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The Ownership Of Comments

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June 14th, 2008
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I’ve been reading a very interesting discussion over on the IntenseDebate blog with regards to the question, Who Owns Your Comments? IntenseDebate is one of three major third party commenting systems available. The other two are Disqus and CoComment.

Before I dive into the WordPress aspect of this question, you need to know that IntenseDebate is asking this question because they are a third party commenting system. Therefor, they act as a link between the blog and the commenting system which is outside of the in-house solution provided by publishing platforms such as WordPress. Because of this fact, IntenseDebate needs to figure out how comment editing between the two will work out for the best.

However, the question IntenseDebate raised can be addressed to the realm of blogging in general. When you browse around WordPress.com or self-hosted WordPress powered blogs and leave a comment, who really owns that comment? You or the blogger? Or should there be shared ownership between the two?

A number of interesting points were made in the comments of the ID post. For instance, some users didn’t care who owned their comments just as long as they couldn’t be changed by the blog author. Others believe that because of the way U.S. copyright law works, commenter’s retain the ownership and copyright of their comments. While still others believe that a Creative Commons commenting license is in order for Blog owners to display on their site.

Where do I fall on this issue? Bloggers have had the ability to edit comments for quite some time now. I believe that editing a comment to misconstrue the original comment is morally wrong. In fact, I believe the entire issue of what bloggers do with comments after they have been posted comes down to morality. In my own experience, I have only edited a few comments due to misspelling or the posting of personal information such as phone numbers or email addresses.

I don’t believe a commenting bill of rights needs to be created in which all blogs should follow. However, I do think that each blogger should create and make publicly accessible a commenting policy. This policy should clearly explain what you as the blog author will do with comments posted on your site, who retains ownership of those comments and explain circumstances which would require you to edit an end user’s comment.

That’s what I think. Let me know what you think in the COMMENTS!

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Comments

  1. Alex (8 comments.) says:

    I think you missed one service: http://sezwho.com/ that is far superior to the 3 you mentioned and allows us to keep the status quo.

    I agree that comments are a matter of blogger moral stance. I either don’t allow comments at all if it is a blatant spam or approve it AS IS.

    Alex

  2. Neil (30 comments.) says:

    TBH i think i own this comment, they are my words, and they are attached to a link to my blog therefor they represent my opinion. Although i am willing to sell this comment to the highest bidder hehe ;)

  3. Mark (5 comments.) says:

    The commenter owns their comments but by posting them on a blog, gives the blog owner a world-wide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty free license to do whatever they want with the comment.

  4. Brent Logan (7 comments.) says:

    I don’t believe a line is crossed by fixing a URL, censoring pr*f*n*ty, or removing a lengthy quote of the preceding comment. None of these edits would substantively change the comment. Making the choice be only between deleting and publishing “as is” is overly limiting.

    Other publishing outlets (newspapers, magazine, radio stations that broadcast messages left on voicemail, etc.) all do significant editing on everything. Is that immoral?

    For me, the issue comes down to having a published comment policy and following it. Third party comment services should not be in the business of dictating bloggers comment policies.

  5. Lisa says:

    Oh, I don’t know about that “to do whatever they want” part, Mark. I think comment posters own the rights to their comments, and by posting them on someone else’s blog, give that blog owner the right to display them. The blog owner has the right to display or not display, but not to do whatever they want with them—unless, of course, your blog has some sort of terms of service agreement that allows this.

  6. Jacob Santos says:

    Yeah, @Mark

    I think that statement is partially true, I only give rights for them to view and keep the comment. If they wanted to merge my comment into theirs without credit then I’ll be pretty upset.

  7. michael lee (9 comments.) says:

    Some of the most interesting content on my site is in the comments. If I’m approached by a publisher who wants to make a print edition of my blog (I know, I know, better chance of pigs dancing the merengue, still …), do I need to go secure the permission of each and every person who has left a comment?

