Wiki life: fight for your right to aaaaaau…author!*

Have you ever thought about your copyright on the articles you publish on Technet Wiki, or on other Wiki platforms or other code sharing platforms like Microsoft's Codeplex or open source platform Sourceforge?
What's the consequence of using Technet Wiki for publishing code samples like powershell scripts?

Have you ever read the small print?

A while ago, the following situation happened with powershell code published on your beloved TechNet Wiki platform.
(Names have been changed and anonymized to protect the innocent.) 

An MVP posted a powershell script. A company A ("Defendant") on the other side of the ocean used it in their product.
Some time later another company B ("Plaintiff") from the other side of the world sued the company A for using their scripts.
That means that the company either used the MVPs script as well and the person who grabbed it, doesn’t want to admit it, so company thinks they created it.
Or it means that the dev and the MVP just had the same great idea (which happens a lot, to be honest).

On TechNet Wiki, copyright is handled by the TNWiki Terms of use.
You can find the small print on the footer of the TNWiki main page or any Wiki page.


Microsoft provides you with access to a variety of resources on this web site, including documents, photographs, videos, and other graphical, textual or audio-visual content (“Content”), software and computer code, including developer tools and sample code (“Software”), and communication forums and other services ("Services").  The Content, Software, Services and all other aspects of this web site are subject to these Terms of Use.  Microsoft reserves the right to update these Terms of Use at any time without notice to you.  The applicable and most current version of the Terms of Use can be reviewed by clicking on the “Terms of Use” hypertext link located at the bottom of our web pages.

By accessing or using this web site in any way, you agree to and are bound by the terms of this Terms of Use.  If you do not agree to all of the terms and conditions contained in the Terms of Use, do not access or use this web site.

A bit further in the Terms of Use, you'll read:


Microsoft does not claim ownership of code, content, comments, feedback, suggestions, information or materials that you provide via this web site or any Services ("Submission"). However, by providing a Submission, you are irrevocably granting Microsoft and its affiliated companies the right to make, use, modify, distribute and otherwise commercialize the Submission in any way and for any purpose (including by granting the general public the right to use your Submissions in accordance with this web site’s Terms of Use, which may change over time), and the right to publish your name, city of residence, and e-mail address in connection with your Submission.  These rights are granted under all applicable intellectual property rights you own or control.  

No compensation will be paid with respect to the use of your Submissions. Microsoft is under no obligation to post or use any Submission, and Microsoft may remove any Submission at any time.

By providing a Submission you warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to your Submission and that your Submission is not subject to any rights of a third party (including any personality or publicity rights of any person). "

And also

"2. Grant of Rights

(A) Copyright Grant - Subject to the terms of this license, including the license conditions and limitations in section 3, each contributor grants you a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free copyright license to reproduce its contribution, prepare derivative works of its contribution, and distribute its contribution or any derivative works that you create."

Just for your reference,

When discussing the case with the Master TNWiki Ninja he explained it as follows.

Copyright on the TNWiki is handled just like blogs or forums. You can only publish your own content (or content owned by Microsoft).
When you do that, you’re granting Microsoft to use your content in the social context. But you aren’t losing your copyright. You’re just granting permission of use.

It seems that such a case happened a few times before...
The result was that parties were offered to reach an agreement as to what the content on the Wiki should be and in some cases the content was deleted.

How could you solve the case as described earlier?

Removing the content is an option. Legally speaking.
But that's not the end of the story. 
You could ask to have a sample of their content on the Wiki with a link back to the full article (and a note about what content was granted with permission by the author).
This can be done in the same Wiki article, or a new article can be created to do this.

We should also recommend you do not sue each other, since we are talking about a context of a social world where content belongs to everyone.

Just in case the "owner" doesn't want the code freely used, don't publish it on social or community media first of all, but alternatively it's recommended that the owner publishes the code on his own blog.
He should move his blog to his own site (versus a provider), where he can disable the ability to copy content.
Because this is the best way to prevent anyone from copying your content when you publish it online for anyone to copy.

Quoting the Master WikiNinja: "You can sue anyone over anything".
But that's not the spirit of a Wiki Ninja!

Don't forget the TNWiki is an open, social and collaborating community which requires respect for someone elses content!


[Ka-jah Shakaah!]
The Security & Identity Ninja.

Peter Geelen
Premier Field Engineer - Security & Identity at Microsoft

(*) Free interpretation of old school music

Comments (7)

  1. Also bonus points for the Beastie Boys title reference!

  2. Wow, it's crazy to think a TechNet Wiki article ended us as a lawsuit. Nice article, was fun reading, a little action on a Thursday.. 🙂

  3. I love the quote

    Quoting the Master WikiNinja: "You can sue anyone over anything".

    But that's not the spirit of a Wiki Ninja! :^)

  4. Gokan, very true. I think the quote points to what's possible, not what's right.

  5. Peter, I like the asterisk! Nice!

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