2 Jun 2008

Who Owns Your Comments?

Tags:

It’s an ongoing conversation within the IntenseDebate community: who owns your comments, blog publishers or commenters? Before we continue, we’d like to acknowledge Hank Williams’ post and Daniel Ha’s post addressing this issue. As this topic extends beyond IntenseDebate, we’ve reached out to the team at Disqus to work on creating a common groundwork for comment ownership across platforms.

Who do you think should own your comments?

Currently the debate is taking place on several IntenseDebate fronts (Get Satisfaction, blogs, emails) and it’s getting time to start making some decisions. Everything we do at IntenseDebate has you in mind, including this decision. We need your input. Of course, we realize that we’re not going to come to a unanimous decision here – “you can’t please all the people all the time” – but the goal is to get close and find a comfortable solution. So let us know your thoughts.

To get the ball rolling we want to propose three options:
1.) Blog Publisher Ownership – Comments made on a blog belong to the blog owner, giving them the ability to edit the comments as they see fit (deleting and editing comments). Blog owners have had this ability with WordPress and other platforms. The only change is that comments are now tied to the commenter in IntenseDebate (which is why there is even a debate here).

2.) Commenter Ownership – Comments cannot be edited by blog publishers. Comments can still be deleted by blog publishers – blog owners must be able to remove spam and inflammatory comments. Commenters can still access their full comment history in their IntenseDebate profiles. Commenters can take their comments with them into platforms other than the blog commented on.

3.) Shared Ownership – This is where it gets complicated and we try to reach a compromise. We’re proposing that blog publishers should have the ability to edit and delete comments as long as the original comment is accessible both on the edited comment and in the commenter’s comment history. If the blog owner edits the comment, then the commenter will receive a notification and have the ability to delete the comment. The commenter will be able to access their full comment history.

We’re sure there are specific stipulations that we’re leaving out that should be included, but we’re trying to keep this post to a reasonable length. Ideally we’d like your opinion on which option you find the most appealing. Then we can start hashing out the specifics. Please vote in the poll below and of course, comment away!

Who owns comments?
( surveys)

Posted by Michael Koenig in News


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69 Comments »

  1. I made an error with the poll above. The poll allows multiple votes from the same person, instead of limiting one vote per IP.

    I changed the settings with polldaddy, but need to inset a different JavaScript snippet. I’m not sure if the current results will be maintained (hopefully they will be), so at this time the results are:
    Blog Publishers – 35% (11 votes)
    Commenters – 32% (10 votes)
    Shared ownership – 32% (10 votes)

    I’m saving the current JS snippet in the event that this gets screwed up. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Comment by michael — June 3, 2008 @ 1:43 pm
  2. Ok, the update was made and the results were maintained. Success!

    Comment by michael — June 3, 2008 @ 1:45 pm
  3. [...] Are my thoughts my thoughts after I tell you about them? I have been watching with some amusement the threads breaking out over comment ownership in the blogesphere. In fact, maybe it was the nice article by Louis Gray on “Blogging 2.0 causing friction with 1.0 Bloggers” that really kicked off this and other discussions. This topic seems settled law to me based on decades and centuries of how media have treated submitted content to media like newspapers, magazines, contests, etc and I commented on one of the threads to this point. [...]

  4. [...] off, we want to thank you all for the insightful feedback you contributed on “Who Owns Your Comments?” We want to keep you all in the loop on where we’re at with this. We’re currently [...]

  5. [...] reading a very interesting discussion over on the IntenseDebate blog with regards to the question, Who Owns Your Comments? IntenseDebate is one of three major third party commenting systems available. The other two are [...]

  6. [...] reading a very interesting discussion over on the IntenseDebate blog with regards to the question, Who Owns Your Comments? IntenseDebate is one of three major third party commenting systems available. The other two are [...]

    Pingback by The Ownership Of Comments | BlogBroker24-7 — June 14, 2008 @ 10:19 am
  7. [...] reading a very interesting discussion over on the IntenseDebate blog with regards to the question, Who Owns Your Comments? IntenseDebate is one of three major third party commenting systems available. The other two are [...]

