Who owns copyright to forum posts?

If you are worried about infringement or your work has been copied and you want to take action.
Charmz
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Who owns copyright to forum posts?

Post by Charmz » Fri Mar 16, 2007 4:03 am

Hello,

I have a question.

I would like to know what UK Copyright Law states about the use of a person's words on an online Forum. I was a member of a Forum, but was banned due to my polite insistence that the management of the website answer the question that I placed in the Question and Feedback section of the website.

The Forum website stated nowhere that all words posted would be deemed to be under the copyright of the Forum owners or stored in a database, as in your own registration section.

I now require that my posts to the Forum in question are removed. Am I able to seek redress if they refuse to comply with my request?

Thanks.

Charmz

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Forum Question Two

Post by Charmz » Fri Mar 16, 2007 4:18 am

Hello,

Another question whilst I'm here.

I requested access to my posts after I was unfairly banned, but I was refused.

How do I acquire access? I know this may be a seperate legal issue but thought I'd ask anyway, as I need to gain copies of the posts before they are hopefully removed from the Forum.

Thanks.

Charmz

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Post by CopyrightAid » Fri Mar 16, 2007 12:09 pm

Oh. Now this really is a hot potato! A very good question.

My understanding is this.
  • On the one hand:
    Copyright is the automatic right of the creator from the point that the first 'recorded' the work in a tangible manner. In this case, from the point you type it in on the keyboard. So this would mean that as the 'creator' of the post, you are the copyright owner.
However....
  • In posting on the forum, you will have accepted the terms that this type of publication implies. In posting you are accepting that your content will be published by the site owner, and also that the site owner has the right to edit or delete your post as he sees fit.
In short my understanding is that while you are the copyright owner, by posting on the forum you have already given the site owner permission to use your work.

Of course, there is no harm in asking for it's removal, but I cannot see what action you could take if they refuse as by implication you have already given them permission to use your work.

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I moved it!

Post by CopyrightAid » Fri Mar 16, 2007 12:16 pm

Hi Charmz

Just a note to say I have moved your second post to this topic also, as it followed on from the first post, it seemed logical to place it here also. Hope you don't mind ;)

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Post by Charmz » Wed Mar 21, 2007 8:40 am

Hello,

I do mind actually. Put it back. :roll: lol J/k.

I understand about the permission but as permission is granted, it may just as easily be withdrawn surely? And as I am ultimately the copyright owner of my own words, then surely (that word again - it promises so much and usually doesn't deliver) I have the final say?

More so given the website in question did not have any "Terms and Conditions" by which Forum users were bound - as you wisely have.

Thanks.

Charmz

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Post by CopyrightAid » Thu Mar 22, 2007 9:35 am

:? Hmmm...
This is tricky, I don't know of anything that specifically covers this legally and I don't want to tell you something that is incorrect. So I have to sit on the fence, (sorry).

I want to say, 'yes it's yours so they have to take it down', but I suspect that that would be too easy. Also as there is no legal contract we are working by what was implied.
By implication when you posted, you gave permission to the forum to publish your post. So the question is did that implied permission have a 'implied' restriction, or should it be viewed as a permanent grant of permission?

I suspect that the only way to know for sure would be to take the case to court, and conversely, the fact that such matters are rarely (if ever) taken to court means that I am scratching around unable to find a definitive answer.

I don't believe they could can say 'copyright to forum posts become the property of the forum', (or if they did, I can't see how they have any legal basis for that), but on the other hand, forums would become a farce if everyone removed their posts when they stopped being a member - after all the principal aim of a forum is to 'share' knowledge and ideas.

Personally, if it was me running the forum, I'd just take down the posts. Life's to short, without going round upsetting people.

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Post by CopyrightAid » Thu Mar 22, 2007 9:58 am

So I guess really you want to know where to go from here?

If you want to treat this as a case of copyright infringement, here's how I would proceed.

1. Write a 'cease and desist' letter to the site owners asking for your material back and for them to remove your work within 14 days.
2. Send a copy of this correspondence and a letter explaining what has happened to the ISP responsible for the site's hosting.
3. Ask the ISP if they can act to remove the 'infringing' material.
A UK based ISP is legally responsible if they knowingly allow a site to host infringing material, so if they believe an infringement has occurred they will normally act quickly to remove it, (and may even shut the site down).
[I do not have details on ISPs outside the UK, but many countries have similar rules now.]
This has another advantage - the ISP seems likely to be better versed in this specific issue than me, (do let me know what they say ;) )

4. If it's still there after that, consider speaking to a solicitor.

If you get this far it will start to cost you money, so the question becomes what financial value you place on this?

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Post by Charmz » Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:15 pm

Hello,

If it involves a person's copyright, I believe the usual copyright laws exist - the online copyright issue was one of the arenas where copyright laws were introduced reasonably quickly, due mostly to the financial losses suffered by the abuse/infringement of copyright.

"I want to say, 'yes it's yours so they have to take it down', but I suspect that that would be too easy."

A little like my "surely". lol

"Also as there is no legal contract we are working by what was implied."

"There is no legal contract" - there weren't even basic Terms & Conditions. Only the accepted online Copyright Laws exist in this matter.

"By implication when you posted, you gave permission to the forum to publish your post. So the question is did that implied permission have a 'implied' restriction, or should it be viewed as a permanent grant of permission?"

