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Another forum copyright question

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 2:50 pm
by AllieO
I hope this is the right place on the forum to ask this question. I stumbled on this forum while looking for the answer to it, and am so pleased. It looks a great forum.

I've read a lot of the previous posts about who owns copyright in forum posts in relation to getting a site to take down posts when leaving (or being forced to leave).

My question: In those forums or sites which run collaborative stories or poems (where different people add different bits), how is the copyright affected? Do the different posters still own copyright in their individual bits, do they own a share of the whole, or does it depend on what is in the rules and regulations read before posting?

Thanks for any answers, useful or not. :)

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:16 pm
by CopyrightAid
Copyright is the right of the creator of the work, so without any agreement to the contrary the individuals would own their own contributions. If when signing up you agree to some condition that will naturally supersede the 'default' rule.

On a more general note regarding forums:
When you post to any forum (or site of that nature), you have by implication consented to have your posts published on the forum. I do not believe that there is any obligation on the forum owner to remove posts, particularly as removing posts will tend to break threads - though naturally, when challenged many will - if only to avoid the hassle.

So without an agreement to the contrary, I would say that the individual writers are the copyright owners, and in collaborating on the project there is an implied licence for the site owner to publish the work as part of that project (i.e. you knew that this was a collaborative project to be published on that site when you contributed).

If there are any terms/rules/etc that you agree to when signing up, these will normally form an agreement that supersede the default legal situation. So, naturally you should read any terms/rules/etc. to ensure that you are happy with the conditions before you participate.

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:36 pm
by AllieO
Thanks for that, Admin. Goodness, though, I can see a big problem with a collaborative work if someone were to insist on their lines being removed, leaving a gap in the context. So yes, I think the website would have to insist on the understanding beforehand that there is an ongoing licence to include them. :)

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 9:08 pm
by AndyJ
Section 178 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 defines this kind of work as a 'collective work' namely :
"(a) a work of joint authorship, or
(b) a work in which there are distinct contributions by different authors or in which works or parts of works of different authors are incorporated;"

A work of joint authorship is defined in Section 10(1) as follows: “work of joint authorship" means a work produced by the collaboration of two or more authors in which the contribution of each author is not distinct from that of the other author or authors"
So unless your individual contribution is in some way marked out distinctly from the contributions of others, you are treated as a joint author, although in theory this is not much different to the rights you would enjoy as a sole author under copyright law. But as CopyrightAid has said, the rules or terms of the site are likely to close up any loopholes and effectively nullify your individual rights. In reality if there were dozens of different ''joint authors' with no formal agreement (eg like this one ... oragmt.htm) binding them together I doubt if the law could deal equitably with them all if they wanted to exploit their copyright in different ways.
For anyone interested in the subject of joint authorship apart from the specific issue raised by the OP, this article on the US law is quite interesting. Although US copyright law differs from UK law in some respects, there are many parallels with the way in which a UK court would treat such matters.

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 9:37 pm
by AllieO
That's brilliant, Andy. I knew I'd come to the right place with my question from the professional way the forum is laid out. :)