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PostPosted: November 5th, 2003, 4:13 pm 
Hi Group! :)

Just wondering on the subject of forum postings. I have a topic I am fairly knowledgeable about and post in a couple of forums where there are many other participants.

I've been wanting to write a book on the topic, but would like to use other people's postings as examples of the sentiment and experiences of others in the same interest group, as a part of the book. However, I'm wondering if this is legal to do.

There has been precededence as I've seen at least one example in Amazon. Wish I had written that down, but I'd have to search to get the name of it now.

Has anyone had any experience or knowledge about this?

Thanks so much!
Khrys ---- new on the board. Nice board!

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PostPosted: November 5th, 2003, 5:01 pm 

Joined: August 13th, 2003, 3:48 pm
Posts: 304
I believe it would be common courtesy to email the poster and ask permissiion before using anything written in a forum. If not, try this: "The subject was recently discussed in Writers Weekly.com forum and one poster, who could not be reached for comment, said he believed in the reality of the Loch Ness Monster, although he couldn't prove it." (Just an example, folks, don't slam me.)

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PostPosted: November 5th, 2003, 5:37 pm 
There is a copyright issue involved here. Some discussion lists claim copyright on all messages, and some individual contributors consider that they own the copyright on their messages to discussion lists. It would be wise to find out the policy of any list whose messages you want to quote, and it would be both courteous and smart (as in CYA) to contact anyone whose message you want to quote and ask for permission. Most of us would probably be flattered at the idea, but safe is better than sorry.
Ruth E. "I can write about anything!" (tm) Thaler-Carter, Writer/Editor
Author/Publisher, "Get Paid to Write! Getting Started as a Freelance Writer"
Ruth@writerruth.com * www.writerruth.com

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 Post subject: using forum postings
PostPosted: November 8th, 2003, 7:22 pm 
I had forgotten to mention that I would not be pinpointing the forum, nor the user's real ID, but would possibly use an ID name from out of the air. The important thing for me is to get the poster's feelings of success or failure in helping others with their own experiences at quitting smoking.

Would I need permission from each person to do that, since they would not be identified directly? I presume that I would also read the individual forum's TOS to determine if this would be alright or not. Probably I'd have to contact the forum administrator to get permission to use them in this way. Hopefully, that wouldn't be too daunting a task.

Thank you both for your input. Have a great weekend!


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PostPosted: November 8th, 2003, 10:28 pm 

Joined: October 24th, 2003, 11:34 am
Posts: 781
Location: Portland, Oregon
If you really want a definitive answer, you need to talk to an attorney who knows something about copyright. My understanding (which is based on conversations with writers and publishers, not on any legal training) is that technically, postings on the internet are copyrighted and belong to the writer, unless rights are somehow explicitly transfered (for example, on Amazon.com, you agree to assign the rights of reviews you write to Amazon). So, if you want to reprint verbatim forum postings, there is a potential copyright issue with whomever it is (writer, website, someone else) who actually owns the copyright. There are other complications to this, such as "fair use." For example, fair use may allow you to reproduce a portion of a copyrighted work for journalsitic or education purposes. But exactly how much you are allowed to reproduce is somewhat uncertain.

If you want to summarize or report in a journalistic manner, you are less likely to run into a copyright problem. You cannot copyright facts, but you can copyright the specific expression of the facts.

From a purely practical perspective; would someone sue you for violating their copyright by misusing their material? I have no idea but I"m not sure that I would be eager to find out.

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PostPosted: November 9th, 2003, 1:19 am 

Joined: October 22nd, 2003, 1:04 pm
Posts: 2
First, you definitely need to check into the rights owned by the forum sponsor. Back when I volunteered at AOL, I learned that AOL owned the rights to all forum posts. (I assume this is still the case, though I haven't looked at them in years.) Even so, one forum was run by a magazine and it wasn't unusual for that magazine to reprint posts - with the authors' permissions (I know, because they requested mine once) - in issues of their magazines. I have no idea if they just did it or had some arrangement with AOL.

Even if the forum sponsor doesn't have a problem with you using posts, I would strongly advise asking the authors' permission and asking if they would rather be named or not so that you are saved from having them be very upset later.

It's kind of an 'off' example, but...

There is a thing that goes around the internet; I see it about once a year. It's the story of a little boy in a wedding who can't understand why people laugh at him when he walks down the aisle growling - because he is being a very good ring bear. The first time I saw the story, I forwarded it to a group of friends and one of them was very upset. The story was hers. She'd submitted it to Reader's Digest years before, for one of their humor columns, and they'd never used it. Then all of the sudden she discovered that it was rambling around the internet without her name attached. I'm sure someone at RD simply thought the story was too cute to throw in the trash and passed it along to someone else...who passed it along to someone else...who passed it along to someone else...without asking the original author's permission. She's not the type to do it, but I imagine a less forgiviing person could have made that magazine's life pretty miserable over the issue.

So I'm a big believer in asking the author's permission to use his words if it's at all practical, or avoiding direct quotes and simply trying to convey the over all idea if getting permission is not practical.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy M Cardwell
Author: http://www.frontporchhistory.com
Editor: http://eho.org

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PostPosted: November 9th, 2003, 1:57 am 
Thank you both for the additional input and insights about this topic. I believe it does behoove me to take great care when dealing with forum posts for all the reasons you mention. It would seem to be far better to be safe than sorry. It's much easier to learn from other people's mistakes. I've already made my own share of them over the years. <G>
Thanks again and have a nice weekend!


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