  8. [...] reading a very interesting discussion over on the IntenseDebate blog with regards to the question, Who Owns Your Comments? IntenseDebate is one of three major third party commenting systems available. The other two are [...]

  9. [...] la disyuntiva que se han planteado en IntenseDebate sobre a quién pertenecen los comentarios de un blog, al editor del blog o al comentarista. Nunca [...]

  10. [...] Who owns the comments? This is an interesting debate. An interesting debate that may go beyond the “system” ownership and may see its way played out in the courts one day. [...]

    Pingback by Tuesday links - 06-17-2008 | Real Central VA — June 17, 2008 @ 6:35 am
  11. [...] brought up by several people such as Hank Williams and now being discussed on both the Disqus and Intense Debate websites regarding  “A Commenter’s Rights” and who owns the comments. I believe [...]

  12. [...] left on blogs? The question of commenters’ rights and related notions of authority is under considerable discussion just now, with some thoughtful viewpoints being offered. The post at [...]

    Pingback by Comment is not free, exactly | Waveflux — June 17, 2008 @ 12:05 pm
  13. [...] I was doing a bit of searching online through some blogs in my feed reader, and I came across this article which interested me a bit. It’s about comments on websites, mainly blog websites, and who owns [...]

  14. [...] reading a very interesting discussion over on the IntenseDebate blog with regards to the question, Who Owns Your Comments? IntenseDebate is one of three major third party commenting systems available. The other two are [...]

  15. Just finding this now.

    I think there are two questions:

    1. Who owns the comments.
    2. What features should ID build.

    Ownership
    —————
    I'm pretty sure that there is no doubt about ownership.

    The blog controls comment ownership. Their TOS governs what is/isn't acceptable, who owns the copyright and what licenses are granted. The blog ultimately has to deal with the DMCA and any lawsuits that might be brought against them for the contents of the comments.

    This is true in all forums and on all blogs today. You could also argue that nearly all blog platforms perform some automatic editing of comments (they nofollow links).

    While ID doesn't allow bloggers to edit comments at the moment, ID does allow bloggers to export their blog comments from ID and import into their publishing platform. I'm pretty sure you had this feature at launch and that most bloggers view it as essential. Of course, bloggers could edit the comments to their heart's content.

    I don't see how ID can assert shared ownership on publishers without opening up a hornet's nest of legal implications.

    There are many places that conversations can occur about a blog post off of the blog. If ownership is an issue by commenters, those conversations should occur there.

    Features
    ————
    I found my way here because a commenter left a comment that was half useful and half overtly promotional. I wanted to do what I've seen done in every forum: edit the part of the comment that was promotional and leave a message that it had been edited. In fact, I wanted the exact feature that Zach described above.

    In practice I like the idea of building features that support a more nuanced view of the relationship. Commenters should always have access to their original comments. Bloggers should be able to edit comments that they publish (as well as lock comments from being re-edited. The default installation should annotate edited comments so that the public can see when this has happened and by whom.

    Comment by Dave Naffziger — January 2, 2009 @ 3:46 am
  16. Hey Dave,
    I largely agree with your points. As far as features go, one small nit:
    Since the terms of the ownership depend on the blog's TOS, and this usually results in the blog owning the comment, the right of a commenter to edit their original comment should be up to the blog owner. It should be a discretionary feature of the blog owner whether or not commenters may edit their comments after the fact. A small edit to what I think is a good position on blog comments.

    Comment by Zach Landes — January 3, 2009 @ 5:11 am
  17. Yup, I think you're right. That makes a lot of sense to me.

    Comment by Dave Naffziger — January 3, 2009 @ 5:31 am
  18. Doesn't IntenseDebate "own" the comments?

    Comment by ilkeryoldas — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  19. Thanks for your input Rob. This is my main concern when it comes to giving publishers editing power. As a commenter, you need to have full assurance that your voice is not distorted. You're confidence and trust in IntenseDebate is paramount.

    Here's something to consider: blog publishers have to maintain their credibility – the success of their blog depends on it. If your original comment is easily accessible from the edited version, wouldn't this prevent the blog publisher from distorting your opinion (for the sake of their reputation as a blogger)? If they were to completely change your comment from "Yankees suck" to "Red Sox suck," and you received a notification, you could confront them citing your original comment. Their credibility would be brought into question and the success of their blog might be jeopardized.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts about this?

