there are a couple of details to be aware of:

  • Fair use: Some Wikipedia is taken from other non free sources and can be used in and encyclopaedia but not reused in other parts. Usually this just affect some copyrighted images (e.g. screenshots of movies) but some text citation might be affected, too (e.g. don't think you can copy a sentence from Star Wars just because it has been copied in Wikipedia).
  • Copyright violations: Although the Wikipedia community is active at deleting copyrighted content unlawfully copied to Wikipedia, sometimes copyright violations pop up. Often is useful to do at least a Google search to make sure in case of any suspectful content.
  • Images: Every image has its own license and reusers must abide to it. Click on each image and then "more information" to see the license.

To summarize: you can reuse informations from any source as you wish since information is not copyrightable, and you can copy wikipedia content (text and images) if you abide to their licenses.

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