  8. Boris (3 comments.) says:

    You shouldn’t change to delete comments unless they are offensive in some way. The whole point of comments is to have an open exchange of opinions, a good old fashioned discussion basically. As for the ownership, I think it’s still with the commenter. The blog owner has to have the right to change the comments though. If he does, it should be noted on the comment (including the reason). I guess most bloggers handle it in a similar way anyways. If your comments get changed or just disappear, then that blog isn’t worth commenting on anyways. I wouldn’t go back…

  9. Chess Teacher (15 comments.) says:

    I think that Lisa is right.
    The commenter owns his comments, but by posting them on someone’s blog giving the right to display them on that blog. The blog owner doesn’t get the right to copy paste the commnent to another location or use it in another way is intended by the commenter.

  10. BlaKKJaKK (10 comments.) says:

    Once posted you have given the admin of the blogger publishing rights. The commentor should have complete control of editing their comments. I would be fine if WP didn’t allow me as an admin to edit posts as long as I can still delete any comment I wish.

    So I never would edit another persons comment but I do delete any post that is abusive, too vulgar or spam. That is pretty rare.

    As for these third party services, this whole debate only underscores why I don’t want a third party touching my comments or my RSS.

  11. Julie Hathaway (3 comments.) says:

    Fascinating question. The most I have ever “edited” a comment is to put tags around a link or change a hyphen to an em-dash, and those are things I figure the commenter would have done if he or she had known how. I think @Mark has the right idea, but “to do whatever they want” is a bit extreme. If I thought that a blog owner might do whatever they wanted with my comment I would be very hesitant to comment at all.

  12. Daniel Hardy (1 comments.) says:

    For me, a comment on a blog is a bit like a celebrity or politician giving a short 1 minute interview to a news crew or something, clearly it’s the commenters opinion and their underlying copyright, but the fact that the person gave the comment/interview gives the news crew/blog some fair usage rights to it, if you weren’t alright with that you don’t leave the comment.

  13. JesseG (2 comments.) says:

    If a comment is “speech” it can’t be owned, only attributed – accurately or not. If it were argued successfully that a comment has literary/artistic worth (rare?) one could try to claim title. Simple ‘publishing rights’ don’t exist in a lot of jurisdictions.

    I hereby renounce all rights to the above…

  14. Neil (30 comments.) says:

    I think this is a great question to be asked, i think more people need to get involved in this debate, Dugg, Reddit’d and stumbled ;)

  15. Darren Daz Cox (1 comments.) says:

    As long as the comment stays attached to the blog then I think that the owner of the blog can choose to edit the comment by deleting part of it, correcting spelling etc, providing it doesn’t take the meaning out of context, but the comment must have permission to be copied elsewhere where it could be taken out of context.

  16. Andrew (31 comments.) says:

    This is a copy of a copy I made elsewhere on the same topic:

    I think a comment is effectively a quotation, not an piece of work in its own right; therefore, the issue of ownership is misleading.

    If I comment on your blog then that is me using your blog to publicly broadcast my opinion. The blog owner, and indeed anyone else, is free to reproduce it, or paraphrase it, but if they change the substance of it then it ceases to be an accurate representation of my opinion and becomes an attribution that may or may not have legal consequences.

    In the same way as making a statement in the pub, on T.V. or radio, I can later change my opinion or wish I hadn’t said it, but I cannot destroy, or demand that the owner destroys, the records of the fact that I said it.

    In summary, a comment is a record of a public statement. The comment is not a work over which ownership can be asserted and using someone else’s blog to make the statement does not give you ownership, control or any rights, of any kind, over any part of their blog.

  17. Thomas Wright (3 comments.) says:

    I’m afraid I agree with Mark – comments are a gift from the commenter to the blog author.
    I also think that most blog owners would never dream of misrepresenting a commenters point of view through an edit. Would they?
    Very interesting stuff this…

  18. gestroud (11 comments.) says:

    Out of curiousity, if a site’s disclaimer states, “Comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site or its owners,” does that mean that the site relinquishes rights to the comments – if they ever owned the rights at all? Or is it just an easy way out of potential law suits?

  19. adams (1 comments.) says:

    While I believe the commenter should own the copyright to their comments, I also believe the blog owner retains rights to edit the comments for space and formatting considerations.

