Wikipedia:Ownership of articles

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This page is about control over an article's text. For the ownership of copyright in an article, see Wikipedia:Copyrights.

All Wikipedia content − articles, categories, templates, and other types of pages − is edited collaboratively. No one, no matter how skilled, or of how high standing in the community, has the right to act as though he or she is the owner of a particular page.

Some contributors feel possessive about material they have contributed to Wikipedia. A few editors will even defend such material against others. It is quite reasonable to take an interest in an article on a topic you care about − perhaps you are an expert, or perhaps it is just your hobby; however, if this watchfulness starts to become possessiveness, then you are overdoing it. Believing that an article has an owner of this sort is a common mistake people make on Wikipedia.

Once you have posted it to Wikipedia, you cannot stop anyone from editing text you have written. As each edit page clearly states:

Work submitted to Wikipedia can be edited, used, and redistributed—by anyone

Similarly, by submitting your ideas (for article organization, categorization, style, standards, etc.) to Wikipedia, you allow others to challenge and develop them.

If you find yourself in an edit war with other contributors, 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. Or, if someone else is claiming "ownership" of a page, you can bring it up on the associated talk page, appeal to other contributors, or consider the dispute resolution process.

Even though editors can never "own" an article, it is important to respect the work and ideas of your fellow contributors. Therefore, be cautious when removing or rewriting large amounts of content, particularly if this content was written by one editor; it is more effective to try to work with the editor than against them—even if you think they are acting as if they "own" the article. (See also Wikipedia:Civility, Wikipedia:Etiquette and Wikipedia:Assume good faith.)

Provided that contributions and input from fellow editors are not ignored or immediately disregarded, being the primary or sole editor of an article does not constitute ownership. Editors familiar with the topic and in possession of relevant reliable sources may have watchlisted such articles and may discuss or amend others' edits. Provided this does not marginalise the valid opinions of others, and is adequately justified, it too does not equal ownership. Often these editors can be approached and may offer assistance to those unfamiliar with the article. The template {{Maintained}} may be used on the article talk pages.

Types of ownership[edit]

There are two common types of ownership conflicts between users: those involving one editor and those involving multiple editors.

Single-editor ownership[edit]

In many cases (but not all), single editors engaged in ownership conflicts are also primary contributors to the article, so keep in mind that such editors may be experts in their field or have a genuine interest in maintaining the quality of the article and preserving accuracy. An editor who appears to assume ownership of an article should be approached on the article's talk page with a descriptive header informing readers about the topic. Always avoid accusations, attacks, and speculations concerning the motivation of any editor. If the behaviour continues, the issue may require dispute resolution, but it is important to make a good attempt to communicate with the editor on the article talk page before proceeding to mediation, etc. Editors of this type often welcome discussion, so a simple exchange of ideas will usually solve the problem of ownership.

If you find that the editor continues to be hostile, makes personal attacks, or wages edit wars, try to ignore disruptive editing by discussing the topic on the talk page. You may need to ignore attacks made in response to a query. If ownership persists after a discussion, dispute resolution may be necessary, but at least you will be on record as having attempted to solve the problem directly with the editor. It is important to make a good attempt to communicate with the editor on the article talk page before proceeding to mediation, etc. It may also be wise to allow them to withdraw from the conversation and return when they are ready.

Multiple-editor ownership[edit]

The involvement of multiple editors, each defending the ownership of the other, can be highly complex. The simplest scenario usually comprises a dominant editor who is defended by other editors, reinforcing the former's ownership. This is often informally described as a tag team, and can be frustrating to both new and seasoned editors. As before, address the topic and not the actions of the editors. If this fails, proceed to dispute resolution, but it is important to communicate on the talk page and attempt to resolve the dispute yourself before escalating the conflict resolution process.

Ownership and stewardship[edit]

Shortcuts:

Do not confuse stewardship with ownership. Stewardship of an article (or group of related articles) may be the result of a sincere personal interest in the subject matter, an interest in a cause or organization related to the article's subject matter, or the editor could actually be an expert in the subject matter and provide credible insights for locating reliable sources. Unless an editor exhibits behaviour associated with ownership, it's best to assume good faith on their part.

Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that "anyone can edit", but not all edits bring improvement. In many cases, a core group of editors will have worked to build the article up to its present state, and will revert edits that they find detrimental in order, they believe, to preserve the quality of the encyclopedia. Such reversion does not necessarily constitute ownership, and will normally be supported by an explanatory edit summary referring to Wikipedia policies and guidelines, previous reviews and discussions, or specific grammar or prose problems introduced by the edit.

