Protecting Online Communities In BankruptcyThe recent bankruptcy of LTH Forum founder Gary Wiviott and the bankruptcy trustee auction of his online community has once again prompted discussion about the rights of intellectual property holders in bankruptcy. While the LTH Forum is not technically intellectual property in the sense that a book, recording or software is, the ownership of forums and online communities are still considered assets in bankruptcy cases.

When the owner of LTH Forum filed bankruptcy, he listed the forum as an asset with $0 value; but bidding has shown that some don’t think so. The first bid for LTH Forum was $40,000. Could the forum holder keep the community or is it inevitable that he will lose it in bankruptcy?  Well any assets not protected by bankruptcy exemptions can be sold by the bankruptcy trustee to repay debts. However, if intellectual property in the bankruptcy estate is deemed to have no value then the intellectual property owner (the debtor) will be able to retain their ownership in the asset.

But this is the tricky part of handling social communities online, if you own an online community and you have never tried to monetize it, how do you find out what the value is? The first step would be to find out what similar communities sold for and to discuss the asset’s value with your bankruptcy attorney. If you want to keep your online community asset, take the time to discover its market value, in other words, what would someone else pay to own this group? The owner of LTH Forum put down the value of his online forum as $0, because of this assumption he did not use any of his  bankruptcy exemptions to protect the asset from the trustee and creditors. If you value the online community you built, don’t make the same mistake.

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