mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Sunday, 25 January 2004

Legal Implications of Feedback on Weblogs

As alluded to before, you’re taking on legal risk when you allow people to say things to you. Yes, this is crazy, but hey, it’s the US legal system. Go figure.

For Weblogs, this means copyright on comments. Specifically, if you reproduce something that someone else has created without a license from them, you open yourself to copyright violation lawsuits. Now, sane people know that comments are meant to be reproduced, and I’d be willing to bet reasonably large amounts of money that a court would say that if you submit a comment to a blog, you know the consequences. In many ways, it’s like sending mail to a mailing list; if there’s a reasonable expectation that people know how mailing lists work, you’d likely be said to have given up your copyright when you post.

Still, IANAL, and I’m interested in how this stuff works. So, as an experiment, I’ve put the following disclaimer in my comments forms;

By submitting a comment, you agree to grant a limited license to reproduce it, under the same terms as the page being commented upon. If you have questions or prefer other terms, please contact me.

Now, this doesn’t cover the case of people posting copyrighted content when they don’t have the right to license it, but let’s take it one step at a time. I’m interested in whether this will have a chilling effect on comments, or if people will feel better that they know the terms.

A third option, of course, is that people don’t care, and I’m more than willing to live in that world too. However, given the legal environment, it might be better to be explicit (and I must admit the intricacy of the relationship between the law and technology fascinates me).


Marc g said:

The more legalese the better, its become so prevelant no one takes notice anymore. Maybe ultimately this is the way average people can take back the system. Creative Commons is a great first pass at trying to accomplish this and it is WIDELY used which is a good thing. We’ll have to see if home grown licensing holds up to corporate attack from the likes of SCO. In the mean time check out my personal favorite click through legal agreement of all (you need to allow popups on the home page to see it),

Monday, January 26 2004 at 10:52 AM

Aaron Swartz said:

Right, because newspapers keep getting sued for printing those Letters to the Editor… oh wait, not they don’t.

Sunday, February 8 2004 at 10:18 AM