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Other >> Copyright Forum >> Forum slander via creative manipulation of posts
(Message started by: Tomcat on Apr 30th, 2006, 10:02pm)

Title: Forum slander via creative manipulation of posts
Post by Tomcat on Apr 30th, 2006, 10:02pm
Hello all,

I have questions about creative reworking of posts by administrators on any typical forum/bulletin message board such as IPB or phpBB and any help would be appreciated.

This can best be explained with an example:

User123 adds a reply to a thread in a forum. The administrators of that forum feel the post is off topic and should be moved, not deleted. The thread in question is split by the admin and a new thread is created using the post (intellectual property) that User123 created. The new thread is titled creatively by the admin. Embedded in the forum software it states that the topic starter is User123. The first post in the new creatively titled thread is the moved post from the original thread that User123 replied to.

A dilemma that can arise is User123 could feel their intellectual property is being misrepresented by the title of the thread that is embedded in the forum software as created by User123.

What intellectual property rights come into play here?

If this could be construed as defamation of character by User123, what libel and slander laws apply to internet forums and bulletin boards?

Would an added note underneath the creative title in question stating that the thread was not started by User123 clear the admin of  liability? Could this be construed as further harassment?


Kind regards,

Tom C.

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Tomcat on May 1st, 2006, 9:15am
Also if this post is in the wrong place please tell me where I should put it, thanks.

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Isaac on May 1st, 2006, 9:49am
My guess would be that the TOS associated with the forum probably allows the operator to move posts around.   There probably are not an IP issues to pursue.  In European countries, moral rights might allow an author to prevent misuse of his posts, but the US really does not have those even to the extent the Berne agreement seems to require.

The operators activities might present a "false light" type of tort.  That details are a matter of state law and probably vary with the jurisdiction.  Strictly speaking, not an IP issue.

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Tomcat on May 1st, 2006, 10:42am
Thank you for the quick reply.


on 05/01/06 at 09:49:12, Isaac wrote:
My guess would be that the TOS associated with the forum probably allows the operator to move posts around.


Yes there are TOS that allows the admin to move posts around in the forum. But in the example I'm asking about the admin has creatively titled the post of User123 to his fancy, but it appears to be created by User123 as embedded in the software. User123 finds the title defamatory.

The thread title is not simply titled "ThreadX - Moved!"

but: "Pejorative!"

And when you click on the pejorative, User123's post is the first post in the thread with no explanation that User123 did not create the title or thread.


Quote:
Strictly speaking, not an IP issue.


Thank you again and I will research what you have poted.

User123 has asked the admin to change the title to be more nuetral and acurate, but admin refuses. The TOS and Forum rules are very vaugue in this example. In the TOS it is not expressed admin have the ability to alter titles of posts. It could be construed that the post title itself is against the their own TOS for having "intent to defame gender, race, or religion without intellectual merit."

I see this type of subtle IP manipulation happening more and more. Although it is subtle, it could be problematic to the "purity" of individual's IP rights, encourage defamatory language and misinformation.

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by JSonnabend on May 1st, 2006, 12:10pm
Strict legal analysis aside, a cease and desist letter from an attorney may yield the desired results, but that's not free.

- Jeff

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Tomcat on May 1st, 2006, 1:01pm
Yes it would, I'm sure. But in the example I'm describing perhaps User123 would like to file a libel and slander lawsuit for $1 + fees. What court precedent is there for libel and slander on the internet?

An aspect of the example I am describing deals with embedding copyrighted IP within the forum software that presents a false representation. Plagiarism and slander.

I am looking to find court precedent. Thank you for the response.




Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Tomcat on May 1st, 2006, 1:18pm
Theoretically this legal claim would be brought in tort.

Is there a tort of "false light" in California jurisdictions?

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Isaac on May 1st, 2006, 1:35pm

on 05/01/06 at 13:01:32, Tomcat wrote:
An aspect of the example I am describing deals with embedding copyrighted IP within the forum software that presents a false representation. Plagiarism and slander.


