The WELL Member Agreement

The WELL was launched in 1985 with minimal rules and a free-wheeling spirit embodied by the saying. “You Own Your Own Words.” This now classic and carefully tended policy has been expanded into The WELL Member Agreement.

Owning or Owning Up To Your Words?

The phrase “You Own Your Own Words,” commonly abbreviated as YOYOW, refers to one of the oldest principles of the community: personal responsibility.

In its simplest terms:

  •     Members know each others’ real names, and have to live with or live down the reputation they create with their posts.
  •     Members are legally responsible for their posts, including liability for libel and violations of privacy or copyright.
  •     Members own the copyright for their posts, and are responsible for enforcing that right.

YOYOW does not eliminate personality clashes or conflicts, of course, but this shared value of owning up to your actions tends to lead to a desirable level of authentic discourse – improving the signal-to-noise ratio, if you will.

YOYOW is still one of the guiding principles of the WELL, but members are also expected to abide by The WELL Member Agreement, which is more formal and detailed.


The WELL Member Agreement

This document is an Agreement between The WELL and its members. It explains what The WELL’s rights and responsibilities are to you as a user and what your rights and responsibilities are as a WELL member.

By using or accessing The Well you agree to be bound by this Member Agreement.

Because members must provide their real name and a credit card, the WELL is a mature environment. Discussions encompass controversial topics and use adult language; no content filters are provided. Guardians considering purchasing a membership for a minor should use their best judgment about whether the minor is mature enough to participate under their real name.


WELL Members’  Rights and Responsibilities

You are legally and ethically responsible for any works – writings, files, images, pictures, or any other work – that you post or transmit using any of The WELL’s services: email, conferencing, your personal web site, web directory, or any other service that allows interaction with or dissemination of information to other WELL members or to wider audiences on the Internet.

  1.     In posting works on any WELL service, you are responsible for honoring the rights of others, including intellectual property rights (copyright, patent, and trademark), the right to privacy, and the right not to be libeled or slandered. For example, if you wish to post a copyrighted work on any WELL service, you are responsible for obtaining the copyright  holder’s permission first. The WELL is not responsible for monitoring, protecting or enforcing any intellectual property rights of any member.
  2.     Under US law, you retain copyright on all works you create and post to any WELL service, unless you choose specifically to renounce it. In posting a work on a service offered by The WELL, you authorize other members who have access to that service to make personal and customary use of the work, including creating links to or reposting in WELL-only conference areas to which you have access. You do not authorize them to otherwise reproduce or disseminate it without your permission. You also give permission to The WELL to copy your works as part of the normal backup process, and to conference hosts to archive topics containing your works.
  3.     You have the right to remove any of your works from the WELL’s member-only conferences at any time and to formally request the removal of your material that has been used in other locations and contexts on The WELL to which you do not have direct editing capabilities; provided that The WELL shall be permitted to maintain copies as part of its normal backup process.
  4.     Using your WELL account or any WELL service for any activity that is illegal under the laws of any local, state or federal jurisdiction, including California and the United States (including sending, facilitating, or allowing spam; data-mining; impersonating anyone; or using the WELL’s member-only conferences for commercial purposes) is a violation of this Agreement.
  5.     Users in countries other than the United States are responsible for ensuring that their use of WELL services complies with the laws of their jurisdictions. The WELL makes no assurances or guarantees in this regard, and accepts no legal liability for content contributed by members.  Furthermore, you agree not to use the system to violate the security or privacy of other members.

The WELL does not permit anonymous or pseudonymous accounts. When signing up as a WELL member, you agree to provide your real name and current contact information including a phone number and off-WELL email address.  This back-up contact information will be used only by WELL staff and only to resolve problems with your account. Users may not create alternate accounts for decptive purposes; doing so may result in termination of all accounts.

