An interesting situation involving converting from ProBoards.

TrixieTang

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For a few days I've been watching an interesting situation going on over on ProBoards, I'm curious what everyone here thinks about it.

http://support.proboards.com/thread/443536/forum-hijacked

Essentially it seems like it comes down to this.

The original admin of ScootDawg, Lee, sold the forum to the new Admin, Mike, who converted it to vBulletin using a scraper script (the only way to convert away from ProBoards). But ProBoards' ToS says that posts are owned by the poster and licensed to ProBoards, thus they say that Lee had no right to sell the forum's content to Mike or convert the forum to vBulletin. ProBoards staff then re-enabled the ProBoards forum and disabled the admin account.

It seems to reaffirm the fear that many admins have about ProBoards, that it's a platform that you can't convert from without violating their TOS or starting over from scratch.

Seeing this whole situation though makes me think that there are a lot more issues involved here than I used to think. Here's a breakdown of some stuff that seems to have happened.

  • The community has been broken, some accept the new forum and some want to stay at the old one.
  • Some members feel like their information and posts were wrongfully sold to a new admin.
  • The original admin apparently didn't have the right to their own forum's content, rather it was owned by the posters and licensed to ProBoards rather than the forum's admin.

So, is this a warning to not use ProBoards? Insight into user reactions to selling a forum? An example of the ups and downs of how copyright of posts is handled?

And who should be (but not necessarily is) in the right here? The original admin, Lee, who created the forum? The new admin, Mike, who bought the forum? ProBoards, who host the forum? The members who feel that their information and posts were wrongly sold?

Here are some more threads on this whole situation, but be warned that there is some colorful language in some of them.

http://scootdawg.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=57655
http://www.scootdawg.net/showthread.php?t=52609
http://www.scootdawg.net/showthread.php?t=52570
 

cheat_master30

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I have to wonder; does this terms of service thing even matter? After all, unless Proboards actually tried to sue someone, I don't think anyone would care either way.

Then again, if it did become a legal situation, what the hell would happen, as the community seems to have split in half?

Really though, if it came down to it and I had to convert a Proboards forum, I'd just use the script anyway. Sure some Proboards fanatics might complain (they seem to attract some people who are fanatical defenders of the service and seemingly hate anything else), but most people would have probably joined the new forum already or have been inactive not to care.
 

LeadCrow

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Their TOS don't invalidate the forum management's 'ownership' of their community's content (else proboards would be in hot waters for assuming full legal responsibility).
By looking to export their community away, its clear the board staff no longer authorized Proboard to publish its content online for them and Proboards used technical restraints to coerce the board's management into keeping it hosted on their webspace.
Imagine webhosts like Liquidweb or shady ones pulling stunts like that. How handy wouldn't it be? In fact why stop at this, let's change ad codes altogether.

No comment on the selling part, cheapskates shouldn't sell publishing and monetizing rights to what they don't fully, independantly host on their own webspace.
However, once a Proboard community was disabled/deleted, that should be the end of it, no matter.
 
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Train

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I also think this is an example of member paranoia. I'm obviously not a member of that forum, but I think people would have been less prone to freak out of there was more of a heads up from whatever staff was on that specific site.

Proboards is just silly. I don't think you can actually extend your legal copyrights over in that way across multiple countries either.
 

LeadCrow

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they say that Lee had no right to sell the forum's content to Mike
I dont see either user admins claiming ownership of users' content. Lee transfering control of his management account is a different story and not against TOS.

who should be (but not necessarily is) in the right here?
The user admins, with faults.
Mostly Lee for keeping users in the dark, having potentially taken payment (users get offended easily by the idea of being taken advantage of by parties they held above doing that).

Proboard failed to perform satisfactorily as a hosting service, so migration really was the best course of action.
 
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pclinger

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Well, I think I'm qualified to speak on this matter since I am the President and CEO of ProBoards.

