I’m a community administrator, but I’m also a content creator. Everyone who posts on forums is a content creator, as well. I am also a writer. I maintain a number of blogs, I’ve written a ton of articles and I have a book out soon. I want others to respect my ownership of my content and my member’s ownership of their content, so I do whatever I can to show them the same level of respect.
The best examples of this are when people are a bit too overzealous with their quoting of articles or they use your forums as a means to distribute audio or video clips (through a free file host, most likely). You don’t want your forums to be a cesspool of piracy.
When it comes to quoting from sources, I abide by what I have found to be generally acceptable online quoting practice. That means that I quote no more than one fifth or one sixth of the work and I link directly to the source of the work. If it is a small article – three paragraphs, let’s say – then it’s OK to quote one paragraph. If the article is only one line or one short paragraph, then it’s OK to quote the whole thing. But, in both cases, you must have a direct link to the source.
Quote much more or don’t feature a link directly to the source (no matter how little you quote) and it’s simply not cool. That includes saying “From SiteName” without the actual link to SiteName. It’s not unusual on forums (frequency varies by subject) for members to simply copy and paste an entire article into a thread. Often times, it is very easy to pick this out. When you have a member who rarely can string a sentence together and then all of a sudden, they put together a quality piece of journalism… well, something is up! Take a line from the article and Google it to see where else it pops up. You’ll likely have your answer there.
Similarly, it’s pretty easy to tell that someone is distributing an illegal audio or video clip. No, Madonna, Diddy, Snoop Dogg and Britney Spears did not give crazypirate72bf7s permission to distribute their work and nor did their labels. No, Will Smith’s new movie did not green light a marketing campaign where hotgurl108 could make the movie available to everyone for free.
If ever in doubt, we remove their post and mention that, if we are mistaken, please provide us a way to verify this fact and we’ll be glad to add the post back. Once in a while, that may happen, but most of the time, it doesn’t and it’s better to play it safe here, in order to properly respect the rights of others.
Unfortunately, not all administrators see it this way. For example, at Bad Boy Blog, we do a lot of original reporting. So, we get ripped off a fair amount. There is a community that I know of where the same freaking guy posts our articles up without any link. The owner of the community is just pleased as can be to allow it and receive the benefits from it until I report it, at which case he takes care of it. That’s not being proactive, that’s being reactive and covering your butt when the content creator comes knocking at your door. That’s frustrating and not how it should be. One day, I’m going to get fed up and just start filing DMCA notices instead of contacting the administrator.
You should want these reports to come to you. I try to always, always first content the forums staff because, being an administrator, I want people to come to me, first. Me and my staff will take care of any copyright complaint that appears legitimate. We don’t want people using our community to illegally infringe upon the work of others. So, make sure it’s in your guidelines and make sure that you have contact links on your site where people can contact you without having to register. Deal with violations and ban repeat violators.
Make your forums public so that search engines spider them and content creators can find where your members are using their content. If you have a legitimate reason for having a private forum (staff forums), that’s cool, but don’t do it as some sort of backhanded way to keep people from finding the illegal activities that your members are perpetuating.
At the end of the day, treat people like you want to be treated. Do you want someone ripping all of the posts your members made and putting them on their forums? So, then why would you let your members rip other people off? It doesn’t make any sense. Well run, professional communities respect the rights of others because they want people to respect theirs.