By Noah | March 22, 2009
After this blog went live I received a few comments on the copyright policy, and in particular on the fact that copyright on any comments that you post is transferred to me. (See the terms you agree to on the comment posting form.)
The reason I ask you to transfer copyright is simple, and it’s not that I want to steal your content. It’s somewhat messy to have a work, such as this blog, for which the copyright is held in bits and pieces by lots of different people. Let’s say someday a new publishing medium comes along, as the Web did a few years ago, and I want to republish this content that new way. Holding the copyright makes it simple: I have the right to do that, just as I have the right to make as many backup copies as I like, to share the content with anyone I like, or potentially to excerpt some of the exchanges in a book. So, that’s why I took this approach. I also make very clear on the copyright page that I am very supportive of fair use, and that applies to comments as well as other content. Indeed, if you contact me and ask permission to use content for this blog for some purpose beyond fair use, I think you’ll find that I tend to be very generous in granting permissions for such reuse.
One concern was raised that I should have thought of but didn’t: transfering the copyright on your comments to me could mean that you lose the rights to use that same content yourself. That was never my intention, and so I have updated the terms you agree to when posting comments to include the following:
In return for transferring your copyright, you are hereby given a fully paid license to use the content you’ve posted in any manner that you wish, including the right to republish in any form or using any medium.
The copyright page has also been updated to make clear that this same license is granted retroactively for comments already posted. Of course, as the comment submission form also makes clear:
If this agreement is not acceptable, an alternative is for you to post your comment on your own blog or other public Web site, and to post a link to that here. That way, you may retain ownership of your own material.
Are there other ways of solving this problem? No doubt, but this one is ultimately simple and feels right to me, given what I understand of the applicable laws. I thank you for your understanding, and also for your contributions to this blog.