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Odd copyright question

     
11:05 am on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hi... I have a community website with multiple-user content such as images, video, audio and my own html / php work... How would I go about copyrighting the material to the community, instead of "this guy owns his, he owns his, etc".

I always wondered how to really own MY name, like my community name and all the content held within the walls... how in the heck would I go about doing it?

3:16 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I think what you need is a blanket copyright, which is what publications use, as it would be silly to try to copyright each individual article separately.
3:28 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Create all the content yourself and you'll own the copyright on everything. Problem solved.
3:40 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I think mostly you would put that in your terms of service for use of the board, the website, etc. "By posting to this board, you agree that we own the copyright to anything you post."

Note that you can be held liable for things other people post unless you have something like "all comments are owned by the poster."

You might also consider something like, "By posting, you grant us non-exclusive worldwide rights to publish your posts (the content) in any form, electronic or otherwise, in perpetuity." (I don't have one of my magazine article contracts to give you the exact text, but basically, you'd be saying, they own the copyright to what they post, and they can reprint it, and resell it, but they give you an unlimited license to publish the content however you wish.)

I'd prefer this means of doing things, because it's win-win for you and the poster.

Check some of the big software or hardware sites for other verbiage, though: lots of them have things that say something like "anything you send us can be used by us any way we want and you agree to this and agree not to try to get money out of us if we use your stuff."

Get a lawyer to put it in legalese, though. :-)

JK

5:56 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Licensing can be done through acceptance of TOS, as JollyK says. Actual transfer of copyright (in the U.S., at least) is more involved legally, requiring an actual physical signature of the person who's doing the transferring. Licensing would probably be all you'd need, anyway.

Your copyright would be on the compilation, similar to an anthology book: the publisher would own the copyright on the compilation, but the authors would still own the copyrights on their individual stories and would license the publisher to use them.

Companies can own copyright on something (often what's done in a work for hire), but I don't know about non-business online communities.

7:39 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Well... Like no one really cares about what they post, but I don't want some random person taking it and saying "this is ours" and I thought you had to PAY for a copyright... I thought that was the legal way...

And this is what i have so far, my friend gave me it:

-------------------

Copyright 2005 [MY SITE] . All Rights Reserved. All posts and content are sole property of their respected author, and [MY SITE] .

-------------------

I have to make the copyright a 2004-2006, but would that be legal? What that says is, the poster owns their content, and my community (pretty much ran by me) also own the rights.

Also is it legal if a 15 yr old posts something, do I hold that copyright and them, or is that null and void since they are under 18?

8:53 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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.
9:10 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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In the US, the law is that copyright is owned by its creator at the moment it is placed in a fixed form. A fixed form includes writing to a disk or hard drive, server, etc, as well as paper and ink.

You do NOT have to register your copyright of ANY work in order to own the copyright. You own the copyright at the instant of putting it in a fixed form. This is the US law. (If you don't register, then you can only collect actual, and not statutory damages, for copyright violation, but the copyright is owned by you regardless.)

You cannot take an author's copyright away by just putting a statement on your page that it belongs to you, just like I could say that your car is mine, but it wouldn't make it mine. You could probably get away with pointing out that line to people if they made trouble for you, but anyone with any knowledge of copyright law (or a lawyer) would probably laugh.

There are special issues regarding "work made for hire" which means that someone else creates something, but the person who hired them to do so owns the copyright. This has its own specific set of requirements, and probably requires a legally binding contract. You might check into whether you can put "all posts shall be considered a "work made for hire" under US copyright law" in your terms of service, but again, I don't believe it's that simple.

Each country has their own version of copyright laws. I can only speak for the US, but it's not so easy to yank someone's copyright away from them.

JK

8:31 pm on Apr 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Copyright 2005 [MY SITE] . All Rights Reserved. All posts and content are sole property of their respected author, and [MY SITE] .

What do you mean by being property of their respective [they might be respected, too, but that's not the word you want there] authors and of your site? Even if you could legally do that through a statement on your site (which you can't), it seems like it would be an awfully confusing state of affairs to have the two entities sharing the copyright.

As was said, a creation is copyrighted as soon as it's created. It's not like a patent, where someone can run in and beat you to the punch if you haven't registered it. As JollyK said, registering the copyright (which, yes, does cost some money) simply lets the person sue for more if the copyright's infringed than they'd be able to otherwise. It also gives some clout in court if there's a disagreement about who created the work.

If some random person comes in and claims a post, it's up to the person who wrote the post (who holds the copyright) to decide if he or she wants to do something about it. Which actually takes a load off of you, as lots of stuff ends up on websites where it doesn't belong; it would be a royal pain if you had to police all of that! (I have one person who posts artwork on my site who actually does go after people who take her work.)

IMVHO, you'd have a lot smoother sailing if you have the posters agree in the TOS to license the material to you. Not only saves you from having to get all those signatures to transfer copyright, but also makes the posts not yours if there's trouble about one. I can't actually see any reason why you'd want to hold copyright to the posts?