    Comment by michael — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  20. I don't care who owns my comments, but I do care that no one can change my comments after I make them. My comments are my voice and my words and neither publishers nor Intense Debate nor disqus should be able to change what I said. If you don't guarantee me that my comments will be preserved as I said them with no "editing" from the publisher then I don't know how to trust you.

    Of course the publisher has the right at any time to reject my comment from appearing on their blog. That is totally their right — if they don't like what I'm saying on their blog, then they can remove it. However, they cannot change what I've said and impersonate me.

    Comment by rnjohnson — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  21. IntenseDebate does not own the comments, we host them. You own the comments. What remains to be determined is what this exactly entails. Do you own the comments as commenter or as a blog publisher?

    Comment by michael — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  22. Michael, this is an excellent post. Thanks for letting us know about it. You put forth an excellent argument that the commenter owns the comment.

    Would it be out of the question to grant blog owners certain control over comments made on their blog, since the comments published are on their blog and they're providing the platform for commenters to voice their opinions?

    As a blog owner, if someone were to post an offensive comment on your blog, would you want to be able to delete or edit the comment? What do you think about giving blog owners control over a comment once it's submitted to their blog?

    Comment by michael — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  23. Also of note are discussions on this very subject from 2005. This is a discussion that keeps coming back in waves. http://friendfeed.com/e/2cd8c26c-2be7-4d34-bfa4-a

    Comment by Michael Beck — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  24. People "own" their own words. (Anonymous speakers notwithstanding.) And they should own their own words. A publisher should maintain the right to publish those words on their service and wherever they distribute once they're made on the publisher's service. And sensible terms of use should spell this out. (Terms of service that assign all rights to a publisher are onerous and foolish; though most people probably don't even read TOS's anyway.) Michael's link above goes to a good historical discussion of such issues. Anyway, MAYBE a publisher can do a light edit for grammar or similar, (ideally noting when they do so.)

    Don't forget the legal and ethical issues here. A publisher vs. a distributor have different liability profiles. A comment on a blog is arguably distribution. Active editing is more akin to publishing. And there's a huge difference in terms of responsibility. Do bloggers really want to be responsible for owning the words of other comments? I'd think not. Or at least, I'd suggest it's probably a bad idea.

    Comment by Scott — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  25. I'm really surprised that this is up for debate. I can't believe blog owners can actually change comments. To me, that's unacceptable. Deletion is a necessary evil, but editing?!?! No way.

    In my book, the comments 100% belong to the commenter.

    Comment by jared_k1483 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  26. I really think the creative commons people need to create a new license or set of licenses that spells this out for bloggers and commentators.

    Comment by zach_lande41081 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  27. What kind of ownership would you like to see?

    Comment by michael — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  28. blog publishers :D

    Comment by dav729781 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  29. Well, my real point is that there should be standards that everyone can see so there are no questions as to the rights. The particulars of those rights can be up to the owner of the website, just as long as they make it clear. A creative commons license clearly posted would make this easy.

    Comment by zach_lande41081 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  30. I think the blog owner cannot edit comments, but he can remove and ban spams and bad comments. Edited comments must show date and time of edition, just like foruns do, but only the commenters owner can do it.

    It's best remove the comment than edit it, and the user could receive a message telling about the removal.

    Comment by niaboktruk — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  31. Yeah, he's right. Even the blog owner can't change or impersonate anyone. That's why they have a login/pass in Intense Debate.

    Comment by niaboktruk — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  32. totally agree.

    Comment by dgcohen — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  33. Thanks for the feedback Bambi. I'm in agreement that blog owners should be able to remove inappropriate comments and spam – currently IntenseDebate users can delete these comments.

    One of the issues is that some comments made on blogs using IntenseDebate are insightful and add value to the post, but contain content that blog publishers want to remove (URL's, profanity and inappropriate remarks, etc.). This was the focus the first time this question came up. Is editorial power included in comment ownership? Is there a limit to the comment owner's control?

