Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Voices From a Slashmouth

By rusty in News
Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:37:40 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)
/etc

32BitsOnline is running a Socratic dialog by Jim "kzinti" Thompson, about the Slashdot "Voices from the Hellmouth" fiasco which very nicely sums up the issues and the feelings involved. I heard about this whole story rather late, as I don't really read Slashdot (and avoid anything with Jon Katz's name on it like it was in an S.E.P. field), but the questions raised by this are important ones, for me as a forum owner, and you as contributors. As far as I can tell, according to the official Slashdot argument, I, or indeed any of us, could take user comments directly off their discussions and publish them, if we wanted to. Does this argument make sense to anyone? What are the limits of fair use, and what does it mean to say "Comments are owned by the Poster"?


Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Related Links
o Slashdot
o 32BitsOnli ne
o Socratic dialog
o Voices from the Hellmouth
o fiasco
o Also by rusty


Display: Sort:
Voices From a Slashmouth | 92 comments (92 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
/. has simply lost the plot under t... (3.70 / 3) (#9)
by marm on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 09:07:31 AM EST

marm voted 1 on this story.

/. has simply lost the plot under the weight of hot grits, Natalie Portman, and commercial concerns since becoming part of Andover.net. The 'Voices from the Hellmouth' fiasco is only one of a multitude of symptoms of this. The editors need to take a step back and consider more closely the reasons /. was started in the first place - but perhaps it's too late already to do anything about it - their most 'Insightful' and 'Informative' readers and posters, the people who made /. what it was to begin with, have already gone elsewhere. Chances are you agree with me, or you wouldn't be here reading this...

<insert obligatory joke about Mr... (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by inspire on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 09:10:38 AM EST

inspire voted 1 on this story.

<insert obligatory joke about Mrs. Edna Graustein, of Kansas City, MO here>
--
What is the helix?

I almost voted -1 just because it i... (none / 0) (#3)
by Pelorat on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 09:12:30 AM EST

Pelorat voted 1 on this story.

I almost voted -1 just because it involves Jon Katz, and lord knows he doesn't need any more press (he could have been a star if he'd been a soap opera 'actor'.. mebbe get himself a job on "As the World Hurls" or "All My Ego"). But the copyright issues do very much matter - especially since it's gone to printed distribution and into the hands of the General Public. And the anonymizing of all the posts seems to me to be flat-out illegal.

I think it's a good question. In t... (2.00 / 2) (#2)
by Slamtilt on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 09:56:05 AM EST

Slamtilt voted 1 on this story.

I think it's a good question. In the unlikely event that someone wanted to quote me in a publication, I'd want permission to be asked at least. Attribution in the publication I might not care about -- I think it would depend on context. That's especially the case if it's a post to something which explicitly states that a comment remains the poster's property (whatever THAT means!), like /. I'm reminded of surveys; the final report often contains anonymous quotes, but the actual survey paper the respondent fills out will ask for permission up front to use quotes (at least reputable ones will!). I think Katz should have stated at the beginning that he might use quotes in a book; it wouldn't have been hard to foresee the problems with getting in touch with people after they had posted. Of course, then maybe they wouldn't have posted and Katz would have had to do some real research to get his story, but that wouldn't really be in character, would it?

The changing emails excuse was pretty lame too... (none / 0) (#32)
by joeyo on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 01:04:01 PM EST

As I recall, Hemos made some brief blurb about how they tried at first to contact the poster but after a lack of success they stoped trying. That's insane. If they could not contact the poster then they should not have used the posters words (beyond, say, a one line quote). Period. Their sollution of making everyones comments annonymous added insult to injury.

IMHO, the only clear case where you cease to own your words on /. is when you post as an AC. Cause if you don't own up to your own words now, you can't claim credit for them later.

--
"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- demi
[ Parent ]

So where do we draw the line? Shou... (none / 0) (#4)
by marlowe on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:09:24 AM EST

marlowe voted 1 on this story.

So where do we draw the line? Should we outlaw C-c C-y?
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --

Slashdot is a commercial site. It d... (none / 0) (#7)
by Camelot on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:09:44 AM EST

Camelot voted 1 on this story.

Slashdot is a commercial site. It didn't use to be that way, but get used to it. Seems like after it was eaten by Andover.net, corporate way of thinking seems to have seeped into slashdot.

In some things the change of bias cannot be tetected (slashdot has always been pro-Linux and anti-Microsoft), in other things it is very explicit; think of ThinkGeek, for example. I have no problem with them promoting another company in the Andover cluster, but one has to wonder what it does to the credibility of the book review section of Slashdot.

Slashdot is the number one open source discussion site, and the creation have a good reason to be proud of it. Sometimes, though, a little humility is in order.

Re: Slashdot is a commercial site. It d... (none / 0) (#15)
by Skyshadow on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:04:48 AM EST

Slashdot was a dead site walking the second they took Andover's money.

Don't get me wrong; I can't blame Rob for playing "Who Wants to be a Multi-Millionaire?", but the free and loose nature of such a site just can't survive these sorts of outside influences, especially now that Andover is owned by an explicitly Linux-related company.

Besides, Slashdot was cool a few years ago before you started seeing 300+ posts for each insignificant article. Now, between the huge number of posts and the signal-to-noise ratio, it's just impossible to read the site without making it a ful-time job.

[ Parent ]

Re: Slashdot is a commercial site. It d... (none / 0) (#34)
by Camelot on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 01:31:11 PM EST

"the free and loose nature of such a site just can't survive these sorts of outside influences, especially now that Andover is owned by an explicitly Linux-related company. "

This reminds of the comment I posted on /. on the "Andover open letter" discussion shortly after it became known that Andover bought /. I would refer to it here, if it was possible to point to a single comment on older articles. Anyway..

The point was that I didn't think they would be able to maintain their integrity; that they would be - like you described - sucked in to the Andover.net corporate culture. It seems like this has happened.

On the other hand, I said

I do not think Slashdot will become a VA Linux marketing bulletin.

How wrong I was. Can you say "ThinkGeek" ?

[ Parent ]

Re: Slashdot is a commercial site. It d... (none / 0) (#41)
by bmetzler on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:42:54 PM EST

Can you say "ThinkGeek" ?

What's the difference between that, and Amazon linking to DVD's from their bookstore. Or a grocery store advertising their milk to go with their bread?

-Brent
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.
[ Parent ]
Re: Slashdot is a commercial site. It d... (none / 0) (#43)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:51:52 PM EST

Slashdot is supposed to be news and media. Mixing editorial content and commercial content is a big no-no in publishing. How can you trust /. to report fairly on VA (which often does newsworthy things) if they have no separation? If Time started writing nothing but glowing praise of AOL, you bet your ass there'd be an outcry. But Time is run by professionals, whereas the /. crew still seem to think of themselves as (and act like) "kids with a website."

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Slashdot is a commercial site. It d... (none / 0) (#53)
by bmetzler on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:29:29 PM EST

Slashdot is supposed to be news and media.

Oh. That's what I missed. I assumed that slashdot was just a PR site to promote Linux and their wares.

-Brent
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.
[ Parent ]
Re: Slashdot is a commercial site. It d... (none / 0) (#49)
by Camelot on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:21:57 PM EST

What's the difference between that, and Amazon linking to DVD's from their bookstore. Or a grocery store advertising their milk to go with their bread?

I don't know. I see no difference at all. It is advertising, marketing in both cases.

The difference is in the sites themselves. Amazon is an openly commercial entity, as everyone very well knows. Slashdot, however, stills maintains an outward appearance of a "news for nerds" discussion site. They still are supposedly doing "book reviews", even though a more appropriate name for that section would be "ThinkGeek advertising". The Slashdot crew was so prompt to disclaim any reasons to fear the loss of their "journalistic integrity" after the VA/Andover merger that one would think they would have the integrity to be more open about their own commercial interests.