Exactly, it is all steeped in vagueness. And thank you for adding further complication to the issue. lol But to me, if there are no Terms & Conditions, and, therefore, there being no agreed structure, the above permission, implied, restricted or any other connotation you may choose, should be at the copyright owner's discretion. My main issue is the "no agreed structure".

The copyright ball moves into my court on those grounds. Surely?

I am not bound by the website (Terms & Conditions etc) with regard to my copyright, as I did not enter into any agreement on use or unlimited use of my copyright - no contract existed, and a strong aspect in a law court is the existence or lack of a contract between both parties.

It would probably be worth taking the matter to court, simply to press a vague issue in online copyright law. But as you say, you have to consider if it's financially viable to do so, especially as it's forum posts and not a best-selling novel that are at the heart of the issue.

"I don't believe they could can say 'copyright to forum posts become the property of the forum', (or if they did, I can't see how they have any legal basis for that), but on the other hand, forums would become a farce if everyone removed their posts when they stopped being a member - after all the principal aim of a forum is to 'share' knowledge and ideas."

They cannot, as no-one may claim copyright ownership without a copyright release from the originator of the words. If they did so, it would be a legal breach of copyright. So, they do not own copyright rights to my words.

"Personally, if it was me running the forum, I'd just take down the posts. Life's to short, without going round upsetting people."

A man or women after my own heart - I don't know your gender lol ... I just know you as "Administrator".

Thanks for the advice on how to proceed. The ISP is a definate option. As you say, ISP's are held to be legally responsible for the content on their servers now. If they do not manage to bring the issue to a satisfactory conclusion, there is an ISP watchdog that may be approached.

I have contacted the domain name provider to discover if they are also offering hosting to the website in question.

"This has another advantage - the ISP seems likely to be better versed in this specific issue than me, (do let me know what they say )"

I will let you know their response.

Thanks for your time and response.

Charmz

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Post by swampy71 » Tue Feb 12, 2008 9:39 pm

Hi my name is John

I have a similar problem

I run a forum for a sporting association and there is another forum that talks about the same topics and has the same members as my forum.

But the other forum keeps saying we are breaking there copyright as members are posting there posts / Topic on both forums where do I stand on this I dont mind them them posting post or topics off my forum as it is there opinions and writings but this other forum does

We state in our guide lines that the forum administrators / Organisation disclaimer from other people opinions like many other forums

am i breaking the copyright law if so what can i do to cover myself from any legal action

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Post by CopyrightAid » Thu Feb 14, 2008 7:08 pm

Hi John

I think it's unlikely that he could have any valid claim against you.

Copyright automatically belongs to the creator of the work, (the author), i.e. the person making the post.

Unless as part of the act of posting the author agrees to hand over copyright to their work, the forum does not own copyright to the posts - ergo they are not the copyright owner and have no grounds to object.

If as part of the act of posting the author agrees to hand over copyright to their work, there is a issue. (I can't imagine the authors would be too chuffed by that though).

Probably best for you to:
a. Check the terms of use of the forum.
b. Politely point out to the forum owner that copyright is the right of the author of the work, i.e. the poster. Just because they posted to his site does not make him the copyright owner.


One word of caution.. ISPs tend to act quickly to remove infringing material from their networks - so it is in your best interest to sort this out with him, if only because the ISP may be more concerned with protecting themselves than getting to the truth.

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Post by Sherif » Fri Feb 15, 2008 12:22 pm

Hi John

Just a thought:

Even IF the forum member does 'sign over copyright' (!?!) on posting - if they posted it on your forum before they posted on his, that would precede any transfer of copyright and there is nothing he could do about that anyway.


(BTW :twisted: what forum are we referring to?)
"Always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual."
Terry Pratchett

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Post by swampy71 » Sun Feb 17, 2008 6:47 pm

when reading there Rules and conditions this is all they put

Content Copyright


* No content from ******** can be copied, printed or distributed by any mechanism at any time without the express written permission of the community administrators. A lot of content will be copyrighted by the original poster and must not be used in any way without also seeking their express permission.
Then

one of there mods posts the following on our forum

Please note

No content from ********* can be copied, printed or distributed by any mechanism at any time without the express permission of the community administrators.

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Post by CopyrightAid » Mon Feb 18, 2008 7:48 am

Quote this back to them:
A lot of content will be copyrighted by the original poster and must not be used in any way without also seeking their express permission
Is the original poster is the same person that posted it to your site?
In cases where the poster posts to both sites (which is what I thought we were talking about), there is no infringement - the person posting IS the copyright owner.

You only breach their copyright if your poster posts other peoples content.

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Post by Hellan » Fri Aug 22, 2008 11:16 pm

i have a sililar question regarding a forum and posts i have made on there, in their origional user agreement nothing was stated about who owns what copyright,( the one i agreed to on signing up to the forum) i wrote quite a lot of articles for the site and since then they have new rules in place ( introduced less than a week ago) i now would like them to remove the articles as for reasons it would take too long to go into i no longer support the forum and i have not agreed to these new rules. I have requested they remove the articles and they have refused stating it is in their new rules that they now own all my work and furthermore if i post them ( even on my own website) i will be in breech of their copyright and they will take legal action against me. Surely this cant be right? any help in this matter would be grately apprieciated.

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Post by CopyrightAid » Sun Aug 24, 2008 9:20 am

It is not clear that you can require them to remove the posts, - you have after all in posting given them consent to publish your articles. But I see no way that they can legally take action if you use your articles if you have not agreed to the new rules.

To be honest, as you describe it, I find their whole attitude reprehensible.

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