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Relevant post: How much and how powerful would a "phlebotinium" bomb launched from orbit be to create an artificial sea?

A new user, @JustKherty, has posted a question about a publicly accessible world, claiming to own that world.

Normally this would fall into our 3rd-party/commercial world prohibition, but in my own experience, this is the first time someone has claimed to own the world. The principle author of the Briserian Dawn wiki, linked above, is a Fandom.com user named CentralAuthority.

I'm not here to cast aspersions, but anybody can claim anything. @JustKherty has edited a Fandom.com page to identify him-/herself. However, other users have contributed to the Briserian Dawn wiki pages, so this isn't proof that @JustKherty is Fandom.com's Central Authority.

Question: What proof should we accept that a Stack Exchange user is the owner of a 3rd Party world?

Further issues for consideration:

  • Do we simply take their word for it?
  • Would permitting this undermine the 3rd-party/commercial world prohibition?

Why is this question important?

  • Because protecting intellectual property rights should be part of our basic policy.
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    $\begingroup$ “However, other users have contributed to the Briserian Dawn wiki pages, so this isn't proof that @JustKherty is Fandom.com's Central Authority.” JBH, you have a fundamental lack of understanding of how fandom (or really any wiki with editing works) you can check the logs and verify that indeed, they are who they say they are. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Topcode I beg your pardon, but who are they? The page JustKherty created had no connecting information or information about who edited the page. Frankly, had the edit history shown ControlAuthority as the author of the page, I wouldn't have gone to all this effort. But it still begs the question - how do we prove that someone claiming to be the author really is? Where should we draw the line given a long-standing policy? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ “had the edit history shown ControlAuthority as the author of the page, I wouldn't have gone to all this effort.” It literally does. I linked the logs for page creating showing that ControlAuthority created the page. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ Upon further inspection it does seem as though originally the wrong link was in the post, which is why it appeared to not support their claims. But that doesn’t change that you could still see from their user page that they created it, and can still of course see the correct page. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ Why should we reject building in a third-party world, period? Yes, such questions are usually out of scope, but that's not intrinsically because of building in another world. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 3:51

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TL;DR : No proof is needed for two reasons : The 3rd party rule is not for legal purposes, nor are we in a position to claim in the real author's stead. Of course, this doesn't protect the question from other closure reasons.

Why law is not the the key factor here?

Law doesn't happen here for many reasons, but roughly :

  • Everyone can ask questions about public works as long as they are not copy-pasted in the question. This is not falling at all under the copyright of said work. And if you think about it... First and otherwise the whole Sci-fi & Fantasy stack-exchange, wikipedia and any fan sites could be shut down for that reason. Then, this would be absurd to prevent anyone to talk about the movie they just watched. It would be akin to a total destruction of freedom of expression.
  • This site works almost exclusively with ideas. Ideas when creating fictional worlds are not copyrightable in most countries1. Indeed, ideas are fluttering, ethereal butterflies in the sky, coming in and going away freely 🦋. But worse, noone could prove who catched one of them first. More factually, protecting ideas prevents people expressing said ideas, rendering the law's purpose of protecting creators useless. Skipping all the details, only what you or I have written word for word is copyrighted, and as long as you don't copy-paste it as it is or make derivative works of it, you aren't even restricted by the CC BY-SA 4.0 licence Stack-Exchange uses.

Even if there was indeed a law protecting something somehow, it is not our legal responsibility to make others respect it. It is the responsibility of the intellectual property owner and Stack-Exchange to take action when illegal stuff happens like breaching NDAs or infringing copyright.

You can (ideally should) warn the content owner of potential infringements so they can take appropriate measures -like contacting SE's designated agent- if they wish so. You can warn the SE company of possible troubles, so they can take preemptive measures if that's clear and needed. You can and should also keep people from raising obvious red flags for their own sake, both to learn worldbuilding and to be friendly. But closing and/or deleting in SE's stead? It's not our job, since it's impossible to know at all whether the user is the actual owner. We're just for most anonymous pals on the internet who can only reasonably argue they're who they are by telling their "proofs" are the truth. It's a very weak argument called circular reasoning. And nobody as honest as they can be can do more than that without excruciating efforts which are not worth it.

