Comment Ownership, Reloaded [en]

Nearly four years ago, I wrote a post about comment ownership and coComment (it was initially published on their blog, and I moved it over here at some point). I don’t use coComment anymore, but a few of the points I made then are still valid.

Comment ownership is a complex problem. The commenter writes the comment, but the blog owner hosts it. So of course, the blog owner has the right to decide what he agrees to host or not. But the person who wrote the comment might also want to claim some right to his writing once it’s published.

And also the following:

There are times when one could say the “blog owner rights” and “comment writer’s rights” come into conflict. How do you manage such situations?

Here’s an example. Somebody e-mails me, out of the blue, to ask me to remove a comment of his on a post published ages ago (ironically, it’s the post published just before the one I’m quoting above!)

I went to look at the comment in question, and frankly, it’s completely innocuous. So I googled that person’s name and realised that my post appears somewhere in the middle of the first page of results. This gives me a guess as to why the person is contacting me to remove the comment.

And really, it seems pretty petty to me. And removing that comment bugs me, because I responded to it, and the person responded back, so what the person is in fact asking me to do is to remove (or dismember) a conversation in the comments of my blog, which has been sitting there for nearly four years. All that because they’re not happy that CTTS makes their comment appear somewhere on the first page of results for a Google search on their name.

Which brings me back to comment ownership. Saying the comment belongs to the commentator is simplistic. C’mon, if everybody who left a comment on CTTS these last 10 years started e-mailing me to remove them because they “taint” their ego-googling, I simply wouldn’t have time to deal with all the requests.

But saying the comment belongs to the blog owner is simplistic too.

I think we’re in a situation which mirrors (in complexity) that of photography ownership between model and photographer. With the added perk that in the case of blog comments, as soon as it is published, the comment becomes part of a conversation that the community is taking part in. Allowing people to remove published comments on a whim breaks that. (Just like bloggers don’t usually delete posts unless there is a very strong reason to do so — when published, it becomes part of something bigger than itself, that we do not own.)

So, for this situation, I guess the obvious response is to change the full name to initials or a nickname, and leave the comment.

But I see this with discussion lists, too. The other day, a pretty annoyed woman was complaining that somebody had called her out of the blue about coworking, when she was not at all interested in sharing an office space. Well, she had written a message or two on a local coworking discussion list, with all her contact details in signature.

What do you expect? And what happened to taking a deep breath and deciding “OK, I’ll do things differently in the future” when you realise you behaved a little cluelessly in the past?

I think all this concern about e-reputation is going to start becoming a real pain in the neck. Get over it, people. Open a blog and make sure you own your online identity, and you can stop worrying about the comments you made four years ago.

2 thoughts on “Comment Ownership, Reloaded [en]

  1. We’ve had the situation recently on our forum, on a whole other level: a long-time user, with 11000+ participations in a lot of threads, asked for his account to be closed and all his messages removed.

    I can’t find the exact wording, but since it would’ve broken a lot of discussions, we chose to keep all his messages, as they are part of something more global that does not belong to anyone, and proposed that we just “anonymize” his account and any particular message.

    That being said, there’s a fin line between “your comment belongs to this site” and “your comments remain your property”. In both of our cases, Stephanie, the comments are innocuous at worst, helpful at best. But what about comments that turn out to be defamatory (for instance) and had slipped under our surveillance? How can we enforce user responsibility while proclaiming their participation is part of a global “oeuvre”?

  2. Yes – the problem is there! Strangely, I’ve never had those people who add comments about Casinos, Sex boutiques etc., ask me to remove their comments!
    I think the problem is possibly worse with images, because I have a second blog dealing mainly with images from the town I live in (30600, Vauvert) and of course, a picture speaks a thousand words. I often have people writing to have an image removed, mainly because it shows them (amongst hundreds of others) at the Village Fête – normall “pis**” – in company with their grand children etc..
    Public photos, public places, I tend to ignore such demands – the people are often shown, on film, on the local TV and they never ask for it to be removed! Amusingly enough, one photo I did remove (of a Grandma urinating in the street) was actually still present in the Web on my Picasa Web Albums pages – I’d forgotten!
    It was actually downloaded over 1300 times, and the village only has around 4,000 residents…..!
    Sure – it would be nice to see credits when my pictures are used, in print or on the Web. I always try to mention the source of any image, in particular if it’s a site that encourages people to subscribe to newsletters and the like. A small price in good manners to pay.

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