This entry is taken from my firm's blog ( found at ipattorneyfirm.com/blog ):
Suppose you run an internet site that accepts postings from users. Suppose some of those postings are pretty good. Users voluntarily and without payment post to your website.
Who owns the postings?
The author of the posting owns the original copyright in his or her posting. For the website owner to obtain copyright in the author’s posting, there needs to be a written transfer of copyright interest, which can be done with a “click-through” contract for users to access the posting capabilities of the website. It has to be worded correctly, though; this is not a do-it-yourself opportunity. You need your copyright lawyer to draft this clause for you.
Creating the click-through contract does NOT give copyright to the website owner for materials posted before the website requires the click-through contract to access the web posting capability transfers copyright. For those postings, if the website owner wants copyright ownership, the website owner must obtain and register with the US Copyright Office a signed document transferring copyright from the original author of the post.
If the postings can be published as a “collection,” then the website owner may — MAY — own the copyright in the collection, depending on several factors.
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