    Some of our users want X while others want Y. Blog publishers want editorial power, while commenters want the assurance that their voices are not being distorted. If blog publishers can't edit, then they either have to live with inappropriate but valuable content on their blog or they have to delete it. Commenter's want complete control and access to their comments, including deleted comments. And so go the issues of ownership.

    I understand (and see merit in) your position that blog publishers are providing the platform so they should have ownership. But I also understand the concerns of our commenters and the fact that there wouldn't be any comments if it wasn't for their input.

    What do you think about shared ownership?

    Comment by michael — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  34. It would be really nice if, at the bottom of a comment that was edited by the publisher, there appeared a note saying something to the effect of "This comment has been edited by the blog owner"

    Comment by zach_lande41081 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  35. On web forums, it is standard to have a note at the bottom of a post saying when it was last edited and by whom. Often, if it was edited by an administrator, the administrators name will be found in a special color and will link to a profile/contact for that administrator.

    Comment by zach_lande41081 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  36. I'm all about the commenter owning the comment and the publisher having the right to delete or republish the comment in context without limitation.

    However, there's a nuance that shifts me toward shared ownership. Many of the existing blog platforms allow the publisher to edit the comment. I think this is a problem and it's something that I don't think I've ever done as a blog publisher (it just never felt right.) I can imagine a situation – such as one where I'd want to redact a phone number or email address – where this would be a nice capability to have (instead of merely deleting the comment). So – in this case the publisher should have an edit ability but the commenter should still have access to the source comment, get a notification of the edit, and have a way to delete the edited comment if they want.

    I also think it's really important for all of the parties involved with third party commenting systems to get together and collaborate on one commenter bill of rights. They should then try to extend this to / embrace the blog publishing platforms to include the commenter bill of rights construct in their blog publishing systems.

    Comment by bfeld — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  37. Zachary – that’s a great idea.

    Comment by bfeld — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  38. I've deleted self-promotional links that people add at the end of the comment since the link is already set to their name. Aside from that I definitely don't edit comments. I agree that both people should have ownership and theoretically the editor should be able to modify their comment given the publisher's approval.

    Comment by nick_o039n41311 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  39. In traditional journalism it's common practice for letters to the editor to be modified/edited for language/context/grammar. There's nothing wrong with this if the commenter has full information before posting. Secondly, the capability for a commenter to remove postings provides insurance against misrepresentation. But, the idea of a person besides myself editing my comment is certainly a frightening thought.

    Why not create a process ex ante for providing information to commenters of the blogger's policy for editing/moderating comments. Then let the market figure it out.

    Comment by adam_steinb5469 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  40. An interesting corollary to 'ownership' of the comment is what happens when the comment contains copyrighted, slanderous, or proprietary information. In that case, who really 'owns' the comment (liability and all)?

    Comment by Ramin — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  41. Definitely a must have.

    Comment by michael — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  42. the publisher does have the ability to see the IP address when using ID.

    Comment by dgcohen — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  43. To your point with the bill of rights, I was actually at a conference at Northwestern University School of law and this exact topic was brought up. The lawyers in the room said that the most important thing of all is for the website to be transparent with their policy. If the website intends to edit comments then they need to be explicit about it, conversely if they wont touch the comments or want to edit the comments it all needs to be explicit. The "Bill of Rights" will be different from website to website. It's all about policy transparency.

    Comment by david_pess41281 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  44. Commenter ownership!

    Blog publishers should not be able to edit comments; only delete or accept. If minor changes needed to be made (like removing a phone number or email address), then the publisher should contact the commenter and have the commenter make the changes. As for publishers "cleaning up" grammar/spelling errors, maybe they should get back to writing/publishing and let the commenter worry about how those errors will affect "their voice."

    Comment by jennifer_b41241 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  45. As a blog publisher, I like the shared ownership option. There are many reasons I might choose to edit a comment rather than just delete it.

    * The commenter quoted a bunch of a previous post unnecessarily.
    * The commenter attempted to insert html and it looks terrible.
    * The commenter used profanity and I'd like to censor the ******* comment.
    * The commenter inserted a link and it's wrong / broken / incomplete
    * The commenter left personal information in the comment either on himself or someone else

    I recognize that commenters want their comments to look exactly like they left them. Having the commenting system indicate that the comment has been edited and providing a means for seeing the comment as originally written should satisfy that requirement.

