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A while back I used to answer on WebAnswers and I was wondering since they are out of business, if I can go through the Archive and retrieve the content that I created and use it elsewhere. Their agreement which is listed here under section F Proprietary Rights states:

You waive the confidential nature of any content posted by You to the Website.

You further waive any exclusive use of any content posted to the Website by You and that materials or ideas You submit on the Website or to the Website administrator or any employee, officer or agent of WebAnswers, will not be considered confidential and may be used by WebAnswers, in its sole discretion, without any obligation to compensate You for its use and without any obligation to return any such materials.

Based on these terms are we allowed to go on sites with a similar situation and grab our content?

In this sentence:

You further waive any exclusive use of any content posted to the Website

Does that mean that the person lost it's content to the website and can't use it elsewhere? Perhaps I understood wrong in those lines. Any help interpreting those terms?

  • This is an interesting question, but it comes across as a request for legal advice. Can you make it more general? – Pat W. Jan 29 '17 at 3:55
  • Thanks @Pat W. I tried making it a bit more general now. – Hugo Jan 29 '17 at 4:45
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Let's take this one at a time:

  1. You further waive any exclusive use of any content posted to the Website by You.

    • you surrender your exclusivity means that you're no longer the only person who can benefit from this content. The website also gains the right to use this content.
  2. Materials or ideas You submit on the Website or to the Website administrator or any employee, officer or agent of WebAnswers, will not be considered confidential.

    • The website will not be required to keep these materials confidential - they can be made public, on their website or other materials they produce.
  3. May be used by WebAnswers, in its sole discretion, without any obligation to compensate You for its use and without any obligation to return any such materials.

    • WebAnswers CAN use all your materials, as they wish. This means they can publish, modify and remix all your content at their discretion. Furthermore, if this content is used for marketing and business purposes, the website is not required to provide a share for you or license author rights from you. You are not entitled to any profit the website generates from these materials. You are also not entitled to moderate this content after publishing. You cannot request your content back or return any authorship rights after you submit the materials to the website.

Great, so far, all of these terms regulate how the website can use all the content that you have submitted to them or any party related to them. While you can't claim the content back, there is NOTHING here that says that you CAN'T use this content for your own purposes.

If nothing tells you using the content is forbidden, then, it is probably not forbidden. I'm not a lawyer. There are things that I'm missing, like an implied condition that I don't know of.

HOWEVER, I'm a content writer and an SEO, I'll tell you some simple truths:

  • The likelihood of a dead business to sue you over submitted answers in their platform is low.
  • The fact that their terms and conditions sets NO rules that forbid you to use the content means their legal claim is weak at best. (Not a lawyer - double check.)
  • At worst you will receive a "Cease and decist" letter, that tells you they are the rightful owner, and you have to stop using this content and take it off the Internet ASAP, and if you don't they will sue you. Which they probably wont, but they can..

I assume that you want to use this content to republish on the Internet, in which case:

  • Google does not favour duplicate content.

  • If this content is already indexed in Google (and the other seach engines) at WebAnswers, you will gain nothing in republishing it to a new website / platform.

  • The safe way to reuse content across other websites is to paraphrase, add more to the topic and remix with other information to create a unique peace of content. The topic is the same, the quality of the information is increased, and the content is uniquely introduced to search engines.

Use this information as you best decide, but the bottom line is, there are ways to do it smart and avoid any IP disputes.

I have used and continue to use and reuse content that I've previously written, and created for other websites, or submitted to online platforms. I have received one complaint from 150+ articles published around the web and 200+ published on specific websites. It was about an image of The Guardian that I have no rights to use in my post.

Most content writers just Google for an hour before writing a new article and surprise, surprise, the final product is just the same as the other 9 results on page one.

It's how it works these days.

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