Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Disqus Comments - Ambiguous Ownership?

When the owner of the Bleeding Heart Libertarian website, Matt Zwolinski, banished me...he also deleted all 80 or so of my comments from his website. As I mentioned in my post on being banned from the BHL website, it's certainly his prerogative to delete whatever he wants from his website. The question is...does he also have the right to remove my comments from my disqus page where they were also displayed? 

So I e-mailed disqus.com to find out. Here's our discussion...

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Feb 18, 2012

All my comments have been removed from this website...

http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2012/02/on-the-relationship-between-economics-and-philosophy/#comment-437336276

...which is fine. The problem is that I can't find all these deleted comments of mine on my disqus.com page.

Thanks,
Xero

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Feb 20, 2012

Hi Xero,

For legal reasons, if a site deletes a comment it is no longer available anywhere. However, we do know why you'd want to continue to read deleted comments and we're thinking of ways to provide that in the future.

Kind Regards,

Ryan

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Feb 20, 2012

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for the response.

Previously my comments were available on two websites...the Bleeding Heart Libertarian (BHL) website and your own website. The comments of course were stored in your database. It's well within the rights of the owner of the BHL website to remove my comments from his website...but what gives him the right to remove my comments from your website?

Did you actually delete my comments from your server or did you just change the status of my comments? In other words...would it be physically possible to export my comments in XML or comma delimited format?

In other words...what are you really saying here?

A) you truly deleted my 80 or so comments
B) it's not worth the effort to write the few simple lines of code it would take to export my comments
C) the comments are still in your server but their ownership is legally ambiguous so you'd prefer to err on the side of not sending them to me

Your clarification in this matter is appreciated.

Sincerely,
Xero

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Feb 24, 2012

Hi Xero,

Technically they're still there, since we never delete comments from our server unless the site deletes their account (which is also possible). That said, the comments do belong to the site, so they're able to withhold them if they wish.

Kind Regards,

Ryan

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Feb 24, 2012

Hi Ryan,

Let me get this straight...

A. I'm the one that spent hours writing my comments
B. my comments were never stored on the BHL website
C. yet, my comments are the property of the owner of the BHL website

Is this fact mentioned anywhere on your own website? If so, can you please share the link to the webpage that contains this information?

Thanks,
Xero

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Feb 29, 2012

Hi Xero,

It's not explicitly specified in our terms of service, because it has obvious legal ramifications; each website is responsible for content posted on their pages, legally. Although the comments are stored on our servers, the site has a license to use our space by signing up (kind of like a lease, like they probably lease the servers to host their entire site on).

We do understand the frustration of writing comments which get removed, and whenever possible we try to make that available. However, we are forced to provide the facility to delete comments on a particular site.

Kind Regards,

Ryan

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As a programmer I can tell you it's certainly not a technical issue to leave my comments on my disqus.com page even if they are removed from the original website.  Not sure why it would present a legal challenge...given that disqus.com already displays the comments on their own website as well as on the original website.  Is there really a difference between Zwolinksi being held responsible for my comments and me being held responsible for my comments?  You'd figure the disqus.com legal team would just disclaim all responsibility for people's comments all together.

Technically I could have gone through and deleted all 80 of my own comments myself.  Unlike Zwolinksi's deletion of my comments...if I had deleted my own comments then they would have been actually been removed from the database.  Well...the rows in the database would still be there but the comments would be gone.

In any case, just thought I'd share this discussion in order to try and shed some light on disqus.com's position on just who owns your comments.

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