Forum post copyrights

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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angua-
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Forum post copyrights

Post by angua- » Mon Mar 21, 2016 9:28 pm

Hi

I was running an online puzzle game (Enigmaniacs) on a friend's forum (most of shadows). The friend agreed to host the puzzle and allow us to use his forum.

We have fallen out 3/4 of the way through the game. I have now setup my own forum, and copied over posts that are pertinent to the game. All content of the game was created by me and all forum posts copied over are by myself or other game players who are now on my forum.

He says the game belongs to him and I should not copy posts across as they also belong to him.

Quotes:" Enigmaniacs is also property of Mist of shadows, has been from round 1, I will take this matter further.....stop it now"

"it's copyright Mist of shadows, it became property of mist of shadoiws the moment it was posted"

I understand that forum content belongs to the person who created/posted it, but want to check the legal stance.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Mon Mar 21, 2016 10:48 pm

Hi angua-

It's helpful to think of a forum as being like a book or a magazine: the intellectual contribution comes from the writers (posters) but a synergy is provided by the forum as a facilitator, just as a publisher brings a book or magazine to the public.

And in much the same way as a publisher in the paper world is entitled to some rights over his contribution to bringing a book to the wider world, so a forum owner may have some rights over the structure of what occurs within the forum, especially if the forum owner actively controls or moderates the input of individual contributors.

But that is rather separate from the world of copyright, where the author is generally speaking the owner of what he creates. So if you created the game without any assistance from the forum owner, then you will own the intellectual property rights to the game. Once the game is played then it is likely that each player will be the owner of their individual contribution. I say 'likely' because I don't know from your brief summary whether the players helped to develop the fundamental game or whether they just added to the narrative. Either way, what is likely to be the case is that you and the other players have implicitly licensed the forum owner to publish your contributions (or explicitly done so if the rules of the forum state this) but it is unlikely that you have completely given away your rights unless the terms of joining the forum state this, and even if they do, such a term may be judged unfair and thus unenforceable, if it was not made clear at the time users signed up.. The licence which will exist is almost certainly a non-exclusive one. Thus you may republish your individual contributions elsewhere if you choose. What may be in dispute is that part of the game which was dictated by the forum itself, say the order in which replies occurred, the timings supplied by the software and in all probability the addition of the players names and other details (for instance, scores etc). To take this forum as an example, copyright in the text I have written here is mine to do with as I wish, but the little chunk of data shown to the left of the text box showing how many posts I have made, and the date and time of my posting shown immediately above, belongs to the forum owner. I am not clear about the exact nature of the game, but assuming there is some software or coding involved, then the same rules will apply. If you did the coding then you will own the copyright. However if the site owner was also responsible for some coding or other programming to enable the game to run, then he may be a joint-owner of that part of the game, and you would need his permission to use his part elsewhere on another site.

I assume that when you first discussed this project with the forum owner, there was no written or verbal agreement as to the ownership of the intellectual property, and absent any such formal agreement, it is hard to see how the owner's assertion that he has owned the copyright from the outset can be justified.
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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Post by angua- » Tue Mar 22, 2016 7:33 pm

thanks for your reply, very helpful

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