Can I make a claim? June 23, 2005 6:45 PM   Subscribe

All posts are © their original authors.

Does this mean I have a claim to a comment I wrote in a now-deleted AskMe thread? I am aware of how © protects an author's work from unauthorized reproduction, but how about unauthorized deletion?
posted by scarabic to Etiquette/Policy at 6:45 PM (33 comments total)

Just curious, really. I think the deletion method in the Green would be better if it were more like the Blue. But no issue here. Just wondering.
posted by scarabic at 6:46 PM on June 23, 2005


IANAL, but my guess would be that while you may own the comment, you don't have a right to leave it on Mathowie's server if he doesn't want you to, any more than I have a right to come leave a sack of stones on your living room floor or a book in your window.
posted by Tuwa at 6:57 PM on June 23, 2005


There is no "unauthorized deletion." You don't own the website. Anything you write on your personal website is copyrighted to you too; if the ISP decides to shut down they don't need your approval. You have the copyright to your writing; if you waived your right to copy it somewhere else that's not Matt's fault.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:06 PM on June 23, 2005


EFFs legal guide to bloggers makes the same point Tuwa and XQUZYPHYR make. Copyright is really about making ideas into property and then deciding who owns that property.

And, deletions in the Green are a bit more like the Blue than they used to be. Anything that gets deleted doesn't go down the rabbit hole, it just gets removed from view, better for answering those "where did my post go?" questions. No LoFi for the green yet though.
posted by jessamyn at 7:10 PM on June 23, 2005


Sue! Since membership reopened there's money rolling in. ; >
posted by amberglow at 8:02 PM on June 23, 2005


I am a photographer. I own the copyright of all of my photographs. I print out a copy of one, and generously give it to you. But you tear it up! My copyright doesn't protect me from you destroying my masterpiece.

(Just don't expect me to give you another one, you bastard.)
posted by crunchland at 8:43 PM on June 23, 2005


Yeah, I guess that all makes sense. So then... that brings up the opposite case. Some people have asked that their accounts be deleted and all comments removed, and I'm pretty sure I've seen Matt refuse that request. At that point, isn't he violating their copyright?
posted by scarabic at 8:51 PM on June 23, 2005


Actually, crunchland, it might, if they were individually signed and numbered. See VARA.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:03 PM on June 23, 2005


I would think that leaving the comment up is not in violation of your copyright; you implicitly gave Matt permission to post your comments when you clicked, well, "post." I think that's really the only reasonable interpretation of it that someone with the 'net could have.... But I don't know if this has ever been litigated, and the court's interpretations would of course matter more than mine.

In meatspace, a somewhat similar case involved J.D. Salinger, famously cranky recluse, who'd sent some letters to various friends. The friends had allowed an author to copy them for use in a book he was writing about Salinger. Salinger argued that he held the copyright to the letters and so the author could not quote from them without his permission, and he won. But he did not get the actual physical letters back; those still belonged to each of the people he'd sent them to.

So I'd think that Matt has perpetual permission to leave comments posted, the terms they were originally submitted under, just like a letter sent, but he does not have permission to license them to anyone else.

And again, IANAL.
posted by Tuwa at 9:07 PM on June 23, 2005


right, why don't I catch these on preview?

I think that's really the only reasonable interpretation of it that someone with the 'net could have....

--by "it" I mean "clicking 'post'" and the later bit should be "someone familiar with the 'net" etc.
posted by Tuwa at 9:09 PM on June 23, 2005


And, deletions in the Green are a bit more like the Blue than they used to be. Anything that gets deleted doesn't go down the rabbit hole, it just gets removed from view, better for answering those "where did my post go?" questions.

Hm, i looked for a gap in question numbers and found a deleted question, http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/20298 but it sure seems gone to me. just the move along message.
posted by puke & cry at 9:09 PM on June 23, 2005


And this isn't clear either: "So I'd think that Matt has perpetual permission to leave comments posted, the terms they were originally submitted under, just like a letter sent"

What I mean is that it's rare indeed to get a letter which states that the sender wants it back after x amount of time. Letters are typically sent with the understanding that the recipient can keep them indefinitely; the sender has to state otherwise if that's the case. So Salinger's (former) friends could keep the letters because of the original implicit agreement.

