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I am on the verge of relaunching my fandom-centric forum that's been set to read-only since July. Since opening it the first time in 2006, I learned a lot about adminship and being a moderator too.

There were two separate incidences where a member wanted to leave the forum. Beforehand, I gave a member the chance the delete themselves by pressing a button and then confirming the choice.

The first incident had a member doing just that, but before doing so they went through their entire forum history and deleted everything. I was using SMF at the time so all their posts became 200+ new topics in a hidden recycle bin board. To my knowledge there was no 'restore' feature. The conversations this member participated in suffered as a result.

The second incident involved another member. They wanted to leave but knew the recycle bin existed. They threatened legal action if I did not remove every single post they created on the forum. I told them no, but I allowed them to delete images they created, such as photos. That also left holes in the forum threads.

When I deploy and open the second coming of this forum, I want to make sure I cover myself with a proper privacy policy and tos. My forum centers on fanworks, such as fiction and art.

I am unsure how to write a good licensing document that explains the difference between conversation and commentary with things such as artwork and fiction (or any very large body of written work). I want to make it clear that conversation cannot be deleted for the sake of the archive. This also brings in another problem where small drabbles and quick art sketches sit on the boundary between conversation and actual 'property' which may be contested to be removed if a member decides to leave or wants any part of their forum history removed for whatever reason.

(I am new to StackExchange, so apologies if I made any faux pas in the process of posting this.)

  • Welcome to the site! Just to clarify: you do want them to be able to delete certain types of content, like images? So you want to distinguish two types of participation and have different rules for them? – Monica Cellio Dec 22 '14 at 13:29
  • Thank you and that is correct! – Tarak'ha Dec 22 '14 at 17:08
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Personally, I'd highly recommend a license grant for anything uploaded to your server. Otherwise you can get in to odd legal situations where you are providing content that you don't have the right to present if they decide to be a pain. If someone wants to post content that they do not wish to release, they can post it to their own site and cross-link it.

You can then use a typical agreement like CC BY-SA (a.k.a. CC Wiki) for covering anything posted to the board; however users still have an option, at their own expense, to provide links to content (or even embed it) which they are not contributing. It is then up to them to manage their own content and you can keep anything posted on the forum.

This also doesn't mean that they are giving up rights to their images or content. They are still the copyright holder and can use it for any purpose they want. All it means is that in sharing, they agree to actually share the content if they are posting it to your server. I.e., you are allowed to post it. You can alternately use other license terms if you think CC Wiki is too broad, but I'd stick to the my server/their server distinction for clarity. At a minimum, anything posted to your server should be licensed for you to share forever.

This is actually the same structure under which Stack Exchange operates, and it seems to have worked pretty well overall.

  • This I was thinking of at first. However, fandom in general has a culture where individual choices and the end user's 'basic right' over their content is to be observed. – Tarak'ha Dec 22 '14 at 17:17
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    What do you mean by that? Licensing like I suggested doesn't really go against any "basic right" over their content, it just means that you can't share in a community and then decide to "unshare". Which kind of makes sense since people already may have copies and you are effectively trying to say "delete any copies you have, they are no longer legal". Which isn't really practical or enforceable. – AJ Henderson Dec 22 '14 at 17:18
  • Apologies, I was trying to edit my answer. I hit enter to paragraph and forgot to shift at the same time. But I agree with you. For context, here is a wiki article that explains what the cultural norm is in regards to this for fandom. Saring Deleted Fanworks@fanlore.org. Basically, a fan has a 'right' to remove a fanwork from public view if they wish. There's many reasons a fan wants to do this. Some are the basic 'because I said so' and others are in regards to going pro and being professionally published. This also applies to art. – Tarak'ha Dec 22 '14 at 17:29
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    @Tarak'ha - right, but none of what I was talking about really go against that. Note that it also leaves the option out there to self-host content that they don't want to release. They are more than welcome to put up a story or video on their web space or another service and they can link it with any right to remove the content from their services at any time. The links would simply go dead leaving the discussions in place. I actually have a private server that I sometimes link to for my personal proprietary content that I want to share on SE without granting license. – AJ Henderson Dec 22 '14 at 17:36
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    Ahh okay. Thank you for clarifying. I understand now. – Tarak'ha Dec 22 '14 at 17:50

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