I'm building a website where users contribute original content to a collaborative story writing process. I assume since they are submitting it to such a site, they are implicitly giving me the right to display said work on the site. I understand that I cannot claim copyright ownership of said work, but for example, when I make a post on Reddit, Reddit doesn't own the content I wrote, but yet they are still permitted to display it to all other users who visit their site. Since I own the copyright to my own work, do I have the right to send Reddit a take-down notice for my own work (assuming I didn't already have the ability to delete my own post)? Could users do this to me on my site?

I would eventually like to be able to use this user-generated content on my site for other purposes, all expressly related to or in the context of my site (e.g. publishing a compilation of user-generated work from multiple users, either for free or at-cost). Is this in any way possible without some process of getting legal documentation from every user of my site?

In short, is there any way to enforce that original content posted to my site shall be covered by commercial-use-allowable Creative Commons or other such licenses, effectively making them public domain or something like that? I understand that I'm throwing some of these terms around a bit without really using them correctly. I don't know anything about legal stuff, this is a hobby project and I basically just don't want to get myself into trouble.

It's already on my radar to provide an avenue for owners of copyrighted material to send me take-down notices if they find that a user of my site has posted their content without permission, but when a user posts their own original content to my site, I want to know what I am allowed to do with it.

  • I see my question was downvoted three times. No one said why. This doesn't teach me anything or improve my future questions.
    – Steverino
    Jan 1, 2017 at 18:33

2 Answers 2


The answer depends in part what venue you're talking about, e.g. Reddit, Facebook etc. The details are revealed somewhere in the Terms of Service for that venue. The general pattern is that you are allowed to use that venue, provides you grant permission for the service to do what they do with your content. You cannot legally send them a take-down notice for your stuff, because a take-down notice requires you to say that the stuff was posted without your permission (and that is false – and you can be punished for making that statement).

There could be a venue where they do not hold you to an irrevocable license, in which case you could revoke that permission (but not Reddit: you granted them a "royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, unrestricted, worldwide license to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, perform, or publicly display your user content in any medium and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, and to authorize others to do so"). I've seen a site that actually asserts ownership of user-contributed content (I don't know if their TOS ended up being litigated) – if is not at all hard to write a TOS that includes transfer of copyright, rather than granting of a license. The only hard parts are (1) figuring out what you want in terms of permission to use and (2) whether your answer to (1) means nobody will use your service. SE and Reddit TOS probably are as close as you need to get for what you describe.

  • Also: this site
    – Dale M
    Dec 31, 2016 at 2:42

If you want your site to be able to use user-submitted content in various ways, your best bet is not to rely on any implicit license, but to require as an explicit condition of use of the site that users grant you permission to reuse any submitted content under specified terms. This could be done in your sites TOS, or even in a pop-up displayed when a user submits content.

For example, Wkipedia has a statement in place that says that any contribution is licensed under the CC BY-SA (Creative commons attribution share-alike) license (ver 3.0). Anyone clicking the "publish" button on Wikipedia has that displayed, and thus grants that permission for reuse. You could do something similar.

Other sites such as Reddit require such permission as a condition of use, and so you cannot send them a valid takedown notice for work you actually posted. (If someone else took your work and posted it without your permission that would be different.) Different sites may have different licenses that they require their users to grant.

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