And that's my 2nd clarification of this one comment, which tells me a) it's a good thing I'm not a lawyer, because I'd probably be a poor one (in both ability and income) and b) I really need to get to bed. And so to bed.
posted by Tuwa at 9:47 PM on June 23, 2005


Hmm... I know that patent law differs greatly between the U.S. and Canada, but to my knowledge, copyright is far closer. And in this country, one acquires moral rights to a work the instant it is created, and the right to not have that work altered is one of the attending rights (our big case is from an artist who sold an exhibit of white plaster geese to a mall; at Christmas, the mall put red bows on them -- can't do that). Just a warning: copyright law is NOT that intuitive.
posted by dreamsign at 10:24 PM on June 23, 2005


matt's refusal to delete member's comments upon request bothers me too. I don't buy the 'implicit permission' of the post button. Mefi is a revenue generating operation and matt's making money off people's copyrighted comments so the letter analogy breaks down quickly. It's not just about copyright, it's about who owns the data. If people do ask, they should be able to delete all their comments on Mefi because it's their data. FPPs are a trickier matter though but posts would be a good first step.
posted by nixerman at 11:52 PM on June 23, 2005


I disagree with nixerman.
The main thing it should stop people from doing is releasing for sale a book of the collected posts of metafiler. Something like that.

Displaying the posts in the same way forever does not seem to be a problem, no matter what the creator of a post says later.

The way I look at it is if someone gives you a work of art or whatever to hang on your wall. The original creator cant decide to take it back later, even if your home does become famous for having it.
posted by Iax at 1:32 AM on June 24, 2005


matt's refusal to delete member's comments upon request bothers me too

The reason this bothers you is because you have a fucking PIMPLE for a brain. And you've probably got WARTS instead of legs and FESTERING BOILS where your arms should be and an ABSCESS instead of a pee-pee and maybe your have a FRECKLE for an elbow and your pancreas is actually a DISGUSTING SCAB only instead of a disgusting scab you have an UNSIGHTLY MOLE.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:46 AM on June 24, 2005 [1 favorite]


One day, you will wish you could ask Matt to delete that comment.
posted by Rothko at 4:34 AM on June 24, 2005


If Matt were to agree to delete members comments on requests, would he then have to agree to delete people's comments where they quoted that member at length? How would he make the resulting discussion sensible if people had directly commented on those comments? It doesn't even begin to be practical. Consider the post button to be granting MeFi a licence to display your comments on this website in perpetuity - you can't arbitrarily revoke that licence, even while you might deny permission to use them elsewhere.

There was a small amount of controversy on another board I'm associated with recently. They distilled some of the board content down into book form and had it published, something the terms of service on the board explicity permit. There were still people who were cranky - and one (who wasn't even quoted in the book) who went so far as to post a rights reserved notice on all her posts. But you can't arbitrarily decide to change the terms of service of a site just because you want to, the fact that she reserved those rights in her writing doesn't change the fact that she agreed to give them up every time she hit 'post'.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:47 AM on June 24, 2005


Consider the post button to be granting MeFi a licence to display your comments on this website in perpetuity

If the law provides for that, sure, and I'd like to learn more about that. But I am leery of this "implicit perpetual license." Does anyone have anything to go on there beyond a wild assumption that clicking "post" grants all future rights, even though every page on the site grants copyright to the original author? Sounds awful shaky to me.

Again, I'm not complaining and I'm not bothered. I figure the copyright message is there to insulate Matt from repercussions of things that people write here. I've seen it before: if you grant ownership of the content to the users, then, legally, you are one step removed from it and can be better protected in a lawsuit. However, the site where I saw this in action gives users the right to delete their content. If that right is part and parcel of copyright law, then this site could be in worse shape because of the little footnote. By placing it there, Matt may be giving someone the tool they need to demand that their account ad all comments be deleted, and that would indeed be destructive to the site.
posted by scarabic at 9:51 AM on June 24, 2005


Well said, quidnunc kid.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:21 AM on June 24, 2005


Matt, I'd like to grant you a non-exclusive licence to display this text for 0.7 seconds ONLY.

