homepage Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from
register, free tools, login, search, pro membership, help, library, announcements, recent posts, open posts,
Become a Pro Member
Home / Forums Index / WebmasterWorld / Content, Writing and Copyright
Forum Library, Charter, Moderators: not2easy

Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

Writer wants to change archived article
But surely you can't 'undo' a published work?

 5:23 pm on May 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

Our key websites are, in the main, online versions of magazines we publish. As a new edition of the paper product is printed so the articles from that publication go on to a site.

Articles are trade & technical and are either provided free of charge by spokespeople in companies invariably seeking to show their organisatons expertise in some area, or are commissioned pieces from specialist freelancers.

Articles from past editions of magazines are also available on the sites.

I've had a request from someone who provided an article in a past edition; they want their name removed from the online version of the article as they no longer work for the organisation on whose behalf it was originally published.

The question is: should I remove their name?

In one respect it is a published work - you cannot erase their name from the printed version of the magazine. It has been published; it belongs to posterity. You cannot 'unpublish' something.

So why change the online version?

On the other hand, to make the change and delete the persons name from the article online would take but a few seconds and it would be the courteous thing to do. The person, working now for a competitor to the original employer, does not want to be seen as still apparently having a connection with the former organisation.

However, again, you can't 'unpublish' something; it is a matter of historical record - it exists.

So, what to do?




 5:29 pm on May 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

I don't know the pratical implcations of this, but could add a small author-bio note to the old article indicating that the author has moved on?


 11:52 pm on May 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

Could do that ken_b, but what happens if the person moves on again? What if other writers ask the same? Or ask more?

You end up setting a precedent...

Plan A: Don't change a thing (because it's historical/archived)...

Plan B: Change it once (sets the precedent)...

Plan C:?



 12:09 am on May 31, 2005 (gmt 0)

I see your point. I guess I'd be inclined not to change it then.

If nothing else, this might be something to consider adding to what contract language you have with an author before publication.

Maybe that would at least take care of the issue in the future for articles not yet published.


 4:27 am on May 31, 2005 (gmt 0)

Changing employers does not change/denigrate/obviate the fact that s/he authored the work. A work and it's author(s) can not be changed. Once published it is what it is.

Depending on the copyright s/he may be able to request that it be removed in its entirety.

People change publishers, employers, even their opinions, but that does not in anyway affect previous works and their attribution.

If you provide a bio-link or author contact link that can be updated.

Silly twit should be happy to have as much published whereever and whenever.

Answering the following questions will clarify your reply:

Question 1: in whom does/did copyright originally reside?
Question 2: exactly what rights for what timeperiod(s) were transfered to you?
Question 3: what rights does the requesting person retain?


 12:31 pm on May 31, 2005 (gmt 0)

but what happens if the person moves on again? What if other writers ask the same?

These questions strike me as reason enough to not make the change, and to make an addition to your site TOS that explicitly states that such changes will not be made.

Assuming there is a publication date associated with the article in question, it's rather ridiculous for the author to be concerned about associations with a past employer.



 1:33 am on Jun 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

There is always a tension between freedom of expression or information and privacy.

IMHO, although the general rule would be that the published articles are not removed, if an article may produce damage to the author (for example, the risk of being fired by his or her new employer, not to mention something worse), you might consider his or her request for removal.

Internet is a special media characterized by high and permanent exposition of the content, so it creates complex privacy problems. The courts would have something to say.

Matt Probert

 1:19 pm on Jun 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

The author wrote the article, and put their name to it. That is an historical fact. I should ignore their request.



 1:30 pm on Jun 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

You should check your terms of service or any other legal stuff that the article writer agreed to when they granted you the right to publish.

But I'd be surprised if you gave them the right to revoke the right to publish. You have, almost certainly, a right to publish in the specific medium in perpetuity.


 6:17 pm on Jun 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

The question, I suppose, is who owns the material? Broadly, if the person authored the article as a staff employee of the publisher, he is unlikely to have any rights over it. If the person was self-employed, or in some other way a contributor, he would continue to own the continuing rights. If there is no proof that the original contract included your online use of the material, I would say that this person has every right to demand that you remove his property from your site altogether.

If he owns the material and you want to continue using it, I would say you should honor the request that has been made of you.

Dem's my views.


 8:03 pm on Jun 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think this is not a question about your right as editor to remove or not remove the content, but an ethical issue. Itís about your responsibility for the audience and the author. I insist: if the article may cause damage to the author, you should consider the situation.


 8:17 pm on Jun 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

>Internet is a special media characterized by high and permanent exposition of the content

Why is the Internet any more permanent than a magazine article that may stay available in a library for 50 years or more? This doesn't present any new issues, nor is it a matter for courts to have an opinion on. The author wrote the article, it was posted appropriately for the situation at the time. There is no error or misrepresentation suggested here. Because the author's position has changed does not mean the entire Inernet has to reflect his/her new position.