But why does the 3rd party rule exist then?

That's the most important question here. For that I'm going to quote Sphennings, on a similar topic :

Regardless of what inspired your question, existing work of fiction, myths you grew up with, a wild dream you had last night, the sublime majesty of the natural world, or some cool science fact that ignited your imagination, you must always make sure that you're asking about that within the context of building your world.

  • Don't ask about elves, ask us about your elves.
  • Don't ask us about Skrulls, ask us about your Skrull knockoffs
  • Don't ask us about Kami, ask us about your Kami
  • Don't ask us about orbital mechanics, ask us about the orbits of your planets

That's the problem with 3rd party worlds : Most of the time, people don't ask how they can "build" something, not even how it "has been built" by other people. They ask how it "is" in one's world. This kind of question is therefore not building worlds, ie. off-topic per the tour and help-center2. Whether they claim ownership is irrelevant to whether they are building worlds or not.

Regarding the question

That being said, the question is suffering from over-contextualization. All of it could be summed up in one paragraph describing the kind of bomb, one picture showing the map of the now destroyed England3, and one ending sentence asking the question. Most of this confusion could have been avoided that way.

Moreover, there are several questions at once with hints the querent isn't solving a specific problem, but making the whole element. Indeed, you cannot describe the impact of the bomb if you don't know how the bomb works, regardless of its actual size and power. Since the question talks about an unknown, never described phlebotinium bomb, both are asked here. This is a big issue and the reason I voted to close (lacking focus).


1 : Any country who signed the Berne Convention would probably follow it one way or another, as it's the expression of the idea which is protected there.
2 : I made emphasis on the core definition of worldbuilding here
3 : Map which could gain from being more accurate. It's so tiny for my sore eyes ^^

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What proof should we accept that a Stack Exchange user is the owner of a 3rd Party world?

A counter question: should we?

And I know you say

Because protecting intellectual property rights should be part of our basic policy.

But I do not think we are really the arbiters or enforcers of intellectual property. We are not really given the proper tools to do that.

Here is what I mean: if somebody whose username is "G.Lucas" comes in and asks a question related to something called "Star Wars" we do not really have the tools to figure out if it is indeed one George Lucas who decided to drop in and ask. Nor would it really matter one way or another. If Mr. Lucas or anybody else wants to ask a question, they should follow the rules and post a question they have about worldbuilding aspect. Not really a question about a third party world.

If it turns out the "G.Lucas" was not indeed the real creator of the Star Wars universe that is matter for a court to decide. Not really for us - we are not, in fact, a court for deciding on intellectual property rights. In fact, intellectual property rights should not matter when asking a question as ideally a worldbuilding problem is framed by itself mostly divorced from a "world".

At this point one might decide to interject with something along the lines of "However, every element of worldbuilding is part of a world!" Well spotted. However, we do not require the whole world there, just enough for what the worldbuilding problem is.

Still, if this hypothetical one persists that we should protect the (intellectual) integrity of the world even if we have bits and pieces of it - here is my counter: why start now? We have had years of questions without having anybody show "proof" they owned Facebook or whatever world allows time travelling or world where you can be immortal but you have to check. Amongst many, many others.

It seems like this checking of the credentials of the author comes from nowhere. It did not seem there was a problem for years. Why have a problem now?

Even the policy about not asking for third party world is not built around intellectual property but simply being out of scope. And it is out of scope when asking for explanation of how something works in, for example, Star Trek or Lord of the Rings.


As a note: I did edit the question and I tried to strive for mostly stylistic things, since I did not want to introduce more drastic changes while there was a Meta discussion. With that said, I am strongly compelled to remove a lot of the related lore and information and only focus the question on the matter at hand. To me it seems it can more or less fit into:

If you refer to this map you can see much of London and its surrounding were obliterated thanks to a "phlebotinum" bomb.

