SDMB registration agreement as of 3/24/04

The agreement below spells out the rules by which SDMB users are expected to abide. Changes since the last version are indicated in bold. Current changes are intended to (a) clarify rule enforcement in light of the switch to paid subscriptions, and (b) clarify circumstances under which we would reveal private information about you. All changes are effective immediately.

Straight Dope Message Board Registration Agreement

We have one basic rule: Don’t be a jerk.

**A one-time 30-day guest membership on the Straight Dope Message Board is free. We don’t request personal information other than your e-mail address (although you may include such information in your user profile if desired). To continue posting after your guest membership expires, you must purchase an annual subscription for a modest fee. A subscription is not required merely to read the board. For more information about subscriptions, click on the “Subscribe” link in the menu bar at the top of most SDMB pages after you register. Users who register under a different name for an additional guest membership after their first has expired will have their posting privileges revoked.

The following rules apply to both guests and subscribers, except as noted.**

Considering the real-time nature of this bulletin board and the volume of messages received, it is impossible for us to verify the information posted. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. Users should be particularly wary of medical, legal or other professional advice posted on the message boards and recognize that it is no substitute for in-person consultation with a competent professional. The messages express the views of the author of the message, not necessarily the views of the Chicago Reader, Inc., or any entity associated with it.

You agree, through your use of this service, that you will not use the SDMB to post any material that is knowingly false and/or defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, threatening, invasive of a person’s privacy, or violative of U.S. law. You agree not to post material that in our opinion fosters or promotes activity that is illegal in the U.S.

You agree not to post any copyrighted material unless the copyright is owned by you or by the operator of the SDMB, except as permitted by the “fair use” provisions of the U.S. copyright laws (in general this means brief excerpts only). You agree to abide by the wishes of the board moderators in interpreting and enforcing these rules. Refusal to cooperate with board moderators or to abide by these rules is grounds for revocation of your posting privileges.

This message board is intended as a medium for public discussion. Do not post spam, including but not limited to advertisements, chain letters, pyramid schemes, solicitations, or other messages primarily intended to promote a cause, venture, organization, event (except Straight Dope-related events), website, or other entity or activity, whether or not money is involved. We allow exceptions for worthy causes (in our sole opinion) if you obtain prior permission from a moderator or administrator. Do not post the same or similar messages or threads to multiple forums; multiple threads on the same topic; or an excessive number of threads on any topic within a limited period of time. We will notify the Internet service provider of any party posting objectionable messages.

Do not post links to pornography - we will be the judge of what constitutes pornography. Links to nudity or other potentially shocking or offensive material are permissible only in the context of a mature discussion - gratuitous posting of such links is grounds for revocation of your posting privileges. When posting a link to potentially shocking or offensive material, observe the “two click” rule - don’t link directly to the item, but rather to an intermediate page that in turns links to the item. If you’re not sure whether a link is appropriate, contact a moderator or administrator before posting it. Any user who feels a posted message is objectionable should contact the moderators of the affected forum by e-mail.

Only one screen name is permitted per user. If you wish to change screen names please email an administrator. Use of multiple screen names is grounds for revocation of your right to post under ANY screen name. We reserve the right to refuse postings from screen names we find objectionable.

You are required to submit and maintain a valid e-mail address. If you do not wish to receive e-mail from other SDMB users you may so indicate in your user profile. However, we retain your e-mail address in our database and reserve the right to have SDMB staff contact you.

Vandalism, tampering, or any other abuse of the site is grounds for immediate banning. Violators will be reported to their Internet service provider and law enforcement.

We reserve the right to delete any message for any or no reason whatsoever. You remain solely responsible for the content of your messages, and you agree to indemnify and hold harmless the Chicago Reader, Inc. (the operator of this BB), Jelsoft Enterprises Limited (the makers of the bulletin board software), and their agents with respect to any claim based upon transmission of your message(s).

The Chicago Reader, Inc., reserves the right to reveal your identity (or whatever information we know about you) **to law enforcement ** in the event of a complaint or legal action arising from your participation on this message board. Otherwise we won’t reveal personal information about you without your consent, as specified in our privacy policy.

All postings and other material on the SDMB are copyrighted by the Chicago Reader, Inc. (“the Reader”). Republication of material appearing on the SDMB without express written permission of the Reader is prohibited, except that users retain the right to republish their own work. By posting on this board you grant the Reader and its successors and assigns a nonexclusive irrevocable right to reuse your posting in any manner it or they see fit without notice or compensation to you. Please remember that postings on this board are visible to anyone with access to the Internet, and are retained in a database indefinitely. Please do not post personal revelations or other information that may come back to haunt you. In particular, do not post your home telephone number or address.

The Chicago Reader, Inc., and its agents, including the administrators and moderators of the Straight Dope Message Board, are in no way responsible for anything associated with any real life meeting of our members. While we permit SDMB users to post announcements and other discussion of meetings and events on the Straight Dope Message Board, we don’t organize, sponsor, endorse, approve, or have any formal association with such events or any activities that may occur at them. We don’t vouch for any individual or group organizing or participating in an event. Attend at your own risk. SDMB moderators and administrators who attend events do so as private individuals and not as representatives or agents of the Chicago Reader, Inc. We encourage all attendees at these events to obey the laws of the jurisdiction in which they are held.

