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Tuesday, 01 June 2021


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No problem for me

I would not have a problem with it - particularly if the guest author is asking for permission to do it. I don't make inflammatory comments on the Internet and never write anything that I wouldn't say to a person face to face. And the guest author's intention to maintain the original context of my remarks seals the deal.

[He is asking for permission, but perforce he is asking generally, because it would be nearly impossible to contact multiple commenters years after the fact and ask specifically and individually. Not all the commenters from years ago are still reading this site, still interested in photography, or still alive, and not everyone leaves contact information with their comments. --Mike]

In general it would not bother me but I can't help thinking about edge cases. What if that republication takes place on a porn photography site (or something like that)?

I guess if the republication stated clearly that the content and comments originated somewhere else and gave the reference, then that would be as ok as it could be.

No objections here!

I would doubt that any of my rather minor contributions here would come into such play. If somehow they did, I personally would have no problem with republication in the way you describe.

No problem whatsoever!

No problems here. Share away!

Assuming my comment was presented in the same context as which it was written, I would have no problem with a repost whatsoever.

I think reader comments are intended to be made within the original context. Theres a risk if the context shifts that a comment could then be out of place even if the new author has good intentions. I would not be happy.

Not a problem for me in any respect. My vanity went into hibernation years ago and never woke up.

I don't think it's a good idea. The comments were provided within the context of the community here. The tone and intention may not translate elsewhere, and some may not want their name popping up elsewhere and forever living there for Google to list. Who knows what kind of context would be generated there (what kind of ads they might put up, even what the URL of the site might be). Additionally I would hope the personal information (email, IPs, etc.) would not get shared in any event.

Just my 2c.

Fine with me .... no problem.

That's fine; I have no concerns at all.

If the post gets published, I hope there will be a link to said website, as I'd like to have a look at it if he has been a contributor here.

Not a problem! Comment still applies to original column as originally published.

Unless the original article included some interaction with commenters that was integral to the point of reposting the piece, I’d say it’s a bad idea.

For me I would not object, I was willing to make public my statements then and if not taken out of context am not opposed now

Not sure if this will help, but here goes. Having been a working newspaper journalist for 20 years,I would say that comments to the blog fall into the same category as letters to the editor. In other words (pun sort of intended)those who submit a comment do not have a copyright to those comments. The copyright belongs to the author or owner of the blog. It goes along the same lines as being photographed in a public place. There is no expectation of privacy or exclusivity.

[That's interesting, because I conceive of TOP comments being on a Letters-to-the-Editor model--rather than on, say, a Forum-Thread model--and I sometimes even say that to commenters when I contact them to discuss a problematic comment. --Mike]

I would have no issues with this. I know I'm leaving a trail of interwebby activity behind me---I'm not a dope. It would be nice to get a courtesy message, but not required.

No complaint here.

Attribution to the original publisher (TOP) is the important part.

I’m fairly sure I never commented on his posts, but I have difficulty in thinking why anyone would object, especially since he was a regular guest author over several years and 366 posts is pretty substantial. Since he would like to be able to republish the comments in their original context that would seem to fair to all parties and it’s obviously impractical to get formal permission from each and every commenter. However, I await with interest to see if someone comes up with a convincing objection.

I'd certainly be fine with it.

I'm guessing that we're talking Ctein?

I would have no objections whatsoever. When commenting on this site, I assume that the comment is "out there" and available for this type of movement and duplication.

I have always assumed that unless I explicitly identify something I launch out into the ether as copyrighted it is in the public domain. This includes contributions to forums, comments on blogs, etc.

I'd have no objections at all, especially for Ctein. The real question is how do you feel about it? If I were you, I'd feel perfectly fine if he referenced it back to TOP and you gained traffic as a result.

Wouldn't bother me at all.

I’d be happy for the guest author to do this, subject to a caveat: that he or she made clear the original date of the post and the comment, and that this was therefore your view on the issue or question, *at that time*.

Interesting question, Mike. Thanks! My take is that since the post and comments are already public, citing them elsewhere is not a violation of privacy or of intellectual property. The original source should be correctly cited as a hyperlink.

take care


Anything I contribute publicly is....public. I would have no objection, and as I have a rather certain idea of the specifics around this post, I fully accept the reposting of any comments I may have made here.

