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Questions of ownership on Wikia have several aspects:

  • The site itself, and the Wikia trademarks, are owned by Wikia, Inc..
  • The copyright of a particular edit is owned by the person who made that edit.
  • The wikis are owned by the communities. No one user owns any Wikia. Founders are those who requested a wiki be created, but ownership of that wiki resides with the community as a whole, not only with the founder.

The following advice is from Wikipedia's guidelines on the ownership of articles.

Control of pages

First, there's control of a page. Some contributors feel very possessive about text or images they have donated to this project. Some go so far as to defend them against all intruders.

Well, it's one thing to take an interest in an article that you maintain on your watchlist. Maybe you really are an expert or you just care about the topic a lot. But when this watchfulness crosses a certain line, then you're overdoing it.

You can't stop everyone in the world from editing "your" prose, once you've posted it to Wikia. All contributions to Wikia are released under the GNU Free Documentation License (see Wikia copyrights for details). If you do not want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, then do not submit it.

If you find yourself warring with other contributors over deletions, reversions and so on, why not take some time off from the editing process? Taking yourself out of the equation can cool things off considerably. Take a fresh look a week or two later. (See Staying cool when the editing gets hot.)

Or if someone else is claiming "ownership" of a page, you can bring it up on the associated talk page. Appeal to the community to help with resolving the dispute.

Believing that an article has an owner of this sort is a common mistake people make on wikis.

Legal ownership of text

Second, there's the question of legal ownership, which is where, as usual, copyright law makes life complicated.

At one level, no one person owns the content in Wikia. The license known as the GFDL is intended to ensure that everyone who can accept that license is an owner of the right to use and improve the article.

However, the author of each edit is the author and has only granted a GFDL license, so that author can be said to be the owner of that particular edit. That could even be the whole article. For this reason, the authors don't have to comply with the GFDL requirements for their own writing - the GFDL license doesn't override their own rights to use their own work. They can also license it to any number of others under any other licenses they choose, since that's one of the rights authors have.

Heavily edited articles

The question of what happens to very heavily edited articles, where there's no clear author of any significant chunk left created by any single person, is a difficult one.

One view is that once the individual edits become so small as to be de minimis (insignificant) so far as copyright law is concerned, those parts of the article enter the public domain, because there's nothing left which is large enough to have a copyright and hence nothing large enough to license with the GFDL.

Another is to consider the history of the page as an unbroken sequence of derivative works. The first author created a page, and licensed it under the GFDL. The next one made a derivative work, based on the first author's work, and licensed that under the GFDL (as is required). The third author made a derivative of the second's work, and the fourth a derivative of the third's. In other words, we divide up the page temporally -- each author responsible for and "owning" a version -- rather than spatially -- each author responsible for or "owning" a chunk of text.

Guidelines

Don't sign what you don't own

Since no one "owns" any part of any article, if you create or edit an article, you should not sign (~~~~) it. On the other hand, when adding comments, questions, or votes to back end pages, like "Talk" pages, it is good to "own" your text, so the best practice is to sign it. At least with existing pages, you can get an idea of where it's appropriate to add your signature by noting what previous contributors have done.

See also

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