 8:21 pm on Jun 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

My situation's a little different so maybe it's not applicable. Then again, maybe it is so here goes.

I have members who submit tutorials on subjects related to the overall theme of the website.

My contract with these authors states they retain ownership and I retain the right to perpetual use.

Sometimes a member with a published tutorial moves on. In those cases the software appends a line under the author's name which states, "Member from August 1998 to July 2004".

Perhaps you could offer to add the starting/ending employment dates of the author in question?


 10:32 pm on Jun 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

>>Why is the Internet any more permanent than a magazine article that may stay available in a library for 50 years or more?<<

Because the magazine in the library is not avalaible for 900.000.000 people in a few seconds.


 10:56 pm on Jun 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

What if it turns out that a subject has changed so much that an original story about it is outdated?

Does every person who has such an article on their website have the obligation to review old stories to make sure they are still accurate? Should we have to go back and put disclaimers on all pages more than a month old warning people that the ideas or facts presented therein may no longer represent current thinking?

Or do you believe that because the information was accurate at the time and posted in good faith, it does not require a change?

Added - don't mean to sound argumentative - just trying to keep up with this thread as I finish a project.


 12:19 am on Jun 2, 2005 (gmt 0)


I'm speaking specifically about a particular case: when an article may produce damage to the author (some people is even threatened because of his or her published ideas).


 4:34 am on Jun 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

when an article may produce damage to the author

What sort of damage are you referring to? Problems with a new boss perhaps? If so I really don't see that as being your problem. The only difference between publishing an article online and on dead trees is the online version can be altered after the fact. I think you'd be setting a bad precedent to let that be your guide. The article's been published. If the author can't live with the consequences, too bad. Sorry if that sounds cold but IMO there are already too many people in this world who expect others to solve their problems for them.


 7:09 pm on Jun 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

One difference between the internet and an article in a magazine int the stacks of the library, is that it is readily apparent that you are looking at a 20 year old copy of Scientific American in the library. You have to search back and find the binder marked "Scientific American 1985".

On the web, you might have just clicked on a search engine link and gone directly to that article.

So it becomes more of an issue of whether the article is clear on the date and the archival status. But I consider that to be more of a service to the reader than to the author.

What I would do would be to ask him to give you the reason that you would want to change it, or explain the advantage to the reader. If he can convince you on those terms, then change it. If he can only think in terms of how it is affecting him, then don't.

Often times, when you cause them to change their viewpoint, they change their mind.


 6:00 pm on Jun 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just remove his name and leave the article on, the guy will be happy, move on and leave you alone.


 6:26 pm on Jun 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

One big factor should be the *type* of article it is. Is it something where the author's name is important? Thousands of articles are published every day by newspapers and attributed to "Staff Writers." Cats stuck in trees, stolen cars, obits --the writer's name just doesn't make any difference.

However, if the article accuses a prominent Senator of wrong-doing, or if it gives advice on some topic --then the author's name *is* important because of the subject matter of the article and the accusations made or advice given. People are going to want to know who's making the statements.


 8:22 pm on Jun 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thought I'd provide you with my decision on whether or not the author of an archived article could have their name removed from it.

In the end I decided that their name could be removed.

That went against my initial thoughts and feelings about the matter as, in the strictest sense the article exists and cannot be undone, and that content on the web should be treated the same way as content in a physical magazine. In the main I do believe that this viewpoint is the correct one - but not in this instance. (Any opinion on this is, I believe, entirely up to the individual editor.)

Copyright was never an issue here.

An author, whether as a freelancer or as in acting as a spokesperson on behalf of their employer, provides an article for publication to the editor. That article will be accepted at the editor's discretion. It is also the editor's right to edit that text as they see fit; to cut parts of it, rewrite or rearrange it; to write or rewrite headlines and standfirsts - and anything else...

If, as was the case here, the rights to use the article extended to publication on a website - in addition to the magazine, then that gives the editor the right to edit this version as they see fit, in order that it complies with the house/editorial/design styles and formats of the site.

Had the author request that elements of the body copy be changed they would have met with a flat refusal. However, my consideration had to be; will the removal of the author's name detract from the content in any way. The answer: no.

On the other side of the same coin I had to consider whether or not removing the name would be detrimental in any way - to anyone. The answer: maybe.

That "maybe" was enough.

Thanks for your thoughts on this - they were all very much appreciated.


Global Options:
 top home search open messages active posts  

Home / Forums Index / WebmasterWorld / Content, Writing and Copyright
rss feed

All trademarks and copyrights held by respective owners. Member comments are owned by the poster.
Home ¦ Free Tools ¦ Terms of Service ¦ Privacy Policy ¦ Report Problem ¦ About ¦ Library ¦ Newsletter
WebmasterWorld is a Developer Shed Community owned by Jim Boykin.
© Webmaster World 1996-2014 all rights reserved