Plagiarism is taking credit for someone else's work.  The problem here seems to be attributing work to you that you did not do.

I'm not the least bit familiar with CA law.    Let me suggest that salmon are compelled to swim upstream.  Humans are not.

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Tomcat on May 1st, 2006, 1:56pm
I have answered my question and found related cases.

Suggestions on how to present a case of this type to a lawyer would be helpful.

Thanks again.



Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Tomcat on May 1st, 2006, 1:58pm
This example is actually downstream.

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Isaac on May 1st, 2006, 2:15pm
How much do you expect your 1$ worth of justice to cost?

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Tomcat on May 1st, 2006, 3:14pm
That is the question. Monetary issues would be secondary in this example.

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Tomcat on May 1st, 2006, 3:42pm

on 05/01/06 at 13:35:00, Isaac wrote:
Plagiarism is taking credit for someone else's work.  The problem here seems to be attributing work to you that you did not do.


Plagiarism is the passing off of another person's work as one's own.

In this example the accused is passing off itís own work as another person's.

If this isn't plagiarism, what is it?

It is bazaar, but in this example it could theoretically happen. If said Title (perhaps less than 5 words) is seen as an original work created by admin, yet being attributed to another person's work as embedded in the software.



Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Tomcat on May 1st, 2006, 3:49pm
In this example said Title (creative work by admin) is seen as highly offensive and defamatory by said accuser and others.

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Isaac on May 1st, 2006, 4:23pm
Let me try to expound a bit on my salmon remark. †
The result of your legal pursuit if successful would most likely be monetary damages, an injunction, with each party paying it's own costs and attorney fees.

You don't seem to care about the damages, and a injunction would seem to be a moot issue if the forum operator stopped as the result of a cease and desist letter. † One might well ask what would be accomplished by suing. † If the idea is to punish the defendant with civil process, an attorney would be ethically bound to bail on your case.

I can come up with some torts based on misrepresentation, but all the ones I can come up with require some actual damage to you or some undeserved profit by the defendant as an element of the tort. † Of course my generic torts knowledge is rusty form lack of use since that first year in law school and I am on the east coast.

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Tomcat on May 1st, 2006, 4:54pm

on 05/01/06 at 16:23:03, Isaac wrote:
One might well ask what would be accomplished by suing.   If the idea is to punish the defendant with civil process, an attorney would be ethically bound to bail on your case.


Thanks for the response.

In this example the idea is not to punish the defendant but to establish a legal precedent for this type of slander. There could potentially be benefits for all parties involved and all American citizen's. With a minimum cost.

Thanks for expounding it has been extremely helpful.

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by JSonnabend on May 2nd, 2006, 7:11am
I disagree with Isaac that an attorney would be "ethically bound to bail on your case."  So long as there was a colorable cause of action, then motivations for the suit are largely besides the point.  As for using civil suits to "punish" a defendant, that's what punitive damages are.

Beyond that minor point, I agree entirely with Isaac.  You won't be awarded a penny, no less a dollar, without showing actual damages, and obtaining punitive damages and/or costs is highly unlikely, to say the least.

Finally, no attorney is going to do this for you for free, so Isaac's question is a good one.  How much do you expect your 1$ worth of justice to cost?  Even if you do this yourself, don't you have better things to do with your time than file a largely worthless lawsuit?

If you are really aggrieved by the admin's actions, then get him to change what he did.  A C&D letter is likely your best bet to accomplish this.

- Jeff

Title: Re: Forum slander via creative manipulation of pos
Post by Isaac on May 2nd, 2006, 7:33am

on 05/02/06 at 07:11:17, JSonnabend wrote:
I disagree with Isaac that an attorney would be "ethically bound to bail on your case." †So long as there was a colorable cause of action, then motivations for the suit are largely besides the point. †As for using civil suits to "punish" a defendant, that's what punitive damages are.


To clarify my position, I specifically referred to using "civil process" as a punitive measure being abusive, and did not refer to seeking compensatory or punitive damages.  

Obviously there is no problem with seeking a damage award through the courts.



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