[ Parent ]

Re: Slashdot is a commercial site. It d... (none / 0) (#78)
by skim123 on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:58:20 AM EST

I wonder if Rob ever "planned" on selling Slashdot. I wonder if there was a time, a critical visitor mass, when he thought to himself, "Hell, I can sell this baby for a bundle."

I run an ASP resource site that has comparible # of visitors to sites that have been bought out by larger companies. If I was approached by one, I don't know what I'd do. Part of me would want to refuse their offer, for fear I'd loose what I truly enjoy, working on my site, adding content I find neat and cool, etc. I'd worry that after being "acquired" I'd have to push their products, post their press releases, etc.

However, it is hard to turn down a large bundle of money. :-) I can easily see the delimma Rob was faced with, I assume he had a similar set of concerns.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Good thing Kuro5hin.org comments ar... (none / 0) (#1)
by techt on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:11:43 AM EST

techt voted 1 on this story.

Good thing Kuro5hin.org comments are owned by Mrs. Edna Graustein, of Kansas City, MO.
--
Proud member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation!
Are You? http://www.eff.org/support/joineff.html

Re: Good thing Kuro5hin.org comments ar... (none / 0) (#66)
by Strange Charmed One on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 05:29:32 PM EST

Does she actually exist?
--
Feel the urge to put excessively cute little quotes into your .sig?

JUST SAY NO!

If you or one of your friends is frequently plagued by this tendency, Help IS available- Ask me how.
[ Parent ]

this question cuts to the heart of ... (none / 0) (#10)
by shevek on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:22:34 AM EST

shevek voted 1 on this story.

this question cuts to the heart of online dialog. it's been around for a while, but given the sea-change in commercializing content, it's definitely worth bringing up again. do you "own your own words" as the WELL used to say?
-- Philosophy:Cosmology::Signified:Signifier

Since discovering kuro5hin.org, I'v... (none / 0) (#6)
by kovacsp on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:25:20 AM EST

kovacsp voted 1 on this story.

Since discovering kuro5hin.org, I've effectively kicked the slashdot habit. That website, in fact the entire Andover.net regime can burn in hell for all I care. /. could have been amazingly successful. *sigh* Oh well.

Re: Since discovering kuro5hin.org, I'v... (none / 0) (#37)
by evro on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:10:58 PM EST

Are you saying that Slashdot isn't "amazingly successful"? I would say that in the short history of news websites built from scratch, it is one of the best success stories.
---
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"
[ Parent ]
Re: Since discovering kuro5hin.org, I'v... (none / 0) (#77)
by sergent on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:01:41 PM EST

By what measure?

I would venture to guess that other (more traditional) news sites of the same age have more revenue these days.

I'm sure that other sites have better hit counts; /. is still pretty obscure to the world at large.

And they don't have much of a user community any more, for sure.

Perhaps I'm mistaken...

[ Parent ]

Re: Since discovering kuro5hin.org, I'v... (none / 0) (#79)
by skim123 on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 03:06:23 AM EST

I would venture to guess that other (more traditional) news sites of the same age have more revenue these days.

I'm sure that other sites have better hit counts; /. is still pretty obscure to the world at large

While both of these statements are true, the allure of Slashdot was that it was created by an individual, a college student, someone who worked in their spare time! Slashdot didn't become popular by some multi-million dollar advertising campaign. It is a prime example of the American dream on the Internet, that the individual can have a neat idea, be in the right place at the right time, and become successful. If Rob can do it, anyone else can too. That is why Slashdot is neat and amazing.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Re: Since discovering kuro5hin.org, I'v... (none / 0) (#89)
by sergent on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 06:48:20 PM EST

I hear what you're saying, but others have done a much better job of starting as college students and ending up with popular web sites (I think Yahoo would be a prime example).

[ Parent ]
Re: Since discovering kuro5hin.org, I'v... (none / 0) (#90)
by skim123 on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 07:01:05 PM EST

I hear what you're saying, but others have done a much better job of starting as college students and ending up with popular web sites (I think Yahoo would be a prime example).

Slashdot is one of the premier ones. You make it sound like virtually all popular Web sites were started by college kids.

Just name 10 other Web sites that are greater success stories than Slashdot that were started by college kids...

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
This provoked a lot of discussion o... (2.00 / 1) (#8)
by yebyen on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:27:29 AM EST

yebyen voted 1 on this story.

This provoked a lot of discussion on slashdot, it would be worthwhile to go there and read. I don't know exactly how I feel about this issue.

--
yebyen:~$ man woman
No manual entry for woman

Re: This provoked a lot of discussion o... (none / 0) (#16)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:09:28 AM EST

> it would be worthwhile to go there and read.

Unfortunately, it's not. I know because I went there and read. There were a few good posts, as usual buried in a wall of noise. Few even bothered to address the issue squarely; most had their own little hobby-horse to ride, and were going to ride it come what may. What does emerge clearly, though, is that there are quite a few slashdot readers, and at least a few posters to the Columbine discussion, who are very angry about what's going on. In my view, they are right to be.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

These recent events marks a turning... (none / 0) (#11)
by LatteBoy on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:37:40 AM EST

LatteBoy voted 1 on this story.

These recent events marks a turning point in the life of Slashdot. I used to read the forum quite a bit, but in the past 6-8 months, my impression is that the overall quality has decreased while the "mainstreaminess" of Slashdot has increased. News for Nerds? I think not...

Re: These recent events marks a turning... (none / 0) (#65)
by asad on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 05:25:36 PM EST

I started reading /. about 2 years ago and a few months ago started to post here. I don't post on k5 that often and I dind't post on /. that often either mostly because I am too busy and also because if I think someone else has made my point there is no reason for me to repeat the same thing. /. is going down the tube because the people that made it interesting got fed up and left. Look at k5 and other sites like it, where did their population come from ? People like flufy grue who have have contributed to the site and made it better ? /. tried to be more than just a web site that posts stories and IMO that was their downfall. Katz was the start but when people started to look at them as the "place where the linux people hang out" it became a lost cause. By posting on /. I've gotten e-mails from CNN editors, salon links to /. on regular basis and people like Eric Allman, Linus and other look at it as an avenu to get to a wide audience of linux useres. I am happy that I left /. when they did the interview with Katz and it was not filtered out and from what I see now it has not improved. Maybe one day k5 will become the same but you can be sure there will be some other website that picks up the torch. Meanwhile enjoy k5 and forget about /.

[ Parent ]
Re: These recent events marks a turning... (none / 0) (#80)
by skim123 on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 03:15:52 AM EST

So do you think growing too big is the only cause for the downfall of community sites like Slashdot or Kuro5hin.org?

Kind of sucks for those running the sites, since they want to see the site get popular.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Re: These recent events marks a turning... (none / 0) (#86)
by asad on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 12:20:26 PM EST

I don't think growing bigger is the only problem, I think /. lost its core audience when they brought Katz on and started doing editorials. And as the signal to noise ration decreased more and more people left while clueless newbies came to replace them.

[ Parent ]
Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (none / 0) (#12)
by eann on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:42:37 AM EST

Why does it matter what it means to say "Comments are owned by the poster."? Our comments are owned by Mrs. Edna Graustein of Kansas City, Missouri.

Since I didn't read the Katzwork, and only skimmed the resultant flamewar, I have to assume that the big problems are that some people were quoted who didn't want to be, and some were quoted but didn't receive attribution that they did want.