    Comment by blogan — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  46. How about the idea of "the publisher decides on the policy, and Intense Debate helps make it simple to see/understand?" it says "if you don't like my policy, don't comment on my blog." but still allows for flexibility. i think the reality we're dealing with is that publishers get to set the rules, and participants (commenters in this case) just get to decide if they want to play in that particular game.

    Comment by dgcohen — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  47. +1, Luke. If the blog publisher is given the ability to edit posts, then there *must* be a way to show why the edits were made. Otherwise we all rely on the perceived reputation of the publisher to do what is right. Is that what we really want?

    After all, one of the key points of Intense Debate is that people who comment often talk more to each other than to the publisher. Many see this as a good thing, and the threaded approach generally makes for a nice forum/blog hybrid (Forog? Blogum?).

    Anyway, my point is that I don't want the meaning of my posts to be misconstrued in the name of "editorial clarity". Even though I shudder at the poor grammar and spelling of many comments I read online, I can't imagine why the publisher should care about such minutiae. As for fixing broken links….meh. If a commenter can't get it right, is it really worth the publisher's time to track down the right link? Why not just make a comment asking for clarification?

    The same goes for poorly worded comments. If it's that bad, the publisher should delete it completely or ask for clarification. IMHO, they should not try to "fill in the blanks" for the person and risk getting it wrong.

    Comment by jared_k1483 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  48. Publishers should have the ability to remove a comment from their blog. Full Stop – not editing of someone's comments.

    The commenter should retain ownership over the comment in their comment history even if the comment becomes "orphaned" because it is no longer posted anywhere.

    If anyone else can manipulate my comments (editing, republishing, etc) the commenting platform loses its value to the commenter.

    Comment by arinewman120 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  49. I think that ari has it exactly right. Publishers have the right to get rid of comments they don't like, for whatever reason. Either delete it all or don't delete it.

    Comment by robinseidner — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  50. I can see situations where the blog publisher or article author should have editing power. For example, what if a BBC article asks for user comments (using intensedebate, I bet you guys would love that!) but users write with nearly unintelligible spelling. The blog owner should be able to edit that as long as people know it could happen when they post. But really, the site owner owns the platform, so if he wants to have the ability to edit your comments and you are forewarned of his ability, then he should be allowed to have that ability. Everyone should know that it happened, however.

    Comment by zach_lande41081 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  51. This issue really should not be any different then how traditional media treats things like a letter to the editor, photographs submitted to a contest, or any content that a person chooses to submit to any given publisher. If you read the posted policies of publishers it is almost always the case that the publisher takes ownership of the submitted content.

    Blogs and new media can operate the same way and should post their policies on comments to clearly communicate how they will treat submitted content (i.e. comments, images, etc) and if they reserve the right to edit comments.

    What would be nice is if comment networks and the blog publishing platforms made more options available to publishers and people making comments so they have the ability to opt-in or opt-out of the different possible scenarios. For example, a commenter could say their comments can only be used if "unedited", etc.

    Comment by shane_pear36061 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  52. I pefer the shared method, because I think commenters own their words, and therefore their comments. However, I also think that if someone puts a link or a phone number that I don't want associated with one of my blog posts, that I would be able to take that out without rejecting the whole comment.

    I have edited comments on my blogs, but only for links that I didn't want to link to… nothing else. I've never corrected grammar or changed wording of my commenters.

    I would prefer to see a link that says "view original comment here" if I modify the comment.

    As the blogging platforms are now set up, it does seem as though the blog owner owns the comments, because they are stored on our DB on our Server and we can go in and do whatever we like with them. ID and Disqus allow us to have a commenting community, which ties our blogs together, and i like that a lot.. that's why I've joined in. And this format lets us own our own comments, which I also like.

    And question since we are at it… when we delete a comment or mark it as spam, where does it go? Is it removed from ID entirely? Or can the comment writer still get to it somehow?

    Comment by cynthia_bl24661 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  53. I think the blog owner owns the blog so has the right to not accept comments, but once appropriate comments are present, they are owned by the reputation that posted.
    That is how I operate my blogs.