Where disagreement persists after such a reversion, the editor proposing the change should first take the matter to the talk page, without personal comments or accusations of ownership. In this way, the specifics of any change can be discussed with the editors who are familiar with the article, who are likewise expected to discuss the content civilly. This is in keeping with the BRD cycle which stands for BOLD, revert, discuss. Though not an official guideline or policy it is a dependable method for conflict resolution.

Featured articles[edit]

While Featured articles (identified by a bronze star in the upper-right corner LinkFA-star.png) are open for editing like any other, they have gone through a community review process as Featured article candidates, where they are checked for high-quality sources, a thorough survey of the relevant literature, and compliance with the Featured Article criteria. Editors are asked to take particular care when editing a Featured article; it is considerate to discuss significant changes of text or images on the talk page first. Explaining civilly why sources and policies support a particular version of a featured article does not necessarily constitute ownership. The {{article history}} template on the talk page will contain a link to the Featured article candidacy and any subsequent Featured article reviews.

User pages[edit]

Wikipedia offers wide latitude to users to manage their user space as they see fit. Nevertheless, they are not personal homepages, and are not owned by the user. They are part of Wikipedia and must serve its primary purposes; in particular, they make collaboration among editors easier.

While other users and bots will more commonly edit your user talk page, they have rights to edit other pages in your user space as well. Usually others will not edit your user page itself, other than to address significant concerns (rarely) or to do routine housekeeping, such as handling project-related tags, disambiguating links to pages that have been moved, or removing the page from categories meant for articles.

Resolving ownership issues[edit]

While it may be easy to identify ownership issues, it is far more difficult to resolve the conflict to the satisfaction of the editors involved. It is always helpful to remember to stay calm, assume good faith, and remain civil. Accusing other editors of owning the article may appear aggressive, and could be perceived as a personal attack. Address the editor in a civil manner, with the same amount of respect you would expect. Often, editors accused of ownership may not even realize it, so it is important to assume good faith. Some editors may think they are protecting the article from vandalism, and may respond to any changes with hostility. Others may try to promote their own point of view, failing to recognize the importance of the neutrality policy.

Examples of ownership behaviour[edit]

Further information: Wikipedia:No personal attacks

Actions[edit]

  • An editor disputes minor edits concerning layout, image use, and wording in a particular article daily. The editor might claim, whether openly or implicitly, the right to review any changes before they can be added to the article. (This does not include the routine correction of formatting errors or the preservation of established spelling or citation styles.)
  • Justified article changes by different editors are reverted by the same editor repeatedly over an extended period to protect a certain version, stable or not.
  • An editor comments on other editors' talk pages with the purpose of discouraging them from making additional contributions. The discussion can take many forms; it may be purely negative, consisting of threats and insults, often avoiding the topic of the article altogether. At the other extreme, the owner may patronize other editors, claiming that their ideas are interesting while also claiming that they lack the deep understanding of the article necessary to edit it (See the first two comments in the Statements section just below).
  • Putting your name into the article as the author. Since no one "owns" any Wikipedia content, content should not be signed. The exact contributions of all editors are seen with their names on the page history. On the other hand, when adding comments, questions, or votes to talk pages, it is good to "own" your text, so the best practice is to sign it by suffixing your entry with "~~~~".

Statements[edit]

  • "Are you qualified to edit this article?"
  • "You obviously have no hands-on experience with this topic."
  • "I created/wrote the majority of this article." (in a manner implying some kind of inappropriate right or status exists because of that).
  • "I saw your edit to this article, and I appreciate your help; however, I am an expert on the subject, and for the accuracy of this article, I have reverted your edit. If you have any suggestions, please put them in the talk page and I will review them."
  • "If Bob disagrees with your decision that a given subject is notable, then it's clearly non-notable, isn't it?" (multiple-editor ownership)
  • "Please clear this with WikiProject X first."
  • "Undo peanut-gallery editor."
  • "I can see nothing wrong with the article and there is no need to change anything at all."
  • "Do not make such changes or comments until you have significantly edited or written work of this quality."
  • "Unless it is wrong or has errors, please do not make such changes or comments without my/his/her/our approval."
  • "You didn't have consensus because I was offline."
  • "I haven't had time to confirm what you wrote. I have other obligations besides Wikipedia, you know."
  • "I don't own that book, so I can't confirm your source."
  • "I have spent hours editing this article. You are vandalising my work!"

See also[edit]

Wikipedia Policy[edit]

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]

Related information[edit]