I think the Katz/Slashdot position is academically and legally correct (note: IANAL). If I were writing a serious essay about some discussion here, specifically one where anonymity is one of the core concepts of being able to have that discussion, I would quote directly and cite a URL to the site (and, likely, Mrs. Edna Graustein of Kansas City, Missouri, just to see if anyone notices).

However, I think they handled it poorly. They could have posted, well in advance, a list of nicknames that were being quoted, with the general statement that "if you want credit for something you wrote regarding this topic, or if you would prefer that we not quote you at all, let us know, otherwise you're included, and it's going to be anonymous." As for the emailed comments, Katz should have good enough records (i.e. saved mail folders) to have tried to contact every one and ask their preference. If the attempt bounces, assuming a desire for anonymity is reasonable.

Metacomment: Again, I typed this stuff while I was voting, and the article was posted in the interim. The comments like this really oughta carry through in some forthcoming version of Scoop. At least I get the opportunity to preview this way. :)

Metacomet: a mountain in northern Connecticut.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (none / 0) (#14)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:04:28 AM EST

Ok, but how can their position be academically and legally correct? They state *specifically* that comments are owned by the Poster. Paul Dunne runs through what "fair use" really means, above, and I don't think they quite make it. So, if I own my comment, and they publish it in a book, then it seems they are trampling on my ownership right. They waive their right to ownership, so if they can't get explicit permission to publish a comment, they don't have the right to. It seems pretty clear to me.

The big problem, as nicely outlined in Thompson's article, is that they did something with the comments that they pretty clearly did not have the right to do, and that they don't seem to feel the least bit ashamed of it. Indeed, the main excuse they provide for the lack of effort in actually obtaining the legal right to publish this book is that (to quote JK): "The Hellmouth posts are unique. They belong in the public domain. In fact, they cry out to be there.", and (to quote RM): "There are many good things in the comments worthy of wider audiences, and most readers don't have any problem with that, but the few (loud) people for whom this is a major stumbling block should most certainly be allowed to determine the destiny of their own words."

Matter of fact, we already have the right to determine the destiny of our words, and it is not granted or revoked by the slash software. It is given by the legal system of the United States (where these works were first published). The disclaimer says "The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. Slashdot is not responsible for what they say." So where does this magical right to reprint come from? From Katz's certainty that the words of others "cry out to be in the public domain?" Rubbish.

I'm so tempted to reprint the Hellmouth series here, in it's entirety, comments and all, just because apparently slashdot says it's ok. Leaving aside the fact that I won't, because for God's sake, who needs more Katz in the world, does anyone see anything in their defense that says I can't or shouldn't do that? Or shouldn't I because in fact, that's the way copyright law works, and they just broke that law?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (none / 0) (#22)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:26:12 AM EST

"If I were writing a serious essay about some discussion here, specifically one where anonymity is one of the core concepts of being able to have that discussion, I would quote directly and cite a URL to the site (and, likely, Mrs. Edna Graustein of Kansas City, Missouri, just to see if anyone notices)."

Indeed. And because you are writing an original work, and selectively quoting from other work to illustrate your thesis, your use of selections from the other work would fall under "fair use". But if you were to take a selection of complete works (which, small as they are, each /. post is), write a preface and a few comments, and publish the result as a book, that would *not* be fair use. And that is what I understand the Andover book (I think it's a tad unfair to call it Jon Katz's book, as I get the impression they are just tacking his name on for the publicity value) to be doing. That is *not* fair use, as I understand it. I may be wrong, and I wish there was a copyright lawyer on here who could give us a specialised opinion, but one thing is clear; this isn't an open-and-shut case, there are real issues of copyright violation being raised.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: Essay or Preface? (none / 0) (#23)
by eann on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:37:31 AM EST

Aha! There's my stumbling block. By leaving Katz in an S.E.P. field, I was unaware that he had not taken the opportunity to pick out the comments and letters he liked and "interpret" them for the readers.

If he just reprinted everything, I agree--there's a problem. That just sounds out of character for Katz.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


[ Parent ]
Re: Essay or Preface? (none / 0) (#26)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:52:47 AM EST

Well, who knows what he did, since the text isn't on-line (yeah, very New Media -- though to be fair we are promised an on-line version, I think, or at least a PDF or something.) The blurb on ThinkGeek says:

"The book is a compliation of stories sent to Jon in resposnse to the Columbine tragedy."

You see that? "compilation". I don't know. If he quoted selectively and sparsely from the comments on his articles, that would defintely be fair use. It would also be a very small book. From what's been said on /., it's hard to judge whether the book is a compilation of selected comments, plus "extras" -- definitely not fair use; or a series of essays by Jon Katz, with brief quotes from posts and e-mails -- this probably is fair use. But remember he's quoting without attribution, and I suspect that this is not fair use in any case -- I think attribution is required.

Arggh!! Where's a lawyer when you need one?! What would be really great is if the rich corporation that owns slashdot would tell us what their lawyers think. Yeah, like that'll happen.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: Essay or Preface? (none / 0) (#29)
by eann on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 12:30:56 PM EST

If he quoted selectively and sparsely from the comments on his articles, that would defintely be fair use. It would also be a very small book.

You haven't read much Katz, have you? :)

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


[ Parent ]
Re: Essay or Preface? (none / 0) (#30)
by DemiGodez on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 12:47:13 PM EST

If he quoted selectively and sparsely from the comments on his articles, that would defintely be fair use.

From what Katz posted on slashdot, it seemed to me that a lot of the comments he used were ones e-mailed to him by people who told him that he could use their comments. The ones from slashdot were supposed to be snippets of a few comments.

I think it was kind of sleazy of slashdot, but I don't have much of an expectation of ownership in a public forum like slashdot. I agree one could have such an expectation based on their ownership comment.

[ Parent ]

Re: Essay or Preface? (none / 0) (#27)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:53:48 AM EST

Actually, re-reading his commentary in the "We're not sorry" story (the "fiasco" link), it would seem that Katz is not taking responsibility for the book. He's under contract with a different publisher, and claims to be unable to participate directly in the book's production. Yet the original article says, and I quote, " Jon Katz has completed co-authoring, along with many Slashdot readers, a paperback version of Voices from the Hellmouth." So it's unclear who's even responsible for this. Hemos? That would be a shame, as I actually like the guy, in theory (I've never met him, or spoken with him directly-- I'm judging based on what I've read that he's written). So who's the author? Who's paying for publication? When they say "all proceeds" does that mean all *profits*, or the gross sales of the book (i.e. is Andover taking a loss here, or allowing the book to pay for itself, and donating profits to someone)? Perhaps Katz has a smarter legal advisor than Andover.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (none / 0) (#81)
by skim123 on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 03:19:06 AM EST

Hehe, it's not so easy! I write books on Active Server Pages, and, although it would make my job a lot easier to be able to cut and paste questions and answers from the ASP messageboards or listservs, that is illegal, plaigerism, etc. (Plus incredibly morally wrong, in my opinion.)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Copyright, Plagiarism, and Morality (none / 0) (#87)
by eann on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 12:41:09 PM EST

I think the main force of this whole story is whether it is legal, given Slashdot's very visible assertion that the comments are owned by whoever posted them. I don't frequent ASP messageboards and listservs, so I don't know what their policies are, but I suspect it's something similar.

It's very likely some archives prefer "We own this site and everything here, but the opinions expressed by our visitors do not reflect those of company management" over "We own only the infrastructure, visitors retain ownership of their posts, and (implicitly) grant the right to display them on this web site." A company that opts for the former can legally publish excerpts or the entire archive at their will; Slashdot/Andover (which chose the latter), probably should not have done so. [aside: Curiously, the message board on your site seems to have neither statement, although you do allow other articles on your site to be copied without your consent (except to other web sites)].

