Ok, hopefully this is an interesting one for you all...
I am a member of a creative writing website, The SCP Foundation(http://scp-wiki.wikidot.com). Works submitted by authors to our website are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/). This was actually a mistake initially on our part, as we would have preferred the "Non-commercial" version, but it's a bit late to fix that part now.
The question I have stems from the origins of all of this. The original article, SCP-173(http://scp-wiki.wikidot.com/scp-173), was submitted anonymously to www.4chan.org/x/ in 2007. Other people liked the idea, and copied the format, also posting their entries anonymously. Eventually enough people came together who liked the idea that they made a separate website to collect all the entries together, about 160 entries all told at the time. These were not released under any license in particular from what I understand, just people posting stuff on the internet willy nilly.
These articles were all moved to the new website in August of 2008 by a few specific members, who actually had not written the majority of the entries. Ever since then, thousands of new entries have been posted, all of them within the same "universe". Lately we have been having people who wanted to make merchandise based in the SCP universe, and from what we can tell under Creative Commons they would legally be able to do that as long as they follow proper attribution and licensing procedures.
Would all articles be considered derivatives of that original article, SCP-173?
4chan's policy is "All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective parties. Images uploaded are the responsibility of the Poster. Comments are owned by the Poster." Since the author of SCP-173 was anonymous, what would be necessary for someone to be able to prove they were the original author of it, and what rights do they retain?
Since SCP-173 was not posted to our current site by its original author, did anyone have the right to release it under Creative Commons?
If all articles were derivatives of SCP-173, were ANY articles legal to release under Creative Commons?
If merchandisers do not properly follow Creative Commons attribution/licensing requirements, do any of our authors have the right to take legal action against them for using their works, or would they just be out of luck due to our own questionable legal status?
We have been debating back and forth on all of this on our own forums and chatrooms for a while, and the universal consensus is "we need to talk to a lawyer". I know that this forum is not to take the place of a lawyer, but I did hope that people here might be able to give some clarity on these issues before we were to consult with one.