Who Owns Blog Comments?

If you leave a comment on my blog, who owns the rights to that comment? Do I own it? You’re submitting a comment to me. You’re leaving a comment, which would imply it’s mine, right? Do you own it? You’re the one creating the content in the first place. You’re writing it, and if you choose to be, you’re getting a byline for writing it.

Things get more complicated when you implement a system like Disqus or Intense Debate. In these cases, there is an assumption that as a commenter, you are giving me a perpetual, irrevocable license to your content. I, having a license to use your content, license it to Disqus or IntenseDebate, granting them a license on my license. Now all three parties are free to do what they wish with the content produced by one.

There’s a problem in this system. If you assume that your comments are yours and your alone to own, and I don’t have a terms of service on my website stating otherwise, I would be violating your copyright by using Disqus. Perhaps this is why blogs like Mashable and the Huffington Post clearly state that they have a perpetual, irrevocable license to all the comments left on the site.

But what about this blog? Everything here has a Creative Commons license associated with it. By leving a comment, you have a license to use your comments, I have a license to use your comments, you also agree to release them with a Creative Commons license, AND Disqus has a license. That’s four licenses on every comment that you leave on the site. Okay, and one more wrench to throw in. BackType is also taking your comments and putting them on backtype.com. BackType’s agreement says that you also give them a license to the content. That makes five entities (not counting anyone using them for CC purposes) who could claim a right to your comments.

Photos from 917press and foko_madagascar

32 thoughts on “Who Owns Blog Comments?”

  1. Creative commons is a good way to go. I don't know if there are too many sites out there that actually require commenters to assign exclusive rights to their comments to the blog or site. Assuming the commenter has copyright to begin with (i.e., he or she isn't reposting someone else's stuff), your commenter generally retains copyright, but might be required to grant “a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free license” to the blog and anyone who has access to the comment. This sounds a bit scary and legalistic, but consider the common situation of a developer offering a bit of code as a solution to a particular problem discussed. I guess it would depend on the values/purpose of the particular community, but I'm sure in many communities they'd want some assurance that such freely offered nuggets, are in fact genuinely freely offered and come with no strings (or potential royalties and future IP claims).

    Software and code is kind of a special case. Creative commons doesn't really pertain to software, although there are Open Source Initiative approved licenses (MIT, BSD, Apache, Eclipse, GPL, etc., see http://www.opensource.org) that cover this. I believe OSI also provides examples of how to use a CC license as a wrapper to an open source license.

    Perhaps we'll see major blogging and CMS platforms get to the point where they can give users a choice of license underwhich they want to comments/contributions to be made available — similar to flickr and photos.

  2. I love the way that Flickr allows for CC searches based on license. I
    think it might be the best implementation of CC content on the web.

  3. That's the rub in all of this. What about Disqus and what about
    BackType? I granted them license to use the comments in my blog, but
    by rule, everything on my blog is CC licensed. They give attribution,
    they are indeed sharing the comment, but if they ever put advertising
    on their pages where they display comments, they are breaking the CC

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  6. That's a great question…
    I think the blog owner have the authority in a comment..
    Because a commentator is submitting his comment to the owner of the blog..
    Like this.. This comment is yours now.. =p

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