The WELL presented its first users with the sole disclaimer: “You Own Your Own Words.”
I thought that was quite a contrast to the Terms of Service agreements pushed upon users of most social media sites today. (If you’re interested in that sort of thing, there’s a documentary about it). But the statement has a double meaning – both copyright and responsibility:
You own your own words. This means that you are responsible for the words that you post on the WELL and that reproduction of those words without your permission in any medium outside of the WELL’s conferencing system may be challenged by you, the author.
We talked about how flaming goes back to the early internet culture in the 80s. While the net connects people, there’s still a barrier there that lets people get away with behaviors that would be unacceptable F2F. I’m sure that was the primary concern behind the statement. I’m not sure many people were thinking about the copyright considerations of online communications back then. Still, as Howard discussed, there was a very different ethos at work, one of everyone being in it together, working together to make the community work, as opposed to what we see today where it’s all about finding ways to extract profits from communities of people.