Smarmy AOL November 12, 2001 11:26 PM   Subscribe

Wow, AOL re-packages a bunch of AOL user posts and sells it as a book of 9/11 remembrances. Not only that, but it's perfectly legal, thanks to their terms of service. Just as an fyi: I'll never publish a metafilter book of comments.
posted by mathowie (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 11:26 PM (18 comments total)

It's the principle of the matter," said Steve Outing, a senior editor at, a journalism Web site, and an expert in online news. "A common-carrier institution like AOL shouldn't be able to republish its users' words any more than a phone company takes words uttered in a conference call between a performer and fans and publishes them without asking express permission."

Long live! They keep invaluable Jim Romenesko in clover and they still have time to throw a spanner into AOL's works. The 9/11(YankChecked!)book is a sinister idea. From now on, I'll definitely be reading the fine print before clicking nonchalantly on those "I Accept" buttons. The only consolation, of course, is that the book is, heh, bound to be a ginormous flop!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:36 PM on November 12, 2001

Dammit. Incomplete YankCheck. Sorry. Spanner = monkey wrench. Cf. John Lennon's most amusing book.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:25 AM on November 13, 2001

AOL message boards are a Twilight Zone. At last count, three women had 'fallen in love' with (and two later married) men who claimed to be the 'real author' of really really crappy top-10 jokes I had written and posted there (in internet years, really really long time ago). I found out about this when all three emailed me saying they enjoyed meeting me in person. (To which I promptly replied that I, in fact, had never met them, and they really should get tested as soon as possible.) I am not a very funny person, yet AOL consistently made me look like someone with a sense of humor.

AOL have incorporated user posted comments/suggestions into the various TOS for the various areas. Many user posts have surfaced in their official FAQ/help pages. It was also sued by angry volunteer guides (moderators) who claimed that AOL was using them as 'slave labor' while building communities/chat rooms. Guides usually got their monthly fee waived in exchange for a 10-20 hour per week commitment. Some guides spent nearly 40-60 hours maintaining peace in their own niche of AOL. Many descriptions and details and even some 'topic specific TOS' were written by these unpaid guides (with significant help from their friends and AOL-buddies) as a labor of love. I don't think AOL compensated them beyond the occasional free month. I don't remember AOL having any corporate policy of [richly, or even justly] rewarding its guides/moderators as Powazek had written about in this month's Web Techniques.

At least AOL will cite the screenname who wrote the comment/quote in its book. Since AOL knows the identity of [at least the Master] screenname, and the credit card/billing address and such vital information, it is not difficult for them to issue royalty checks. But, is it ethical for AOL to seek out a screenname to pay him/her royalty for a comment the person made anonymously from behind the veil of silly screennames?
posted by tamim at 12:48 AM on November 13, 2001

Never say never, Matt. A Metabook might someday actually be a Really Cool Thing.

Of course it might also be the portal into an evil alternate bizarro-universe where #006699 is forbidden and there is no cabal.

Or is there is a cabal. I've lost track again.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:56 AM on November 13, 2001

I don't quite get it. What's so bad about that 9/11 book?

Or is it so bad because of what may follow? (if it's the latter, I get it.)
posted by kchristidis at 2:48 AM on November 13, 2001

Matt, can you at least consider a compilation of dongresins' bukkake references?
posted by machaus at 5:45 AM on November 13, 2001

the dong_resin compilation: come for the bukkake, stay for his grandma's excema.

This is going to be THE reference for public speakers.
posted by UncleFes at 7:45 AM on November 13, 2001

someone mention bukk...owski? AOL is shameless, they will probably donate all the proceeds to bureaucracy. What if one wrote a paper (essay) with mefi comments as reference? (what about it) is it legal?
posted by clavdivs at 8:06 AM on November 13, 2001

Wont say I told you so.
posted by Voyageman at 8:24 AM on November 13, 2001

Clavdivs: I've written papers referencing Usenet posts...? I think so far as you reference properly (I built a homemade cite using APA style), published items (of which Mefi posts I assume count, since they are widely available to the public) should be OK to use.

Now, if Mefi is considered Matt's property (and I can see no reason why it wouldn't be), it could be that all the posts similarly become his personal property when posted, and though it would seem that he serves as a publisher when he makes the posts available on the web (at which point you would be free to cite), you might want to get his permission anyway so that your ass is covered.
posted by UncleFes at 9:12 AM on November 13, 2001

As far as I know, and I'm going by the standard publishing arrangement here in Europe, copyright is user W.H.Oever and MetaFilter, i.e. Matt Haughey. This "and" is largely redundant. I've published a lot of books - some of them anthologies of pieces previously published in newspapers - and always had to get(i.e. pay for)their permission. So even being a faraway Portagee, I still couldn't use my own comments here without Matt's permission. I freely contributed them to his website and, as such, they're his intellectual property (brief interval to laugh: as if this were something bankable!). The fact that he generously states that they're our copyright doesn't alter the fact that, being published(i.e. made public)on his property, they are effectively his to do what he wants with them. That he graciously declines to claim this right(another giggle)is yet another example of his impeccable moral standards.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:40 AM on November 13, 2001

Possible Titles for MetaBooks:

The MiguelCardoso Threads

1142: What Went Wrong

The 123CheapHosting Debacle

Mathowie and Jkottke's "Let's Bowl" Challenge

Quadruple Post: The "Get Your War On" Story
posted by TacoConsumer at 1:05 PM on November 13, 2001

UncleFes: Actually, scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page.

Miguel: Continuing from your line, though, what if Matt weren't so nice? Wait, lemme finish! I follow as far as you saying that he declines to claim the right. But will the fact that he isn't included in the copyright notice down there be taken as him giving up that right, as opposed to simply not using it at the moment?
Say you go ahead and publish a book of your own comments. Could OwnerOfSiteNotMatt suddenly turn around and demand a cut?
posted by Su at 1:25 PM on November 13, 2001

Aren't those AOL users whose posts are being published "freelancers"?
posted by Carol Anne at 1:26 PM on November 13, 2001

Actually, the thought of selling rememberances is, in itself, truly, truly disturbing, copyright issues aside.

One day, when I grow up, I'm going to be a corporate executive whore.
posted by Neale at 1:57 PM on November 13, 2001

UncleFes: Actually, scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page.

Ah! Missed that, thanks.

More titles from MetaBooks...

The Scopes Monkey Trial: A Modern Update by holgate and ljromanoff

Zen and the Art of Asian Poetry by Kafkaesque

Herding Cats: A Memoir by mathowie

Doubleposting as Modern Art: Critique and Commentary various authors

Al Gore is a Right-Wing Candy Ass by hincandenza

What's That Smell? And Other Stories by StavrostheWonderchicken

The Liberal/Conservative Media and Why It/They Rule/Suck the Entire Metafilter Membership

Catalog available upon request.
posted by UncleFes at 2:10 PM on November 13, 2001

How about

All I Really Need To Know I Learned From MetaFilter


Chicken Soup for the Trolls
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:45 PM on November 13, 2001

Fact or Fiction: Kottke, Kitties and Kaycee Nicole

MeFi Mob Rules: Take it to MetaTalk
posted by jpoulos at 6:15 PM on November 13, 2001

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