Legal or illegal to post IRC logs on the Internet?

Suppose I /join #randomchannel and post logs on the Internet from Am I breaking any laws? Which ones?

Provided you’re a participant in the conversation you’re quoting, I don’t think there’s any issue. If you’re in the channel, but idle… yeah, I really can’t see anyone not realizing that most IRC clients are capable of logging.

However, the way your question is phrased, you could be posting logs from into #randomchannel… which would get you kickbanned for flooding… but that interpretation doesn’t make much sense.

Am I a member of the conversation simply by being present in the channel? Assume I didn’t say anything and am posting the logs to my personal website.

If you’re in the channel, people will know you’re there and should realize you might be logging the conversation, whether or not you’re speaking. I’ve never heard of any law against posting chat logs, though I guess the laws might be different in your country.

Mr2001 I’m American :slight_smile:

I’m basically having an argument with someone in the #Wikipedia channel. They are saying that it would be illegal for me to post the logs on the Internet, and I don’t believe that is correct, but don’t know where to look.

The question, I believe, is realated to this thread…

but I still have to be convinced that what was posted , either in irc or another BB, is copyright in the first place.

IMHO, irc chats are public domain and should and can be treated such.

Does anyone have a citation that could help out this thread? I’d really like to know…

I’m not a lawyer, but … There are at least two possible legal issues here:

(1) Is an IRC log confidential?

(2) Is an IRC log copyright?

I don’t think that people have a right to expect that what they say on IRC is confidential, given that people can log in and listen without taking part iin the dialogue. However, it may be copyright, or at least each person’s comtribution may be copyright and owened by that person. If so, it would not be in the “public domain” – that expression refers to copyright, not to confidentiality.

If it is copyright but not confidential, then you could quote parts of a log subject to “fair use” considerations.

There are two kinds of illegal: criminal and civil. In order to be criminally illegal, legislators would have to pass laws specifically defining elements of a crime, “posting IRC logs elsewhere on the Internet.” I am 99.99% certain that this has never been done, because I am 99.99% certain that legislators don’t chat. I don’t think the laws against recording and revealing private conversations apply, because IRC ain’t private.

Now, the question of civil legality is a little murky; there may be provisions of other laws that apply. The thing is, that for civil law to matter, someone has to be wronged, and that someone has to sue. That someone would have to subpoena the IRC operator and/or your ISP just to find out who you are, and would have to show that you had no right to post the logs, and that he had been damaged thereby. That last part’s pretty tough, especially if he’s anonymous.

Everything you write down is “born copyrighted”. To get the fullest protection of US and international copyright law, you have to register it. Without registration of copyright, you can’t sue for financial compensation. But you can still sue to stop someone from infringing.

So: all parts of an IRC chat are automatically copyrighted by the writer unless they designate otherwise*. You cannot republish someone else’s copyrighted work without permission without exposing yourself to lawsuits.

The method of publication is immaterial, whether it is public or private. Republication rights are solely up to the copyright holder.

Think of IRC chats as TV programs. You can watch/read them. You can save them for later private use. But you cannot distribute them whether for profit or not. The fact that they were publically aired has no effect on copyright protection at all.

So, republishing IRC conversations without clear permissions from the others is a Dumb Thing To Do.

*Note that when we sign up to the SDMB, we sign over our copyrights to the Chicago Reader of our posts. So anyone reposting our posts somewhere else can be sued by the CR.

ftg, I’m not sure that what you’re saying is true.

Maybe someone who knows how to search for what I’m talking about will come along, but I’m fairly certain that in the case of letters (and, I would think, email), once you send it off, it becomes the recipient’s property and if they wish to reproduce it/publish it/etc, that’s their right. I believe this has been addressed in cases where someone is publishing a bio/autobio and wants to include letters they received from other people…they do not have to get the author’s permission to do so.

I don’t see any good reason why the above wouldn’t/couldn’t extend to IRC conversations. I don’t see an IRC chat log as equivalent to a TV program, since you have no interaction with a TV program. An IRC chat is just a conversation that you’re participating in, which to me is more like exchanging emails/letters, but with the immediacy of real-time communication.

I believe that in the case of physical letters, the recipient owns the physical item (much like I own a copy of many novels) but that ownership doesn’t confer the right to reproduce. That’s the whole point of copyright: ownership of a physical copy does not include the right to make additional copies or to republish.

I think this would apply to IRC postings as well. A forum like SDMB might include a contractual clause on registration that conferred copyright of all posts to the board, but without that I believe that everything we write here remains copyright of the individual authors. The same would hold true in IRC space. In fact, I know of several book projects which got sidelined because they could not work out the copyright issues in getting permission from each and every contributor to make a published version of a bulletin board discussion but there may be additional issues I’m not remembering.

Note, IANAL and I hope some qualified IP attorney will either confirm or rebut the above, but that’s my understanding of the law as a layman who has been involved in some disputes.

ftg, isn’t it true that without copyright you can still sue for financial compensation for actual damages? Your post says no, but I was under the impression that registration allowed you to sue for punative damages and things like legal fees in addition to actual damages. All the documentation I have simply lists the advantages of registration (such as suing for certain dollar amounts without having to show actual damages) and doesn’t detail what the situation is when the work is not registered.

Absolutely not. For any letter someone has sent you, you only own the paper and ink. The actual Intellectual Property is owned by who wrote it (or their estate, etc.) There are no cases in the US of people legally publishing such letters without the copyright holder’s consent simply because it works the other way. There are numerous cases of people going to court and successfully stopping such republication!

You can sell your letter to someone else, burn it, etc. It’s your paper and ink, do what you like. The IP still is owned by the copyright holder.

The Big Grey Area is when someone doing a bio wants to quote parts of letters and such. This is allowed under Fair Use, but the law is extremely vague as to how much of a small writing like a letter constitutes mere quoting vs. republication. So, people go to court, judges get headaches quibling over word counts, lawyers collect fees, etc.

micco is right about financial compensation for direct losses, but in the case of a never-intended-to-be-published letter and such, you’re pretty much talking about legal fees. If they agree to cease-and-desist based on a letter, proceeding further isn’t going to be a noticable win. And since the other side might never pay up, it could be a big net loss.

I would draw a parallel between IRC and talking to someone on the street in a large crowd where you know everyone is listening and have tape recorders. I wouldn’t compare it to e-mail or even IM… and certainly not to private paper-and-ink letters.

To say IRC is copyrighted is like saying every (oral) conversation is copyrighted… which is insane.

Exactly. Channel messages on IRC aren’t private like email or IMs. An IRC channel is (generally) a public place where other users can freely come and go, and it’s well known that many people automatically record every message that goes through the channels they’re on. There is no expectation of privacy on a public IRC channel.

“Public” vs. “Private” has nothing to do with copyright law! Get over that issue ASAP.

Speech in public is protected by copyright law. The most infamous recent example is the King family re-asserting their copyrights over MLK Jr.'s speeches. Even though he gave those speeches in public, even thought they were broadcast around the world, etc., you have to pay now if you want to re-publish them in any form.

Things that appear in public don’t lose their copyrights, that’s the main purpose in having enforcement of copyright laws in the first place!

But what about conversations? Surely you can record a public conversation you have with someone on the street and replay it later, can’t you? You are correct that things that appear in public are still copyrighted, but I think the public or private nature of a conversation does affect whether it would be considered fair use to publish it.

This is interesting. One idea - in this situation would the policy of the server the conversation was happening on dictate the copyright status of texts transmitted through it?

Also, (this may be untrue), isn’t it true that you cannot tape record someones conversation in public without their permission and then publish it? That might be the idea that applies here.