Who Owns Blog Comments?

Posted May 31, 2008

There's a discussion going on right now on several prominent blogs: who should own the comments on blogging and forum systems? Is it the people who post the comments? Is it the people who run the blogs? What does it mean to own a comment, anyway?

These are interesting questions, but I think they miss the core issue that bloggers and commenters have mismatched expectations about what can and can't be done with their contributions. Even when such issues are spelled out in terms of service agreements, the legal language is opaque to most of us humans who just want to discuss the issue at hand.

Creative Commons addressed a similar issue for communicating usage and distribution rights. It's easy to use, accommodates a wide range of rights, and is legally vetted. A similar system could provide a convenient way to help bloggers and commenters communicate their expectations around how their contributions are handled.

I'd love to put a set standard icons in the comment area of my blog that make it easy to understand how I want to engage with the people who visit my site. For example: I allow comments to be edited by the author, I reserve the right to delete comments, and I don't claim copyrights on comments.

The goal is to give visitors an easy way to decide whether to participate in a discussion.

Unfortunately, I'm not a lawyer, nor an icon guru, nor a prominent blogger — but I'd love to help anyone who is flesh out these ideas a bit more.

Interested? Feel free to leave a comment!

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