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Re: Musing on Monastery Content

by tye (Cardinal)
on Oct 18, 2004 at 04:32 UTC ( #400059=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Musing on Monastery Content

I wrote these words. I am their author. I own the copyright to them.

I have posted them to a public forum so I have clearly granted the forum the license to distribute these words via the forum... forever.

Technically, the forum hasn't done anything to prevent me from changing my mind and revoking this license that I implicitly but quite clearly granted them. But if I expect to have that right of revocation, then I am probably a fool at least because things change and forum sites have little motivation to ensure that they will always provide the resources to allow me to take back what I have given.

PerlMonks should probably add a 'legal notice' page that states what should be obvious (you retain copyright but grant a right to distribute forever) and notifying all that the act of posting is declared to mean that you revoke your right to ever revoke this license to distribute.

PerlMonks should also add some technical means for preventing people from deleting their contributions. Something like a change log for nodes.

- tye        


Comment on Re: Musing on Monastery Content
Re^2: Musing on Monastery Content
by ww (Bishop) on Oct 18, 2004 at 16:03 UTC
    I agree with tye's analysis. It is fact (as he and Old Gray Bear both noted) that posting to a forum such as this DOES restrict one's ability to later cause that contribution -- no matter how wise or trollish -- to disappear

    But, more important, I believe such posting SHOULD be tantamount to irrevocable waiver of any right to revoke what tye calls "license to distribute."

    Hence, tye's "'legal notice'" deserves support and action... even if some could argue that it smacks of a "shrink-wrap license" scheme.

    Tangent: I quibble -- nay, even quarrel-- with this one section of Old Gray Bear's presention:

    On the one hand, I have to support X in his wish to remove his writings from general circulation. He wrote them. There was no 'license' attached to it releasing the words and ideas to the Public Domain. He is able to edit the node content at will. His retraction is merely a severe form of editing, but it is His Right.

    • Why (this is a serious question; neither troll nor flame) do you feel obliged "to support X..." re removal?
      Legal reasons; human rights? some other consideration?
    • Retraction may be "merely a severe form of editing" but in light of the fact that doing so reduces or destroys the value of others' contributions, I can't agree that it is "His Right."

    I suspect we'd be well served with the view that the right to edit one's comments in a thread to which others have contributed should be restricted to strikethrough and insert. The would-be retracter can easily enough use available mechanisms (css such as:
        &nbgsp; <style="font-family: serif; color: #bo400f; background-color: transparent;">
     
    might work) to highlight the retraction/disavowal of a comment which s/he later decided is untenable (in the light of further reflection or new evidence -- perhaps even an illuminating comment farther down the same thread).

    Posted, knowing that some flaw in my current thinking may someday have me wishing I could not merely retract, but could actually delete this rambling. <G>

      He does have the right to retract it. This is a public forum for discussion, in which each of us has the ability to contribute freely and the ability to edit those contributions. With that ability comes some rights and responsibilities, granted by the site's maintainers:
      the right to change our words later
      the responsibility to edit to make the store of knowledge greater
      the right to freely express our opinions
      the responsibility to share our opinions honestly

      There are more of both rights and responsibilities. With each right comes a responsibility, and with each responsibility comes a right. Neither works without the other, here in PerlMonks as in meatspace.

      You can't take away one without taking away the other. It's a good system.

      None of that negates the right the site admins have to repost what has been edited out of existence. Nobody said the right to retract would guarantee that a retraction would be permanent and irrevocable. It's something one should be aware of here in PerlMonks, because it's a fact of life here.

      - apotheon
      CopyWrite Chad Perrin
        apotheon -- I'm "bang on" with most of your observations especially on the wisdom of conjoining "rights" and "responsibilities" in a community such as this... BUT it seems to me if someone -- call that indiviual "A" -- has a "right to retract" and someone else has the right to undo the retraction, A's right is a nullity; meaningless or void.

        It appears to me that Old Grey Bear's original posting and tye's response address this contradiction. You have addressed the "fact of life" here but I'd also really like to see your contribution from an ethical or philosophical view.

        Belated afterthought, in part as addendum to grandparent:

        a definition of "retract" (from http://www.hyperdictionary.com/dictionary/retract, not exactly the OED, but sufficient, I think):

        1. v formally reject or disavow a formerly held belief, usually under pressure; "He retracted his earlier statements about his religion"; "She abjured her beliefs"
        2. v pull inward or towards a center; "The pilot drew in the landing gear"; "The cat retracted his claws"
        3. v use a surgical instrument to hold open (the edges of a wound or an organ)
        4. v shrink back, as in fear

        Arguably, definition two could be stretched to approximate "delete" -- but that's a long stretch for a poor approximation. What X tried to do, AFAIK, was not "to retract" in the sense of the first definition, but "to delete" ...and, perhaps not "just by the way," to consign others' views to the bitbucket. That's a very different action.

