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What is the liability of owner of a Forum?

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  • What is the liability of owner of a Forum?

    What is an owner of a website that has a forum, at risk for things that are posted? For instance, slander, or other similar things if a member posts things about a business or person in your forum that may not be true or easily proven.

    I am interested in setting up a forum that people can discuss local business, laws, and news on. I want to make it clear that the opinions posted are not the opinions of the website, but I don’t want to be mislead in thinking that’s all I would have to do.

    I assume that this is not the first time it’s came up and after no luck searching this forum I thought I would ask if anyone here had any experiences. Any views about this subject are greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Maybe you should do a Disclaimer, like they do on interview shows and at the start of DVDs, which says the opinions expressed (in these Forums) are not necessarily the opinions of the owners or management of ForumName.

    Maybe if you look around the net you could find something similiar attached to a Forum.

    Do a Google search for:

    disclaimer on website and/or website disclaimer

    and you will find many.

    Regards,
    Last edited by slappy; Sun 16 Jul '06, 6:34pm.
    Slappy

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    • #3
      I don't know if it is legally sufficient to protect you, but the standard vB implementation has the following disclaimer when participants register.

      "...Although the administrators and moderators of [your company name] Forums will attempt to keep all objectionable messages off this forum, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the author, and neither the owners of [your company name] Forums, nor Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd. (developers of vBulletin) will be held responsible for the content of any message.

      By agreeing to these rules, you warrant that you will not post any messages that are obscene, vulgar, sexually-oriented, hateful, threatening, or otherwise violative of any laws...."

      You should probably run the above language by counsel if you are concerned.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by cjrock View Post
        What is an owner of a website that has a forum, at risk for things that are posted? For instance, slander, or other similar things if a member posts things about a business or person in your forum that may not be true or easily proven.

        I am interested in setting up a forum that people can discuss local business, laws, and news on. I want to make it clear that the opinions posted are not the opinions of the website, but I don’t want to be mislead in thinking that’s all I would have to do.

        I assume that this is not the first time it’s came up and after no luck searching this forum I thought I would ask if anyone here had any experiences. Any views about this subject are greatly appreciated.

        Just recently there has been a court ruling in Germany saying that the forum owner is responsible for all content posted on the forum, even if he/she is not made aware of any illegal activities. The ruling said that if he/she is not capable of continuously monitoring the forum, and take appropriate measures to immediately delete any illegal posts, he/she should not be in the business of running a forum.

        This is kinf of extreme, but the point is that you should check your local laws. In some cases, a disclaimer, such as the one vBulletin originally contains, is not enough.

        Of course, this stands for all forums, no matter what forum-software you use.

        Source: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/04..._for_comments/
        Last edited by Ati2; Mon 17 Jul '06, 1:31am. Reason: Added source
        Queosia - Hódító - Hódító fórum - Spirituális fórum - Spirituális oldal

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        • #5
          I think since we are just starting out I won't worry to much until we see its going to work then hire a lawer to help us.

          Thanks for your help.

          If anyone else has an experience i would like to hear about it.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Ati2 View Post
            Just recently there has been a court ruling in Germany saying that the forum owner is responsible for all content posted on the forum, even if he/she is not made aware of any illegal activities. The ruling said that if he/she is not capable of continuously monitoring the forum, and take appropriate measures to immediately delete any illegal posts, he/she should not be in the business of running a forum.
            This is one of the many ridiculous cases happening in Germany. Clearly the elected officials have no clue what the Internet is. It is not a paid TV station or a printing press that has editors-in-chief and police monitoring it.

            In America, court case after court case has ruled AGAINST the federal government and attorney general's efforst to hold ISPs and site operators responsible for 3rd party content. They've also tried to hold website authors to the standards that broadcast TV are held (obscenity, legal 18+ pornography, free speech, etc.) and failed at every turn thanks to the appeals courts. Present caselaw in the US is, site owners/administrators are NOT responsible for content posted by 3rd parties IF they provide a means of reporting said content and said content is removed as soon as possible.

            Imagine if forums were responsible for the acts of a few members and no matter how fast the admin deleted the post, they could still be sued/arrested/whatever? Absurd!! Every ISP would be facing charges because of the acts of a few pedophiles.

            At this time, I would strongly advise against operating a public forum or blog in Germany because of these unbelievable court decisions.

            I've been amazed by Jelsoft's reluctance to share any details of a site using an illegitimate version of vBulletin on fears that they'd be sued for slander/libel and defamation. I don't think there is nearly as much fear in the US. I am NOT saying the US legal system is a panacea. There are so many hypocritical laws here that are absurd to me but I don't want to get into politics/bickering. The original question is "is it safe to run a forum" and the answer in Germany is, probably not.
            Last edited by feldon23; Mon 17 Jul '06, 1:31pm.

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