Even with that, there is still the idea of fair use, which basically acknowledges that you are allowed to reprint someone else's words, in reasonably small chunks, if you're discussing them in your own words nearby. The potential violation comes when you and the copyright holder disagree about how much a reasonable amount is, in relation to both your work and theirs. There may be some legal rules-of-thumb (I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the American Bar Association), but I'm sure it's a very fuzzy boundary.

The plagiarism part is the easiest to avoid. Where a copyright violation is printing something you don't have permission to (outside the constructs of fair use), plagiarism is claiming that you wrote it to begin with. It would be sloppy and even tacky to include them in a reference or teaching book (except possibly those from some authoritative source, like MS' lead engineer on the ASP module of IIS), but you could, as long as you constrain yourself to a few illustrative examples and preface them with something like "Here are some good questions that appeared in [whichever message board or mailing list], and were answered by [What's-his-name], the author of the part of the server that deals with [whatever]:". It's not how I'd write a book, but it's clearly attributed as being from somewhere else, written by someone else. Therefore, it's not plagiarized. Period. I've still not seen the book in question, but I'll give even Jon Katz that much credit in advance.

As to the morality of it, I think that can't be generalized. It is possible to be morally wrong and legally right, and vice versa, especially around a topic so charged with strong emotions (Columbine, that is, not ASP). I think it would be morally wrong to print an archive of the message board at 4GuysFromRolla.com, but there's nothing to indicate I'd be legally liable (hint: fix that). On the other hand, I agree with the backers of the Hellmouth project that it is important for the good of society for many of those stories to be told, but I think they had an obligation (legal in general and moral to specific authors) to make a better effort to seek consent than they made.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


[ Parent ]
Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:45:39 AM EST

That's a good dialogue. Jim Thompson has read his Plato.

So, here's my take on the matter, for what it's work (not a lawyer blah blah blah). If we can treat the comments as "literary work", then they fall under US copyright law. Now, the statement at the foot of the slashdot page clearly states, "All comments owned by the poster", which is equivalent to saying, if a post is "literary work", which we'll assume for now, that the poster retains copyright. Whatever its purpose -- and it's pretty clearly an attempt to disclaim any responsibility for what people post -- it does explicitly waive any rights the slashdot crew might have over the comments, other than the right, implicitly granted by the poster hitting the "post" button, to publish them on slashdot in the first place.

So, if Andover now want to take those comments and *re-publish* them, they have to get permission from the owners of those comments, unless the re-publication is permitted under "fair use". What's fair use? Here's one definition (Writers and Artists yearbook, 1997, pp.555-6):

"reproduction of copyright material for such purposes as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use, the factors to be considered shall include:
  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit education purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."

Now, since each posting is a "copyrighted work", if any posting is included in full, that clearly hits on point 3; point 4 is probably irrelevant -- who would sell their own slashdot postings?! -- point 2 is obscure to me; point 1, well publication is clearly of a commercial nature (yes, profits go to charity, but this is a PR stunt for Andover, is it not?). In balance, it appears at least possible that there might be a case for a class-action suit by a group of slashdotters.

So, the crux of the matter is whether posting a comment to slashdot is the same as publishing a "literary work", and this is not clear to me. Does anyone know of any actual legal judgement which might be relevant?
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/

Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (none / 0) (#17)
by ramses0 on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:09:40 AM EST

I like what www.technocrat.net says: The Fine Print: Technocrat.net posters grant technocrat.net an individual copyright on their postings, and retain their own copyright.

I'm surprised that no one else brought up the technocrat.net method before this.

Obviously, if I'm providing a forum for you to print something, I should gain some sort of control, or perhaps "ability to use" what you printed. It just seems like a natural extension of providing that forum

(ie, what if I, as /. or k5 takes all comments one day and print them in a red font... oh no! these comments aren't licensed for printing in red! copyright violation? maybe. I could make an argument about "rational expectation", and "artistic integrity", or "misrepresenting my work in a public forum" or something.)

Otherwise, to retain all rights, you can post your commentary on your own damned website and provide a link.

I think the Hellmouth book is a very good idea, and /. is the the best entity to print something like it, especially with all the comments they received. Maybe something like this would have been a nice time to implement "/. mailboxes". At the very least they could have run a bit up at the top (like rusty's penguin mint idea, or the server thing) saying: "We're writing a book with the hellmouth comments. if you care, post in this special topic, and tell your friends who might have posted something.

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (none / 0) (#19)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:18:27 AM EST

The point, though, is that what you or I think is obvious, and what the law states, are two different things. Technocrat does indeed claim "dual copyright"; but slashdot doesn't. They go further and explicitly say that they aren't claiming copyright, by writing "All comments are owned by the poster" on every page. Therefore, *legally*, (forget about common-sense!) they may be on sticky ground.

Kuro5in or any weblog clearly has a license to publish on the web the comments you or I or anyone posts -- we grant them implicit permission when we hit "submit" (or "post" or "sell your soul to Satan" or whatever it says, I forget). Changing the font is just changing the way it's published on the web, no problem there. But if a book is brought out, that's re-publishing, and that's a whole different ball game.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Edna (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:14:17 AM EST

I know you're all wondering what the hell our position is with respect to all this. Well, my baby is growing up, and it seems like it's probably time to make our legal position clear as well, to aviod these kinds of issues. So I propose to change our current faux-legal statement to read as follows:
"By posting here, you grant Kuro5hin.org a non-exclusive, one-time right to publish your words on the web. Kuro5hin.org does not guarantee the truth or accuracy of these comments, nor do we assume any responsibility for what they say. Please see our [link]legal page[/link]"
To go along with this, I will create a legal page that explains what this terse statement means, exactly. That is, that by posting a comment, you give us the right to make it show up on the page where you posted it. You don't give up any of your ownership or rights, nor do you grant us the right to republish it in any other media, or on any other electronic forum. If we cannot gain the explicit permission of the poster, and also verify to our satisfaction that you are the poster of a given comment, then we have no rights to use your words in any other way.

Does this sound pretty reasonable? If anyone is a lawyer or versed in this stuff, am I overlooking anything?

Oh yeah, you will still also grant a separate and non-exclusive copyright to Mrs. Edna Graustein of Kansas City Mo., should she ever prove, in fact, to exist, or to have any interest in using your comments. Sorry, but TNSTAAFL. ;-)

____
Not the real rusty

Re: Edna (none / 0) (#20)
by Demona on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:19:09 AM EST

While I understand most people's need or desire for this sort of thing, I have to say that I am very sad to see yet another victory for the lawyer types who don't want anyone so much as drawing a breath in this life unless they precede it with fifty pages of fine-print disclaimer.

-dj

who refuses under any circumstances to say "I am not a lawyer"

[ Parent ]

Re: Edna (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:38:04 AM EST

I would really rather not have to have legalese either, but the simple fact is, I'm trying to protect your rights, in the unlikely event I am not able to control the use of the words you post. At the very least, people want to know what the rules are, and if we set some groundrules beforehand, we hopefully won't get into these situations. Do you have a suggestion as to how this can be done, without making it look like a horde of law-school educated skript kiddees defaced my page?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Edna (none / 0) (#74)
by Demona on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 06:28:06 PM EST

In this respect I would likely defer to the collective judgment of the community. Shocking, for those who know me, but it's not one of those areas where I feel compelled to take up arms, so to speak. It's the same attitude that made me replace the usual endless pages of boilerplate in a fanfic about "I don't own these characters, I swear I'm not making any money off this, etcetera", with a plain and simple: "Some characters owned by others; they know who they are." Without mentioning whether "they" refers to the owners of the characters, or the characters themselves. It's just my way of rebelling against Safety-Nazis, encouraging people to think for themselves and do what they want to do instead of asking someone for permission first. Life's too short for that nonsense. Damn lawyers have made a complete and utter mockery out of the "freedom to contract", in more ways than one...