        SO DIFFERENT, in fact, that I almost wish to disavow my earlier diatribe because it ignored (to my embarassment and perhaps to others' detriment) the distinction. Consider this a retraction of sorts, but note that it's not a deletion, which would "behead" your valued observations.

Re^2: Musing on Monastery Content
by tmoertel (Chaplain) on Oct 20, 2004 at 07:15 UTC
    tye wrote:
    I have posted (my words) to a public forum so I have clearly granted the forum the license to distribute these words via the forum... forever.
    This reasoning is sound right up to the point where you get to "forever." While it can reasonably be argued that posting a self-owned written work to a public forum implicitly gives license to the forum's owners to republish the work on the forum, it is doubtful that the implied license would be held by a court to override specific, written communications to the contrary. In other words, if you email Perl Monks and say that you don't want them to use your posts anymore, they would probably be in violation of U.S. copyright law if they didn't abide by your request.
    But if I expect to have that right of revocation, then I am probably a fool at least because things change and forum sites have little motivation to ensure that they will always provide the resources to allow me to take back what I have given.
    The problem with this logic is that the burden is upon the owners of the forum site to demonstrate that they have license to republish your works, should the issue of infringement come to trial or should you issue a DMCA "takedown" request to the site's ISP. Whether the owners give you the tools or have the resources to remove your works is immaterial. If you tell them they're not allowed to use your works, the burden is upon them not to – or to demonstrate that they have license to use your works despite your notice to the contrary.
    PerlMonks should probably add a 'legal notice' page...
    Absolutely. Because of the burdens placed upon the site's owners when it comes to republishing others' works, it is important that Perl Monks take reasonable measures to ensure that authors of works posted to the site understand that by posting they are granting license to Perl Monks to republish their works on the forum. Rather than having a legal notice page, I think that every page upon which there is a form to submit comments ought to give notice – right next to the Submit button – that posting to the site grants the site's owners license to republish the material on the site in perpetuity.
    PerlMonks should also add some technical means for preventing people from deleting their contributions
    I must disagree. People ought to be able to remove their own contributions. First, being able to remove bad posts lowers the barrier to contribution because posters need not worry about whether their ideas are good enough not to come back and haunt them later. They can contribute freely, knowing that if later they regret a posting, they can remove it.

    Second, allowing users to remove their own posts lowers the copyright burden upon Perl Monks. The fact that Perl Monks allows authors to remove their own posts provides strong evidence that the posts on the site are published with consent. (If the authors didn't want their works published, they could easily remove them.) Further, it would be difficult for a malicious user to threaten Perl Monks with an infringement suit or a takedown notice regarding content that could easily be self-removed.

    Cheers,
    Tom

      You misunderstand me. But I'll save the legalist mumbo jumbo for the end of this node.

      PerlMonks should also add some technical means for preventing people from deleting their contributions
      I must disagree. People ought to be able to remove their own contributions. First, being able to remove bad posts lowers the barrier to contribution because posters need not worry about whether their ideas are good enough not to come back and haunt them later. They can contribute freely, knowing that if later they regret a posting, they can remove it.

      Oh, I strongly disagree on that. The barrier to contribute is plenty low as can be seen by the flame wars, name calling, and other childish bickering that happens here. It doesn't happen here as often as it happens in many other technical forums. This is a good thing. This is why there should be some barrier to contribution. This is part of why there is a downvote and an XP game to go with it. There are, of course, problems with such barriers to contribution; they are not perfect.

      But I much prefer that people think (even consider) before they post than posting whatever dribble pops into their head and having a ton of Emily Latella nodes ("Oh... Nevermind") and even more ill-advised nodes which usually encourage more ill-advised nodes in the well known pattern of "flame war".

      I also see a barrier to contribution for fear of making a technical error. I think it would often be good to lower that particular barrier1, but I think proffering a "Delete whatever you regret. Free!" card to all comers is a horrid way to attempt that.

      (tye)Re: why a nodelet can be kept against author wish? covers much of my opinion on how one should deal with revising what one has written here.