**Subscribers: By subscribing to the Straight Dope Message Board you agree to abide by the rules above and to submit to their interpretation and enforcement by our moderators and editors. Changes to the rules will be posted in the “About This Message Board” forum. Rule changes become effective upon posting unless otherwise stated. Except in extreme cases, you will be given at least one written warning prior to being banned from the SDMB or otherwise disciplined for violating our rules. This warning will be posted on the SDMB, typically in the message thread where the violation occurred, and will indicate the nature of the infraction. Subsequent violations may result in banning or other disciplinary action without further notice. It is your responsibility to make yourself aware of any warnings and modify your behavior accordingly. If you do not understand a violation you have been warned about, please e-mail a moderator or administrator for an explanation. Do not pester us for hypothetical examples of what does or does not constitute a violation - we believe our rules are reasonably clear. Subscribers who are banned forfeit all subscription fees they have paid. We reserve the right to ban a subscriber without warning in extreme cases, including but not limited to threats against the SDMB or users thereof or the Chicago Reader, Inc., or its agents, regardless of where or how the threat is expressed. We are the sole judge of what constitutes an extreme case. If you have been banned from the SDMB and subsequently subscribe, you will be banned again without notice and forfeit your subscription fee.

Guests: ** Please remember that you are our guest here, and that we reserve the right to exclude you at our whim, for any or no reason whatsoever. By registering and using the board you acknowledge this right and agree to abide by our rules and to submit to their interpretation and enforcement by our moderators and editors.
Revised 3/30/2004

The Chicago Reader, Inc., reserves the right to reveal your identity (or whatever information we know about you) in the event of a complaint or legal action arising from your participation on this message board.

What’s the scope of a “complaint”? If I complain that a user has been stalking me via anonymous email, can I get you to divulge their complete information?

We were thinking more about inquiries from law enforcement. We’d be reluctant to give information to a private citizen because of the possibility of being spoofed. Perhaps we should clarify.

Maybe you should make it customary to also send an e-mail to the offender in the event of an official warning, just to make sure they get it. Threads can drop off the front page pretty fast around here, and there’s no guarantee the warned person will check that thread again.

Just a thought.

As someone who’s been reluctant to subscribe without seeing the expected updates to the User agreement, I would like to point out a few things that I think could use clarification before the initial membership push ends.

  1. I see that you have already updated the agreement to clarify that you will divulge information to law enforcement if they are investigating it. I would go further and say that you should state clearly that you intend to provide such information only under subpoena, or else state clearly that you intend to to cooperate with law enforcement without requiring a subpoena. It is also a good idea to clarify that you would not necessarily hold private any information related to a threat against the board, the Chicago Reader, et cetera.

  2. As expected, the new agreement still contains the clause granting the Reader a license to republish material originally published here. It should clarify that this licesense ensues upon first posting, regardless of the poster’s eventual status.

  3. It would be a good idea to include language stating that you do not intend to resell or republish specific data about individual posters (e.g., personal contact information), or else stating that you reserve the right to resell or republish such information. Privacy is a bit of a concern for me, if the descriptive username has not already made this clear.

  4. As Loopus has already said, it’s a good idea to make email notifications a part of the formal warning process. In every case I’m familiar with (not many), this is already done; making it official means that you can’t be faulted for a poster’s failure to acknowledge receipt of warnings.

  5. It might be a good idea to clarify that the Moderators, while often acting as agents of the Reader, should not be assumed to be always acting on such agency (e.g., if Lynn Bodoni calls me a putz, it does not follow that the Reader has claimed I am a putz).

Feel free to ignore the above if you like, of course, but I think that clarifying these points can only help attract more paying members, since they remove ambiguity.

We purposely did not include a promise that we would e-mail warnings, although we sometimes do. Often we find that a user’s e-mail address is no longer valid. (We have given some thought to making failure to maintain a valid e-mail address a bannable offense, but let’s not get into that right now.) We don’t want trolls telling us we can’t ban them because they didn’t receive a prior e-mail notification.

We want to give ourselves a little latitude and are satisfied with the present wording. The purpose of the change was to indicate that we won’t divulge private information merely because someone says Party X has done them wrong.

We feel the current language is sufficiently clear. The rules state at the outset that they apply to both guests and subscribers unless otherwise stated.

This is covered under the privacy policy of our corporate parent, the Chicago Reader, Inc. The policy isn’t readily available on this site, though, so we’ll add a link.

See previous post. Generally we give veteran posters multiple warnings, often including e-mail warnings, before banning them. The rule change is intended to spell out the MINIMUM that we will do.

It’s kind of you to look out for our interests, but we doubt we can get off the hook so easily. Mods are told when they sign up that their activities on the board will be perceived by users as having official sanction, regardless of what the rules say, and that they should conduct themselves accordingly. Several use the “mod hat on/off” routine to indicate personal comments; while we think this is helpful, we don’t want anyone thinking that it shields the company against libel suits.