  • How much TNT-equivalent/ whatever unit of measure would this mean? How much would be the destruction?
  • How far the shockwave would travel?
  • What other characteristics would there be of the explosion?

So, while the main body of my answer seems like trying to dodge responsibility, if the question were sufficiently focused on the question, the world where this is set is not really relevant. Worldbuilding.SE would not need to engage in any legal debate at that point. As a worldbuilding detail the new shortened question can be plugged into any world - be it Warhammer 40k or Harry Potter (which for some reason now has bombs...) or an original third party world. Nor not-so-original third party world. It does not really matter much.

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We don't need to know.

I think this is covered pretty well by Monica's answer here.

This site is for questions about building worlds, not questions about how others' worlds work. [...] the focus is on your world, not what another author intended.

So as I read it, it doesn't matter if this is "JKRowling" asking about Harry Potter. Whether it's an acceptable question has nothing to do with it being Harry Potter, or whether or not that's the J.K. Rowling. The only pertinent question is if it's worldbuilding or not.

Bad question: "What do house elves in Harry Potter like to eat?" That's bad not because it's Harry Potter but because it's not building a world, it's just asking about one that already exists.

But suppose this question was actually from "JKRowling", and very specifically said "In my next Harry Potter book, I have this new system of travel, but how can I make it free from contradiction?"

Knowing that it's Harry Potter could actually help, as familiarity with that universe could help drive the answers. Knowing that it's the J.K. Rowling coming to Stack Exchange to ask for worldbuilding help would be neato, but irrelevant.

If it's definitely not "JKRowling", nothing changes. Anyone can worldbuild on Harry Potter in their own free time. Their legal ability to publish any ideas they have is not our concern. Maybe they're just doing a little GURPS RPG with some friends, set in Harry Potter's universe, but still need some legitimate worldbuilding to flesh it out. We do not prohibit this.

Ergo, I submit that the author's identity is not important. It being a 3rd party world is not important. What's important is if they are worldbuilding (thumbs up!) or just asking about it (thumbs down!).