  20. Slevi (7 comments.) says:

    I think the right of the comment should remain with the commenter, posting the comment towards a blog, forum or other medium would be giving the owner an okay to use that comment but not edit it.

  21. Latterlig! (2 comments.) says:

    When you comment on a blog, the blogowner get the ownership of the comment. Not because it should be like that, but because of the technical circumstanses. Like it or not.

  22. Rudolf (1 comments.) says:

    I believe its totally wrong to edit a comment, unless it has to do with spelling, or vulgar language.

  23. Justin Tadlock (51 comments.) says:

    I think the real issue with this would come down to misrepresentation. For example, if a blog owner edited a comment to a point where it misrepresented a commenter, might that be considered somewhere in the realm of libel, which would be the act of publishing something that damages a person’s reputation to the public? There may be other terms for this; libel just came to mind first.

    I believe Andrew got it right when he said that “a comment is a record of a public statement.” It’s not really something that we can argue ownership over.

    Any ideas that the site owner shouldn’t be allowed to edit the comments is just crazy to me. If someone owns the site, he or she can do whatever with it. Ownership is the basis of rights. To have rights, one must have responsibility. Therefore, it is my right to edit whatever I want on the site; it’s also my responsibility not to misrepresent someone (unless they’re public figures, of course). Commenters are given the privilege (not a right) of commenting on others’ sites. (Just kind of rambling on here, trying to find a good way of working in rights vs. privileges, which is what we’re essentially talking about when we talk about property or ownership).

    Now, with all that said, I do believe it’s morally wrong to change others’ words. Most of the editing I do is fixing a broken tag or removing links.

    Plus, I don’t think this is a real issue. It’s more of a hypothetical one. Most blog owners understand that if they go around editing people’s comments or using them in other damaging ways, they run the risk of ruining their own reputation.

  24. Justin Tadlock (51 comments.) says:

    Just to add to my thing about ownership and rights, my previous comment still doesn’t answer the question about who owns the comment.

    Really, I’ll just side with Andrew for now and say it’s a public statement.

  25. Brent Logan (7 comments.) says:

    @Justin, unfortunately, it is a real issue. Neither Disqus nor IntenseDebate allow blogs using their third party commenting systems to edit comments. Of course, I could avoid this limitation by using WordPress’ built-in commenting system (which I do), but in doing so, I have to give up all the other advantages (threaded comments, comment rating, ease of tracking comments by commenters, editing of comments by commenters, etc.) these systems offer.

    As a commenter, I love these systems. As a blogger, I don’t think they’re quite there, yet.

  26. Justin Tadlock (51 comments.) says:

    @Brent
    Sorry, maybe I should’ve been a little clearer on what I meant there. When I say it’s not a real issue, I mean that I don’t think there’s a lot of bloggers editing comments to the point where the commenter is misrepresented.

  27. Jeffro2pt0 (164 comments.) says:

    Wow, you guys and gals have sure made this an interesting discussion. I still feel that the best course of action is for the blogger to publicly display a commenting policy. This policy should clearly explain what you as the blog author will do with comments posted on your site, who retains ownership of those comments and explain circumstances which would require you to edit an end user’s comment.

    Also, it’s a case by case basis and as Justin mentioned, it becomes an increasingly shaky topic when the blogger is editing comments to the point where it misrepresents the comment author. You folks have definitely come up with some valid points worth thinking about.

  28. SipsnBlips (2 comments.) says:

    None of the comments would exist w/o the blogger. Disqus and all the copycats want (ignorant) bloggers to give up all this valuable data (the comments) because they want to monetize it! Why else would they write all that code and offer to host your comments? Disqus doesn’t deny they will monetize your comments at some point, if they aren’t already. Don’t be a fool, get a domain and host your own comments. Or you’ll learn the hard way.

  29. Ronald Huereca (66 comments.) says:

    As author of Ajax Edit Comments, it’s come to my attention a few times over the concern of admin editing comments. But any tool can be misused and abused.

    I agree with Jeff here. A commenting policy is really all that’s needed.

