Let’s revisit editing comments

Since it has been stated that bloggers are legally liable if they edit someone’s comments, it is odd that a blogger would knowingly take that risk.

It intrigues me why people do the things they do. I understand why some people are tempted to edit comments (although I am not, ever tempted, to edit anyone’s words). What intrigues me are people who are told there are legal issues doing it but their need for (insert whatever it is here) to edit overcomes a possible lawsuit. I understand that too – no one ever thinks it’s going to happen to them until it does. Then the light bulb clicks on and a lesson is learned real quick. I have a better approach: try to accomplish the same goal and protect yourself at the same time.

  • I implemented a LiveComment Preview plugin on my comments page. Now I’ve armed the commenter with the tools to be able to edit their own comments while they are typing. Note: I could care less if you make grammatical errors in your comments. Disrespect someone on my blog and you will feel my wrath. Make an error I will automatically correct it (mentally, I’m not changing a word) as I read it.
  • I added a disclaimer on my comments page making it very clear what my opinion is on comments. This compliments my Code of Ethics.
  • I cleaned up the ethics page to reflect that the commenter owns the rights to the comment and to state that my content is copyrighted, not Creative Commons.

That settles it for me, but what about people who want to edit comments? Well, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said that putting a Creative Commons license on the comments page makes it clear the commenter has given the blogger the right to display the comment and covers the blogger from any incidental copying that might occur. I have yet to find a resource that says the blogger has the right to edit someone’s comment without any legal ramifications. The commenter is granting the right for display as they wrote it, that’s the key.

Wikipedia sums it up the best:

Don’t edit others’ comments: Refrain from editing others’ comments without their permission (with the exception of prohibited material such as libel and personal details). It is not necessary to bring talk pages to publishing standards, so there is no need to correct typing errors, grammar, etc. It tends to irritate the users whose comments you are correcting. Never edit someone’s words to change their meaning.

Listening to my readers, I wouldn’t edit a comment unless asked.

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