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    $\begingroup$ Note : questions should still be self contained. If you need the help of Harry Potter's novels or movies to answer, your question needs at the very least more details. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena As long as it's relevant, they might as well mention it. I'm just saying "don't feel the need to avoid mentioning your setting just because we might VTC it for being 3rd party". Oh it's zombies? What kind of zombies? 28 days later zombies! "VTC! You mentioned a 3rd party!" is not a real fear. Even if it's not A.Garland asking. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 0:48
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas Hmmm. If I was building a Harry Potter RPG using GURPS and realized I needed to flesh out the exact mechanics of floo powder, that's a valid question, because I have made it "my world" -- diverging from HP as surely as Space Balls has diverged from Star Wars. Of course, I'll probably never be able to sell it (Mel Brooks asked for permission) but it's valid worldbuilding. There's no case where JKR can ask a question and HP GURPS RPG man can't. It's worldbuilding, or it's not. The identity of the asker is always irrelevant. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, you caught me --- I deleted the comment once I decided to write a proper answer. In any event, I have to strongly disagree. "Floo powder" and its mechanics don't belong to me or have origin in my own mind. I am thus ethically bound, even though I'm writing a HP fanfic, to not ask the question here. I'd have to be satisfied with asking on SF/F. On the other hand, if I devise a branch of magic for use within a HP fanfic than has no basis in JKR's works I could only ethically ask it here if I either didn't mention the fanfic angle or used weasel words sufficient to get the (cont) $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ (cont) idea across that I'm looking at the Wizarding World for inspiration. In other words, "how does floo powder work" is out of bounds here; while "i like the idea of using some kind of magical powder to induce travel from one location to another --- how could this work" is in bounds. Simply put, no, I can't "make" floo powder mine. But I can come up with something similar. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ You do bring up a good point with Space Balls, however, which could potentially validate your point. If I wrote to JKR and got permission to set up my own derivative work, and received that permission, then I'd agree 100%, any Wizarding World related question would technically be permissible. For me only. However, I'd expect all such questions to be closed because "why don't you just JKR?" $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ Long story short: worldbuilding questions are welcome here, but it's got to be your own work! I think if you'd quoted Monica's whole paragraph, you'd see the distinction: This site is for questions about building worlds, not questions about how others' worlds work. Now very few ideas are completely original, so your world might use elements from, or derived from, other worlds, but there's a key difference: If you ask "how does a lightsabre work in Star Wars", the only authoritative answers come (cont) $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) from the Star Wars canon. If, instead, you want lightsabres in your world and ask "how can I power my lightsabres given (constraints)", that's a worldbuilding question that will likely get answers that have nothing to do with the Star Wars canon. It's very clear that she is distinguishing between that which is someone else's work and that which is our work, but is coincidentally similar to that other work. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I think now we're just quibbling over what "derived from" means. In my opinion, if you take Star Wars, change literally one thing, then it's your world and you can worldbuild on it. Knowing it was derived from Star Wars saves some explanation steps, but it's your world now. Space Balls is just the same, though obviously a parody and with a longer list of differences. As far as I know, no law, neither legally or of SE, prevents not-for-profit fanfic, and I'm loath to draw a line of "how derivative is too derivative". I'd just answer them all, as long as they are worldbuilding. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ That's been an essential issue in worldbuilding for decades --- when does someone else's work "become mine". I disagree wholeheartedly with your premise about changing one thing. I can guarantee that if I got rid of light sabres in SW and then went on to write a jedi story without them and published it, Lucasfilm and Diznee would come after me. The Tolkien estate is similarly aggressive when it comes to intellectual property infringement. You can't just change one single thing and then call all the rest yours. Fanfic is a little different, in that it can't legally be published for (cont) $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 30, 2023 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) gain as I understand it (and I could be wrong!) Even so, worldbuilding questions that ask about the SW or WW universes are off topic here. They're not your work. You might be writing a story set in the WW and that story might involve places or kinds of magic or creatures that aren't well fleshed out (which would be your own work); but the underlying world and how it works are not yours and are thus off limits in WB.SE. I also disagree with your indiscrimination. As much as I'd like to answer such queries, they're out of scope here. You do our community no good service by doing that. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 30, 2023 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas Publishing is different, because that's copyrights. As far as I know, we have zero concern with that here. If someone wants to talk about their Star Wars spin-off, I see nothing saying they can't. ("Unwritten rule" aka "not actually a rule".) But I think we're mostly saying the same thing: Star Wars questions are off-topic. But worldbuilding, on any basis, by any person, is on-topic. More to the point, it short-circuits the OP's question here: there is no need to know who the asker is because it simply does not matter. All that matters is "is it worldbuilding". $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Mar 30, 2023 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ Well, whether the querent is asking about the SW universe or the SW Spinoff universe, they're both equally off topic. And no, we're not saying the same thing at all. Obviously we both agree that "worldbuilding" is on topic here. However, there are restrictions. You can't ask worldbuilding questions when the world isn't your own work. Monica made that clear in the section you quoted from. As far as knowing who the asker is, I agree that rarely matters. It's only an issue here because the querent pointed to a work that, if I got it right, seemed to have been made by someone else. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 30, 2023 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ Which is why your stance on this is a bit silly: you're basically asking people to hide their story basis, on the off chance that we decide to VTC it for....well, it's not clear, because there's no VTC reason that matches what you're talking about. "Sorry, your zombies sound too much like 28 Days Later. We can't allow that copyright infringement. VTC!" We can argue about it some more but in the end, your stance on this can't be enforced, and relies entirely on askers accidentally revealing too much, and us assuming they aren't the author. Plus, this rule doesn't exist anyway. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 23:45
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Honour System


I'm just going to focus on the basic question, without delving into other legal matters. Just so we're clear on background:

  • WB.SE is clearly described as a Q&A forum where individuals can ask questions regarding the fictional worlds or settings that the individual OP owns as a matter of intellectual property
  • We have a specific policy that disallows anyone from asking questions about fictional worlds that they are not responsible for. We call these "third party intellectual properties" or "commercial(ised) worlds" or "third party worlds". Essentially, a world that the querent does not own as a matter of intellectual property.
  • Generally speaking, SE is a fairly anonymous place. We as individuals mostly use online names (Tortliena (which I think I spelled right this time!), elemtilas, JBH, Topcode) which don't really equate to a real name or a professional nom de plume. Even with names like Monica or JamieB, we don't really know if that's the person's real name or not, and it really doesn't matter.