However, something like this certainly won't make me abandon kuro5hin, even if you were to say, "Everything here is MINE! MINE MINE MINE! GO GO GO! DOWN DOWN DOWN! MINE!"

[ Parent ]

Re: Edna (none / 0) (#40)
by analog on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:40:22 PM EST

All standard disclaimers apply.

Well, first off, you're dealing with two separate issues here; one legal, and for want of a better way to put it, another 'public relations'.

Legally, Slashdot was probably right. Yes, Rob said you own your comments. That doesn't change the fact that they were posted to a public discussion forum with uncontrolled dissemination to the public (this, incidentally, is at least one area where the Jim Thompson article was a little disingenuous). You still own your posts; you can do anything you want with them. However, you have implicitly granted Slashdot/Andover/VA a right to republish by posting them. So the question is, do they have the right to republish anywhere? I'm sure there are all sorts of caveats to be had there, but basically, as long as they say "this post came from Slashdot" they're probably okay.

In any case, if you're really concerned about it, pony up $150 or whatever it costs in your area and go talk to a lawyer for an hour. Hell, in your area you can probably find a number of law schools who'd love to tackle that as a project for their students. Whatever you do, don't guess; you'll invariably get it wrong. Just for the record, Rob put up the disclaimer on Slashdot because the first time he put a copyright notice on it he got flamed into the ground for "copyrighting my post". I doubt seriously he put more than five seconds thought into it, and I was actually quite surprised when it didn't change after the Andover aquisition.

Okay, so what about the PR/moral/ethical issues? Well, Slashdot pretty obviously blew chunks here. On the email issue I won't comment 'cause I don't know what was in them, but if the posts used were indeed 'anonymized', I can only say that they need to put the crack pipe down and back slowly away. If there is a legal problem with what they've done, this'll be it. Why they didn't want to publically identify someone who had publically identified themselves is beyond me. The whole thing smacks of 'we didn't think this through too well'.

I will give them a little slack because they do cater to the 'information wants to be free!' crowd; I can see them being caught off guard by the 'I didn't mean my information!' attitude. I think Paul Dunne has hit it on the head here; Slashdot is trying to behave as if they're still two guys in a garage, and a lot of the readership buys into it. It just ain't so. The expectations have changed, and I think the Slashdot crowd has just gotten a rude reality check.

Let me close by saying that if you're really worried about it and you don't want to consult a lawyer, the way Bruce handled it on Technocrat.net shows that he's been wading through this crap for a long time; he probably knows what he's doing. ;)

[ Parent ]

Re: Edna (none / 0) (#45)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:56:34 PM EST

You make a lot of sense, but I must pull you up on this:

> However, you have implicitly granted
> Slashdot/Andover/VA a right to republish by posting them.

No you haven't. If you own the post, you own the copyright. If you own the copyright, slashdot do not have the right to re-publish without your permission. You have assigned, by your act of posting on slashdot, "first serial rights" to them, in effect, i.e. the right to publish your post on slashdot. If slashdot hadn't put that notice about who owns the posts there, this might be more ambiguous, though I doubt it; but as it stands, it's clear.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: Edna (none / 0) (#48)
by analog on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:14:56 PM EST

I see where you're coming from, and it does make sense, but I don't trust it as far as I can throw it. You're saying that the implicit grant of right is a limited one, for the specific purpose of Slashdot publishing your post. I may have used the word 'republish' a little too loosely. What I meant is in effect what you said.

However, I'm not at all sure that the implicit rights granted don't go further than that. These statements are made in a public forum, for the purpose of public distribution. Consider statements made from a podium in the park. Can I claim copyright on those statements? You bet. Can I stop Joe Reporter from printing "today in the park, analog said 'blah blah blah'"? Probably not. Now you can also get into the area of whether it's okay to print a three hour speech as opposed to a two sentence statement; I wouldn't even begin to guess what the answer to that is (and I'd be willing to bet it would take/has taken a court case to come to a definitive one).

Maybe we should establish a temporary K5 legal fund, and Rusty can go hire a lawyer to come have a round table discussion with us so we can all get answers to some of these questions. ;)

[ Parent ]

Re: Edna (none / 0) (#50)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:22:03 PM EST

I am only commenting on US Copyright Law. Now, as I understand it, this law applies to works of authorship, which does not include public speaches, but does include posts to slashdot if we accept that these are "literary works" (there is a case for this, insofar as they are in writing). The law as it applies to speech I know nothing about.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: Edna (none / 0) (#54)
by analog on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:30:33 PM EST

Okay, you got me there. I was thinking in terms of 'making statements in public'. I hadn't really considered whether or not there is a significant difference in whether those statements are spoken or in writing. Although, if you wrote your speech down before giving it...

Is anybody else getting a headache?

[ Parent ]

Re: Edna (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:34:55 PM EST

> Is anybody else getting a headache?

You're kidding? This is almost as much fun as philosophy! Anyone for a few rounds of "can we have absolute moral values?"
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: Edna (none / 0) (#58)
by CmdrPinkTaco on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:48:45 PM EST

Q:"can we have absolute moral values?"
A: No

Looks like I took care of that discussion :)

Of course this is assuming that I have final say on all matters...which, of course I do. God, I kill me sometimes.
--
Guess CmdrPinkTaco's .sig and win - nothing :)
[ Parent ]
Re: Edna (none / 0) (#52)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:29:15 PM EST

I just checked: the reporter reporting your speech is covered under "fair use".
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: Edna (none / 0) (#56)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:43:20 PM EST

Now, is it fair use if I listen to someone in the park for 6 hours, tape record their speech, transcribe it word for word (without, mind you, asking their permission or attempting to get a name) and then publish it in a book which consists of: "Some guy in the park said: [insert 300 page speech here]"?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Edna (none / 0) (#70)
by Matthew Guenther on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 06:02:51 PM EST

Only if you could show (in court) that you needed all three hundred pages to prove your point or effectively critique it. Probably pretty tough to prove.

Also... 300 pages in six hours!?! That guy can talk pretty fast :)

MBG



[ Parent ]
Re: Edna (3.00 / 1) (#71)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 06:18:18 PM EST

Assume it was the guy who used to do those micromachines ads. And I don't think so either.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Edna goes to washington (none / 0) (#75)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 09:14:10 PM EST

IANAL, but It seems to me that by assuming republishing rights to any posts, /. hath opened itself to the claim that they are not just a public forum, but a literary work in and of itself and hence, /. must assume liability for whatever is posted.

I think rusty is on the right road to explicity say that k5 only has a one time right of distribution. Though, wording will have to get better. Is not everytime I hit reload another act of distribution?



[ Parent ]
Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (none / 0) (#21)
by mattc on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:24:47 AM EST

One point in this article that I particularly agree with is:

This is not a legal issue; it's a moral issue. It's not a question of whether it was *legal* for Slashdot to repost all those comments, it's a question of whether it was right for them to do so.

It is *not* about legal rights to slashdot posts.. I mean, who cares, it's just a couple paragraphs you typed up in 2-3 minutes. The real problem is that I (and apparently others) think it was very poor taste for slashdot to take someone's comments, rip the name off, and print it in a book. WHile their intent may have been to do something "for the good of the community" I think they have had the opposite effect (pissed off the community).

Another thing I find annoying is the whole association of the Columbine murderers with 'geeks.' As far is I am concerned, anyone who goes around KILLING PEOPLE is a mentally disturbed individual, not a 'geek.' (also they did it on Hitler's birthday, which sounds more like the behaviour of nazis, not geeks)

The story around the columbine incident is so distorted by the media we may never know the truth-- according to an article I read on Salon the killers weren't even members of the 'trenchcoat mafia!'

Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (none / 0) (#25)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:39:21 AM EST

But it is about legal rights. Andover are part of a company that seems determined to get bigger and bigger. Your only real defense against these guys, or any other company, doing what the fuck they want with your stuff is a legal one, you must understand that. Expecting them to act "decently" is just not on the cards, unless maybe the think there's a PR angle in that. Slashdot is not just the two guys anymore. This is a corporation now, taking advantage of the little people -- ironically the sort of cause VA/Andover's web-log "slashdot" loves to champion.

It's kind-of off-topic, but I can understand your annoyance at the twist the Columbine story was given. Katz's big fuss on /. really pissed me off, and I did some digging of my own. Not serious research, just reading on the Net. I found one or two pieces written by responsible journalists who took the time to do proper research, quoted their sources, didn't speculate unduly, etc. Their findings were rather different from Jon's, let's just say that.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

What happened to Katz, anyway? (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by eann on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 12:27:55 PM EST

Back when he was writing one article per month for Wired (the magazine we all love to hate), he often had interesting or intelligent things to say. I didn't always agree, but it was usually thought-provoking, anyway. For awhile in 1995-1996, there was a Web site called Packet, where there were interesting things to read and hear every week. Again, I occasionally disagreed, but I always felt they were good essays--that is, clearly written and well-reasoned support of theses. There was no weblog, though--if you wanted to discuss, you emailed him directly. I did so a couple times, and got personal responses that addressed my remarks. I was disappointed when Packet was dismantled/conmerge-ulated into the Wired webplex, because it just didn't feel the same.

So I was actually pleased when Jon Katz showed up on "That Other Site" a couple years ago. I had enjoyed his writing, and hoped it would bring some thoughtful discussion to what was otherwise a bunch of Linux zealots patting each other on the back. Instead, he got sucked in.

There is (or was, at the time) a strong sense of Gemeinschaft (roughly, "community spirit") when you read discussions there. These people, from all over the world, had something going that they clearly enjoyed. It was a group that anyone who really does like Linux, or is interested in interactive phenomena like that, could easily want to belong to. I certainly don't hold it against Jon Katz that he tried to understand them, and he tried to fit in. Without a firm grounding in BSD as my buffer, I probably would have made more of an effort than I did, too.

Trouble is, Katz tried too hard for some tastes, and it always looked fake to them. And he succeeded too well for some other tastes, and he became a reductio ad absurdem for concepts that they held dear. And, surrounded by 5-line posts that said what they needed to say and got out, he definitely came across as a gasbag (and, to some extent, knew it).

And then there was Columbine.

It was in the aftermath of that when I realised I wasn't being intellectually stimulated by Katz any more. Did his writing change? Did my attitudes change? Both? Did I just not believe that I (or he) could have the same understanding of Klebold and Harris as it looked like he thought he had, or that it looked like he was encouraging others to believe they had?

I don't know. And I guess it's really not that important now. I don't think it's fair to blame corporatism for Katz' tenure on Slashdot; I think Rob and crew are simply too close to the situation to be disillusioned. If I had to guess, Rob still sees the Katz (if not the Slashdot) of two years ago, and hopes that his flock will eventually get over their xenophobia and say something interesting or even noteworthy. Even if you're skeptical of the premise, the Hellmouth series is about as close as they've gotten, and they're understandably proud of it.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Re: What happened to Katz, anyway? (none / 0) (#31)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 01:02:36 PM EST

It's interesting to see another take on Katz. He got my hackles up on /. right from the start. I was vaguely familiar with his writing before -- a few articles in Wired from '94. They made the same impression on me then as his first /. stuff -- "so what?". I can't see how he's changed much, except he probably has tailored his /. stuff to fit the feedback he's getting -- I don't doubt that he does get a lot of positive response to his articles. This is probably bad for him; what his fans are responding to is not the good qualities (if any) of his writing.

I felt, well at home is too strong a word, but certainly part of a group to an extent, in the earlier days of /. That was probably a function of its smaller size, and yes, a certain Linux zealotry. I'd say that's all gone now though. Now it's a "Geeks as the new persecuted ethnic minority" site. Come to think of it, it'll probably be un-PC to says Geeks soon; you'll have to say "Dorky-Americans" or something!

The Columbine affair, ah, that was just playing to the mob. He seemed not to have made any effort to find out what really happened; just told the "oppressed geeks of the world" what they wanted to hear. Worked for him though, didn't it?

I think from the start he was using slashdot to further his career. Before "Running to the Mountain", he was basically an obscure novelist who made a living from journalism, and the connection with /. was what launched that book, as I recall (and I was reading /. daily at the time). Can't blame him for that per se, but I do think it changed /. dramatically for the worse. Where my opinion has changed is that I'd now say that was part of Rob & Co's business plan: they weren't being used, they knew exactly what was going on. A shame really; I think they could have made a modest business success out of the site without fucking it up (disclaimer: what I know about running a successful business you could write on the back of a postage stamp).

The best summary of the whole Katzdot affair is still Lloyd Wood's piece. Vicious, but accurate (apart from the factual error about geeks; but nobody's perfect).
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: What happened to Katz, anyway? (none / 0) (#33)
by jabber on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 01:12:15 PM EST

I'm a slashdot regular, yet I somehow missed the flamewar about this whole Hellmouth fiasco. I read the old Hellmouth series following the Columbine tragedy, and became increasingly nauseated by Katzs grand-standing, pedantic ego trip. Several weeks ago, I was corrected by another poster, for flaming JonKatz once too often. It was suggested that I simply exclude him from my article list, and ever since I did, the quality of slashdot has improved. :) But... The wave of /. discontent has radiated outwards, and Katz fodder has washed up on the shores of k5, and even a (practically) mainstream source like 32bits... Next thing you know, CNN will be running a special report on the impending strike of technology workers, opposed to the inclusion of anonymitized slashdot postings in a publication put out by slashdot's parent company. It's a huge mountain they've made out of the mole-hill that it is. Every time I think I am free (of a JonKatz article), they PULL me back IN!! Heh! But, FWIW. Comments are owned by the Poster, not by the poseur (JonKatz). If I post a threat against someone's life, I will not be surprised to see MIBs wake me out of a sound sleep. If I say something that you want to publish, have the decency to ask me (I'm almost certain to agree, unless you take me out of context), and attach my nick to the words. None of this holds true if I post as Anonymous Coward tho.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Does the quoter matter? The medium? (none / 0) (#35)
by mahlen on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 01:51:44 PM EST

Many of the posts seem to draw evil intents from the fact that
Andover/Slashdot/Jon Katz are the ones publishing the quotes. However, Slashdot
posters are frequently quoted in the mainstream (online) media; they never
appear to have contacted the sources for permission. Presumably these media
sources are well aware of fair use issues involved.

To be honest, I'm not really certain that i understand what people are upset
about with regards to posts being quoted in the book. Suppose that instead of
printing a book, they had made a page that pointed to each of the posts they
wanted to use, with Katz's commentary inline. Then the posts would still be
seen, just as completely, more so in fact, and yet I can't see the /. mob
arguing against such deep linking. Would that still be as offensive? What if
this page of links and commentary was on a paid content site, like the Wall
Street Journal? Is that where the offense comes from? Either of these sounds
worse, since the web page would have much broader distribution than the book
will ever get, and all of the identifying info is still present, which could
thus affect reputation/grades/legal issues.

