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Understanding Wikia's Terms of Use

Every website has them. Every software application makes you agree to them before you can get to the good stuff. Even now, they are calling out to you from the footer of this page and every other page on Wikia.

512px-Magnifying glass

They are the Terms of Use (TOU), and along with our Privacy Policy, Licensing Policy, Community Guidlines, and Wiki Creation Policy, the Terms of Use form the core terms of acceptable behavior that we expect from members of our communities. They apply to both registered users (whether or not they are logged in) and unregistered anonymous users. When creating an account you must agree to our TOU or you won’t be able to finish the process. When people contribute content while logged out, their contributions still have to comply.

Since the Terms of Use form a binding legal agreement between Wikia and our users, some of the language can seem a bit boring, intimidating, and/or impenetrable. We have tried to craft a policy that everyone can read, but it is a reality of life on the internet that not everyone pays as much attention as they should to these important rules. We have tried to distill the overriding spirit of our Terms of Use into a more user-friendly, human-readable set of Community Guidelines, but it’s still important to consider the Terms of Use itself.

Violation of the Terms of Use is one of things that removes problems from purely local matters and turns them into staff interventions. This is because the Terms of Use serve as the core foundation of acceptable behavior, and breaking them breaches the agreement between Wikia and the user. Local communities receive a great deal of leeway when it comes to setting local policies, but at the end of the day the Terms of Use is the supreme law of the (Wikia) land.

With that in mind, let’s take a magnifying glass to the "fine print" of the Terms that most often come into play during the daily life of our communities:

Membership

The key takeaway from this section is that you must be at least 13 years of age to register for a Wikia user account. This requirement is necessary so that Wikia maintains compliance with U.S. federal law. When we learn that a user has lied about their age, we take the appropriate action and disable the account. This section also reminds you that we can take any action we need to in order to protect the integrity of the site, including blocking disruptive users, deleting problematic content, or terminating accounts altogether.

User Conduct

Usually when we do have to block an account, it is because they have broken one of the rules in this section. Most of these rules are self-explanatory, and generally involve a degree of common sense. They break down into two basic expectations:

Good Content

Aside from quality, it’s important that you don’t post things that break laws. That includes copyright and trademark protections, and any licensed material should meet the requirements of the license used. For CC-BY-SA material, that means making sure that you have attributed the source of the content. Pornography, gore, and explicit shock images are not OK, and neither is spam. Any attempt to advertise or solicit is likely to call down the wrath of our ever-vigilant Volunteer Spam Task Force (VSTF). Posting the private information of another person can also get you in trouble.

We also expect our users to refrain from interfering with the core functionality of our interface. One of the great things about our communities is the customizability of the look and feel of each wikia, but at the same time we need to safeguard the integrity of the base user experience across all wikias. This means that customizations that obscure or remove ads or change the navigation beyond a certain threshold are not permitted. You can read more about our customization policy, or ask about specific adjustments via Special:Contact.

There are also times when we need to preserve the speed and reliability of the site, and may need to remove or alter user tweaks that cause performance issues. Whenever possible, we try to communicate with the local communities when this becomes necessary but under the Terms, Wikia has unilateral discretion to decide these matters.

Good Behavior

It’s never OK to harass or abuse anyone on a wikia. There might be room to argue where healthy disagreements and vigorous debate border on harassment, but a good rule of thumb is that any singling out of an individual (as opposed to a particular contribution) will be highly suspect. Death threats and overt intimidation are definitely out of bounds.

Impersonating another user by pretending to be them with a similar account name or pictures lifted from social media is a common violation. We also don’t take kindly to attempts to solicit or discover private info about other community members, especially if they are under 18.

Additionally, we require you to take reasonable security measures to make sure that others don't access your account. “Hacking” of a user account is extremely rare, but gaining access to an account because the owner shared their password with the wrong person is far more common. If you do find that the security of your account is compromised, please let us know via Special:Contact as soon as possible so that we can limit the damage.

Other Sections

The Terms of Use also delves into protection for Wikia’s intellectual property rights, our registered copyright agent contact information, and liability limitations and choice of law provisions. It’s certainly a good idea to have an understanding of these provisions, but unlike the Membership and User Conduct sections, they rarely come up in the day to interactions between Wikia and our users and so are slightly beyond the scope of this blog post.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have about the Terms of Use in the comments. Just let us know if there’s anything you’re unsure of! Want to receive updates on the latest Staff blog posts? Then click here to follow this blog.

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