I'm hardly shaking the foundations of journalistic integrity here: The Register has a bribery price list which is only half joking. But this is exactly the sort of story that they delight in running when it is perpetrated by anyone else, and so it's only fair - and deliciously ironic - to hold them to their own standards in this case.
Here are the pertinent terms from their new ISP's AUP, with observations on how they relate to The Register's own actions and editorials.
You may not [attempt to] probe, scan or test the vulnerability of a system or network
According to The Register, punishing people for doing that is shooting the messenger.
You are solely responsible for any information that you publish on the web. [...] you must take appropriate precautions to prevent minors from receiving inappropriate content
And yet The Register calls Australia stark raving mad for passing a law to this effect.
You are not permitted to upload or link to [...] any content that is racist, discriminatory or hateful
Like The Register's Flame Of The Week, or their description of Canadians as seal clubbers.
You are not permitted to upload or link to [...] any content that is excessively violent, horrific, disturbing or that portrays cruelty to humans or animals
Like The Register stories on Bonsai Kitten and baby cannibalism.
You are not permitted to upload or link to [...] content that infringes or violates any copyright, trademark or any other proprietary rights
But it's all right for The Register to berate BT for banning this.
You are not permitted to upload or link to [...] software designed to crack other software
Like The Register's posting of the DeCSS algorithm, or how to crack the Win2K SP3 installation process.
You may not send any adult material, material liable to offend, defamatory, confidential, secret or other proprietary material using your electronic mail access
So, nothing unsuitable for minors, or many of The Register's stories, or anything critical. And don't use your The Register email to inform The Register about any tasty inside information. What happened to journalists protecting their sources? Or to common carriers not being liable for the actions of their customers?
I understand that they're just covering their backs and are unlikely to implement this policy except in extreme (by their definition) cases. More extreme than linking to baby cannibalism, for example. However, there are some cases - such as linking to "software designed to crack other software" - where there is no wriggle room, and they are banning actions that they themselves happily carry out.
In effect, The Register is decreeing "do as we say, not as we do." I find this a timid and distasteful stance for such a bold and brash publication to take, especially when they so enjoy shredding other organisations when the marketing and PR spin doesn't match the substance.
This is also a sad indicator of just how litigation-shy ISP's worldwide are becoming, and how they are increasingly the servants of their lawyers rather than their masters. To borrow The Register's habit of using peculiarly British phrases, I declare that they're all mouth and no trousers.
Update: The Vulture Squawks
Register honcho John Lettice responds as follows:
Provisionally, the position is as follows:
1. It's virtually impossible to get this kind of deal without the ISP
insisting on extensive butt-covering of this sort. And it's understandable,
in that rational beings (including myself, and presumably your good self)
will take reasonable steps to avoid the RIAA's tanks being parked on their
2. It seems to me Rogerborg is maybe straining a little to find bad teeth
in this horse. Sure, the Ts & Cs could be interpreted by ravening ISP
lawyers to mean some of these things, but if the ISP did start to act like
a bunch of thugs we'd dump them, right? For chrissake, hypocrisy has its
limits, even for us. (-:
3. Practically everything in the world today is illegal, if you look hard
4. We sell stuff on our site. People buy the stuff because it's good stuff,
some of them also buy the stuff because they like us. We like them liking
us, and although the stuff is non-core, it helps pay the rent. It does not
make sense to us to sell bad stuff, or lie about other people's stuff in
order to shift our stuff, because then we'll get found out and people will
stop liking us. An ISP service that did not work acceptably, in terms of
experiment, we hope it will work, but if it turns out to be bad stuff or
stock we can't shift, we'll pull it.
5. It's only a big deal if people want to make it a big deal.