Wikipedia:Ownership of content

(Redirected from Wikipedia:OWN)

All Wikipedia pages and articles are edited collaboratively by the Wikipedian community of volunteer contributors. No one, no matter what, has the right to act as though they are the owner of a particular article (or any part of it). Even a subject of an article, be that a person or organization, does not own the article, nor has any right to dictate what the article may or may not say. No one whether a subject or an article creator has a responsibility to maintain an article or can normally be held responsible for its content.

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.)

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

Types of ownership


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

While ownership behavior is often understood to involve the original creator of the article, it can also involve other editors who have conflicting interests in promoting or opposing the subject, hijacking the original article's direction and emphasis, changing the title to reflect such changes, or, if unsuccessful, blanking or deleting the article as a form of revenge.

Single-editor ownership


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


The involvement of multiple editors, each defending the ownership of the other, can be highly complex. The simplest scenario usually consists of a dominant editor who is defended by other editors, reinforcing the former's ownership. This 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


Unless an editor exhibits behaviour associated with ownership, it's best to assume good faith on their part and regard their behavior as stewardship. Stewardship or shepherding of an article or group of related articles may be the result of a sincere personal interest in the subject matter or in a cause or organization related to it. The editor might also be an expert or otherwise very knowledgeable in the subject matter and able to provide credible insights for locating reliable sources. The editors in question are no less responsible for adhering to core policies like neutrality of viewpoint, verifiability with reliable sources, and civility.

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 indicate an "ownership" problem, if it is supported by an 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. All editors must follow the official policy about discussing disputes and avoid edit warring.


While featured articles (identified by a bronze star in the upper-right corner  ) 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


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 still part of Wikipedia and must serve its primary purposes; in particular, user talk pages make communication and collaboration among editors easier. These functions must not be hampered by ownership behavior.

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 primary user page, 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, removing the page from categories meant for articles, replacing non-free content by linking to it, or removing obvious vandalism or BLP violations.

Resolving ownership issues


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


If an editor consistently demonstrates behavior similar to that shown in the following examples in a certain article talk page, then they may have issues with page ownership.


  1. An editor disputes minor edits concerning layout, image use, and wording in a particular article frequently. 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 maintenance of article consistency, such as preservation of established spelling or citation styles.)
  2. An editor reverts justified article changes by different editors repeatedly over an extended period to protect a certain version, stable or not.
  3. An editor reverts a change simply because the editor finds it "unnecessary" without claiming that the change is detrimental. This has the effect of assigning priority, between two equivalent versions, to an owner's version.
  4. An editor reverts a good-faith change without providing an edit summary that refers to relevant Wikipedia policies and guidelines, previous reviews and discussions, reliable sources, or specific grammar or prose problems introduced by the edit. Repeating such no-reason reversions after being asked for a rationale is a strong indicator of ownership behavior.
  5. 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 subject necessary to edit the article (see the first two comments in the Statements section just below).
  6. An editor reverts any edit with a personal attack in the edit summary.



Although the following statements, seen in isolation from any context or other statements, do not indicate ownership behavior or motivation, they may be part of a pattern that indicates ownership behavior. When they occur along with some form of dogged insistence and relentless pushing, without good policy back up, and often including edit warring, they may be an expression of ownership behavior.

  1. "Are you qualified to edit this article?" / "You only have X edits." (pulling rank)
  2. "I created/wrote the majority of this article." (implying some kind of right or status exists because of that)
  3. "I'm an expert on the subject. If you have any suggestions, please put them in the talk page and I will review them."
  4. "Please do not make any more changes without my/their/our approval."
  5. "Please clear this with WikiProject Z first."
  6. "I can see nothing wrong with the article and there is no need to change anything at all." (misapplying WP:AINTBROKE)
  7. "Undo peanut-gallery editor."
  8. "You hadn't edited the article or talk page previously."
  9. "You're vandalizing my hard work."



Generally subjects and authors can't be accountable for content. Examples:

  1. The author of an article is not generally required to update an article for outdated information or changes in consensus as long as the content was accurate/according to consensus at the time of creation, see WP:MESS. Keep in mind that not all authors are active or check their watchlist and even those that are/do will not nessesarrily check every edit or identify a problem with an edit.
  2. The subject of an article is not required to police it for policy violations or otherwise keep it updated etc. Keep in mind that even though Wikipedia often comes up high on Google searches the subject may not yet have discovered the article or even if they have they may not know how to edit it. Although subjects are encouraged to make minor corrections and remove vandalism they are normally discouraged from making substantial edits so some subjects may prefer to stay away from editing them at all.

See also