I have recently became an owner of a creepypasta story website based on Mediawiki. This website seems to have no explicit content license, and the only legally binding text shown when creating or editing pages is following:

Please note that all contributions to {{SITENAME}} may be edited, altered, or removed by other contributors. If you don't want your material to be edited mercilessly, then don't submit it here.

You are also promising us that you wrote this yourself, or copied it from the resource that allows free redistribution and modification of their content.

Which is very similar to old Mediawiki copyright warning. The website also does not have any legal entity associated — domain and hosting are owned by non-entrepreneur private person, and website itself does not make any profit — there are no ads, no donations etc.

I would like to make all aforementioned content explicitly (re)licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0 or CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0. Can I just claim that all website content is now under CC-BY-SA, or do I have to perform any additional actions?

How should I deal with orphaned works (e.g. creepypasta obtained from unknown sources, or written by authors that have left no contact information)? Does the aforementioned notice give me the right to threat all that content as compatible with CC-BY-SA? Who should I attribute as an author then?

Disclaimer: I am not looking for real, qualified legal advice here, so no strings attached.

1 Answer 1


You can do whatever you like with posts made after you change the rules - you have to leave the previous stuff alone.

The contributors' have accepted the terms of the licence:

  • They own the copyright or have permission from the copyright holder to post it (the promise)
  • They agree that it can be edited altered or removed

CC-BY-SA allows people to copy the stuff off the website and republish it - this is way outside what the contributors agreed to. These people have given permission for their work to be altered but not copied.

  • Well, okay, but then how did Wikipedia go with this? According to en.wikipedia.org/w/… they didn't have neither license specification nor "copy" permission in their statement until Nov 22, 2010, yet they somehow managed to relicense the content under new terms.
    – toriningen
    Nov 30, 2016 at 4:11
  • What makes you think this was retrospectively applicable?
    – Dale M
    Nov 30, 2016 at 8:02
  • @toriningen The contents of the Wikipedia have been licensed under the GFDL or a Creative Commons license since 2001. (See the Internet Archive's record for wikipedia.com on October 10, 2001 (which was what wikipedia.org redirected at that time. That page you link to appears to be merely instructional about the scope of the license; the main page of Wikipedia has always made its GFDL/CC license clear for the past 15+ years.
    – apsillers
    Nov 30, 2016 at 19:39
  • @toriningen If you're thinking of the switch from GFDL to CC BY-SA 3.0 in 2009, I have a related answer on OpenSource.SE about how they cleverly (ab)used the "or any later version published by the FSF" rider in their GFDL licensing. (In cooperation with Wikipedia, the FSF did publish a later version of the GFDL that expressly permitted relicensing to CC BY-SA 3.0.)
    – apsillers
    Nov 30, 2016 at 19:45
  • @toriningen OpenStreetMap did a license migration, too, but they used a different approach: they asked contributors to agree to relicensing their work under the new license and then they deleted all the content from contributors who had not agree - most of them small contributors no longer active. You could make the same, but the key point is to track under which license is each piece of content licensed.
    – Pere
    Feb 12, 2017 at 18:34

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