Who Owns Comments? Who Cares.

I took a small break from posting and people start complaining about who owns comments on a blog or any of the other services like FriendFeed. ReadWriteWeb asked the question of who owns them. For some reason, they did not really present their opinion, but at least admitted that it is an interesting problem. Steven Hodson of WinExtra “ranted” about how comments are not creative content and sums it up nicely in the first sentence:

This whole discussion about comments is becoming borderline stupid.

Matthew Ingram questioned whether comments qualify as content, specifically in the legal and copyrightable sense. Another post comes from The Last Podcast and they just do not care what you do with their comments, which is somewhat refreshing. Of course, no topic of comments is complete without the problem of conversation fragmentation and they all talk about it.

Shockingly, I did not see anyone state the logical stance on the comment question. If you are planning on commenting on a blog, but are worried about “owning” the content, then write a blog post of your own and link to the original post. This is something people have been doing for years. I understand why people started to complain, but as Steven Hodson stated, this is getting silly. It is a very simple problem to deal with, or avoid for that matter.

The other issue is conversation fragmentation. This was the source of the comment ownership question. My issue with the complaining is that nobody is doing anything about the problem. We have the comment profile services like Disqus and IntenseDebate which alleviate parts of the problem. I am trying to do my part with YackTrack, allowing people to track the comments for their posts. I am not saying that everyone needs to use YackTrack, but why not do something about the problem. Granted, this is a bit of a rant, but it bothers me when people only complain about a problem and do not present solutions.

There are some great minds talking about the problem. Can we get these minds to think about the solution?

16 thoughts on “Who Owns Comments? Who Cares.

  1. Honestly the whole discussion does seem silly to me. If the commentary you are leaving is so important and ground breaking, then link from your own blog.

    In my opinion the commentary always belonged to the owner of the blog since you are basically entering their virtual space and leaving something behind purposefully to build upon.

    The whole concept of commentary was the sharing of thoughts and ideas, but arguing over who owns it seems counter-productive.

    Just my 2 cents. Good article for thought though. I guess the real question lies in if there is any precedence in such an argument. Has a court ever ruled in favor of the commenter?


  2. As far as I am concerned, this whole controversy is sound and fury, signifying nothing. Yeah, I just quoted Shakespeare. Deal with it. That’s how I roll.


  3. Couldn’t agree more. While I understand there’s a certain frustration at being “left out” of discussions about material you’ve created, that’s a different issue.

    Comment is argument, effectively (even if it’s in agreement it’s still argument in the sense of making a contribution to a debate). Which means it’s irrelevant and useless outside the context of that argument. So the idea that individuals have some right to own their comments seems trite. And really, how much benefit, how much difference, does it make whether you own them or not. Who’s made that huge contribution to society, or that top notch worth-a-million business idea, in a comment?


  4. @Luis
    That was my point, people need to stop complaining and start doing. Granted, this came off more as a rant but I am OK with that because the discussion has been bothering me. I have not looked into the legal aspects of this question, but if the commenter owns comments, bloggers may start turning off comments. The reason being, they now “own” something on my blog and I am not willing to accept liability if I delete a post or the service goes down.


  5. @Robin
    Good point about the “business idea” in a comment. The irrelevance outside of the comment context is another great point. I do not understand why there has been all of the activity around this topic either.


  6. Okay, another point on this matter: If people are commenting on an article to interact with the author, they better do it where the author can see and respond to it. If they’re commenting on it to interact with their friends, anywhere is fair game. I’m not going to kill myself trying to hunt down every comment people make about something I write.


  7. Just so you know: there are people who would like to become part of a solution. I’ve been working on an initiative and would actually like to speak to you personally about participation/feedback.

    The madness you are exposing is something that needs to be wrangled before it gets out of control. The future of social media depends on users feeling free to express their opinions however, and wherever, they want without the risk of losing their identity or losing what they feel belongs to them. A lot of otherwise intelligent bloggers are taking a dangerously selfish stance on this topic.

    I think the work you are doing with YackTrack is important. I think more needs to be done. I envision a plan that will benefit bloggers, social media service providers, services like YackTrack, and last but certainly not least the users. If you would like to open a line of communication with me then please email me at the address I left with this comment so we can get in touch via IM or the phone to talk about the future. 🙂


  8. It has become borderline stupid. As long as you *have* comments, and people are talking, that’s what’s important. Does it matter whose servers, or services, it sits on, as long as it’s driving thoughts and brainwaves to you.


  9. I saw somone cite this the recently, as ever there’s a lot to think about but I’m not sure it’s a widely recoginised matter away from the Internet. Do you see many individuals about you talking about this?


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