Friday, October 30, 2009

Comments, who owns comments?

Who owns comments on a blog? Or what is fair use? As some of you may know, a book of selected blog posts from this blog is forthcoming from BookThug. The process of creating the text was intriguing--more complicated than I expected. And what precedent is there for turning a literary blog into a book? I'll be posting more on that when the time comes. But, but, but, for now my question is regarding the comments folks have left here over the past six years? When you leave a comment what do you expect it to do? Have an afterlife? Disappear in 48 hours? Do you feel a sense of ownership? A defense of commentary? For some (not necessarily here but elsewhere)commenting seems to be a serial form of publication. And for blogs they are kind of essential aren't they? So who owns blog comments? Once offered in response to something posted here, do they become part of "here"? Can I do with them what I wish?

Please feel free to comment.

Oh, and do check the blogger terms of service

23 comments:

Brenda Schmidt said...

Hm. Good question. I like the final sentence of this little article in Seed on authorship. The idea of our society shifting from consumers to creators is a compelling one. Sometimes I think of a post in the same way as I do a conference. The comments section is where blogacademics deliver micro-papers related to the conference theme. Applause, questions and/or heckling is to be expected. Other posts can be seen as works of art and the comments as the published responses of art critics. Either way, they are the authors of the comments. They are the creators of the comments. The owners.

Josef Kaplan said...

Selections from Nick Piombino's blog, fait accompli, were published under the same name by Factory School in 2007. You can order it here:

http://www.factoryschool.com/pubs/heretical/vol3/piombino/index.html

It's excellent.

Claire said...

I have always thought of blog comments as a collaboration between the commenter, the original poster, and in some occasions, the entire blog community. On some blogs, I have seen comments incorporated into future blog posts; they become a component of revision or revisitation. I'm not exactly sure what that means in terms of ownership, because blogs usually belong to the public sphere-once something is said, it can be very difficult to take back in any kind of complete way. However, bloggers often moderate the comments on their blog; a blog is a kind of personal webspace. So perhaps the blogger can assert a claim of the entire discourse; they are the editors, the directors of the comments. Says someone who has never commented on this particular blog before, and so has no personal stake in the issue (although I look forward to the book of the blog).

R. said...

I'm not a lawyer, but I believe it could be argued that comments are a form of public speech, and I believe that public speech is not copyright, though recordings of it may be, in which case the copyright can belong to the entity that makes the recording. So you could argue that you own the comments here, unless they have been previously published elsewhere, or copyright explicitly asserted by the author of the comment. There's an interesting discussion of public speech and copyright that doesn't go too far afield on metafilter here http://ask.metafilter.com/41719/Public-Speech-Public-Domain

That said, it seems to me that a good thing to do would be to include a statement on the blog that by commenting commenters place their comments under a Creative Commons (or some such) license.

Martha Nichols said...

I agree, good question, especially since I have excerpted comments from posts and used them in other articles or posts. I follow journalistic rules here, because that's my background.

I assume in most cases that comments are public speech that require appropriate attribution. (Also, fair use rules apply in terms of how much you can excerpt.) However, in other cases, I have asked permission to excerpt comments on my blogs as quotes, especially if I know the sources may not have intended their original comments to get wider distribution.

It's interesting, I've never really thought about myself as the blog "owner" of comments--they really do seem like speech in other public forums to me--speech that can be quoted because it was public to begin with but not necessarily my property just because something I wrote sparked them.

derek beaulieu said...

Hi LH;
a couple of thoughts from the top of my head:

the idea of ownership of the printed/spoken/typed word is antiquated in my opinion. poetry is a collaborative, social act in my opinion -- an act which hindered by claimed ownership.

however, this social act reinforces a social responsibility for open dialogue, respectful discourse and a community-driven exploration of ideas.

derek

et said...

But then Derek, if ownership is antiquated or wrong, how can LH make a book with her name as author? I do like of an intra personal weaving without worry about ownership/economics, but it also becomes a question of identity/voice as well.

And to answer yr question, Sina, I generally want to remove my comments within hours.

That's my problem with the unspoken word, I guess. (recording)

My two cents.

All best with the book!

Lemon Hound said...

Indeed, interesting stat, Brenda:

"Currently, authorship, including books and new media, is growing nearly tenfold each year. That’s 100 times faster. Authors, once a select minority, will soon be a majority..."

et said...

love it!

Anonymous said...

If it were me, I'd publish nothing in book form that isn't agreed to in writing by the person who posted (given due diligence, as per any citation longer than a certain number of words). We're all still working all this out, of course, but my sense is that you own your own blog postings, but not spontaneous submissions/reactions/strings which are now suddenly framed in a different context. That doesn't seem fair to me without approval. It's like dinner party talk that's suddenly public information. If you can erase it online on second thought, as you can with most such postings, it's not like an interview, for example, which is clearly the interviewer's property.

For what it's worth.

KV

Anonymous said...

