1. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    using blog comments in a novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jazzabel, May 17, 2013.

    I am in the process of converting a novella that was written on a blog, into an e-book, which I plan to sell. There is one post/diary entry in the middle, where I feel it would be awesome to reproduce comments to a particular post, to illustrate the personality of the protagonist and give flavour to the reader, of what it was like on the blog, reactions if you will.

    I know that blog comments copyright is a shady issue, a case can be made that it belongs to the person who wrote them (intellectual property), but also, since they are a few sentences, nothing particularly elaborate and also left in a public domain, a devil's advocate argument can be made that it is in free domain.

    I suppose I could change the wording etc, but I'm not keen on doing anything dishonest.

    I know that changing the names of the people, deleting the blog itself etc is not a way around this problem because anything that's ever been published on the net can be retrieved, but I wanted to share my frustration at this fact because it's removing an interesting dimension from the novel itself. Nothing major at all, but frustrating nonetheless.

    What would you be inclined to do in my situation? Change the name of the commenters, change the comments but retain the essence of the exchange (so you can't be sued), would you just put it in and risk it or would you not include them in your novel, to be on the safe side?


    ps. I posted this here because I couldn't post it in Publishing. Feel free to move it if necessary :)
     
  2. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    Can't you ask the people who commented? Most likely I think they would let you use their posts and names (or if they didn't want to have their names there they could allow you to change them).

    If you cannot reach them, I don't think it would be fair to use it. If I was in your place, I'd invent a whole new set of comments, trying to keep the essence, but with new names and new wording. (And if you wanted different voices, you could go as far as to ask some of your blog visitors to write some comments for you that you could use. They might enjoy to be involved.)
     
  3. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is about 30 comments I wanted to include, but at least a third belong to people I can't easily reach. But I might try to contact them. I'm actually warming up to th idea of trying to re-write them, because like the dimension they give the whole narrative. Thanks for your suggstion!
     
  4. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Jazz, is this blog yours?
    What are the Ts and Cs when joining the blog?
    Do posters give up their rights to the wording?

    I know from facebook that once you post anything, it's no longer yours. A friend of mine put some of his artwork up, especially photographs, one in particular made its way around the webisphere twice and back and has been used in a couple of magazines, that he knows about, without his permission because under facebook Ts and Cs, the material is no longer his.

    If it's a real faceache for you, maybe it would be easier to slightly change the comment you want to use.
     
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yup, the blog was mine, but on a server (not independent domain) and there was no mention of who the comments belong to, so it's open to interpretation. I know, facebook is really bad like that, that's why I never put any of my photos on it (i do macro photography).
     
  6. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    First rule of webhosting: You first create the Terms of Service, then everything else.
    If the blog wasn't operating under Terms of Service or Rules and the copyright issue wasn't defined then you may potentially have a problem if someone recognizes his comment and decides to further pursue a claim to it. You can change the usernames for the comments you want to include since that would make it harder for someone to identify them (and most people don't remember the exact wording they use on comments. Or you can delete the comments from your blog and just include them in your book (but you said you don't want to do anything dishonest and this borders on it).
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know that now, but at the time, I wasn't writing it to be published so I didn't even think about those things. I think that even after deletion, it can still be found in google cache history (or so I've been told). I don't want to be dishonest, but more than that, I don't want to get caught. I'm bad, I know :D
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Just thinking off the top of my head here, but I would be inclined to re-word the comments AND, of course, change the name of the commentors as well.

    I would not attempt to contact them. What if they decide they should have a cut of whatever you earn from the book? Assuming this will be a best-seller, and you will earn millions from it! ;)
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haha, yes :D There's most likely no reason for concern though, because I decided not to publish it traditionally at the height of its popularity (even though I had an offer), and I'm doing this now only because some readers asked, so I thought, might as well tidy it up and make something out of it. I don't expect many sales, but you are right, I am not entirely comfortable with someone one day changing their mind or coming out of the woodwork. It'll be a challenge to re-word the comments though, I shall try and see what happens.
     
  10. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    I think this comes down to an ethical thing: You would have to be pretty unlucky to find anyone who would even consider pursuing legal action because a blog comment was used in a book, and unluckier still if the judge didn't throw the case straight out of the window. If it's copyright you're worried about, don't.

    Change their names, re-word them slightly. The people who wrote it will undoubtedly feel honoured that the essence of their comment was included in the story.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you need to consult a literary attorney for valid advice on this, not well-meaning folks on a writing site [and that includes me], because the internet has put a kink in things copyright related and you could well be at risk of being sued if you use someone else's words without their permission, even if they did post them on your own blog...
     
  12. BritInFrance
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    BritInFrance Active Member

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    I am no expert, but the Guardian Newspaper (and I guess others too) regularly use Twitter comments and blog posts in their articles. Surely, if you use it like any other source (pretend for a moment you are writing a non-fiction article), and you properly reference the quote, it is ok? This would mean that you would have to have footnotes that give a link to the original comments (ie don't delete your original blog post, with comments).

    But yeah, as Maia always says - check with an expert!
     
  13. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    I am a lazy individual. I would personally prefer doing a little more work one way than a lot more work another. However, I obviously don't know the full extent of the situation. I don't know what the comments are or what the blog is. In my state of ignorance, I would choose a rewrite and renaming.

    Personally, I would be tickled to death if I found my blog comment in a freaking book. Unfortunately, I think I am a minority in regard to this. Most people, I think, would just see money signs...
     
  14. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Journalism is completely different to fiction. Journalists are covered by tons of laws that allow them to quote content so long as proper citation is given. Without that they would not be able to report the news. Fiction writers on the other hand, are placing their name on the content and saying it is theirs - big problems if it turns out that it was not actually theirs.

    Jazz, you could always put a Facebookesque disclaimer on your website: All content, creative or otherwise, posted in the comments of my blog, is the property of me.

    EDIT: That was a joke, before anyone writes 3 pages about why disclaimers of that nature are next to worthless.
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @heal41hp: I feel the same, actually, I always assumed that all comments I write in the blogosphere become free domain, for some reason. It was only after I searched for info that it confirmed what I already knew about intellectual property laws.
    The blog started as a writing project, a diary in first person. The comments were from the readers who interacted with the character, so the comments are questions about what's happening in the story, if you can imagine reading a diary and being able to speak with the protagonist. It was great fun, and it gained a lot of readers, many of whom are now untraceable and their blogs long closed. I have now re-written the comments and I feel they are not as good as the original, because some of the specific wording can't be used. But I might continue working on them, by the time e-book is finished, maybe they'll sound more authentic.

    @AVCortez: I know, that's why I wasn't even gonna bother with disclaimers :D Besides, that original blog is long deleted, but the entire content, including all the comments and the links etc has been transferred to a private domain and locked away, because I didn't want to leave a body of work unattended (I'm a bit possessive with my stories) :)

    @BritinFrance: i think that only applies to journalism. In fiction, they would basically be entitled to the portion of earnings. Not that I think i'll earn any significant money off it, but I don't want any trouble. Perhaps I'm a coward.

    @maia: I know you are right, I just feel sad to spend money when I already know what they're gonna say. I am attempting a re-write, but it's not the same. Maybe I'll manage to fix it :)
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    just substitute the real blog entries with reworded ones and change the names of the bloggers... that's not hard to do...
     
  17. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know, but several comments include little anecdotes from their lives and a couple or three are so damn funny, and changing the wording just makes them loose the pizzazz. I hope that makes sense :)
     

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