DISCUSSION:
I find that this particular question sits at an interesting crossroads of WB.SE culture. It wasn't so long ago that a question here in Meta arose regarding a repository of members who actually took our help and went on to create some sort of published work using that help. I regarded that as a rather positive step and I hope Just Kherty will add Briserian Dawn to it! For here, we find a member of the forum who is asking for help and who is apparently quite open about saying "this is a world in process of some kind of publication, and it is in fact my world".


I would argue that our basic approach should be to assume the best of a forum member. Our evidentiary bar is set pretty low, when it comes to third party worlds. We generally assume that if a known author sought our help they'd let us know who they are. On the other hand, we generally assume that "major" intellectual properties like the Wizarding World or Star Wars are not owned by anyone in this forum. Briserian Dawn may not be a "major" intellectual property, but its owner has identified as such.


CONCLUSION:
When a third party question gets asked, we just inform the user that they can't ask about someone else's work, close the question and move on. We don't ask for proof that they are the author of said world or not.


Likewise, in cases like this, I really don't think we need to do any more than accept the affidavit that Just Kherty is also CentralAuthority (and also jKherty at Reddit where a BD related query was asked recently). I think we can accept that these online monikers all point to a real person who is the owner of the said intellectual property. Answer the query and move on.


COMMENTARY:
Would permitting this undermine the 3rd-party/commercial world prohibition?


I don't believe it would, for the simple fact that it has not been an issue thus far. I can't recall any runs of Star Wars related questions posted by George Lucas under dubious monikers like ax40329 or StarWarsFan4Life.


The simple fact of the matter is that we don't have a prohibition against members asking about their own worlds that have any kind of published or commercial existence. As long as the world in question is claimed by the querent, there's kind of not much we could or should do to stop them from asking.


Why is this question important? Because protecting intellectual property rights should be part of our basic policy.


I'm not a lawyer so can't comment or expound on the legalities. I fully agree with you that intellectual property rights protection here is vital. I'm not competent to say whether that pertains to this question or not. I think this would be a good question to address to Law.SE.

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I am @JustKherty. I specifically created a page, with the account I have used to create the Fandom Wikia, called "CentralAuthority" to obsfuscate who's who because of my previous bullying experience I had when former friends looked my username (which I don't use anymore since), and made fun of me when they found my worldbuilding project. This project, belongs to me, and as said earlier, and on the question, I reiterated that it does belongs to me... By posting with said ("CentralAuthority") account, on this very specific Fandom Wikia. Of course I'm not looking for an excuse or be pitied on, but I am just explaining why I used a different name - plus "CentralAuthority" looks cooler, especially for the setting I am working on. If you have more question, please ask! Anyhoo, I doubt it's a third-part world, since it was me, myself and I who built it...?

-Just Kherty / CentralAuthority

Edit: I'm forgetting my manner, added Hello There...

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  • $\begingroup$ The pages on the primary wiki all have a link that lets visitors see the edit history for that page. The page you created does not. Is the link elsewhere on the page? Because at this time I can't find anything that says ControlAuthority created the "Hello I'm Just Kherty" page. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ Hello, sorry for the confusion. I must've been logged out, here: [briserian-dawn.fandom.com/wiki/I%27m_Just_Kherty] I checked (hopefully) that it is the correct account! Cheers $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 3:25
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    $\begingroup$ @JustKherty you were signed in, but in the post you linked the page “Hello I'm Just Kherty“ when the one you created was “Hello I'm Just Kherty!” $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 12:16

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