Hello there. I am Terry and I am a full-time undergraduate based in Singapore. I take photos, write a blog and design websites.

And no, I'm not a teddy bear.

Your comments are mine… not?

'Write' on Flickr Weblog Tools Collection published an article which shed some light on comment ownership issue. It starts off the discussion by highlighting the issue of third party commenting systems, (for example, Haloscan which is very popular among *Blogspot users) – they generally do not allow the blog admin to edit comments posted due to the ongoing dispute over the ownership of published comment.

In this short post, I’ll be highlighting to you the basis of this issue as well as my take on who actaully owns the comment you’ve posted (like the one you’re going to write after reading this post – will it be yours, truly, or mine?)

*Photo is from Flickr, copyrighted by its owner.

WordPress, where you can do anything with comments!

For self-hosted WordPress blog administrators like me, there is generally no restriction or any ethical framework to adhere to when modifying posted comments. While I edit comments for clarity and to correct blatant grammar mistakes (if and ONLY if the comment is incomprehensible and incoherent), there are WordPress administrator whose action of modifying comment crosses the border line of infringing one’s copyright. One can edit your comment to make it defamatory, derogatory, offensive, vulgar and etc, without the commentator’s permission.

Following the industry’s rules

Like what Astrorpof has commented,

[Comment’s Permalink]

Let’s look at a larger model of publishing than just blogging.

Who owns the blog? If the comments are submitted to the blog, then they are owned by the blog owner. If the commenter wants to own his own comments, then he writes something on his own site, and then leaves a comment (or trackback) linking to it.

I write a number of things for journals. I have written for encyclopedias. The contracts that I sign for my publications all state that the publisher owns them, not the author. Comments left on someone else’s site are similar.

Thus, the blog owner has the right to edit the comments as he/she pleases. BUT, just having the right to do something does not make it right to do. It would be morally wrong to alter a comment in a way that is not in keeping with the commenter’s meaning. You can correct spelling, remove profanity, add line breaks, or remove links to spammy sites. But, you should not change what the commenter is saying. It would be morally wrong to alter the comment in any other way than formatting, spelling, or bl***ing profanity. But, if the comment is going to be published on a web site, the web site owner needs to have control of what is on that web site. That’s how it works in the larger world of publishing that I am familiar with.

If we would adhere to the general guidelines in the publishing industry (think: newspapers, magazines and etc), when you have submitted your opinion to the published, you are granting them permission to use your work in any of their future publications and/or to modify your opinions for the sake of clarity (while retaining your original meaning).

What I think

I personally think that this should apply to the blogosphere too. We, the blog administrators, have rightful onwership over the comments, but at the same time, we are responsible for the comments too. Although we all agree that comments in blogs do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the blog author, we are still responsible to protect our readers from reading spammish-looking comments, those that contain an unacceptable amount of profanities, those are misleads and confuses readers, as well as those that are ethically or morally unacceptable (so judge every comment using your applicable ethical and moral framework).

If you would want to voice your opinions on someone’s blog post and yet retain your ownership, you can always write your views on your blog and then publish a trackback (by linking the post you’re discussing about). This allows you to be part of the discussion and yet still grant you full ownership of what you’ve said. And of course, what entails it is that you’re also accountable for your words!

What do you think?

Dear Readers, what’s your take on this issue?

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