Is it the fact that the quotes are removed from the context of the time and
website? I'm really curious what it is that people are upset by. Can someone
explain?

mahlen

Fame is a bee
It has a song--
It has a sting--
Ah, too, it has a wing.
	--Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)



Re: Does the quoter matter? The medium? (none / 0) (#36)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:10:56 PM EST

I find it hard to follow why you still don't understand. The issues have all been explained clearly right here, and very clearly indeed in the 32bits Online article that sparked this discussion.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: Does the quoter matter? The medium? (none / 0) (#39)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:39:02 PM EST

You're making the "fair use" assumption-- that the comments are being quoted and commented upon. From what we gather, they are not being quoted, but completely reprinted in whole, with little or no commentary. Does that change your view?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Is this an IP issue? (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by mahlen on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 05:45:22 PM EST

OK, I read more than the first page of the 32BitsOnline piece (my bad), and I
do agree that quoting out of whole cloth is different that a fair use quote.
Points taken.

So, it does really come to the question of what does "owning" a piece of text
on a web site mean? You certainly don't (currently) own it in the sense of
being able to deny its being read by anyone else; you can't even delete or
change it once you've posted it. You can't charge people to read it. You can't
prevent other people from making money from it (if someone charges money to get
to a page that links to your text), although the economic sense of that will
fall apart in the same way that charging for the source for free software does.


So, there's two contradictory aspects to this i can see. On the one hand, the
community being spoken of in general has little interest in the sanctity of
intellectual property. Information yearns to be free here, from MP3's to
available source. So, looked at that way, this anger seems hypocritical (of
course, the posts were made by people who may not share these feelings).

However, one could also view weblogs as a "open source website", where we all
give up the right to be paid for our ideas/links to more info/personal
experiences/insights, in order for all to benefit from the free (beer and
speech) exchange of information. So, this starts to look like a violation of
the (unstated) GPL, where some people take the posts and turn them into a
proprietary vehicle (a book with a copyright).

So, maybe the things for /. to do are:

1. Apologize for not defining 'ownership' of posts before creating such a nasty
edge case. In the /. community, it's much better to ask for permission than to
seek forgiveness later.
2. Change the site policy; posts are covered under the GPL, which is painfully
clear about what you can do.
3. Open source the book (much like the book _Open_Sources_).

I suspect that some people hate Katz/corporations/Andover so much that they
will never be placated, but maybe this would help?

Of course, K5 is more Free than /., what with the user-moderated story
pipeline. :)

mahlen

Love is blind but desire doesn't give a good goddam.
	--James Thurber




[ Parent ]
Ooh! Ooh! Unlikely Alternate Interpretation! (none / 0) (#38)
by eann on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:33:47 PM EST

I've got it:

"Comments are owned by the Poster." Who or what is "the Poster"? Perhaps, instead of meaning comments are owned by their respective authors, this means that comments are owned by an actual piece of paper hanging on the wall in the so-called Geek Compound. Since Rob & crew own that Poster, they can do what they want with the comments. :)

And what would we do if Mrs. Edna Graustein decided she didn't like what we were saying? Or, worse, what if she made money off our comments and didn't want to share?

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Re: Ooh! Ooh! Unlikely Alternate Interpretation! (none / 0) (#42)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:43:17 PM EST

And I wonder if the poster could be a picture of Natalie Portman? And is it conceivable that... no, I'd better not go there.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
which reminds me (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:56:25 PM EST

Did anyone else see this story on Humorix? I thought that was pretty funny.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Ooh! Ooh! Unlikely Alternate Interpretation! (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by analog on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:00:08 PM EST

Conspiracy theorists all over the world just wet themselves...

[ Parent ]
Re: Ooh! Ooh! Unlikely Alternate Interpretation! (none / 0) (#57)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:48:27 PM EST

*gasp* I'm choking!! *gasp* I need to restrain myself!!

It's coming out

*cough* *wheeze*

I can't resist...

HOT GRITS!!

Sorry rusty...



[ Parent ]
Re: Ooh! Ooh! Unlikely Alternate Interpretation! (none / 0) (#60)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:57:28 PM EST

Did anyone else ever peek at the slash code, when the new release came out? There's a subroutine in there with a comment along the lines of
#################
# Ok, time to 'fess up. This sub generates
# "first post"s and then deletes them when
# a real comment shows up. 
#################
It also claimed that it was no longer in use on the site. But the conspiracy theories were actually true in that case. Wacky, huh?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
there's a storm in your teacup (none / 0) (#47)
by pvg on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:02:25 PM EST

It seems to me that /. is on reasonable legal ground here. We can argue and disagree whether their actions were 'in good taste' or not. It doesn't strike is as such a big deal - you posted to a public forum, you got quoted in print, perhaps without attribution. It isn't that uncommon.

I also have trouble taking the complaints of the slashdot user base too seriously, whether they are in the form of a lengthy thread of flames or a Socratic dialogue. This is not because their point is automatically invalid or does not deserve discussion - it probably does. It just seems somewhat odd that the same 'information wants to be free' radicals that are ready to burn their Metallica or Dr Dre CDs are suddenly very concerned about _their_ potential intellectual property.

Re: there's a storm in your teacup (none / 0) (#61)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 04:00:03 PM EST

I'm less interested in the complaints of the slashdot userbase as in the opinions of the K5 userbase (which I feel are vastly more interesting, overall). I'm also understandably concerned that I not re-make the mistakes they've made, down the road, so that's really my angle on all this. Legal or not, it was a Bad Idea, I think, and I wanted to find out what other people thought.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: there's a storm in your teacup (none / 0) (#63)
by pvg on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 04:57:23 PM EST

I don't think it was a Bad Idea but then again, perhaps I'm less sensitive to IP issues surrounding statements made in public forums. I think it's generally sensible to assume that if you make a statement in a public forum you give up certain rights of ownership/redistribution unless you are very specific and careful about it. I recall there has been some debate over whether MLK Jr's family should be allowed to collect royalties for the 'I have a dream' speech and whether or not it was actually a copyrighted work.

It seems that many people _do_ care about this and do have certain expectations of what can and cannot be done with their postings - the entire slashdot issue really revolves not so much about legalities but about a (perceived or real) mismatch of expectations. Given that, it's certainly a Good Idea to spell out the rules that govern comments posted on K5.

I personally wouldn't care if the K5 legalese said 'All comments belong to rusty who will be selling them on an individual basis for pre-IPO options in technology startups' - but that's just me :) So I'm perfectly happy with the notice you proposed and you're quite right that it's a good idea be proactive about problems that other forums have encountered.

[ Parent ]

Re: there's a storm in your teacup (none / 0) (#72)
by evro on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 06:20:11 PM EST

Lord almighty! You actually thought to ask people whether or not they want their words used in other works before doing it? You, sir, are a true visionary! Seriously, I really don't see why this didn't occur to anybody at Andover. For a company whose only assets are words, you would think they'd've made sure their handling of other people's words was legit.
---
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"
[ Parent ]
US Code : Title 17 (none / 0) (#51)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:28:02 PM EST

OK, people, here's a link so we can all be barrack-room lawyers. This is the actual text of the US copyright law. It's called US Code: Title 17.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
Title 17, Chapter 2, Section 201(c) (none / 0) (#59)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 03:54:21 PM EST

And look what practically jumps out at me:
Contributions to Collective Works. - Copyright in each separate contribution to a collective work is distinct from copyright in the collective work as a whole, and vests initially in the author of the contribution. In the absence of an express transfer of the copyright or of any rights under it, the owner of copyright in the collective work is presumed to have acquired only the privilege of reproducing and distributing the contribution as part of that particular collective work, any revision of that collective work, and any later collective work in the same series.
I'd consider a web page a collective work. Which would mean that the posters still own their copyright, and do not implicitly grant /. the right to republish, unless you can consider the book a "later collective work in the same series" which I don't think you can. Thank you for pointing us to the Source of Fact Paul.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Title 17, Chapter 2, Section 201(c) (none / 0) (#62)
by bmetzler on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 04:16:09 PM EST

unless you can consider the book a "later collective work in the same series" which I don't think you can.