  30. Ben Cope (1 comments.) says:

    I think the blog owner “owns” the comments (or should, at least!!) When somebody leaves a comment on a “public” blog, the blog owner becomes responsible for controlling the comment. After all, the blog owner is the one who gives the commenter the right to leave comments … and by leaving a comment, the commenter is giving the right to the blog owner to do with the comment what he/she pleases. However, I do think a blog owner should implement some kind of “commenting policy” and clearly make a disclaimer about their specific policy!!

  31. SipsnBlips (2 comments.) says:

    Who wants a design cluttered with “comment policy” gobbledygook? That only makes people uncomfortable. I don’t even post a copyright notice. All these comments fall into obscurity anyway. I have one blog with over 10,000 comments, a year from now 10,000 new comments will replace what was said last year. Life goes on.

  32. BJohnM (7 comments.) says:

    Sometime back, Lorelle VanFossen had a post on one of the blogs to which she contributes (I think Blog Herald), and provided an example of a comments policy. I added it to my site (with some minor modifications) on its own page (so as not to clutter the design).

    Do I believe anyone reads it? NO. But it is there in a sense of fair play. There are reasons why a comment can and/or should be deleted. As good as Akismet is, an occaisional spam gets through. Shouldn’t I be able to delete such a comment? If a comment is just obscene and nasty to others…well, it’s my blog, and I don’t want that on there.

    The Tampa Tribune (tbo.com) has a pretty good one in the comment block of each article:

    * Keep it clean
    * Respect others
    * Don’t hate
    * Don’t use language you wouldn’t use with your mom
    * Use “Report Inappropriate Comments” link when necessary
    * See Member Agreement for details

    The most I’d ever do to edit a comment is to remove personal information, and maybe clean up some of the nastiest words…otherwise, you have free reign.

    But, Justin notes, it’s my blog, so I get to do what I want within the boundries of reasonableness and fair play. Hence the comment policy. In fairness, I’m gonna tell you how comments are viewed and handled on my blog.

    I tried to find the link to Lorelle’s policy, but was not successful.

  33. Mike Haubrich, FCD (1 comments.) says:

    I think it is wrong in the main to edit comments, but I have in the past dealt with trolls who are warned about their commenting. I can either delete them, unapprove them, mark them spam or take other measures so with that in mind I feel that I own the right to “disemvowel” a comment by someone who has not heeded my warnings.

    As the blog-owner I retain the rights, similar to a published periodical or newspapers.

  34. Phil Barron (7 comments.) says:

    Wow. I’ve been thinking about this today, having read the Disqus thread and another at Scripting News, then ran across this. A lot of thought-provoking comments on several sides of the issue.

    My thinking (issued from my reptile brain which admittedly evolved during the days of Old Media and one-way publishing) is pretty clear on this: While my commenters may own their words (and alone are responsible for them), I reserve all rights regarding management and display. I may edit comments for space, or formatting, or profanity, or personal attacks, or for other reasons. I reserve those rights because, well, it’s my blog.

    With that established, all that remains is to display a comment policy as Brent and Jeffro said above – and no, it needn’t “clutter” the design. I made use today of Alex King’s Comment License plugin which inserts the policy neatly beneath the “Submit Comment” button (example at the bottom of this post):

    By commenting here, you grant me a perpetual license to reproduce your words and submitted name/web site in attribution. Comments are displayed and managed according to my discretion. Retention of the original comment is the responsibility of the commenter. Yeah, that’s a mouthful.

    A little humor at the end, there. :-D

    I have to say that this notion of “shared ownership” strikes me as so much soft social media hooey…but that’s the reptile brain talking. Other opinions will vary.

  35. that girl again (41 comments.) says:

    The only cases in which I edit comments are when requested by the commenters themselves, or to fix seriously broken stuff like unclosed tags or a typo in a URL. I wish wordpress would automatically indicate when edits have been made — any half-decent forum software will do that, because it discourages people from rewriting history by distorting their own words or those of others. Transparency is crucial if your blog is even mildly controversial.

    I don’t fool myself that I own my comments — I’ve seen too many fall into the black hole of censorship for that. (Am I entitled to ask a blog admin to give me a copy of a censored comment if I forgot to keep a copy for myself?) But I would rather put them in the hands of fellow bloggers than some random company.