What happened here was not only a violation of the copyright of all the forum members, but the theft of private user data from ProBoards itself. When a user signs up to join a ProBoards forum, they agree to our Terms of Service. Every single user owns their own postings, their own content. You do not own someone else's content that they have posted. If you are the forum administrator, you retain copyright on all of your content -- but you don't magically gain ownership of everyone else's content.

So the first thing that's happened here is that the postings from the forum were stolen. Each one of these users had their posted taken from the site and copied to a third party website without their authorization. The new administrator did not acquire a license to this content as ProBoards had. So there is a massive violation of copyright going on.

Second, and more importantly for ProBoards, is the privacy violation that the new forum administrator has committed. They have stolen from ProBoards the email address of every single user on the forum. Our Terms of Service explicitly prohibits this activity (Section 19(f)).

ProBoards is a web hosting provider. We provide our service free of charge. We acquire the proper licenses from our users in order to display the content they post. When someone joins a ProBoards forum, they are joining ProBoards as a whole. It's like joining Facebook or any other large social network, except we specialize in forums.

In this case it is clear that, at the very least, violations of US copyright law and of our Terms of Service have occurred.
 

pclinger

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I thought I would also throw in one other tidbit of information that is relevant based on the conversation:

We actually offer data export options with our new v5 software (which all forums can upgrade to right now if they want). By logging in at www.proboards.com, users can download a copy of your posts and PMs in a CSV format.
 

Tatl

Developer
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Apr 29, 2007
Messages
125
Users who fail to read the ToS of a product they're using are definitely at fault but I wish ProBoards would be more direct about telling people that they don't own jack **** as a "forum admin" on their service. Something big and noticeable during the registration process such as "Hey, just a heads up, we're giving you this free service to start a forum, but you don't actually own or have any jurisdiction over anything posted to it" would do nicely to prevent any misconceptions.

But then I guess that'd cut into ProBoard's advertisement revenues because nobody would be stupid enough to run a forum on their service. The almighty dollar wins again, as usual. Or maybe people deserve to be swindled out of their hard work building a community if they're too lazy to do the research or read the ToS on a product they're using.

Still I feel bad for the poor peeps as it's members who lose in the end. As if forums don't have enough trouble without greedy CEOs pulling everything apart too.
 

TrixieTang

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What happened here was not only a violation of the copyright of all the forum members, but the theft of private user data from ProBoards itself. When a user signs up to join a ProBoards forum, they agree to our Terms of Service. Every single user owns their own postings, their own content. You do not own someone else's content that they have posted. If you are the forum administrator, you retain copyright on all of your content -- but you don't magically gain ownership of everyone else's content.
It's like you said yourself, the user retains the copyright yet licenses the content to be used by ProBoards. Forum admins are essentially trapped if they ever want to move away from ProBoards, they can move their forum but if they want to do it "legally" it means giving up all the content ever posted to their forum because the content is licensed to be used by ProBoards rather than by them/their forum.

So the first thing that's happened here is that the postings from the forum were stolen. Each one of these users had their posted taken from the site and copied to a third party website without their authorization. The new administrator did not acquire a license to this content as ProBoards had. So there is a massive violation of copyright going on.

Second, and more importantly for ProBoards, is the privacy violation that the new forum administrator has committed. They have stolen from ProBoards the email address of every single user on the forum. Our Terms of Service explicitly prohibits this activity (Section 19(f)).

ProBoards is a web hosting provider. We provide our service free of charge. We acquire the proper licenses from our users in order to display the content they post. When someone joins a ProBoards forum, they are joining ProBoards as a whole. It's like joining Facebook or any other large social network, except we specialize in forums.

In this case it is clear that, at the very least, violations of US copyright law and of our Terms of Service have occurred.
I understand this, but why exactly can't the forum creators/owners/admins have that license to use the user content in the event that they want to switch to a different software/provider?

I think this is one of the biggest things that scares a lot of admins away from the ProBoards service, the fact that they feel that they don't really own their forum and that the host has more rights to their forum and it's content than they do.
 

cheat_master30

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Actually, whether someone own posts depends on rules and terms of service. For instance, you could theoretically write in that every submission becomes the property of the staff team, just no one does because it might mean losing the whole 'safe harbour' thing.