    My forum is a different story because users have much more control. Users can start a thread and even change their own comments anywhere; we have to pass judgement on relevance. My registered users have control. As the forum owner, I only change or redirect (with trackback) a post when a link did not work or some user error in which case there is an automatic note at the bottom that says who made a change and why…it is very cool.

    Either way, you get to set the culture…just be consistent.

    Comment by david_sand41371 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  54. My initial thought was that commenters owned their posts and could only be deleted by the publishers but I can definitely see times where exceptions should be made. As others have said if the post contains value but has something the publisher doesn't want or needs attention (profanity, bad urls, etc) I think publishers should be able to edit that comment with the caveat that there is a note saying who it was edited by along with a snippet of WHY the comment was edited. Just something simple like "fixed URL" or "edited profanity". I think this would help the credibility of the publisher because they can make sure comments fit their guidelines and allow commenters/viewers to see why something was changed. Of course the idea of notifying commenters of edits and allowing them to delete their comments still apply.

    Comment by luke_roger14451 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  55. Check out the bottom of the following post where it shows I edited and when. and, if you click there is version control. Everyone should have this or not make changes…I think: http://www.yourbrandplan.com/forum/networking-con

    Comment by David Sandusky — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  56. Yes, this is what I would propose too should editing really be necessary and appropriate as opposed to the more black and white delete or let be…

    Comment by kimm_viebro1980 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  57. Awesome. Happy to see they added that feature. And I agree w/your points below.

    Comment by gwenbell — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  58. You're kidding, right? I can make this really simple for everyone.

    International copyright dictates that anything I create, including my thoughts and opinions in my own words, including comments that I post anywhere, are mine until I specifically assign rights to others. (Sometimes by simply posting the comment, depending on the site's posted TOS.)

    BUT!!!!!!!

    We're dealing with blogs here. Publishing platforms. And publishers, as we all know, by and large have complete editorial rights. I once wrote a Letter to the Editor at the local paper and it got published. After, of course, they edited it. And THEY DID change the tone! But that's what happens. I wasn't entirely happy because IMO my tone was important, but that's reality. It's the common practice, and /that/ for a reason.

    As a site owner, I am responsible for what shows up, how, etc etc. I want to be represented in a professional way (on my professional sites, which is what I'm most concerned with when it comes to this topic). I want to allow people to interact. I DON'T want to discourage them from commenting by completely deleting a comment because of one bad/inappropriate/copyright-infringing/whatever part! The draw of this service is to foster community, right??? Then don't make me chase people off in that way!

    My site = my control. The creators of the publishing platforms respect this obvious fact, even providing me with an "edit" button. Just because the comments are stored on ID's servers doesn't make them ID's to decide what does or doesn't happen with them! That is to say, basic universal rights of publishers (site owners) shouldn't be taken *away* by a service. If I'm over-reaching and editing too much, then people will stop coming. Offer a "Report This Edit" feature for edited posts, where if someone edited my comments in a way that overstepped their bounds, then you can find out and take action against that publisher's account if necessary. You can even make it so a commenter gets an email notification when their comment gets edited. But don't change the face of publishing and make yourselves the protector of commenters. It's not needed. Abusers will alienate themselves.

    I don't get the mass paranoia of commenters here. Get a grip! If you are really so distrustful of the people whose sites you're commenting on, go find sites with better integrity, that you can trust to not misconstrue your words. Don't hold decent site-owners hostage because some people MIGHT take advantage of a situation.

    Comment by jeannie42271 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  59. This isn't even an issue. Copyright inheres upon publication. Unless there is an express agreement to the contrary, copyright inheres in the actual author. Absent evidence to substantiate some other intent the best read is that the commenter retains all rights while simultaneously stipulating the blog owner's use is legitimate fair use. That should be the default position absent clear and convincing evidence otherwise.

    Comment by Robert Link — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  60. My answer is (4) none of the above. Don't try to "be all things to all people", but try not to arbitrate this issue at all. Instead, give commenters easy access to their own blogs (or "personal comment areas") where they can post articles they prefer to own, then make it easy for them to quote from those articles into comments that another site owns. Not trackback, but a readable, fair solution not much different than how things work today, just more streamlined.

