|Please help keep this website safe -- A request to you all|
April 26, 2002
The other day I was having a chat with someone I met in a social setting who happened to be a lawyer. I asked if he would mind my asking him a legal-advice type question and he encouraged me to. So I told him about My-Journal.com, how I was providing it as a free service, that I just liked doing it to use my skills to provide something for the enjoyment of others, and that I received no compensation for it. "With all that in mind," I asked, "am I putting myself at any legal risk by offering this service on the web?" I mentioned that as far as I could see, the only real risk might be if people used their journals to violate copyrights.
His reply gave me a quite a concern. He agreed that the threat of lawsuit from copyright infringement was my greatest risk. He said it was likely that if anyone sued me for copyright infringement, the court would probably not hold me liable under the circumstances. However, he warned that my greatest risk is that if someone sued me it would cause me a lot of trouble and the financial burden of defending myself which could run into thousands of dollars. The threat is not that I would lose the lawsuit, but that I would have to go to the expense and mental anguish of putting together a legal defense. To make it worse, he didn't really have much to offer as a means of protecting myself from that.
Our Terms of Service Agreement has always included the following statement: "I further agree not to send, or submit for public posting any copyrighted matter or material, without the specific authority of the copyright owner." Even so, there have been times that I have had to ask people to remove material that they did not author.
However, I think I have taken on too much risk by allowing people to quote entire songs and poems with only a mention of the author, which is not the same thing as having "specific authority of the copyright owner."
I'm afraid I need to get a bit more hard-nosed about enforcing this rule. And I need to ask all of you to help me enforce it as well.
Here are the new guidelines:
- No entry may consist of quoted material ONLY, no matter how well it is attributed to the author.
- Quoted material must be a part of a larger piece authored by the journaler.
- Quoted material must be clearly indicated as such, whether by quotation marks or indentation, and attributed to the original author.
- Quoted material must be only excerpts of the entire work, not the whole work. For instance, a few lines of a poem or a verse of a song, a sentence or a paragraph from an essay or book, not entire poems or songs or essays.
These guidelines will not affect most of you. The purpose of these journals is to provide a place for you to publish your own work, not works of others.
Here is what I need you ask you each to do:
Since I can no longer read every single entry being added to the journals, I must ask all of you to be on the lookout for violations of these guidelines. And I ask you to send me a private message to indicate the journal and date that you think the violation occurred so I can check it out myself and address it with the journaler.
Those of you who have been around here a while will recognize that this is not the first time I've asked this. However, no one has ever followed through and actually reported any violations to me. I know it is not considered a "polite" thing to blow the whistle on someone. But think of it this way. You are doing the entire community a service by reporting a violation to me. Let me say it bluntly. If I get sued, this website will immediately disappear and all your work will be lost. I have no corporate backing, no venture capital, no team of corporate lawyers. It's just little old me with all the rest of you. We are all in this together. So I ask you to do your part in helping protect our future together.
Finally, let me also ask that if you have any entries that violate these guidelines, please remove them immediately. Don't wait for someone to tell me about them.
I know rules are not popular. And we actually have very few rules here, as you know. But this one is so important for the future of our community. Please help us all out by doing your part.
Thank you and Happy Journaling!
P.S. I'll add these guidelines to the FAQ for easy reference.