Suddenly while browsing worldbuilding stack exchange questions this question came to mind.

Although opinion based and story based questions are discouraged on WB stack, some still receive answers. These answers propose opinion/story based solution. It is debatable these answers could be worthy of copyright protection.

I have two question: are answers/questions on WB stack elegible for protection under copyright law? If so, if a story based question receives a story based answer elegible for protection under copyright does the person asking the question have ownership or does the person answering it?

Please note I am not well versed on copyright but I couldn’t help to ask this question.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would "copy right" here this link in my bookmarks, I think. And this one for the license and this one for a little better understanding of some limitation of intellectual property (note that RPGs/game mechanics are not world content, so it will have differences, even if little ones) $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jan 21 at 0:27
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Each and every page of this site carries the notice "user contributions licensed under CC BY-SA". That is Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike. This means that once you have posted "suddenly while browsing" etc. you have given everybody in the world the right to use your post conforming to CC BY-SA. What is not clear? (And there is no such thing as "worthy" of copyright protection. Once the text has been written it is automatically protected. The person or robot asking the question has nothing to do with it and has no claim whatsoever.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 21 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ P.S. Law Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 21 at 2:42
  • $\begingroup$ @alexp You should post that as an answer. Seems like a worthy one for posterity. Actually interesting because if anyone actually used material here for a book, it might mess with their own plans to copyright their book. They can still sell it, but it seems their book must be CC BY-SA 4.0 too? $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Jan 21 at 2:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JamieB: Only if the person who wants to use the material does not reach some other understanding with the author of the text they want to use. But please note that ideas and facts are not protected by copyright anyway. Copyright protects only the actual expression. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 21 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP the reason I said worthy is becuase some things are truly not worthy of copyright protection. Such as basic themes, settings, or even character archetypes. For example you can’t copyright the concept of a white hole. $\endgroup$ Jan 21 at 3:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @HomegrownPotatoes: Ideas and concepts and facts are not copyrightable. Only the actual words expressing the ideas and concepts and facts are copyrightable, and, as soon as the words are written down they are automatically protected by copyright. But please note that copyright is not the only form of intellectual property; patents and trademarks also exist. (And, depending on your country, registered designs etc.) (I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 21 at 3:44

3 Answers 3


When you have created your account on any Stack Exchange community, you have agreed to its terms of service, which include also the licensing:

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Please read the terms of service and the full legal text of the license carefully for more details on how your content can be used and for how you can use publicly accessible content contributed to the site by other users.

P.S. For what is worth, in the past we have had some users posting questions, getting answers and then trying to delete/deface the questions "to not give away the details of their work". It didn't end well for them.


The original version of this answer is here.

Nothing on Stack Exchange has copyright protection, which is good and bad

I posted a question about my original answer at Law.SE. That answer is well informed and very much worth reading by anyone who uses Worldbuilding.SE with the worry that they may be restricted in any way by using ideas found via this Stack.

In a nutshell: you have no problems. People who post answers are posting them gratis and your use of those answers to guide your writing efforts leave you in full control of your copyright without dependence.

Further, the author of the Law answer posted a question and answer concerning co-authorship and derivative works that will also be valuable to the practitioners of the arcane art of Worldbuilding.

The CC-BY-SA license

Proponents of the license will remind you that nothing about that license stops you from using what you learn from here commercially.


While you have no copyright problems at all using what you learn here in your writing, neither does anyone else. Granted, you can't copyright the idea of FTL travel, but you can copyright the phrase, "the HGP intersplit engine." So long as the idea came from Worldbuilding and the name came from you, you have absolutely no problem. But, as was mentioned over at Law.SE, due to the Creative Commons licensing, even if you got a cool proper noun from here, you won't have copyright problems — other than you can't stop anyone else from using it, either.

In another nutshell: the more specific the wording you take from Worldbuilding, the harder it will be for you to protect your copyright if someone else uses that same wording. If you took an idea and crafted that idea to make it your own — you're in like flynt! Because everything you do to mold it to your story makes it ever more unique.


Common Sense

Whatever Creative Commons may or not be, Common Sense ought to rule one's usage of Qs and As here.

are answers/questions on WB stack elegible for protection under copyright law?

As Alex rightly said, once you write a text, you own the copyright. There's a difference between writing "what is 2x2" and writing a treatise Why Two Times Two is Four.

If so, if a story based question receives a story based answer eligible for protection under copyright does the person asking the question have ownership or does the person answering it?

As a respondent who does sometimes write stories and fictitious encyclopedia type articles for answers, I own the copyright on my text. If you copy my text without notice and without asking and without permission, then you're scum. If you ask and I'm amenable to your project, then I'd be pleased as punch that you thought a) my idea was cool and b) you thought highly enough of my writing to seek permission to use it! That would make my day.

Some people do in fact write narrative queries, and I'd argue that the querent owns the copyright for that text. There was one instance where I wrote a narrative response to a narrative query. Some day my part at least is going to end up incorporated into a fantastical work of mine. I would ask the querent if I could use their text (with attribution).

Regardless, here in WB.SE, it's the ideas that matter more than the particular text. As such, I write ideas here for readers to freely use under Creative Commons.


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