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Is this infringement?

 
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Dev1
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 3:55 am    Post subject: Is this infringement? Reply with quote

I've read through several threads, but can't find one that covers my query exactly, so apologies if I've simply missed something elsewhere.

My question is this, can a website owner modify posts made by members of forums hosted on their service in order to embed adverts within the text legally?

I'm sure someone here has come across something known as infolinks at one blog or another, where a random word or phrase is underlined so it looks like a link, but it actually contains as ad. Well now a hosting site I use has added these to all their free forums.

In the past we had adverts between/under posts. This was fine and although they are sometimes a bit unsightly we all accept that they have to raise revenue somehow in order to continue hosting our forums.

However this new idea is rather worrying as the ads are actually embedded in our posts in the form of a pop-up "balloon" which appear when you move your mouse over the text.

Since these now appear to be part of our actual posts, despite not being added by the person posting, it makes it look as though we are somehow endorsing these products.

Is this an infringement, since they are modifying what we post for financial gain?

I've searched through the user agreement for the site and can't find anything that precisely covers this type of thing, but will be happy to provide a link to the agreement for you to check it, if this is allowed.

Thanks for any advice you can give,

Dev1
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Dev1
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some additional info,

Here's the only section I could find about their rights with regards to use of members content in the user agreement. I've removed the company name for now, but the way I read this is that they can use content to promote their own company, but not promote anything from a 3rd party.

5. LICENSE GRANTED TO ##### Board
You grant ##### Board the world-wide, royalty free and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt, distribute and publish any Content you post/upload/contribute to the Service, for the purposes of displaying such information on ##### Board's sites and for the promotion and marketing of ##### Board's services. However, ##### Board will not resell, attempt to resell, or otherwise convey these rights to any third party.


By the way, the type of content posted in these forums varies greatly, some is just opinions and discussions etc, which I accept are not really covered. Many though use the forums as a way to publish things such as poems, short stories etc.

Then there are those who use websets, for those not in the know these are fancy background for a post, created using legally licensed images obtained direct from the artist. This opens up a whole other can of worms as most of these artists licenses state very clearly that their work may not be used in any form of advertising.

Again, any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated.

Dev1
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CopyrightAid
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not really a copyright matter...
mmm (thinks)
Quote:
You grant ##### Board the world-wide, royalty free and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt, distribute and publish any Content you post/upload/contribute to the Service

Kinda says they can I think?
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Dev1
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps I'm reading it differently, but then copyright issues can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to online usage at times.

You grant ##### Board the world-wide, royalty free and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt, distribute and publish any Content you post/upload/contribute to the Service, for the purposes of displaying such information on ##### Board's sites and for the promotion and marketing of ##### Board's services. However, ##### Board will not resell, attempt to resell, or otherwise convey these rights to any third party.

Doesn't that mean they can only use it for the specific purposes mentioned, i.e to promote their own services? Surely the adverts they're adding goes against the final sentence, in that they are using the content itself to promote products and services from 3rd parties?

As I said, I feel like I've stepped into a minefield here, but I run a forum there and my members are asking me where they stand on this, and to be honest I'm simply not sure, so I'm grateful for any advice/suggestions as many are already threatening to remove their work rather than have it used in this wayand leave the forum completely.

Dev1
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CopyrightAid
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see your point about 'for the promotion and marketing of ##### Board's services' . i.e. is advertising some one else's service within your post outside of the scope of this clause?

Playing devil's advocate, you could read it differently (and probably how the site owners intended) putting the emphasis on
to reproduce, modify, adapt, distribute and publish any Content you post/upload/contribute to the Service, for the purposes of displaying such information on ##### Board's sites
i.e. the are adapting the work (including adverts) for the purpose of displaying it on their site only - at the end of the day for most forums the only way of raising money is advertising.

(I know from experience that the money raised through advertising on this site is peanuts and barely covers the domain/hosting costs.)

I do take your point, I just don't know how clear-cut it is. As solicitors say it could be an 'interesting case' (which means could go either way, drag on for months and earn the solicitor lots in fees Smile ).
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Dev1
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know what you mean, the service has to cover it's costs etc. I think it's more the way these ads are embedded that's bugging people though. Ads around the page are fine, even ads directly under posts but still in the comment box are fine, but these look like part of the comments themselves.

For anyone reading this who doesn't know what info links are, I did try to post a pic, but the system wouldn't allow me to. Basically though, they look almost identical to any other "linked" words you might use in your posts, and appear randomly within your text with links to sites such as Amazon etc.


Thanks for your thoughts on this, but you're right, it's a very grey area. Several complaints have been raised with the site owners now as I understand it, so maybe they'll reconsider, but I doubt it.

Shame really, as I know I for one am going to lose some valuable members over this and I'm sure other forums there will too.

Dev1
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CopyrightAid
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah. I know exactly the ads you mean. I agree that they are annoying in fact I think they are a real 'put off' for readers and not something I would not personally ever want.

One thing I did not spot (sorry) in your first post is that you are the forum admin (rather than just a poster) - i.e. is it YOUR forum and they are just providing the hosting and software to run it?

If so, have you considered buying a domain name and hosting the forum yourself?
You would loose the value of existing inbound links to your old forum of course, and would see a short-medium term drop in new members (until Google and Co. start directing visitors to your new site), but if it's your forum on your domain you have total control on what happens.
I can give you a few pointers if you like.
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Dev1
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have my own forum there yes, and I have considered leaving and setting up elsewhere, but haven't really looked into it too much yet. They do offer a paid for option there too, which had no ads at all, and I'm also considering that option for myself.

The question though was really more on behalf of the members, not just of my forum but of other forums at the same hosting site. I've gotten to know quite a lot of the other owners and posters over the time I've been there and visit other forums as a poster, and even help out as a mod etc in a couple.

For many of the other forum owners, anything that's going to cost them is simply out of the question, plus most are not PC literate enough to set something up themselves, or at least feel they're not.

I guess I was just hoping there was some way we could fight them over this and get the hideous things removed, but it looks like we're stuck with them unless they back-track due to the number of complaints.


Dev1
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Warlock
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree that you'd have a hard time stopping them legally (it's just toooo gray), but complaints is not a bad idea - Encourage your peers and posters to make a stand.

If enough forum admins and posters complain, the host will spend so much time answering complaints they may do a U-turn.

Vive la revolution Smile
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Dev1
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well the public complaints in their help area are mounting up, but I've no idea how many have also complained privately direct to the site owners.

I guess now we wait and see what happens, with fingers and toes crossed of course.

Dev1
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Dev1
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Update.

After a week of repeated complaints from forum owners and members, the site owner has now relented and removed the info links.

Result!

Just goes to show that it's always worth making a complaint, even if you don't think it will do any good, as you never know it just might.

Dev1
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