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Old 09-16-2007, 03:21 PM   #1
the_logos
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Wikia violating copyright?

This is pretty interesting. It seems that the guy that ran The Guild Wiki - Main Page - GuildWiki - (ranked around #3200 on Alexa) ran it under a Creative Commons license, which denies the commercial use of copyrighted material. He's turned around and sold the domain and the wiki to Wikia, who intend to run ads on it. Slashdot story here: Slashdot | How to Stop Commerial Use of Copyleft Materials?

Now, Wikia intends to run ads on this, in apparent violation of the Creative Commons license that The Guild Wiki was built under (essentially defrauding all the contributors to The Guild Wiki to some people's eyes), which completely prohibits use of the content in any commercial activity (and it's a far far better-written license with far fewer gaping holes than, say, the DIKU license is). Even Arena.net (the creators of Guild Wars) decided that they were unable to use The Guild Wiki as a source of in-game documentation because that would be using it for a commercial purpose, and that's not prohibited.

Interesting stuff in any case and serves to underline how complicated license issues can be. In any case, I'm going to keep an eye on this personally. Wikia needs to take some honest action here or it risks alienating potential contributors (not that we matter much in the grand scheme of things but I know Iron Realms won't be considering the use of Wikia until we're satisfied that they're going to respect people's IP rights).

--matt
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Old 09-16-2007, 03:31 PM   #2
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Re: Wikia violating copyright?

Some more problems with Wikia/FFXIwiki:
euphidime.com Blog Archive Regarding FFXIClopedia’s recent move to Wikia

Last edited by Zeno : 09-16-2007 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 09-16-2007, 09:18 PM   #3
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Re: Wikia violating copyright?

One thing I read is that the original maintainer took donations, and then ran ads himself to support the site? So what is the difference with Wikia running ads? I'm not familiar with the site, CC, or Wikia for that matter, so I'm new to all this.

I tried to look up the CC licenses, and there was no clean link to the legalese, just links to summaries. One thing I noted is that it says: "Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder." (which includes the non-commercial clause).

So, next question: who holds the copyright to a wiki? It's easy to say "the individual authors" but in a wiki, the seamless collaborative effort seems to make this impossible. If I write a section, and it gets modified over time, and it gets linked to, etc., the idea that I could somehow later revoke my permission to use my edits seems untenable.

I guess the original maintainer did say that he doesn't hold the copyright at least (which would have been an out to the non-commercial clause).

Also, it seems like Wikia is not asserting ownership of the database (I saw some talk in the Guild Wiki page that corrects that part of the Slashdot article). So technically, someone could take the information there, and port it to another server, but then you get the same problem that led the original maintainer to give it up--it costs too much to run.

And then there's the question of what defines "commercial" in this sense. Obviously, the original maintainer was paying hosting fees. Thus, I could claim that the original Wiki was providing commercial advantage to the hosting services--just that the community thought it was free (well until he started asking for donations and then started running his own ads). If the ads are used in lieu of anyone paying hosting fees directly, and without any "lockdown" that keeps the site at Wikia, is there any difference?

Last edited by Zhiroc : 09-16-2007 at 10:28 PM. Reason: poor grammar :)
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Old 09-16-2007, 10:34 PM   #4
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Re: Wikia violating copyright?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zhiroc View Post
One thing I read is that the original maintainer took donations, and then ran ads himself to support the site? So what is the difference with Wikia running ads? I'm not familiar with the site, CC, or Wikia for that matter, so I'm new to all this.
No idea if that's true or not but I don't think taking "donations" makes you commercial. Wikia, on the other hand, is unquestionably commercial.


Quote:
So, next question: who holds the copyright to a wiki? It's easy to say "the individual authors" but in a wiki, the seamless collaborative effort seems to make this impossible. If I write a section, and it gets modified over time, and it gets linked to, etc., the idea that I could somehow later revoke my permission to use my edits seems untenable.
Well, that depends on what EULA, etc they agreed to when signing up. If they didn't agree to anything though, then the answer is simply the individual authors as far as I can see it. Untangling what that means in practice is a different (and as you point out very difficult) issue.

In a way it reminds me a bit of copyright issues over a things in a text MUD, where you might have a builder do an area (or just part of an area), another builder later revamps it, etc.


Quote:
If the ads are used in lieu of anyone paying hosting fees directly, and without any "lockdown" that keeps the site at Wikia, is there any difference?
Well, Wikia is flat-out a commercial enterprise, as is YouTube, etc etc. I don't think that's really in dispute.

--matt
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Old 09-16-2007, 11:19 PM   #5
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Re: Wikia violating copyright?

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Originally Posted by the_logos View Post
No idea if that's true or not but I don't think taking "donations" makes you commercial. Wikia, on the other hand, is unquestionably commercial.
Though you missed the mention that the original maintainer had ads on the site too. Reading on the Wiki seems to support the idea that ads were being used. There's one there now for Amazon, though maybe that could be recent due to the change of ownership.

