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Other >> Miscellaneous Topics >> Who owns the content from forum posts?
(Message started by: dealuser on Aug 12th, 2004, 8:06am)

Title: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by dealuser on Aug 12th, 2004, 8:06am
I am interested in starting a forum site about a specific topic.  I was interested in setting up automation to take posts from other forums to populate my own forum.  In the process of taking the posts, I would programatically take out all references to the original forum.

Is this illegal?  Am I taking any intellectual property or copywright or trademark info by doing this?  

A follow-up question would be whether it matters if the forum post content is only available by signing in to the other site?

Thank you for any advice on this matter.

Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by Isaac Clark on Aug 13th, 2004, 8:06pm
By default, authors own the copyright in their own creative
writings.   There is probably some implied license involved
when you publicly post material in a forum, but I would not
expect that license to extend to publishing the material
outside of the forum.

Signing up may make a difference because participants may
have agreed to something other than the default.  Without
seeing the agreement, it would be speculative to say what
difference it would make, but I would expect that it would
not allow someone other than the forum holder to make off
with forum contents.

Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by JimIvey on Aug 15th, 2004, 12:08pm
I think an argument can be made that the forum owner has rights in the compilation -- like that famous telephone book case that a true copyright attorney would know of the top of their head (hint: I'm not one of those).

You might be able to get by with a "fair use" defense if you quote only small portions of each post and include a link to the original post in the other forum.  

Regards.

Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by Isaac Clark on Aug 15th, 2004, 12:45pm
Feist v. Rural Telephone.

I'm not sure the forum holder has done anything creative
if he's simply displayed every post made on a given subject.
If there is nothing creative in the selection or arrangement
there is no compilation copyright.

Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by JimIvey on Aug 16th, 2004, 11:03am
Not to find fault with your analysis, but to acknowledge the value added and contribution of IntelPropLaw WebMaster -- I think the particular organization of topics might be sufficient for some protection.  I suspect the GUI widgets and miscellany that accompany the raw substantive content of the posts are provided by a packaged BB utility -- probably not good copyright candidates.

Anyway, absent something interesting in the "Terms of Use" (http://www.intelproplaw.com/Forum/Terms.shtml) and ignoring any clever or interesting categorization and organization, Mr. Clark is right.

Regards.

Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by Isaac Clark on Aug 16th, 2004, 5:33pm
Mr. Ivey is absolutely right.

My comments did not refer to any particular forum where the arrangement might be creative.  

Imagine however a hypothetical IP forum with a creative presentation with a creative physical layout but with forum groups logically broken down into patents, copyright, trademark, trade secrets, etc.   Within in each group the topics are chosen by posters.

Regardless of the sweat equity put in by the forum host, the content and arrangement could readily be "ripped off" and duplicated else where without infringing on a copyright based right of the host.   Some elements of the physical layout might be protectable, but certainly the idea of putting each  reply below its chronological predecesor would not be.   That's pretty much the holding of Feist v. Rural Telephone and its progeny.   It's also part of the reason why some are pushing for database protection that goes beyond what copyright law can protect.

However, the forum participants might well have viable copyright actions against the rip off artist.

Note however that the hypothetical description does not describe intelproplaw's patent forum which is broken into topics chosen by the forum owner I presume.    



Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by Forum Admin on Aug 16th, 2004, 10:00pm
As an example, the terms underwhich vistors may use our site prevents the copying of material for use on another website.  A link to the Terms of Use for the website can be found at the bottom of the home page at http://www.intelproplaw.com.  It states specifically,

You may not copy any of the content from this website for inclusion on any other website.  To do otherwise would be actionable in damages.

As well, such unauthorized use would amount to a trespass on chattels.  See  the case of eBay Inc. vs.  Bidder's Edge, Inc. at:

http://pub.bna.com/lw/21200.htm

where Bidder's Edge was reposting eBay's auction listings at its site.


Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by artisan on Jan 5th, 2005, 1:03am
does the author then have the right to remove any or all posts that he/she has contributed to an online forum?
once published online - does the author still hold copyright?  
Do the laws affecting this depend on which country the servers are hosted?

Thankyou

Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by Isaac Clark on Jan 5th, 2005, 4:58pm
I'm sure the law does depend on what court is available to
pursue the forum holder in. But I would suggest generally
speaking, that the terms you agreed to when you posted into
the forum have a lot to do with whether you can withdraw
material you've posted. I think the forum holder can make
the case that your posting in the forum with actual or
constructive knowledge of the rules gives him a limited
license to display the content in accordance with those rules.

Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by Bob on Jan 6th, 2005, 8:29pm
Following on from the previous question.

If, once logged onto the site/forum, the author has been given the option to edit or delete their own posts,
does this mean that the owners of the site/forum are relinquishing their ownership of the posts and their contents to the authors by giving them this ability?


Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by Chris the Man on Dec 30th, 2005, 12:49pm
Is there a law to back me up in getting my posts deleted from a website that I no longer support or want to be associated with? I never agreed to anything that would give up my ownership of my posts.

Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by Isaac on Dec 30th, 2005, 6:06pm
Probably not under US law.  The Berne convention requires that participants implement moral rights which might allow you the right to do what you wish, but the US does not implement moral rights in any meaningful way.  Arguably our laws are not in compliance.

Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by Kieth on May 13th, 2006, 9:58am
A C+D letter will probably do the trick. But that is not cheap.

Title: Re: Who owns the content from forum posts?
Post by Celeste on Aug 20th, 2007, 3:09pm
Has anything progressed in our system - this is a relatively old question.  A particular forum we have participated with in the past has locked our user name and we are unable to remove our pictures.  Will a C&D letter force the admins of the forum to at least release our pictures?



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