If you display this text for longer than 0.7 seconds, I will consider you in breach of my copyright in the aforementioned text, and will have no option but to have you roughed up by the giant mutant frogs that live inside my ass. Thank you for your understanding and good day.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:22 AM on June 24, 2005


Oh, so now you're breaching my copyright, eh? I warned you buddy - these giant mutant frogs that live up my ass are NOT to be trifled with.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:24 AM on June 24, 2005


I was just thinking there wasn't enough legal handwaving around here.
posted by smackfu at 10:29 AM on June 24, 2005


Iax, again, the analogy doesn't work because Matt isn't just hanging the artwork on his wall, he's hanging it out in public and making money off it. Mefi has no terms of service or usage so I don't know why anybody would view the 'post' button as any sort of surrendering of rights. And there are a million reasons why somebody would want a comment or two or even all of them gone.
posted by nixerman at 10:39 AM on June 24, 2005


giant mutant frogs that live inside my ass

wow. my pantsfish is jealous.
posted by quonsar at 10:59 AM on June 24, 2005


he's hanging it out in public and making money off it

That sure is true. Rich bastard. I've done the calculations. A comment from me causes 5 new people to join up (usually to denounce the comment). I just hope my $25/comment is in the mail.
posted by graventy at 11:00 AM on June 24, 2005


If people do ask, they should be able to delete all their comments on Mefi because it's their data.

That's ridiculous. I am not a lawyer, but I can't imagine that the law would require a website to be reduced to shreds of incomprehensible fragments because people changed their minds about displaying their precious words. And if the law doesn't require it, Matt sure shouldn't do it.

And don't tell me MeFi is already shreds of incomprehensible fragments, because I don't want to hear it.
posted by languagehat at 12:00 PM on June 24, 2005


In many cases, serial publications grant shared copyright to contributing authors. So if you wrote something for Pantsfish Fancier, who has this policy, both you and PF would own the copyright on the article.

Let's say you were a regular contributor to PF, authoring several articles on the rare and beautiful Western Michigan Royal Pantsfish and multiple op-eds in response to the articles of other contributors. Suddenly, you become disillusioned about the Pantsfish scene, and decide to get out. How likely do you think it is that Pantsfish Fancier is going to remove all traces of your contributions to their journal? How do you expect them to get back every extant issue of the magazine from subscribers, libraries and institutes of higher learning and remove the articles in question?

Just because you are granted copyright doesn't mean you control publication in perpetuity. Once it's out there, it's nearly impossible to retract, barring libel or other legal issues.

And just because it's easier, physically, for a website to remove all traces of your work doesn't mean it's easy in terms of preserving continuity and comprehensibility for what remains.
posted by me3dia at 12:38 PM on June 24, 2005


both you and PF would own the copyright on the article.

This seems to be supported by the printing of both:

© 2000-2005 The MetaFilter Network

and

All posts are © their original authors.

I guess I'll consider the question answered at that. While it's been super to hear about people's ass pimples and rectal frogs, it'd be even better to hear from Matt, who has probably considered all this long ago.
posted by scarabic at 1:06 PM on June 24, 2005


Does anyone have anything to go on there beyond a wild assumption that clicking "post" grants all future rights, even though every page on the site grants copyright to the original author?

I didn't say all future rights. I said rights to publish here. Rights to publish elsewhere, not granted, no. There's quite a large difference.

In the example I mentioned of the other site, all rights are explicity granted, as a result of the ToS.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:39 PM on June 24, 2005


This is much like music. You are confusing Copyright and Mechanical Rights. You own the copyright to your words. This means that nobody else can claim to have written those words and use them for any purpose without your permission. While you can transfer copyright to someone (nominally), in general, your right to assert ownership of a work never goes away, no matter what happens.

When you post a message on MF, you (implicitly) give Matt the Mechanical Right to publish your copyrighted words. He can choose to exercise that Mechanical Right or not, as he sees fit (unless you have a contract which states things differently). His Mechanical Right to publish your works here doesn't affect any of your other rights to exercise your copyright - for instance, you could publish a book of all your MetaFilter postings, if you chose. Matt couldn't.
posted by benzo8 at 3:19 PM on June 24, 2005


dreamsign writes "(our big case is from an artist who sold an exhibit of white plaster geese to a mall; at Christmas, the mall put red bows on them -- can't do that)."

That's because an arguement could be made that the mall was making a derivative work. If the mall had ground the geese up for use as artifical snow the artist would have been SOL.

And on preview, what benzo8 wrote.
posted by Mitheral at 8:16 PM on June 24, 2005


They weren't making a derivative work -- they weren't making moulds of the geese and creating something from them. They were altering the work -- and that conflicted with the artist's moral rights to the work, which include not having them defaced. People who talk copyright always forget moral rights, but it gets argued (successfully) in court all the time.
posted by dreamsign at 12:39 AM on June 25, 2005


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