You agree to pay all charges that accrue to your account. You take responsibility for all authorized use of your WELL account, and for all your contributions to any service offered by The WELL made from your WELL account. You may cancel your account at any time by contacting The WELL Billing Department ( You are responsible for paying the monthly membership fees through the last day of your current billing cycle as well as any surcharges for system use through the date of cancellation. Disputed charges must be reported to The WELL within 60 days.

You agree to help protect your account and the security of other members by guarding your password. If you have reason to believe your password has been compromised or there has been any unauthorized use of your account, you agree to contact WELL staff as soon as possible at <>. Similarly, if WELL staff inform you that your account has been breached, you agree to take reasonable steps to secure it.


Violating elements of the Agreement may lead to sanctions that reflect the details and severity of the violation. In most cases, a warning will be given. Multiple violations or more serious breaches may result in temporary limitation or suspension of WELL membership. The WELL reserves the right to completely and permanently withdraw membership and access to WELL services, and bar re-entry.

Member-only conferences         

Unlike other social platforms, the WELL’s member-only conferences constitute a private community, and discussions here are assumed to be off-the-record and among members only. Your access to the works that members have posted on the WELL’s member-only conferences is for your personal use only. If you want to redistribute works you find on The WELL’s member-only conferences, including for journalistic or scholarly purposes, it is your responsibility to obtain permission from the poster (and any other person with rights in the material). This may prove difficult or impossible regarding the posts of deceased members or people who have left the WELL.  Actions that violate members’ reasonable expectations of privacy may lead to your membership being suspended or terminated.

Examples of actions that might lead to termination include but are not limited to:

  •     Copying another member’s post on your blog or social media account without permission.
  •     Quoting a member’s post in a news story, scholarly article, or book without permission.
  •     Contacting a member’s employer about something posted on The WELL.
  •     Compiling and distributing a list of WELL members for commercial purposes.

The WELL does not take responsibility for your behavior, or that of other members and users of the system. This means that WELL staff do not normally take a role in mediating conflicts between you and other members. However, WELL members have the right to expect not to be harassed or otherwise contacted against their will.

If you have a complaint about the behavior or posts of another member in the WELL’s member-only conferences that you are unable to resolve by contacting that person directly, then:

  •     Contact conference Hosts for help and advice if your complaint is about interactions or material in a specific conference.
  •     Install available WELL utilities to deny access via private communication from individuals or the public at large, with the help of  WELL staff if necessary.
  •     Agree not to attempt to bypass these protections where they have been implemented by another member, for example by creating another account with the intention of using it for that purpose.


Conference Hosts’ Rights and Responsibilities

Hosts of Featured Conferences are volunteers who are appointed to oversee the day-to-day smooth running of that Conference, not subcontractors or employees of The WELL. Hosts of Independent Conferences (that end in .ind, such as chow.ind) are volunteers who have created a discussion area of personal interest.

While they may confer with WELL management, they are not acting as agents of WELL management in making such decisions, unless otherwise explicitly stated.

Within certain overarching guidelines as described in the Hosts Manual, Hosts have a great deal of autonomy in running their conferences. They have the autonomy to set whatever rules and conditions they wish on participation in their conferences, including: restricting the userlist; accepting, rejecting, suspending or banning members; agreeing to or rejecting Topic links to other conferences; allowing creation of new Topics; and so on.

Members may appeal Hosts’ decisions, but are expected to follow their guidelines for participating in conferences. Hosts will use the email specified in the member’s internally viewable profile page, or their WELL email if none is specified, to contact members privately about disputes. (Members should keep this information current or regularly check their WELL email.) Repeated bans or suspensions by Hosts, whether in the same or different conferences, may lead to membership termination.

For more information about the relationship between Hosts and The WELL, see the WELL Hosts Agreement, available as Section 1.3 in the Hosts Manual.