I couldn't disagree more. This is a later collective work, as in it is different work then the original one, but in the same series, as being about the Hellmouth contraversy. So the work is still under copyright.

Honestly, I don't know if I posted anything to the stories at all. But I don't see how what they did could be a problem.

-Brent
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.
[ Parent ]
Re: Title 17, Chapter 2, Section 201(c) (none / 0) (#64)
by analog on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 05:09:53 PM EST

That caught my eye too, but a "later collective work in the same series" is pretty much what they're representing the book to be, albeit in a different medium. So that brings up yet another question; does the change in medium have a material effect on any rights to publish that have been granted?

AFAIK, the answer to this question could be both yes and no. You can grant separate rights to publish in distinct media, but changing a work from one medium to another doesn't create a derivative work for the purposes of copyright, so if they have the right to create more works in the series, it would seem that this right would transfer to the book. But that presupposes that the right to publish is granted for all media, which this doesn't appear to address...

This also makes me want to bring up the 'anonymizing' of the posts again. How does the fact that they removed attribution affect or not affect the legality of the later work?

[ Parent ]

Re: Title 17, Chapter 2, Section 201(c) (none / 0) (#82)
by Paul Dunne on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 03:33:19 AM EST

Changing the work from one medium to another is re-publishing. That's why, if you ever come to write a book or even an article, you will sign a contract explicitly setting out the rights you are granting the publisher, if they want more than first serial rights. Because otherwise, that's all they get. Re-publishing without the permission of the copyright holder is breach of copyright.

Some examples. I write a book review for kuro5hin. Is it OK for other sites to link to it? Yes (though as far as I know there are conflicting legal judgements; but linking to a single article is probably OK). Is it OK for another site to publish an article which criticises mine explicitly, using quotations? Yes. Is it OK to do so without indicating (in some way: I mean, they don't have to name-check me every time, but it must be clear that the quotes are coming from the article) who they are quoting? No. Is it OK for another site to copy the whole thing and re-publish it, with or without accreditation? No. Is it OK for some guy to put it in a book along with a bunch of other stuff? No.

Another point: fair use allows quotation without attribution. Quotation without attribution is not fair use.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: Title 17, Chapter 2, Section 201(c) (none / 0) (#83)
by Paul Dunne on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 06:09:20 AM EST

Duh! second-last sentence: s/without/with/
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: Title 17, Chapter 2, Section 201(c) (none / 0) (#84)
by analog on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 10:45:23 AM EST

This all makes sense. It brings up a couple of thoughts, though. One is whether there is a difference between the articles posted on /. or K5 and the comments that are attached to them. It would seem pretty clear to me that what you say about a book review you may write for K5 is correct; does a short comment about said article fall under the same rules?

I'm not sure what the answer to that would be; I'm willing to believe that the law is looser about the comments (it seems sensible, at least to me). However, it wouldn't surprise me to find that it isn't. I still can't find any sensible reason for removing attribution. In my brief flirtation with journalism oh so many years ago, that was like the cardinal rule; quote what you will, but make sure it's attributed. Very strange.

Another thing I can't help wondering about is who's running things over at Slashdot/Andover/VA. I realize they're not as paper rich as they used to be, but they're still reasonable sized companies; you'd think they'd have competent legal and marketing departments who would've seen this coming. It'll be interesting to see if they decide to address this in any clear way, or just wait for it to blow over on its own.

BTW, saw your article on m4 over at LinuxWorld. I always wondered what the hell it was for, but was never sufficiently motivated to find out. Now that I know, I can think of a couple of different things I can use it for; learn somethin' new every day. ;)

[ Parent ]

Re: Title 17, Chapter 2, Section 201(c) (none / 0) (#85)
by Paul Dunne on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 11:04:36 AM EST

I've been assuming that comments on the likes of /. or kuro5hin are "literary works". Everything else I've said follows from that. Since they are in writing, and indeed sometimes as long as short articles in themselves, and obviously the product of some time and effort, this seems to me a reasonable view, and one that could be argued for in court. Whether it will in fact be the legal definition of weblog comments, when push comes to shove and a legal test is made, I don't know.

As for the boss of /., well legally the buck stops with the head of VA, doesn't it? I wonder has anyone thought of asking him whether he thinks the present fracas is particularly-good PR for his company?

Glad you liked the m4 piece. Yes, m4 has lingered in obscurity, for some reason. Strange, as it's a very useful bit of software. Maybe it is as you say: people's initial reaction is to wonder, "what the hell is that for?". It isn't the most obviously-useful tool in the world.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (none / 0) (#68)
by Mrs Edna Graustein on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 05:53:29 PM EST

Does this new login mean that I own all the comments?
--
And if any of you put that in a .sig, I'll hunt you down and kill you twice. ;-)
Rusty
Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (none / 0) (#69)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 05:57:49 PM EST

No. You're not *the* Mrs. Edna Graustein, of Kansas City, Mo. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Me (none / 0) (#73)
by Mrs Edna Graustein on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 06:21:50 PM EST

And how can you prove that, having said at one time that you have no idea who she is? :-)

Being more serious, what would happen if a *real* Mrs Edna Graustein appeared and tried to claim the comments- or more likely tries to claim that you have commited libel?
--
And if any of you put that in a .sig, I'll hunt you down and kill you twice. ;-)
Rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Me (none / 0) (#76)
by rusty on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 09:24:26 PM EST

"By posting here, you grant Kuro5hin.org, and Mrs. Edna Graustein, of Kansas City, Mo., a non-exclusive, one-time right to publish your words on the web."

My bases are covered now. Before now, it was obviously humor (I would argue). Funny? Maybe not, but humorously intended. I had, and still have, no knowlege of a real Mrs. Edna Graustein. Anyway, for God's sake, I might as well buy a lottery ticket now, If you think I have that kind of dumb luck. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Me (none / 0) (#88)
by henrik on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 04:34:35 PM EST

*groan*
Rusty - change it back . You're wasting too much of my valuable screen estate :)

-henrik "why should we let someone do what he wants just because he owns the site" abelsson

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]

Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (none / 0) (#91)
by LocalYokel on Fri Apr 28, 2000 at 01:20:13 AM EST

Uh, this is a new account for me, and I've just been waiting to make use of it.

The main problem is not that some users' comments were used without permission, the problem was that they were used by Katz. I DETEST his writing -- offtopic, whiny rants on subjects most readers of the unspeakable site couldn't care less about.

Columbine only makes things worse -- he's been capitalizing on that for over a year now with constantly droning about being "different". If I could say one thing to Katz in person, I would simply tell him that he should encourage people to get on with their lives instead of dwelling on being "different". A little self respect goes a long way...

Re: Voices From a Slashmouth (4.00 / 1) (#92)
by Novalis on Fri Apr 28, 2000 at 11:44:01 AM EST

1.  Entire comments were not posted.  Parts of comments were posterd.

Common sense points:

2.  If you said the comments to a friend, you might expect him to say "A friend
of mine once said 'blah'".

3.  Maybe you wouldn't.... but if you write the comments on a subway wall, you
probably wouldn't even notice if they were quoted in a book on subway wall art.


4.  What if you put them, anonymously, in a school newspaper, and someone
quoted you from there?	Again, I don't see the big deal.

5.  Comments may be owned by the poster.  But it's obvious that you give
slashdot the right to republish them on the web.  What's so different about
slashdot publishing them on dead trees?

I just don't see what all the fuss is about


-Dave Turner
Voices From a Slashmouth | 92 comments (92 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!