  36. Bodhipaksa (2 comments.) says:

    I’d regard comments as being like emails or letters. You may write an email and feel that you have some ownership of it, but legally the recipient owns what you wrote and can do what they wish with it (unless there’s some kind of contract).

    Of course editing the comment to misrepresent it would be unethical, and possibly illegal if the result was to malign the original writer.

  37. Bryan (1 comments.) says:

    I just redid my site – and I haven’t put up the new legal file yet – however – in my TOS – I make it clear I own the comments. If you leave a comment on my website – it becomes my property. If you wanted to maintain intellectual ownership – then get your own blog and make your views known that way.

    As for editing – I personally do either all or nothing. I only edit comments if they fall completely outside the scope of my blog (like spam) or if they are completely incendiary or inflammatory. Discourse and debate – yes. Opposing views – yes. Racial, ethnic, ad hominem attacks – no.

  38. Jon Peltier (1 comments.) says:

    The copyright to a comment is owned by the person who typed it, from the moment it was typed. However, the blog owner likely owns the copyright to the site overall, which included presentation of the comments, if not the actual content of each. There are also possible liability or morality issues for which a blog owner would feel the need to edit a comment.

    If the blog owner chooses to delete a comment, it’s a non-issue. There’s no first amendment infringement, because the blog is owned by the blog owner, it’s not a public forum even if it is publicized. If the blog owner chooses to edit a comment for spelling, grammar, format, accuracy, that’s not a concern of mine, though I generally don’t bother. If a blog owner chooses to perform more drastic surgery (often I combine consecutive comments by the same person), I think the blogger has an ethical duty to retain the intent of the commenter. But it’s not libel if a comment is misrepresented: it’s really the equivalent to bad or shady journalism.

  39. Michelle C (2 comments.) says:

    I’d have to say that a Comment Policy needn’t clutter up the design – I’ve placed mine right above the comment box and it can be seen in action here. I think it works really well where it is, no one can say they didn’t see it. I’ve seen some people put the comment policy elsewhere, like on an “About This Site” page or similar, but does everyone read that page?

    I don’t get a lot of comments on my blog, so I confess to not giving comment related issues a lot of thought. I’ve often it would be amusing, if I ever get a troll who leaves something hateful, to edit their comment to something like “I love you more than unicorns. May you carry rainbows and butterflies with you always.”

    Do I own the comments? No, but their placement on my blog makes me at least partly responsible for them.

  40. ChaosKaizer (62 comments.) says:

    I think its good practice to license all comments post.

    Here’s some of my example, rdf-embed cc-by-sa license for comments post → “Kakkoi” (right click view-source) with strict and clear disclaimer at the bottom.

  41. Stephen R (24 comments.) says:

    I definitely think that the comment belongs to the commenter, but they have clearly given an irrevocable right to the blogger to publish it.

    The reason I make this distinction over saying the blogger “owns” the comment is that the blogger does _not_ have the right to do anything he wants with it. The blogger might make minor corrections, delete it, or even redact certain parts if appropriate; but that comment is a statement from the commenter, and for the blogger to change it to the point that it changes _what the person has said_ is wrong.

    If the blogger changes the quote and makes it significantly different, they are lying. It gets to a point where the blog is flatly misrepresenting the commenter by claiming they said something that they didn’t say.

    There was a flap about this on a popular leftist political blog, where the blogger took a comment from a political opponent and changed it completely so that it had the commenter saying really horrible things. It was a terrible thing to do, and certainly could have made the blogger a target for a libel lawsuit (assuming the commenter could prove that the original comment was different).

  42. Patrick D. (9 comments.) says:

    A lot of good points here. But ultimately, I agree with those saying the comments belong to the blog owner. It’s my blog. I’ll do what I want with it. (But I practice good ethics and only edit comments for personal information removal and never change the meaning…that’s just unethical.)

  43. Ankan Basu (7 comments.) says:

    The moment I saw this in admin panel, I knew it would be very interesting topic! And well, it is! I really never thought much about who really owns the comments. Comments are most probably owned by the commenter. Blog owners make those comments made available to public his/her blogging platform. But Stephen and others got a point too. What if the blog owner modify and misrepresent some of the comments!

