My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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what does Live Journal own?

I’m in complete awe of the feedback that i’ve received on my most recently post. I’ve also been getting feedback in other channels, including via email, IM and my LJ. I couldn’t answer a question posed by one LJ commenter so i thought i’d throw it up here because i think it’s interesting:

So what does the IP ownership here look like? Because there are two parts to this; the software, and the community. So I have no idea how saleable the following are:

  • Old posts, text, images, etc.
  • The software, seeing as it’s open source and basically freeware — can they revoke the rights of others to use the existing version of the software?
  • The community itself — the network, the linkages, the usernames.

    What I’m wondering is, in the event that LJ was sold, what legal obstacles are there to me gathering all of my friends, paying for hosting elsewhere, running a recent rev of the software, migrating all of our old posts, and replicating the network topology, node names, the whole nine yards, somewhere else. Basically, what does LJ own?

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    9 comments to what does Live Journal own?

    • matthew

      on a totally unrelated note- what are you doing in that new pic?

    • Can you explain to me how whoever owns LiveJournal could be said to own the content on an individual or community journal.

      From the current terms of service:
      XV. 3:
      “LiveJournal.com claims no ownership or control over any Content posted by its users. The author retains all patent, trademark, and copyright to all Content posted within available fields, and is responsible for protecting those rights, but is not entitled to the help of the LiveJournal.com staff in protecting such Content”
      (Terms of Service: http://www.livejournal.com/legal/tos.bml).

      It seems to me that the only thing that Danga Interactive Inc. could sell is the software and development tools that they have created to make LJ possible, and the servers and hardware needed to keep the site functioning.

    • You of all people should know the answer to this one. They own the brand. Sure, you could replicate everything on your own server, but you couldn’t replicate it on “livejournal” or call yourself “livejournal.” Branding is worth a lot to a lot of people.

    • Sarah Bluehouse

      They own the pipeline.
      like Amazon.com is a pipeline of consumerisim… they don’t own/control the product. — Livejournal is a pipline of stories and networking… If it gets its own damn Friendsteresque thingy I’ll be pissed off.

      hmph. stupid bloggers think they own everything…. er.. well they do…. maybe time to go back to Diaryland… if I can pry m’self away.

    • It’s not only about the brand. The important part of the TOS is XV. 4:

      LiveJournal.com reserves the right, without limitation except by law, to serve user Content on the web according to the security provisions set forth by the author…

      No other company or person has this right. To start a clone someone would need to collect permission from every user to host their content.

    • Adam, i think the premise is that those interested individuals would willingly give permission to host their content – as danah talks about gathering her friends and moving to a new server space. Without actually knowing much about what would be necessary, if an authors permission is the only requirement it seems fairly straigtforward. Except, as much of the value comes from the interactions, the problem would likely be in transfering the comments and or the community interactions. In my personal experience, although with time it seems that my lj circle of friends continually becomes more interconnected (because i’ll offer or receive recommendations with regard to users that i should be reading), it seems rare that any cluster of ljers is entirely inclusive. At some point, a migrated version would need to cut off those who could be included, which would inherently alter the basic premise and functionality (as i see it, anyhow).

    • Daniel C. Silverstein

      > The software, seeing as it’s open source and basically freeware — can they revoke the rights of others to use the existing version of the software

      No, Danga ne SixApart can’t revoke the rights of others to use the existing version of its software. What it could do is release a new version of its software with more restrictive licensing terms, and simply stop making the old releases available. You’d be within your rights to run the old software, but would be faced with the potentially trickier problem of finding a copy. Of course, I think it’s unlikely that SixApart would do something stupid or nasty like that.

      Keep in mind, however, that Live Journal’s code base is not entirely open source. Thus, the notion of “running a recent rev of the software” grossly oversimplifies the situation. It’s not like Danga ever published a tarball that you could download, unpack, and run to have your own mini-LJ runniing from in minutes.

      Danga wrote some pretty slick software to make it possible to scale Live Journal to support thousands of users efficiently, and most (all?) of that is open source. Some of that software is described in:
      http://www.danga.com/words/2004_mysqlcon/mysql-slides.pdf
      But there’s also a substantial amount of code running on top of that open source infrastructure, and that code *is* Live Journal.

      (Dan)

    • amber

      hey ayh this website is gay and i can makea web site better then this anyday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      LOVE YAH!