Fair use and attribution seems logical. But I'm still curious about those writers who seem to spend hours crafting comments--on Harriet for example. That's a lot of creative energy.

Pearl said...

that is an interesting boundary. It's public discourse as others said.

I remember this loud debate a few years ago (but I don't remember where) on blogger owning what is commented. Do we own authorship of all we hear? If we're heard Beethoven or bus, are we him or it?

The speaking is done when its shared. I have no qualms deleting comments when it's at my blog, mine or others.

It isn't unsaid, exactly, but no records is kept of out of order comments as when disruption to parliament is noted but not quotes of what protesters shout in the formal record.

Attribution is good as a rule so the reader can get back to the source.

Might a series of comments be covered like a group shot of public? No need for publicity releases?

Anonymous said...

so long as the new context in which my comments appear closely approximates and refers to the original place i put them - your blog - then i can't and won't complain.

Anonymous said...

Hi LH,
That's an interesting question -- and it sounds like it will be an interesting book. I rarely write on blogs, but I would consider my comments to be the property of the recipient.

However, if I were going to be publishing comments that others put on my blog, should I ever have one, I think I'd want, if possible, to ask their permission and ask if they wanted to be cited as the author.

Good luck! These are interesting times in which to consider issues of what is public and what is not. My feeling is that knowledge wants to be free and it's hard to own words. It's all out there, whether we like it or not.
Carol Matthews

Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous 5:05pm's comments...
By publishing comments anonymously, aren't you giving up your claim to copyright and your moral rights protected therein?

Must the blogger trace I.P. addresses to distinguish between different "Anonymous" commentators to properly acknowledge intellectual property claims? Is this possible?

The larger question, I suppose, is how does anonymity and the use of pseudonyms effect online intellectual property claims?

Lemon Hound said...

re: Anonymous 5:05pm

Just to chime in here that I have made anonymous, quick commenting possible here for the purposes of this post. Otherwise anonymous commenting has not been allowed.

I think not allowing anonymous comments goes a little way toward ensuring a civil environment...on the other hand, good question, I have no idea how either anonymous or pseudonyms might influence intellectual property claims...

Lemon Hound said...

et

I wonder if it's a common feeling that we might want to remove comments immediately? I certainly do. Every time I leave a comment...

But we do have this meta commentary attached, which is kind of beautiful really. And since comments do reflect what people are "thinking" out loud, it's sort of refreshing, isn't it?

Issues of attribution aside...

Lemon Hound said...

For an example of how comments can become an entire text in and of themselves...do check out the Tolerance Project

http://thetoleranceproject.blogspot.com/2009/10/statement-to-mfa-workshop-october-13.html#comments

Paul said...

Not sure I'm contributing anything new here to Derek's point. It's not so much the notion of intellectual property that I find pernicious (though I generally do) as the transparency of its legitimacy. Happy enough to see it debated, just not stipulated to.

For example, to put one's name on a book is not (automatically) to assert ownership but, after all, authorship. In only some worlds is to author an act or an artefact to own it, and I happen to hate at least one of the worlds in which the two can be so easily elided.

Nor would one's ownership constitute the only basis for asserting some say in its use. Derek mentions respect for sources, and origins (which, we note, may also be used as a basis for legitimating ownership).

Conversely, to assert that I own the book (or that am acting within the law in every other respect as well) does not automatically suspend all obligations to others whose words I give voice or place to.

In turn, to affirm that they are my words does not necessarily conflict with or negate the observation (Bakhtin's (c) in this instance) that the words we speak are the words of others.

Are we then forced to waive copyright? We may ask in turn if ownership is the only basis for asserting we be given consideration as authors of the text under use.

There is also a significant literature affirming that intellectual property rights, long trumpeted as the linchpin of innovation, actually inhibit it, often, for example, serving best those with the power to assert their rights.

But what I would really like to see developed is an approach acknowledging the hideousness of gene ownership that does not involve declaring poets to be without rights.

Lemon Hound said...

I'm thinking of writing a novel using the comments stream. It's poetry's fault. It gave me the idea. Of course, I probably couldn't claim authorship though...wait authorship? Is that even a word? That's even stranger...or sorry, maybe I just need my coffee.

et said...

What interests me is the "push-pull" between oral and written records, and between live and recorded art/ritual/culture, all of which have implications for "our planet, ourselves."

Lemon Hound said...

Yes, exactly. It's not only the push/pull between ways of recording, but what is recorded, and how. The status of the author, or individual having more weight than collective or sentient voices in particular. The way in which livelihood--understandably if frustratingly--takes precedence over right action, the lack of ability to take a hit for the team as it were. To cede that maybe authorship is bigger than us?

But I am clearly rambling...

Carol Leeming said...

This has been enormously intersting as someone who has just started blogginh who writes poetry and is ambarking on a journey with writing and performing poetry on stage and in various media In the UK there much debate about Poetry,Performance Poetry,Live Literature, working with dramaturgs In muy case I bring added deimesnion of physical theatre/movement with orality