Republishing, even web comments, raises a whole bunch of legal issues.

There's case law on this, re defamation etc.

Worth considering.
Mr C.

I'm fine with that. I wouldn't mind a link!

Mike, I have no problem using any of my comments for whatever purpose.

Regarding "Assuming he cannot ask your permission directly" I'll make the assumption that I, if it were me, could be asked in some fashion through a post on TOP. Setting that aside, so long as the comment was in context and credited, and no income generated by the republishing, I wouldn't object. If the republishing is behind a pay wall, or part of some other income generation scheme, that would change everything.

I would not object nor be upset. A note explaining that the comment was originally from your blog would be appropriate.

As long as my email address is not accessible, I'm fine with it.

Personally I wouldn't mind, as long as I am properly credited, my words aren't minced, and it's not something embarrassing that I wrote.

That said, you as the publisher of this blog, should have set a policy on the copyright of comments. Either there's an agreement somewhere that says commenters automatically grant full reproduction rights to TOP, or it might say that commenters grant only TOP the right to use their words on TOP.

Now, what if a commenter had written such a clever comment that it is now worth republishing as an essay somewhere? Who would decide, you or the commenter?

Let 'er rip ! I would be perfectly comfortable as long as comments remained in context with the original posts. Soldier on !

Within the parameters you described, no, I would not have an objection to my TOP comment being republished on the author’s site.

I wouldn't mind. After all, I would already have posted the comment, so no surprise if it should get read again.

With the stipulations you mention no objections or reservations at all.

I strongly believe that when I leave a comment on a blog post, it stays on the URL where I left it, and is not meant to be portable if the post is republished elsewhere.

I don't think that posters have an expectation of ownership. Facebook and Reddit own the content of posts, unless there's a previous copyright. Of course, they have statements on their websites to that effect, and you would be declaring ownership after the fact. Personally, I would have no objection.

Nope. If it's obvious the intent is not malicious, scandalous, or supporting a political or religious agenda. I wouldn't even object to re-posting one of my images, so long as it's properly attributed..

No objections whatsoever.

No problem, but would want his site information/link.

I would have absolutely no problem with any of that. To me, any comment made here is a public comment and can be shared anywhere. I honestly don't see any issue here.

Interesting question. I think that you should NOT pass on the comments.

When someone makes a comment on a web site, that person has an audience in mind, whether consciously or subconsciously, and that audience is the readers of the web site where the comment was posted. A different web site can have a very different audience or even different associations.

Also, the comments were made on TOP, so those comments "belong" to TOP, not the author of the original post.

Lastly, depending on how long ago the comments were made, they might not reflect who the commenter is today. With the passage of time maybe the commenter has become more reasoned or broader minded. It could be a detriment to the commenter to have some nasty, short-fused comment from 15 years ago resurface.

I believe the source of the comment should be disclosed. For example, "Comment made to original Dec. 2017 post at TOP" or "Comment republished from TOP, Dec. 2017". For a list of original comments something like: "The below are comments originally made when this article was first posted online at TOP, Dec. 2017"

Two reasons: 1) Courtesy and clarity, 2) Times change. I may have said something about the post's topic in 2017 that I would not say in 2021. I can't take back the 2017 comment -- it is on TOP after all -- but I don't want people thinking I said it in 2021.

Hi Mike,
If the circumstances of the new website are as you describe, then I see no problem. But, the guest writer should clearly state that "these are comments made at the original time of publication"

We would, after all, have known we were reacting to a 'guest post' rather than something written by your good self.

I have only commented a hand full of times, and I do no think I bring much to the flow of things. But if some one wants to use it, I would be surprised. Let them have it.....

If the conditions are as you state them, I doubt I would have any serious objection. This situation is similar making an (attributed) reference and small quote from an article in an academic journal, which almost never is associated with any request to quote that.

I would have no problems with this.

No problem,

If I had wanted to keep anything private I would have not put it on the net in the first place. No problem.

I assume that anyone who has been a guest author on TOP, is a worthy person. I also assume that if Mike Johnston allows said author to republish a post, then it will be done in a responsible manner. Therefore I would have no objection.
I doubt very much that my comments are worthy and I realize that what’s said on the Internet, goes everywhere on the Internet.

