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All of Wikipedia's content is licensed under the CC BY-SA, and Wikipedia encourages fulfilling the attribution requirement for CC BY-SA by linking to the original Wikipedia article, which contains a page history with all authors attributed. However, Wikipedia deletes articles on occasion, causing page history to become inaccessible.

If I am a (partial) author of a Wikipedia article that was reused under the CC BY-SA by someone else, but then Wikipedia deleted that article (and with it, the attribution), do I have the right to send DMCA takedowns to websites that attributed that work simply by linking to the original (now deleted) article?

  • Does the license text say anything about what happened when there was attribution but it went away? – David Thornley Nov 16 '18 at 18:53
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No. The Creative Commons license seeks to promote recognition of the original author's work through attribution, but does not provide the same framework for enforcement that the DMCA would. The proper approach in cases such as the deleted Wikipedia article and subsequent reuse would be to provide a courteous notice to Wikipedia of your original publication and ask to be listed as the original author or be provided attribution. In the absence of relief there, then what rights you have would be determined by the Wikipedia Terms of Service.

Since, and I am assuming here, that you are not generating billions of dollars on the original publication in royalties, seeking to bring a DMCA type enforcement on a Wikipedia article dispute would be like trying to swat a fly with a sledgehammer. (or more commonly in divorce, two people having hearing and spending thousands of dollars on attorney's fees fighting over a blender -- they are free to do it, but they would have been much better off buying 500 new blenders...)

Keeping perspective and providing a courteous letter is probably your most cost efficient first step in situations like this. And in all areas of law, just remember, you catch more flies with honey than you do with salt. (meaning taking the courteous approach usually affords better results than a scalding letter breathing hell-fire and brimstone)

In followup to earlier comment:

Presuming you would be covered by the World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty on Copyright of 1996 (as a U.S. Citizen you would be), and your copyright is on file with the United States Copyright Offices (same presumption) as prerequisite to suit, then there is nothing that prevents you from invoking the protections under general copyright law and under the DMCA (inlcuding the Takedown provisions). Note: these are not the only prerequisites to taking action, but instead the minimum critera to qualify, and note this does not pass on the wisdom of doing so (there are often significant consequences to improperly invoking previsions of certain acts).

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    I understand that I would not want to; the question is "can I"? – L235 May 29 '15 at 16:04
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    If you meet the definitions under DMCA as an aggrieved party such that you can invoke the benefits and protections of the act, then yes you can, but be aware IP disputes generally bill 2-3 attorneys per-case at rates between $400-$600 per hour each. – David Rankin - ReinstateMonica May 29 '15 at 16:07
  • Could you add that to your answer please? – L235 May 29 '15 at 16:08
  • Sure, give me a sec to check the language of the DMCA and I'll be glad to add it. – David Rankin - ReinstateMonica May 29 '15 at 16:08
  • For the record, Wikipedia does have a process for responding to DMCA notices. – Kevin Aug 5 '15 at 21:56

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