Quote:
Well, Wikia is flat-out a commercial enterprise, as is YouTube, etc etc. I don't think that's really in dispute.
True, but my point is that the hosting service that he used before was (presumably) just as commercial. So, does it make a difference if he paid money to that service to host the Wiki? Isn't that using the content of that Wiki to benefit a commercial enterprise? After all, if there was no Wiki, he would have no reason to pay for services.

As I understand it, Wikia does not "own" the database, since they even promised they could make a DB dump available. They are still just "hosting" it, and the contents are still owned by the contributors.
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Old 09-17-2007, 12:23 AM   #6
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Re: Wikia violating copyright?

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Originally Posted by Zhiroc View Post
Though you missed the mention that the original maintainer had ads on the site too.
I saw that, but running ads doesn't inherently make you a commercial venture.

Quote:
True, but my point is that the hosting service that he used before was (presumably) just as commercial. So, does it make a difference if he paid money to that service to host the Wiki? Isn't that using the content of that Wiki to benefit a commercial enterprise? After all, if there was no Wiki, he would have no reason to pay for services.
Well, I mean, what he did previously is not that relevant to whether Wikia is respecting the relevant license or not. I also think that this question is too speculative for us to really answer. Also, the Creative Commons license we're talking about speaks to intent.

Quote:
As I understand it, Wikia does not "own" the database, since they even promised they could make a DB dump available. They are still just "hosting" it, and the contents are still owned by the contributors.
Yeah, but they're still generating commercial revenue directly off the back of it. I suspect (and this is a fairly baseless guess given that I'm no legal expert) if you tried to sue the hosting provider in the case of the original maintainer, a court would simply rule that the hosting provider is not a party to the license and there are thus no grounds to sue it. The full license also speaks to intent, saying,

"You may not exercise any of the rights granted to You in Section 3 above in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation. The exchange of the Work for other copyrighted works by means of digital file-sharing or otherwise shall not be considered to be intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation, provided there is no payment of any monetary compensation in con-nection with the exchange of copyrighted works."

Full license is here, btw: Creative Commons Legal Code

--matt
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Old 09-17-2007, 01:04 AM   #7
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Re: Wikia violating copyright?

Does this mean that one would have trouble using a "free site" like GeoCities or other image hosting services that use similar ad-supported mechanisms?

Though, I guess, if I read it correctly, that the copyright holder can waive the non-commericial aspect, so perhaps it's OK in simpler cases where one controls the entirety of the work.

I guess the point is that things changed, perhaps without the approval of the copyright holders. The remedy seems "simple"--the community pulls the Wiki off of it, case closed. They can't force Wikia to carry the content fee-free. The problem is probably that the Wiki doesn't have a single owner and voice to negotiate with.
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Old 09-17-2007, 03:59 AM   #8
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Re: Wikia violating copyright?

Quote:
Though, I guess, if I read it correctly, that the copyright holder can waive the non-commericial aspect, so perhaps it's OK in simpler cases where one controls the entirety of the work.
Yeah.


Quote:
I guess the point is that things changed, perhaps without the approval of the copyright holders. The remedy seems "simple"--the community pulls the Wiki off of it, case closed. They can't force Wikia to carry the content fee-free. The problem is probably that the Wiki doesn't have a single owner and voice to negotiate with.
In practice, Wikia will likely get away with it barring a (somewhat unlikely I think) class-action lawsuit or a voluntary change of heart. As you say, the users of the Guild Wiki don't speak with a single voice. They also aren't being particularly harmed by what Wikia's doing, from my point of view at least.

--matt
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Old 09-17-2007, 12:48 PM   #9
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Re: Wikia violating copyright?

I find this whole copyright issue with anything having to do with Wikipedia a bit mundane. I mean, how can you copyright opinion? The entire database of Wikipedia is opinion based blogs.

Moreover, anything "blog" related on the net is nearly impossible to sue. It would be like suing any search engine (google, yahoo, you name it) for showing your webpages, my webpages, any webpages in reference. I've never seen a disclaimer on google when portions of a webpage appear in their "ad-intensive" window.
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Old 09-17-2007, 02:15 PM   #10
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Re: Wikia violating copyright?

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I find this whole copyright issue with anything having to do with Wikipedia a bit mundane.
We're not talking about Wikipedia though. We're talking about Wikia.

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I mean, how can you copyright opinion? The entire database of Wikipedia is opinion based blogs.
Well, you copyright opinion like you copyright anything else: Write it down. You own the copyright to the post you made just as I own the copyright to my response to your post.


Quote:
Moreover, anything "blog" related on the net is nearly impossible to sue. It would be like suing any search engine (google, yahoo, you name it) for showing your webpages, my webpages, any webpages in reference.
A search engine has little to do with Wikia, but it is certainly not impossible to sue people like Google. If a search engine just showed you the full content from a page, it would expect to be sued. Indexing is considered fair use. (See the recent decision in Google vs. Perfect 10. Wikipedia has a decent summary here: Perfect 10 v. Google, Inc. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


Quote:
I've never seen a disclaimer on google when portions of a webpage appear in their "ad-intensive" window.
That's because indexing like that is considered fair use. Wikia isn't a search engine. It's not indexing people's copyrighted material without permission. It's flat-out displaying the copyrighted material and trying to make a profit on the top of it.

--matt
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