10:21 am on Apr 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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This is indeed an odd one, and I would get a lawyer if you're concerned.

I remember Yahoo being sued by a guy for liable someone posted on their message boards a few years ago, but I don't know the outcome. Of course, Yahoo got sued because they had the money. Probably a settlement.

And, while you've been given really good advice here, I don't think there's a legal precedent regarding copyright of works in a user-generated forum such as this, and legal precedent is the only bulletproof defense.

JollyK and Beagle know the law, but the law is murky when it comes to emerging technology, and this is stuff the courts will deal with in coming years.

JollyK notes that a work is copyrighted by its creator once it is written (in fixed form), which is true.

But JK also assumes that its "author" is acutally the person who posted the words into the forum. What of the forum publisher, who "authored" the forum itself? What if the publisher used a freeware forum script to create the whole forum? Surely the freeware developer also shares responsibility (and intellectual property) in the eyes of a hungry attorney.

As has been mentioned, copyright does not protect ideas, but only the "fixed form" of those ideas (source: [copyright.gov...]

The best argument, in my mind, is that forum posts belong to the publisher of the forum, since the forum itself (not the user-generated post) is the "fixed" form.

The user-generated copyright argument is flimsy, since a post by nature is not "fixed." Any mod can come in here and delete my post in part or whole, at any time in the future.

This, of course, adds to the responsibility of forum publishers, as JK noted that you can be held liable for posts.

I am simply amazed at the legal IP questions that the internet creates today. If your page on myspace.com includes a 5-second loop of Napoleon Dynamite dancing which you received from a MFA profile generator site (which the publisher bought from some guy on eBay) which links to the clip from the site of a fan who generated the clip by converting the original DVD to .mpg...

Who has committed copyright infringement? Everyone but Google.

5:54 pm on Apr 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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And, while you've been given really good advice here, I don't think there's a legal precedent regarding copyright of works in a user-generated forum such as this, and legal precedent is the only bulletproof defense.

On the contrary, this question is one that is so well founded that there is absolutely no question. The technology involved makes no difference.

In fact, it is just about the clearest thing in the copyright statutes, and the ONLY question that the courts consider is how clear the writing was that transfered the copyright.

7:40 pm on Apr 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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bregan makes some excellent points. (Great post, btw!)

The user-generated copyright argument is flimsy, since a post by nature is not "fixed." Any mod can come in here and delete my post in part or whole, at any time in the future.

I'm going to have to disagree with this. If you say that, then that disallows almost any digital media from being considered put in a fixed form. Just because you can burn a paper manuscript and destroy it doesn't mean that the words were not in fixed form. To say that because a mod can delete a post it was not "fixed" is similar. "Written to disk" has been considered "put in a fixed form" for quite some time as far as US copyright law is concerned.

I *completely* agree, however, that "the law is murky" and that caselaw is still being determined. There are precedents oversetting precedents, and no precedents at all for some things. Much of this is still unfolding, and could go either way.

JK

5:21 am on Apr 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I have this now:

Copyright 2005 BlueTurret.com . All Rights Reserved. All posts and content are sole property of their respected author.

Which should eliminate any problem. I had it like that as a way of extra security. My members really dont' care about stuff being stolen but I do quite a bit. Also one of my member's mother found his videos he created for my site. She then made him show her them all and delete them, which really p'd me off, so I devised a way of a shared copyright :-P

Obviously not gonna work.

Another question, if your 15, do you hold copyright, or your parent.

2:55 pm on Apr 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I don't know the answer to the question about minors so would have to go look it up - but you can do that, right? ;)

If you're talking about the contributor whose mother made him take down all his work, there'd be other considerations there besides copyright. Free speech issues might be on the poster's side; parental control issues might be on the mother's side. Family harmony may need common sense more than legalities.

One thing I don't need to look up is that you still need to change "respected" to "respective."

----------------

I've wondered about how the "fixed form" idea relates to the internet, so it's been interesting to read views on that. I hadn't really put it into the context of any form of writing being able to be destroyed.

3:12 pm on Apr 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Lol I could look it up but who has the time?

I guess I can change to respective, but that doesn't sound right lol. What's the big difference?

4:42 pm on Apr 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The big difference is that "respective" is the right word, and "respected" is the wrong word.

Try doing these searches on google [define:respective] and [define:respected] and you will see which one is correct.

See, doing research doesn't have to take up too much time, and you can actually get things right.

As for the case with the minor, you since he would be licensing the work to you, and a license is a form of contract, look up contract law as it relates to minors. Minors are held to some contracts and not to others. Of course there are other issues as well, but you will have to research it for yourself if you really care.

4:31 pm on Apr 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The big difference is that the two words have totally different meanings! If you can't get off the internet long enough to open a book, there's a great site called yourDictionary that I have bookmarked (hint, hint).
6:05 am on Apr 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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dictionary dot com lol.

Who needs books when you have like... the Washing D.C. library at your disposal, and much much more...

 

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