    Well, I sometimes get abusive comments that are not cought by spam filters. I usually delete them in full.

    [b]Well, let me ask, WHY are we discussing this topic? Can a commenter actually sue for editing some of the grammar in his/her writing?[/b]

  44. Christiaan says:

    I think it’s a shame that we live in a society that can’t even imagine the idea of things not being owned by someone.

  45. Macarena (1 comments.) says:

    I agree. I think is each blogger who manage is own blog. The responsabiliy is clear for me. However, each country has their own rules about it. Do we need a new law on it or just common sense?

  46. Keithius (3 comments.) says:

    In my mind, commenting is like writing a “letter to the editor” in your local newspaper. Sure, it’s “your” letter because you wrote it, but you explicitly gave it to the newspaper to be published, and if they need to do a little bit of “editing” to clean it up for presentation, etc., they are fully within their rights to do so (within the limits of journalistic integrity, of course).

    Comments on blogs are basically the same thing. You wrote a letter, sent it to the blog, and the blog published it for you (maybe with minor editing for format/confidentiality/clarity).

    The “ownership” of the comment is with its original author, and by submitting the comment to the blog, the owner has implicitly given the blog rights to publish it – and that’s all. (Quoting the comment in a later response to it falls within the realm of “fair use.”) Editing a comment to change its meaning – and still leaving it as a comment attributed to a particular person – would, in my mind, fall within the realm of libel – or maybe just “lying,” if the meaning isn’t too bad. It’s definitely unethical – basically, when you change someone’s comment to change the meaning, you are writing a post where you say “so-and-so said X” even though they really said Y. In other words, you’re flat-out lying. Depending on the content of what you changed, it might even be construed as libel and be legally actionable.

  47. Mr Lee says:

    United States law holds form owners and blog owners responisble for what is posted. Hence the Comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site or its owners as a legal thing. Most of my blogs clearly state, in one place or another, that these are opinions.

    I view blog comments more like a publisher(Random House, etc) would if they published a book of short stories. They hold a copyright on the book but the individual authors, by submitting the stories, have given them permission to put the stories in a compilation.

    Blogs and forums should have a copyright notice at the bottom of every page but the blog or forum owner is the one with the copyright over the whole blog or forum, including comments, edited or unedited.

    Don’t like it then don’t make comments. Simple, isn’t it.

  48. Ian (1 comments.) says:

    Just like the publisher of a book, final editorial control should remain with the publisher (of the blog) I agree there is a moral obligation not to edit the comment in such a way that it changes the meaning of the comment.
    I would just like to be able to stop the spam comments on my wordpress blog ! Sure, they don’t get published but I still have to delete 10 spam comments for every true comment that is posted.
    On blogger.com there is an option that allows spam comments to be excluded from event getting registered, I cant see where to do this on wordpress ?

  49. Eric Mesa (1 comments.) says:

    I think with all the blogs I read, most of the time fights break out between commenters as opposed to commenters vs the blog owner. Thus I think it’s good for the blog owner to be the only one who can edit comments so that the commenters can’t change their comments to better win arguments. In my own WP blog, I pretty much have a policy of either deleting comments or letting them stand. I don’t edit them, not even to fix anything. If they notice somthing’s wrong, they can make another comment correcting it.

  50. Astroprof (1 comments.) says:

    Let’s look at a larger model of publishing than just blogging.

    Who owns the blog? If the comments are submitted to the blog, then they are owned by the blog owner. If the commenter wants to own his own comments, then he writes something on his own site, and then leaves a comment (or trackback) linking to it.

    I write a number of things for journals. I have written for encyclopedias. The contracts that I sign for my publications all state that the publisher owns them, not the author. Comments left on someone else’s site are similar.

    Thus, the blog owner has the right to edit the comments as he/she pleases. BUT, just having the right to do something does not make it right to do. It would be morally wrong to alter a comment in a way that is not in keeping with the commenter’s meaning. You can correct spelling, remove profanity, add line breaks, or remove links to spammy sites. But, you should not change what the commenter is saying. It would be morally wrong to alter the comment in any other way than formatting, spelling, or bl***ing profanity. But, if the comment is going to be published on a web site, the web site owner needs to have control of what is on that web site. That’s how it works in the larger world of publishing that I am familiar with.