I would not have a problem with an author exporting and publishing my comment as part of their article.

I would have no objections so long as context is preserved and the new post links back to TOP.

I figure I gave up most rights when I left my blathering on someone else's privately owned, publicly accessible publishing platform for the whole world to see, whether that was a bathroom stall or a blog (not implying any equivalence other than legal, btw). That said, I hope the guest poster will do me the courtesy of crediting my online or in-stall alias.

Curious though--don't we have to leave our email address in order to leave a comment? I take it that was tried and failed in this case? Or is this a preemptive query?

I would be fine with it. What you're suggesting is the standard practice in scholarship, and that has always worked for me ... even where I've had better afterthoughts later.

I think I know what this is about, so no objections here. I truly appreciate the respect shown by asking -- not everyone would do that.

It wouldn't bother me, though I definitely would like him to make an effort to contact me and let me know, just so I could see it. But if that were impossible, it still wouldn't bother me.

No objection to any carry-on posting....

I personally have no objections.

I would think that, from an intellectual property perspective, when I comment, I surrender any privacy or copyright claims to my writing. I have contributed to a publicly accessible website that does not require membership or payment, and my contribution is freely given without restriction and no expectation of privacy or compensation.

That would not be a problem for me. If I comment on an article publicly (unless I specified my comment to be copyrighted) I have already given up any control over dissemination, particularly on the internet.


Michael Ellis



Thanks for so many years of content!

My initial reaction was "It's fine, given all the clarification you've made".

But then I thought about browsing a new photo site, and suddenly running across one of _my_ comment on a site where I didn't leave it. It would be surprising.

Having said that, pointing back to the original location, with links, would be key to ensuring I don't have a negative reaction. I.E. list your source! :)

I'm curious how others see this.

Note: I'm purposely staying away of any legal issues in terms of use / copy / distribution and site Terms of Service, and just focusing on how I'd react.

You've raised a question that long predates the genre of the blog: what happens to a writer's words after they're no longer in the writer's control? Just in English and just in the twentieth century, for instance, a list of writers whose works were blocked from publication by family members will include Sylvia Plath, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, and the interference was sometimes carried all the way to destruction of manuscripts. In the nineteenth century, Henry James wrote a short story, "The Aspern Papers," that explores the issues. And about "nothing fringey or dark," fringey and dark -- first far-right, then neo-Nazi -- is exactly what befell H. L. Mencken's American Mercury after his death.

So yes, those who inherit literary legacies are going to be made uncomfortable by their responsibility -- if not sooner, then possibly centuries later. I don't see how a general policy could ever be formulated to deal with that fact. It isn't even a problem for an editor, really; it's more of a theme for a comic or tragic playwright.

Under the conditions you specify, Mike, I would not have an objection. However, in general I would want too know where my comment was going and the context in which it was going to be displayed. There are definitely circumstances where I would not want to be seen endorsing views contrary to my own.

If I submit a comment to anything published on the T.O.P. website I am contributing to a conversation. Henceforth the comment is part of the conversation and belongs to T.O.P. website and its community.

No objections.

That's would be fine with me.

It's kind of already happening, if you count what goes on at The Wayback Machine. For instance, here's TOP from November of 2008, complete with comments:


Once stuff is on the 'net, it kind of gets a life of its own. Or lives, as this case kind of demonstrates.

If I'm being honest, I'd say that I'd rather not have my comments reproduced as there's at least one instance where I wish I could retract a statement I made on TOP to the guest author in question. However, I also realize that it's the nature of the beast and can't really take back stuff that I've put out onto the internet. On the bright side, it has given me some perspective and I'm a lot more careful about what I say and how I say it. That's especially true when I may be emotionally charged about a subject. Seeing the comment in question pop up again with new life may give me some strength to my resolve to mind my manners online.

I’m not sure that I ever posted on one of Ctein’s columns, but I certainly would have no objection to him reposting any such comments. As he explained in his latest newsletter posting his columns without the attached would be far from satisfactory

In most circumstances, I would object. One of the problems of today's internet is that the ephemeral often becomes permanent. Most comments are ephemeral and do not stand the test of time. Many comments have been made where the permanent nature of them has had negative consequences far into the future. And let's face it, the situation that you describe is the only time, I have ever heard that an old comment has any positive value today. If you don't really have any choice in the matter, I would certainly hope that you can at least leave a current comment noting your approval or disapproval of the old comment.
Permaphemera is my word for this phenomenon.

