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  • Forum legal obligations

    If you are operating a forum, and have the appropriate terms of use document which users agree to when they sign up -stating you are not responsible for their posts-, are you actually legally responsible?

    The reason I ask is I ran a popular forum where a user had posted rather sensitive copyrighted information. The owner of the copyright contacted my web host (I had no idea this was going on - they didn't even contact me) and demanded the entire site be deleted because I (me, the owner of the site) was breaching copyright law. Not wanting any bother my host deleted my site and the forums at the drop of a hat.

    Are forum administrators legally responsible for the content posted by regular users? If they had contacted me I would have happily deleted it - but to claim I was the one breaching copyright doesn't seem right. I had quite a detailed Terms of Use document that was duplicated in the rules box users agree to when signing up (stating the site or myself weren't responsible for posts). I know the law is probably different in different countries (I'm in Australia) - but what is the general concensus on this?

  • #2
    If I remember correctly, there was a US lawsuit about this earlier...

    If i remembered correctly, and I can totally wrong here, but a forum was viewed as a "public" gathering place where people can voice their opinions and such.

    Legally what's said and done by the individual is on their behalf and no way represents the site. The actions of the individual is of the individual and for no one else.

    The exception to it was that if the individual was a member of your staff, then it is considered as a representation of your site.
    ManagerJosh, Owner of 4 XenForo Licenses, 1 vBulletin Legacy License, 1 Internet Brands Suite License
    Director, WorldSims.org | Gaming Hosting Administrator, SimGames.net, Urban Online Entertainment

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    • #3
      I am very happy to hear that the hosting provider supports the law and enforces their rules, not many do this. But I am not happy to hear they do not contact the site owner prior to taking actions. You could have replied that you agree with the complaint and will remove the material from the site.

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      • #4
        I have been on both sides of this myself. I once had an entire forum + site deleted by my webhost because the DivX installation files where uploaded to my server by a member of the forum.

        Same thing here, no pior contact from my webhost about the issue, I woke up one morning and all my files where gone and my accounts where deleted. This is when I learned the lesson no one should have to learn the hard way, back-up often, and back-up your back-ups

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        • #5
          yes they can do that look at all of those anime sites that get taken down because of ADV

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          • #6
            Actually, someone requesting removal of copyrighted material is in breach of US law if they go straight to the host without first trying to contact the site owner.

            http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf

            If you have a host that deletes sites without speaking to the site owner, find a new host.
            MARK.B | vBULLETIN SUPPORT

            TalkNewsUK - My vBulletin 5.6.3 Demo
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Mark.B
              Actually, someone requesting removal of copyrighted material is in breach of US law if they go straight to the host without first trying to contact the site owner.

              http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf

              If you have a host that deletes sites without speaking to the site owner, find a new host.
              If they are US based, point it out to them and threaten to sue
              ManagerJosh, Owner of 4 XenForo Licenses, 1 vBulletin Legacy License, 1 Internet Brands Suite License
              Director, WorldSims.org | Gaming Hosting Administrator, SimGames.net, Urban Online Entertainment

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Mark.B
                Actually, someone requesting removal of copyrighted material is in breach of US law if they go straight to the host without first trying to contact the site owner.

                http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf

                If you have a host that deletes sites without speaking to the site owner, find a new host.
                In my case the host was based in the UK. I no longer trust offshore hosting due to that time.

                We racked up about $100 in phone calls to the host trying to sort the issue. They basicly told us tough luck.

                They are no longer in bussiness, I wonder why..

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                • #9
                  This is why I am on Dedicated servers. The hosting provider can't touch anything on the web server (mail server is on a T1 in an office, so no-one can touch it thank god), so the complain-tie must contact my friend or I who run a separate mail and web servers.

                  If the host did get a complaint, they couldn't touch the dedicated server and delete the files. At most turn off the server. At least I hope they can't do anything further with the web server.

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                  • #10
                    This is why I am my own host (mind that ONLY works because we are an extremly small board)

                    Although, if anyone were to contact me, I would be very happy to work with them. *sigh* It is a very sad thing when they do not contact the site first. Ijiots.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Mark.B
                      If you have a host that deletes sites without speaking to the site owner, find a new host.
                      I would never delete somone I hosted stuff. Even if it were illegal I would still give the owner of the files time to retreieve them but never delete there files. Surely theres a law about that?

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by sebiv
                        If you are operating a forum, and have the appropriate terms of use document which users agree to when they sign up -stating you are not responsible for their posts-, are you actually legally responsible?

                        The reason I ask is I ran a popular forum where a user had posted rather sensitive copyrighted information. The owner of the copyright contacted my web host (I had no idea this was going on - they didn't even contact me) and demanded the entire site be deleted because I (me, the owner of the site) was breaching copyright law. Not wanting any bother my host deleted my site and the forums at the drop of a hat.

                        Are forum administrators legally responsible for the content posted by regular users? If they had contacted me I would have happily deleted it - but to claim I was the one breaching copyright doesn't seem right. I had quite a detailed Terms of Use document that was duplicated in the rules box users agree to when signing up (stating the site or myself weren't responsible for posts). I know the law is probably different in different countries (I'm in Australia) - but what is the general concensus on this?
                        As far as copyrights go, yes, you are responsible for what your members post, regardless of anything you put in your tos. Just like your host is responsible for what you post.

                        They should have contacted you first, and if you didn't take action, then contact the host. But yeah, life sucks that way.
                        TheologyWeb. We debate theology. srsly.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by cirisme
                          As far as copyrights go, yes, you are responsible for what your members post, regardless of anything you put in your tos. Just like your host is responsible for what you post.

                          They should have contacted you first, and if you didn't take action, then contact the host. But yeah, life sucks that way.
                          Actually no, I just got done taking copyright law last semester. In the US if you're a forum owner you are not responsible for what someone else posts. Nor is the host responsible for anything you do, there are specific liability constraints. However, you are responsible if contacted to clean it up or delete it. For example if a member posts a naked underage girl you're not going to goto jail as a pedo, but you will be required to delete it and give information on the member who posted it.

                          Any reputable host would have notified you and given you time to delete that post. This is why you don't sign up for a $2.99/m plan at some host located in a 16 year olds basement.
                          Last edited by dethfire; Wed 9 Mar '05, 9:15pm.
                          http://www.physicsforums.com

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                          • #14
                            However, you are responsible if contacted to clean it up or delete it.
                            That's what I meant. You're responsible for ensuring that any copyrighted material is removed from your site as soon as you're aware of it, just as your host must ensure that copyrighted material is removed if they are aware of it.

                            But obviously, the host should have notified him in advance.
                            TheologyWeb. We debate theology. srsly.

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                            • #15
                              Sorry to hear about your loss & I have to agree, that the host should have gave you some kind of notice. Personally my company would have sent you an e-mail to both your e-mail address to the site & also to the "off site" address you used when you first joined. If the matter was not fixed within 12 - 24 hours, we would have given you a nice curtsy phone call and left a message if possible. We then would have tried to call you once more and from there, we could have "locked" your account if the matter was still not corrected. Once you agreed to remove the content, we would have unlocked the site and given you time to do so. IF you still refused, then we would have no choice but to "lock" the account and ask you to please find a new host. 15 - 30 days latter, your account would have been deleted.

                              This is what your host should have done. They should have taken every step possible to try too come to terms with you and see if the matter could have been taken care of.

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