And I suspect you could write a terms of service/rules page that says all posts become infinitely licensed to the forum in some way, that's what's in most forums terms of service to avoid such a situation.

Like from TAZ's Terms:

and that the site has a license (permission) for use of anything the user submits or posts to the site.
But I have no idea if the site in question did any of this. I'm also not a lawyer, so please don't use it in a court case for either side.

Of course, if I ran a Proboards or free hosted forum, I'd just use the tool anyway and ignore any 'consequences', it's not like anyone takes it too seriously to begin with.
 

HallofFamer

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Proboards sucked before, and will continue to suck in future. Even without their notorious TOS they provide a crappy forumware anyway, not even in the same category as most free forumwares.

Their success was largely due to the capture of free forum hosting market, and trust me I know how big this market is. I work on a php software myself and I constantly get customers who ask questions on how to use a hosting service. They struggle with ftp, mysql database and such, this is where free forum hosts come into play. Proboards did a nice job capture this market in its early shaping stage.
 

pclinger

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Proboards sucked before, and will continue to suck in future. Even without their notorious TOS they provide a crappy forumware anyway, not even in the same category as most free forumwares.
Spoken like a very informed person (That's sarcasm if you can't detect it!)

If you look at our new Version 5 software, it blows all current forum software out of the water. You can beta test at www.proboards.com/betazone

AJAX pagination? check
Live search (type your search term and posts/threads update live on screen)? Check
Notifications for everything you could want? check
Enhanced privacy options? check
Web 2.0 admin panel where you can do more by clicking less? check
Over a thousand new features? Check.
 

engineer1964

hoc foro magna est
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What happened here was not only a violation of the copyright of all the forum members, but the theft of private user data from ProBoards itself. When a user signs up to join a ProBoards forum, they agree to our Terms of Service. Every single user owns their own postings, their own content. You do not own someone else's content that they have posted. If you are the forum administrator, you retain copyright on all of your content -- but you don't magically gain ownership of everyone else's content.
Which goes against the spirit of owning your own boards, and right from the horses mouth.

So remember guys if you want to own your forums and have the freedom to move, upgrade or change things yourself as Admin, then unfortunately Proboards is definitely not for you.

Have a free forum is not actually true its not really free as your giving them ownership of all your content
 

HallofFamer

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Spoken like a very informed person (That's sarcasm if you can't detect it!)

If you look at our new Version 5 software, it blows all current forum software out of the water. You can beta test at www.proboards.com/betazone

AJAX pagination? check
Live search (type your search term and posts/threads update live on screen)? Check
Notifications for everything you could want? check
Enhanced privacy options? check
Web 2.0 admin panel where you can do more by clicking less? check
Over a thousand new features? Check.
I've looked at everything, and yes it still sucks. It has some minor unimpressive improvements, so yes it still sucks. Over a thousand new features? How about listing all of them yourself? But anyway it does not matter, even if it has a million new features and yes proboards still sucks.

Id rather have a mybb, phpbb or punbb forum than this crap, if I do not have the money to buy paid forumwares. Lets face it, proboards offers nothing special about their product, theres nothing unique about it that you cannot find in other forumwares. Its mainly the free hosting service that attracts people who do not read their TOS. I never said inferior products and services cannot stay in business. If you make the correct marketing, partnership decisions and maybe fool your customers successfully, you can stay in the market.
 
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Train

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If you look at our new Version 5 software, it blows all current forum software out of the water. You can beta test at www.proboards.com/betazone
It's not that I advocate what was said, but that's a rather bold statement that is simply not true. It's a great improvement I'll give you that, but it has a long way to go to be considered on the same plain as the top forum softwares on the internet. Arrogance much? I don't like that in any project developers attitude, it's not only a turn off, but it's rude and unprofessional.