    Bloggers own comments, while commenters may own some of the source material from which they quote. Commenters who choose not to use such a workflow shouldn't mind that the blog owns their comments; they could have easily retained ownership, but chose not to.

    Comment by John Q. Public — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  61. This is an issue, because most pro bloggers have posted notices that comments become the property of the blog, the way "letters to the editor" become the property of print publications upon receipt (from http://www.indiana.edu/~ahr/communpolicies.html : "In terms of copyright, the letters become the property of the American Historical Association."). Many comments are indeed the property of the publication, while others are not.

    Although an issue, it's not one that comment service providers need to arbitrate. Bloggers decide for themselves whether or not they want to own comments, and commenters are free to retain ownership by commenting elsewhere and posting a quote in the publication-owned comments. As I have said elsewhere, "The publication can take ownership of my comments, but not my source material." For example, even if this blog were to claim ownership of comments, it does not own the AHA document I quoted in the previous paragraph.

    Most of the time, I don't mind that the publisher owns my comments, as there is no financial benefit. Whenever I think there could be, I comment in a publication I own, then quote myself. It's easy, so I have no need for a comment service provider to arbitrate it, only perhaps to automate it by making the existing self-quotation process easier.

    Comment by John Q. Public — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  62. Shared ownership sounds like an interesting experiment, but entirely unnecessary. Commenters can already retain ownership through self-quotation whenever the publication claims ownership of comments (which overrides whatever policies the comment service provider may prefer). To avoid this issue entirely, just make self-quotation easier (that is, posting an original in a forum the commenter owns, then quoting it from a comment the publication owns). As I have said elsewhere, "The publication can take ownership of my direct comments, but not my sources." If the publisher chooses to remove my quotation marks or reference to the original, that's already plagiarism on their part. No need for new policy here.

    Comment by John Q. Public — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  63. While a commenter bill of rights might be useful for explaining to bloggers how commenters prefer to be treated, it's not going to change well-defined law in this arena. If the publisher posts a notice claiming ownership of submitted comments for copyright purposes, it owns the comments, period.

    Instead, it would be more valuable to inform commenters how to exercise their existing right to retain ownership through self-quotation: publish an original thought in a publication you own, then quote it from a comment someone else owns. The publisher can only claim ownership of the direct comment, not the quoted source. It may be slightly convoluted, but it works and is already well-defined in law.

    Comment by John Q. Public — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  64. I think at least there should be a email filtering (suppose that someone published comment(s) with email addresses in it) for reducing the spam …

    Comment by kemal_yayl58851 — January 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am
  65. Having the ability to edit a comment is critical. I would imagine 99% of people that do edit their comments are for typo's and good honest reasons.

    The argument of trust is a non issue because if someone edited (changed) my comment I simply would not post there again. You will destroy your own credabilty and blog.

    Intense Debate needs to TRUST it's customers and allow us to make our own decisions. If we breach any trust, fine – close our account!

    It's simple!

    Comment by Simon Bennett — January 10, 2009 @ 2:00 am
  66. Shared Ownership is a great solution!

    Comment by Simon Bennett — January 10, 2009 @ 2:01 am
  67. Blog publishers should not be allowed to edit commenter's works. It is naive to propose that Blog publishers will put their own reputation above their political agenda, which often involves destroying the reputation of their rivals in front of a highly supportive fan base. When these fans then propagate the Blog's distorted comment, the damage to the reputation of the commenter will quickly become irreversible. The Blog will thrive at the enormous expense of the commenter, who may be edit-stalked wherever he/she may roam long into the future.

    Comment by whatsso4me — March 5, 2009 @ 8:18 am
  68. [...] Who owns your comments (Intensedebate.com) [...]

  69. #2, but with an implied license to display electronically on the blog where the comment was posted. Current copyright law should be adequate to cover this, and "opinion" is irrelevant. When I comment, I fully INTEND that the blog owner should display my comment where I posted it. I also realize he may delete it or make MINOR editorial changes (deleting a link, removing profanity, fixing a spelling error, etc.). I do not grant an implied right to make substantive changes or to republish my comments (other than, of course, in an RSS feed). Any other use would require a more formal agreement between us.
    My recent post Crazy Candymaking!

    Comment by Holly — December 27, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

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