  51. Sunny (2 comments.) says:

    Owner of the blog/site owns the comments. Let’s say comments were owned by the commenter, could spammers sue you for discrimination if you removed their comments from your site?

  52. Eric (1 comments.) says:

    I agree 100% with Astroprof. If you’re posting a comment to a site, you should assume that you’re giving up rights to it unless otherwise specified. I use a very generic Terms of Use policy on my site (similar to what many sites use), and it includes the follolwing clause:

    “Except with regard to personal information, all information which you post on this site or communicate to Owner through this site (collectively “Submissions”) shall forever be the property of Owner. Owner shall not treat any submission as confidential and shall not incur any liability as a result of any similarities that may appear in future Company services or products. Without limitation, Owner shall have exclusive ownership of all present and future existing rights to any Submission of every kind and nature everywhere. You acknowledge that you are fully responsible for the message, including its legality, reliability, appropriateness, originality and copyright. You hereby represent and warrant that your Submission does not infringe the rights of any third party.”

  53. peterA (1 comments.) says:

    Good things said about ownership and changes to comments. What I would like to create is an environment where we can share thoughts and ideas, models and theories or other stuff about leadership, coaching etcetera. These intellectual objects, communicated through comments at my blog are free to use for any or one who reads my blog, and that includes me. This is a must for every commenter on my blog to accept. The right to use and publish the comments have I already gained through the possibility for the commenter to get his or her comment printed out to the masses through internet.

    But, I never change a comment. I can choose not to publish, ie spam or discrimination etc, but never changes. But hey, that’s just me ;)

  54. Bill Gram-Reefer (2 comments.) says:

    speaking of ownership, the other side of ownership issue is anonymous cowards who don’t care to own their words or face any consequence for their posts. this is why I don’t run a forum. and frequently feel like turning comments off for any but registered users no matter how much it would cut down on blessed interaction.

  55. Scott Allen (1 comments.) says:

    This is a good discussion. Legally, the comments become property of the blog owner as soon as they are posted. Anything that resides on the web domain belongs to the site owner, and there are both benefits and responsibilities associated with that. For example if someone posts a comment that defames someone else, the comment author wouldn’t be sued, it would be the blog owner, so the law is pretty clear there. But there are a lot of other issues to consider to protect the commenters. Also, blog owners deal with a lot of spam and trolls mixed in with the great commenters, so there is some effort involved keeping a clean site that benefits those in the blog owners target audience. If you’re interested, I’ve written a few more of my thoughts on this topic here: Thoughts on Blog Comments, Moderation, and the Conversation

    (I debated about posting the link because I’m not a fan of link-droppers, but I feel it’s relevant and the post was inspired by this conversation. However feel free to delete if you don’t agree.)

  56. Barter Guru (1 comments.) says:

    So I’m confused, if I put a new post on my blog others can claim it as their own? Would I have to copywrite everything? I don’t want to find out too late.

  57. BG! (1 comments.) says:

    This is a great debate!

    FWIW, my take on this matter is that it’s just like books and book authors. When I buy a book, the content may well be the copyrighted intellectual property of the author, but the author can’t claim ownership of the book itself, as I’ve acquired ownership of it.

    Similarly, comment authors don’t own comments but do own the content of comments. The words may well belong to the commenter, and I’d be ill-advised to change them without his/her say-so, but he/she parcelled up those words in a comment and sent them to me. What I do with that little parcel is up to me, so long as I don’t screw with the content without permission and/or a justifiable reason.

  58. draftbetter (2 comments.) says:

    Being the administrator of my site means that I want to control what is viewable by the public on my site. I state in my rules that I will filter comments for profanity and, of course, I would never edit the comment to change meaning. I am commonly being told that I did something wrong when i don’t think I did and I want that viewable for discussion.

    I haven’t had to edit anything yet, but I absolutely will if I have to.

  59. Junjie (1 comments.) says:

    While there is less of a legal problem in the USA about comments, in Germany not moderating Your comments can bring You into serious trouble.