I would have absolutely no problem with Ctein doing whatever he wants with my comments.

It sounds like you might need unanimous consent though if you want to avoid annoying anyone.

Maybe your site could have a policy that specifies what might be done with comments, if you don't think that would discourage readers from commenting.

Be fine with me.

If we consider the blog post as a wiki page.

The comments to that blog post can be understood as wiki "edits" extending the original page's content.

Exporting a blog post from one platform to another without its comments is akin to exporting a wiki page minus its edits.

Ergo, an incomplete or out-of-date page content is the result.

Comments/Edits are lost .

If someone wants to use a photo of mine for their own purposes, they ask permission. Same applies to my words - I would expect to be asked first.

No problem with me.

It would be fine by me.

I would be just fine with it.

feel very free with if/any of my comments.

Strictly speaking any comment made on the internet in response to an article/post/whatever is copyrighted and owned by the author. The question then is, "is it fair use" to include it when republishing the original article on another site? Personally speaking, as long as the context was the same and there was no commercial aspect involved it wouldn't bother me.

I don't imagine that this even applies to me, but I think most of us trust your curation. You are one of very few who even ask or care. However, it would only take one unresponsive commenter to screw up an "approval" effort, while you could deal with a few complaints while the rest of us get on with reality... just do it.

Hi Mike,

Great question. Given your stipulations, it's hard to imagine how republishing one of my comments would be a problem - I write my comments, after all, in the full expectation that they will be published and publicly viewable, so I don't write anything in a comment that I wouldn't want publicly attributed to me on the front page of the New York Times, so to speak - but still, I would be mildly irked to find that someone copied my comment and republished it without asking my permission.

As far as your role as keeper of the (appropriately) private contact information of your commenters, I suppose it does place you in a bit of a delicate position. Though you and I have never met, I feel like I could trust your judgment as to the general character and intentions of the guest author. If you felt like the whole thing was on the up-and-up, I wouldn't have any objection to your sharing my email address with him/her.

But that's me. I could easily imagine how others might have good reason to feel otherwise. I'll be interested to see how others feel about this.


I'd have no problem with it so long as the person republishing the article made it clear that the article and the comments were originally published on TOP.

Sure. I feel a footnote explaining the original source, along with a link, should suffice. At the very least, it should always have the link (because referencing another website is an understood internet mechanism that needs no explanation).

As this is a public place, I don't mind at all.

I haven't a problem with giving permission to use the comment.
But I do have a question. I would think that all comments belong to the orginal blogger. So the commenter has no say in the decision though I would think the blog owner would get the commenters permission anyway.
So the question is who owns the comments?

I would be entirely comfortable with the reposting scenario you just described.

And Mike, please be extra careful with the plummeting squirrels...

I'd be ok with it.

I guess who the guest author is... but whoever he may be, I couldn’t care less if my humble comments are transferred. In fact, I believe the transfer would honour the chief intention of the comments, which is to add something to the text.

Using the term "fair use" from an ethical perspective - and not in the legal sense of the word, I'd say such use falls under fair use in the circumstances you described.

As a daily reader and infrequent commenter, I am fine with reposting my comments in their original context, even if it's on a different site.

Ah, ctein’s conundrum. I don’t see why he worries about this. Those comments are in the public sphere and as long as they’re not taken out of context, why worry?

When I leave comments in public on the internet, my hope is that the discussion, including my comment, will last forever. And I don't think it's likely. I'm in favor of pretty much anything that makes it more likely to stick around (the whole discussion, not just my comment). So--I'd be actively happy if discussions I was part of here were also preserved elsewhere.

I would have no problem at all.

I’m pretty selective about where I post comments, as I (with great conceit) imagine my comments add to the value of the blog. And not every blog (or forum) that I read gets to have that (imaginary) value. So I would not be pleased to be republished elsewhere.

I would not have a problem with that. Any comment I made was a response to the original post, and as long as the context of where the comment was made is explained I see no problem with this.

I would not mind at all, Mike. Same context, seems totally appropriate.

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