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eclipse
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Joined: 26 Apr 2012
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:08 pm    Post subject: Copyright on Forums Reply with quote

Hi There sorry if this has been asked before....

I was a member of a forum and have been "banned" by the owner for no reason, in fact would argue we have been victimised.

Regardless of the reason (as there was no reason given), we have contributions on this forum which are still visible to all members and no members alike, however, as you can imagine, we cannot remove the content ourselves.

As well as written contributions there is also photographs etc that are on this site.

What Legal rights do we have in regards to the written content and the photographs? Because right now it is being published without our consent as we are blocked etc?

Can someone shed some light please?

Regards

Liz
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Liz,
Yes this has been asked a few times, but to save you having to search for the earlier threads, here's a brief explanation.
As a contributor to a forum you will invariably retain copyright in whatever you write, and in any photographs which you submit, assuming that you took them yourself and didn't just re-publish someone elses's work. But the terms and conditions of most forums will require that in exchange for them allowing you to post, you allow them to publish, archive and otherwise use your comments. This is no different to writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper. The permission to publish is implicit in your pressing the 'submit' button. And once a newspaper has been published, the letter cannot be retracted and will remain in some dusty library archives for centuries to come.
Generally such permission will be without time limit, so even if you later leave the forum (or are banned from it) your posts will remain unless the forum admin chooses to remove them for one of a number of reasons. These could include that fact that the comments are defamatory or incite racial or religious hatred, for which the site owner might become liable if he does nothing to remove them. More generally forum admins will wish to remove postings which are gratuitously offensive or irrelevant - CopyrightAid who runs this site fights a continuing battle with spammers for instance - and lastly of course they might agree to your request to remove your posts. The main reason for not doing so is that it can be time-consuming, especially if your posts have been quoted by other forum members, and of course the remaining posts may no longer make sense once your comments have been removed, especially where you started a thread or made a major contribution to it.
So there is no copyright issue here, I'm afraid, because the site owners/admins are operating within a licence that you have granted them in joining and contributing to the forum.
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Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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curious
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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2012 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Andy

I am in a similar position to Liz. I have checked the Terms and Conditions of the forum but they do not make or mention any conditions to do with copyright.

I have contacted the forum owner who is arguing ...

you may well be the copyright holder to any posts or photos that you have submitted to The XXX Forum however by submitting them on our forum, you have by implication consented to have your posts publicly published and I can't see how this will be covered by a cease and desist order. There is also the fact that under the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations of 1997, the XXX forums are classed as a database and as such duel copyright can apply to the posts.

Would be grateful for any advice.

Thank you
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2012 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Curious,
As you have already seen my earlier comments to Liz, I think it fairly clear that I agree with the first part of the reply from the forum owner.
I'm not sure why he has brought up the issue of database right. Since that right merely protects the owner of a database from the large scale extraction of data from the database by unauthorised persons, and is in any case much weaker than copyright, it is irrelevant to the current topic.
What's more I would dispute his claim that a forum is a database. I know of no case law which has found this to be so, and the statutory definitions tend to argue against this assertion.
Quote:
Databases
3A.—(1)  In this Part “database” means a collection of independent works, data or other materials which—
(a) are arranged in a systematic or methodical way, and
(b) are individually accessible by electronic or other means.
(2) For the purposes of this Part a literary work consisting of a database is original if, and only if, by reason of the selection or arrangement of the contents of the database the database constitutes the author’s own intellectual creation.

and
Quote:
The maker of a database
14.—(1) Subject to paragraphs (2) to (4), the person who takes the initiative in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents of a database and assumes the risk of investing in that obtaining, verification or presentation shall be regarded as the maker of, and as having made, the database.
(2) Where a database is made by an employee in the course of his employment, his employer shall be regarded as the maker of the database, subject to any agreement to the contrary.
(3) Subject to paragraph (4), where a database is made by Her Majesty or by an officer or servant of the Crown in the course of his duties, Her Majesty shall be regarded as the maker of the database.
(4) Where a database is made by or under the direction or control of the House of Commons or the House of Lords—
(a)the House by whom, or under whose direction or control, the database is made shall be regarded as the maker of the database, and
(b)if the database is made by or under the direction or control of both Houses, the two Houses shall be regarded as the joint makers of the database.
(5) For the purposes of this Part a database is made jointly if two or more persons acting together in collaboration take the initiative in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents of the database and assume the risk of investing in that obtaining, verification or presentation.
(6) References in this Part to the maker of a database shall, except as otherwise provided, be construed, in relation to a database which is made jointly, as references to all the makers of the database.

