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In order to ask a clear question on Writing.SE with obvious context, I find it is necessary to disclose a lot of details about the plot of my story and my characters. But if I do that, does Stack Exchange protect me?

  • How can I be sure no one will steal my ideas?
  • Does intellectual ownership of my ideas go to Stack Exchange as soon as I post them, as it does with the content of posts?
  • If I keep intellectual ownership, will the existence of my posts at Stack Exchange establish that the ideas belonged to me at the time I posted them?
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  • Hi Naomi, this is Writing Meta, which is only for discussing the stack, not for writing questions. A question like this belongs on the regular Writing stack. It has been asked many times though. Please check out the plagiarism and see what there is. If you can't find a question that asks some aspect of what you're asking (not the general part), you may start a new question on Writing. Jul 7 '20 at 22:55
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    This is actually about the stack...I want some assurance that by posting a question I am not jeopardizing the future of my novel. If I asked this question on Writing, I would probably get told it belongs on Meta.
    – Naomi
    Jul 7 '20 at 23:09
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    I did, however, find a similar question: writing.stackexchange.com/questions/9917/… So if you want to close this one or something go ahead. I figured it belonged on Meta since I am asking about asking.
    – Naomi
    Jul 7 '20 at 23:17
  • Your question is about your writing. It is not Meta. To help you make the right decision for you, please keep in mind that everything you post on StackExchange is public and accessible to any user on the internet. SE posts show up on Google and other search engines. Your posts will be there and accessible forever. By using SE you allow them to use your posts. They do not own them and you can use your material as you see fit. Jul 9 '20 at 1:26
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    @CynsaysmakeMonicawhole I've just voted to reopen this. I disagree that this is not a Meta question. I think it clearly is—especially if the comment responses and the one answer are any indication. It's asking if Stack Exchange, as a site, is secure or not when it comes to intellectual property. Such a question is off topic on the main site, because it has nothing to do with writing per se. I would vote to close it as off topic there, but not here. This is a question about the dangers of using this site. Jul 12 '20 at 2:45
  • @JasonBassford Your spin on the question does seem appropriate for meta, though I will still argue that this question is not only off topic but also a duplicate. If the OP agrees, you could repurpose this question. Or ask a new one. The question as it stands is generic to putting stuff on the internet. Asking about how SE handles data is a lot more specific. But I'll leave all this up to you and the other community members. Jul 13 '20 at 14:29
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    @CynsaysmakeMonicawhole Actually, what is written at Stack Exchange becomes the property of Stack Exchange. At least in theory. So, it's not just about the internet in general, but about the legal status of things on Stack Exchange specifically. If somebody steals an idea that's expressed at Stack Exchange, does that idea belong to the author—or has ownership of the idea transferred to Stack Exchange itself? Would it be the author who could sue, or would it be Stack Exchange who could sue? I'm not sure of the finer legal points. But it does relate specifically to this site … Jul 13 '20 at 15:14
  • @Jason Bassford And feel free to edit my question to reflect any and all issues you may find relevant.
    – Naomi
    Jul 13 '20 at 22:32
  • I voted to reopen because while I agree this belongs more to the regular site, it should have been migrated and not closed, and in general I find that closing an Q that already has a good A is bad and I can see how this maybe seen as a meta Q. Jul 15 '20 at 12:52
  • @JasonBassford SE does not own what others have posted here. You own your own work. BUT by posting here you give SE rights under creative commons to use your work forever. Jul 16 '20 at 19:31
  • @CynsaysmakeMonicawhole Is that "use" only in its original form on the site itself, or does it include any kind of repurposing of it? Jul 16 '20 at 20:56
  • @JasonBassford There are different CC licenses and SE recently switched from one to another, pissing off a large number of users. I honestly don't know enough about the differences. But it would be easy to find which one it is then follow the link to find out what is and is not allowed. Jul 16 '20 at 23:26
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How can I be sure no one will steal my ideas?

You can't.

I hate to be blunt, but it's the honest truth. The unfortunate reality is that anything you post on the Internet, anywhere at all, has at least a remote chance of being stolen or co-opted by anyone who sees it at any given time. Even if you delete your questions the moment they're answered (which is very bad practice, so please don't), I have enough rep to see deleted posts, so that won't protect you completely.

I have the same concerns about getting my ideas stolen, but I've come to accept that it's just one of the perils of using the Internet, and that there's not a whole lot I can do about it. But more importantly: I trust the community here. I choose to believe that they wouldn't do that. I'm sure they all trust each other not to do the same as well. So while this may not be the answer you want to hear, you're just going to have to trust us.

(And remember: even if someone does steal one of your ideas, they've still gotta actually write the damn thing. And that's the hard part. Chances are they won't manage it.)

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  • Thanks! I mean yeah, I guess it's an obvious answer, but nevertheless something worth discussing.
    – Naomi
    Jul 7 '20 at 23:11
  • @Naomi Depending on the nature of your question on the main site, it might also be possible to alter the description of your story sufficiently that even if the idea is stolen, it's not actually the specific idea of your story, and it wouldn't matter. Of course, that does mean more work for you when posing the question … Jul 12 '20 at 2:48
  • I did try that and ended up having to disclose more details because people were asking questions or providing irrelevant information. I guess I could have just left them in the dark...I deleted one of my comments in order to Guard against that if my ideas.
    – Naomi
    Jul 12 '20 at 22:19

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