AJAX pagination? check
Live search (type your search term and posts/threads update live on screen)? Check
Notifications for everything you could want? check
Enhanced privacy options? check
Web 2.0 admin panel where you can do more by clicking less? check
Over a thousand new features? Check.
I would love to see the actual feature list that is present in this version that wasn't in the versions prior. Just because you add a bunch of bulk and flashy things to a forum software does not make it quality. Support plays into quality, functionality plays into it, operation and speed plays into it. Again, spoken like a true arrogant developer.
 

HallofFamer

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It's not that I advocate what was said, but that's a rather bold statement that is simply not true. It's a great improvement I'll give you that, but it has a long way to go to be considered on the same plain as the top forum softwares on the internet. Arrogance much? I don't like that in any project developers attitude, it's not only a turn off, but it's rude and unprofessional.
Wow I did not even notice he said this. 'it blows all current forum software out of the water'. It should be that every forumware blows the likes of proboards out of the water lol. Name me a not so unpopular forum solution worse than proboards? Sorry I cant find any, but even if I do find one, it has gotta be a name almost nobody on TAZ has ever heard of.
 

Blind Bandit

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Well, I think I'm qualified to speak on this matter since I am the President and CEO of ProBoards.

What happened here was not only a violation of the copyright of all the forum members, but the theft of private user data from ProBoards itself. When a user signs up to join a ProBoards forum, they agree to our Terms of Service. Every single user owns their own postings, their own content. You do not own someone else's content that they have posted. If you are the forum administrator, you retain copyright on all of your content -- but you don't magically gain ownership of everyone else's content.

So the first thing that's happened here is that the postings from the forum were stolen. Each one of these users had their posted taken from the site and copied to a third party website without their authorization. The new administrator did not acquire a license to this content as ProBoards had. So there is a massive violation of copyright going on.

Second, and more importantly for ProBoards, is the privacy violation that the new forum administrator has committed. They have stolen from ProBoards the email address of every single user on the forum. Our Terms of Service explicitly prohibits this activity (Section 19(f)).

ProBoards is a web hosting provider. We provide our service free of charge. We acquire the proper licenses from our users in order to display the content they post. When someone joins a ProBoards forum, they are joining ProBoards as a whole. It's like joining Facebook or any other large social network, except we specialize in forums.

In this case it is clear that, at the very least, violations of US copyright law and of our Terms of Service have occurred.
Regardless your services are less and less relevant. Anyone who uses proboards anymore is a fool. This story just reinforced this fact. There other better free or low cost options.

This just is another example to everyone who either has a Proboard or is thinking about. Don't do it, or quit and start over.


Proboards sucked before, and will continue to suck in future. Even without their notorious TOS they provide a crappy forumware anyway, not even in the same category as most free forumwares.

Their success was largely due to the capture of free forum hosting market, and trust me I know how big this market is. I work on a php software myself and I constantly get customers who ask questions on how to use a hosting service. They struggle with ftp, mysql database and such, this is where free forum hosts come into play. Proboards did a nice job capture this market in its early shaping stage.
Agreed a buggy outdated and super limited forum software. I regret ever using their services.

Honestly I've found it not to much harder to work on shared host than on Proboards.

I've looked at Version 5. When it can beat boards like IPB, XF or Mybb let me know. So far I've not seen it.
 
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TrixieTang

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Patrick, while I disagree with you that ProBoards "blows all current forum software out of the water.", I will say that v5 is a surprisingly huge improvement over previous versions. You and the rest of the ProBoards team most certainly deserve some praise for your work on it, regardless of what some people here seem to think.

My only real complaint about ProBoards 5 is what I've outlined in my previous posts, that more control is given to members and ProBoards than to forum admins in regards to content. Change that and allow a way for admins to define a license for content posted to their forums and I think that you'd not only gain more users, but would also brighten up your service's image to the forum admin crowd in general.
 

cheat_master30

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Use that scraper and get the data anyway? If you can't find it, ask that neo guy on Forum Promotion. Or me I guess, I have the script as well, I just don't use it.
 
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