    Courts (especially local ones, not knowing anything about the internet) have already made decisions that are simply ridiculous. One of the most ridiculous examples include a forum owner, who had to moderate all posts made before they were published. He had to scan every single post if something illegal is posted, like a copyright violation, personal attack, etc.

    Generally speaking,
    If You publish something in Germany, for example the comments of Your readers, You are the one in charge. If Your reader does something bad, it’s the forums / blogs owners fault, because he allowed the reader to do so.

    Luckily there are also decisions in favor of website owners, however the situation is so-so. Editing my comments is part of protecting myself from lawsuits.

  60. Saint Monkey (1 comments.) says:

    I agree that the blog owner has editorial control as long as the edit does not change original intention. This is true in publishing, where in most cases, the publisher only has licence to publish the work and the copyright remains with the author. If copyright is to be transferred from the original author to the publisher (or anyone else), the author needs to sign a transfer of ownership (there are different rules for a work-for-hire contact).
    As a new media, the web is a little messy but ultimately the same fundamental rules apply in the case of most real world contracts. A TOS / TAC would only have any legal bearing (and I think this is a little shaky anyway) if the, in this case, commenter has had it put in their face and/or ticked a button with the link next to it stating they have read and agree to it, when they signed up for the site or post a comment.
    So, anyone who has a TOS / TAC floating around their site without the above, would not have any claim to the comment ownership. Even if they had the above tick box etc, they would still have a big problem claiming ownership.

    a couple of interesting issues to look at are the old My Space TOS regarding their ownership of major artists music and Virgin mobile using CC pictures from Flicker without (underage) model releases.

    I am not a lawyer .

  61. Sheiglagh (2 comments.) says:

    C’mon, have we become that anal retentive? I mean, gosh… why are we fighting about ‘who owns the comment?’ Have we become as bad as the entertainment and advertising industries? Actors HAVE TO PAID if you hear their voice, see a part of their face, etc… etc… and models like Giselle Bundchen or Laetitia Casta, anything that pertains to them, from using their name or their face, you have to pay. Has blogging become that already?

    Alright, let’s use a VERY VERY OLD example. WHO OWNS the Letters of the Editor that are being sent to PRINT periodicals? Does the writer GET PAID if their letters are printed?

    Think about it. This is not about ownership. In the end, it will be ABOUT MONEY. :-( And I thought that WordPress is the last bastion of the true internet grassroots movement.

  62. Miroslav Glavic (7 comments.) says:

    In my opinion and how I run my sites are as following:

    1) You as the writer (typer really), own the comment
    2) You give me a non-revokable perpetual license for your comment you just posted so I can do whatever I want with it on MY sites, even on other of my sites outside the site you posted the comment in.

  63. websinthe says:

    I think that the commenter themselves should own the comment. The Blogger, however, should then be able to use that commentas they see fit so long as that comment is attributed to the author.

    The reason I think the blogger should have absolute and perpetual rights to those comments is because it is the original blog post that gives the comment its validity and purpose.

    The comments also become a part of the post. Outside the context of the post comments mean nothing, when they are with the post they become part of that post’s meaning. If the blogger cannot keep and display that entire meaning then part of the post is lost.

  64. blog (1 comments.) says:

    I agree that the blog owner has editorial control as long as the edit does not change original intention.

  65. LOki (1 comments.) says:

    Much like a number of other issues that I prefer clarity on, I always proved a comments policy on the “legalese” page of any of my blogs. (Example here: http://socialgumbo.com/legalese/ )In my case it simply states that comments submitted become my property and are immediately released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license. YMMV, but having some boilerplate on the site can save a wealth of hassles.

    As to the morality of the issue, I never alter anyone’s comments except in the rare and abusive cases where they need outright deletion.



Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  16. […] Its been a controversy in the blogosphere for awhile now about who owns comments, although I am not getting into this in big detail, but I wanted to point out that there is a plugin that lets you let people know that your comment maybe used by the owner of the blog with attribution to you (your name and link). A blog post, posted by Jeff Chandler on Weblog Tools Collection really got a conversation going about this. […]

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