From the Wikipedia:
This article incorporates text from the 1911 Encyclop?dia Britannica, which is in the public domain.

Ah, the power of the public domain. You can use horribly out of date, sometimes inaccurate (at least within the context of today's prevalent beliefs) information without fear of commercial reprisal. Not such a bad idea for the beginnings of an entry on the French Revolution, perhaps, but the way the Wikipedia works it's hard to tell what's what, in context. That is to say, adding info from 1911 Encycs seems to add a touch o' ethos over your plain jane Wikipedia entry, but ultimately it just makes determining the authority of an entry more complicated.

Anyhow, I think it's an interesting comparision to take this sort of public domain foundation for works such as the nearly postmodern wikipedia and place it beside other projects, most notably for me Mac OS X, that have created their foundations from open source. The open source foundations are copylefted -- copyrighted and protected -- so they are in one way a different beast than pub dom, but functionally they're awfully similar. It will make for an intriguing study (aka, something to watch over the next few decades) to see how well open source creates a contemporary alternative to 'closed property' in fields outside of computer code. And why is the medium of code so much more open source/copyleft friendly? Why is the industry of programming a source for so much of this sort of content?

Another off the tip o' the cerebellum [sic] post on your friendly neighborhood freakinname.