Decentralized social media

  1.     General WELL principles of personal responsibility also apply to WELL decentralized social media accounts. Members are expected to use their real identities and follow applicable laws.
  2.     Mastodon and the Fediverse is a network of independent servers, including the WELL’s, and entire servers may get blocked if their users are perceived as antisocial, threatening or spammy. Because being blocked would make the WELL’s server less useful to members, members are expected to follow some specific rules of civil behavior when making posts that are viewable:
          • Do not use slurs based on race, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity or national origin.
          • Do not promote violence toward or engage in harassment of any individual or group. “Harassment” includes posting private information that makes it easier for others to target an individual, i.e., doxing. “Harassment” may also include taunting, being deliberately provocative or posting in bad faith, especially if done repeatedly.
          • Do not use your account to post irrelevant advertisements, promote high-risk investment opportunities, or link to sites that may install malware. Announcing, linking to or promoting your own work is allowed.
          • Do not knowingly or repeatedly spread misinformation, especially about important topics of public concern such as elections or epidemics.
          • Demonstrate awareness of community expectations and use best practices for hiding explicit posts and graphic images behind content warning Use privacy tools to limit the audience for your posts if appropriate.

Whether or not your posting behavior fits one of these specific categories, if the WELL informs you that your posting behavior has threatened the WELL’s ability to network with other servers, you agree to take whatever steps the WELL requests to resolve the problem.

  1.     Members are responsible for using relevant privacy tools to limit the viewability of their posts or block problem users or servers. These tools should also be the first resort to managing conflicts with other WELL members and the Fediverse at large. However, if these tools cannot resolve a problem with a specific user or server, members should report it to <>, which will investigate and take action if warranted.
  2.     If your social media posts are publicly viewable, they may be seen, quoted or reposted by members or non-members. Even if you have limited who can follow your account, your followers may find ways to refer to or quote your posts. The WELL takes no responsibility for how your social media posts are used.


The WELL’s Rights and Responsibilities

The WELL is not the publisher or author of any works posted by its members. It is a passive service for storage and dissemination of content that WELL members may choose to post and distribute via The WELL. WELL management does not review or moderate content before it is posted, and no prior approval is required for posting. The WELL disclaims all copyright and ownership in such works and all responsibility for them.

The WELL is not responsible for any third-party links and other quoted content that members may post.  Any take-down requests claiming infringement, received by the WELL in relation to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), will be thoroughly investigated. WELL management reserves the right to take appropriate action.

Although it cannot make an absolute guarantee of system security, The WELL takes reasonable steps to maintain security. If you have reason to believe system security has been breached, you must contact WELL staff at as soon as you are aware of it. The WELL is not responsible for recovering posts, files, email or other material which has been deleted by the authorized account holder. The WELL is also not responsible for the loss of posts, files, email or other material due to software or system failures. While all reasonable efforts to restore lost information from backups will be made, you should still maintain your own local backups of important data.

If WELL technical staff finds that files or processes belonging to a member pose a threat to the proper technical operation of the system or to the security of other members, The WELL reserves the right to delete those files or to stop those processes.

If WELL technical staff suspects an account is being used by someone who is not the authorized account holder, The WELL may temporarily (or permanently if necessary) disable that account in order to preserve system security. In all such cases, The WELL will contact the member as soon as feasible.

In addition to requesting that members respect each other’s personal privacy, The WELL has a Privacy Policy regarding how member data is collected and used. In general, The WELL only collects the minimum amount of information necessary for billing and customer service, and does not sell member data or allow its use for commercial purposes.

The WELL reserves the right to refuse service to anyone and to cancel an account at any time.

The WELL is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind. The WELL will not be liable for incidental or consequential damages at all or for other damages beyond the normal base membership fee for one calendar quarter.

The WELL reserves the right to change the terms of this Agreement at any time and without advance notice. Any such changes will be made to this document and be available at this location. To ensure business and service continuity, The WELL may assign and delegate its rights and obligations to any successor to all or part of its business or assets.

Disputes arising from use of WELL services shall be resolved under California law.

This Agreement supersedes all other Agreements or understandings regarding this subject matter, and is governed by the internal laws of the United States and California.

Current Agreement posted 2024-05-09.