and
Quote:
Acts permitted in relation to databases.
50D.—(1) It is not an infringement of copyright in a database for a person who has a right to use the database or any part of the database, (whether under a licence to do any of the acts restricted by the copyright in the database or otherwise) to do, in the exercise of that right, anything which is necessary for the purposes of access to and use of the contents of the database or of that part of the database.
(2) Where an act which would otherwise infringe copyright in a database is permitted under this section, it is irrelevant whether or not there exists any term or condition in any agreement which purports to prohibit or restrict the act (such terms being, by virtue of section 296B, void).

Throughout the Regulations, reference is made to the maker of the database in much the same way as the word 'author' is used in relation to copyright. But the owner of a forum is not the maker of the forum: the contributors are; even the structure and code which allows posters to post is generally an off the peg piece of software (such as phpBB in the case of this forum) and all the forum owner has to do is set up colour schemes and certain general rules. That is not what the legislation means by "obtaining, verifying or presenting" the data. And as Section 50D shows, even if forums were databases, forum members would be authorised to use the database and therefore their postings or editing of their posting etc would not infringe database right, so again it is hard to see why the forum owner thinks this is relevant. Copyright in the individual postings can still remain the property of the poster, as can the individual items of data in any database. It is worth stressing that database right exists in the whole collection of data, and not the individual contents which may themselves be 'facts' such as telephone numbers or part numbers or inventory items which cannot be subject to copyright.
Finally, the statement about 'duel [I think he means 'dual'] copyright is plain wrong. Copyright and database right are two separate things. Indeed database right is referred to as a sui generis right which means of its own kind. The term for literary copyright is the author's lifetime plus 70 years; the term for database right is 15 years from the end of the year in which it was completed.
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curious
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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2012 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Andy for a very quick and detailed reply. Would other forums be as succinct!

I take your point re the opening part of his comment. However, if by implication I consent to have my posts publicly published then surely do I not also have the right to ask for them to be removed? Especially if there is nothing in the forum Ts and Cs to the contrary.
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2012 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Curious,
The problem is that even without specific terms and conditins there is a implied licence for the forum to publish your comments without infringing your copyright, but there is no implied get-out clause. As you appreciate, many things on the internet are cached and re-tweeted/repeated elsewhere on the internet so it is virtually impossible to guarantee all traces can be removed, even if the actual forum owner agrees to remove something. Or if you offend another forum member they can take a screenshot of your post and keep it as evidence of what you said, even if the post itself is deleted later. On that basis, I think that, if a court was ever to rule on whether you as a copyright owner could revoke the licence you effectively agreed to when first posting, they might be inclined to say the term of licence was more at the discretion of the forum owner than the copyright owner, because generally speaking that is how a contract which did not specify a time limit would be interpreted: it would be based on what was standard practice in that particular field of activity and what it was felt the parties had in mind at the time. Did you honestly think when posting that you would want to remove your posts after a set number of days or weeks or months?
To take a different example, say you had contributed to an anthology of short stories which were published in a book: you could not withdraw your implied permission to use your story once the book was on sale in the High Street. You would have had to wait until the next edition of the book was about to be printed.
Given that forums move on quite quickly, it doesn't take long for your old posts to get pushed back a few pages, or for the thread itself to fall out of favour. Granted, a search on any key words you might have used will bring your posts back into view, but unless you have made an illegal or infamatory remark which you now regret, I think you may have to put it down to experience.
Incidently, just to show what a fair-minded and sensible guy CopyrightAid is, on this forum you can go back and edit you posts even if other members have posted after you. Great for sorting out silly spelling errors! But there is a tell-tale record of the edits.
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