      A better way to get people to overcome their fear of making technical errors is for them to learn that technical errors are inevitable and even the best of us make them. Even more useful is for them to see people dealing with their own technical errors in a mature fashion. So discouraging people from hiding their little mistakes and encouraging them to step up to the minor challenge of dealing with a mistake more maturely (by acknowledging it explicitly or at least letting it stand after a correction has been published), we can help to lower the barrier to contribution for fear of technical mistakes for some.

      The immature monk who can't deal with making a mistake in public will still feel this particular barrier to contribute, and this is a good thing since such people, having posted a mistake, tend to get into flame wars or otherwise react poorly to getting their feelings hurt.

      Now, back to how you misunderstood me.

      This reasoning is sound right up to the point where you get to "forever." [...] it is doubtful that the implied license would be held by a court to override specific, written communications to the contrary

      I was not saying that the license could not be revoked. That is why I expanded on that point in the next two paragraphs. I was saying that the implied term of the implied license is unlimited. It is "forever". The license will not end on its own. To end the license, the author must actively revoke it. There is no implied limited duration. It doesn't take much to see that content on PerlMonks is still being "published" even though it is years old.

      But if I expect to have that right of revocation, then I am probably a fool [...]
      The problem with this logic is that the burden is upon the owners of the forum site to demonstrate that they have license to republish your works, should the issue of infringement come to trial

      Yes, that is why the introduction to the paragraph starts with "Technically" and this sentense starts with "But". I'm not talking about technical or legal details here. "I am probably a fool" has no legal meaning. I am aware that this argument will likely have little weight in court (not that I pretend to be a lawyer or to even understand the less pedestrian aspects of legal meanderings).

      PerlMonks should probably add a 'legal notice' page...
      Absolutely.

      So write one. I said "probably" because I've seen too many cases of non-lawyers trying to cover their buts[sic] and getting themselves into more troubles (legal or otherwise). Whatever it might say, I'm quite dubious on it having much legal validity unless a lawyer is hired to write it and a specific "I have read and I agree to the terms of" page is required before each node is posted. But it is probably better to have these expectations explicitly spelled out in a reasonable way. Write up a draft and others can revise until a concensus is reached.

      Your last argument about having a mechanism for people to remove their own nodes from publication having legal benefits in the unlikely event of court action against PerlMonks makes sense to me. I'm not completely against allowing content to be removed for extraordinary reasons. If PerlMonks receives a cease-and-desist letter claiming to be from Tom Moertel's attorney and demanding that PerlMonks stop publishing any of his works (hopefully with an exact list of what he claims to have written, but we'll take a good guess and negotiate from there if needed), then we stop publishing those "works". (We'll expect you to object to this action if the letter is not genuine.)

      If someone considers a node for deletion or asks site workers to remove content because they too-late realized that this could get them into big problems with their boss or spouse or prevent them from getting a security clearance, then such a request would likely be honored.

      But none of those things have ever happened that I've seen. People usually delete their nodes because they made the simplest of mistakes or (rarely) because they've decided to storm off away from PerlMonks in a door-slamming gesture and feel the need for spectacle by "taking all of their marbles" in a fit of outrage and/or self-loathing.

      And I think both of those activities should be strongly discouraged.

      So I think your last point should be addressed by something more like an administrative request feature that is clearly meant for extraordinary circumstances and that clearly states that cease-and-disist letters are always taken seriously and handled quickly. But I'm so far removed from the site owners or anyone with a physical address connected to the site, that I have little idea how to set such a thing up.

      - tye        

      1 Though somehow magically reducing that barrier to nothing would be a mistake. People shouldn't be enthusiastic about posting things that they have absolutely no clue about. Sometimes it is good to post when you have no clue, but not frequently.

        tye, thank you for your thoughtful response.

        On the issue of whether we should lower the barrier to contribution, I find your argument to be persuasive. You've been on Perl Monks for longer than I have, and so I'll trust your judgment regarding the quality of posts.

        Let me clarify regarding the "forever" thing:

        I was not saying that the license could not be revoked.... I was saying that the implied term of the implied license is unlimited. It is "forever".

        I didn't think you were saying that the license couldn't be revoked. My concern was with your claim that the term of the implied license was "forever" – until revoked. In other words, you were saying that we can assume the glass is full until we learn otherwise. I'm saying that we can't assume the glass to be any more full than the facts support at this moment in time.

        The license is implied. That it exists and grants us any rights at all is not established fact but only inferred by us because to think otherwise would lead to absurdity in light of the facts that are established. Why would an author ask us to publish his works on our site if he didn't grant us license to do so? However, what we can reasonably infer to be the extent of an implied license is the minimal – not maximal – grant of rights that is consistent with the facts. Therefore, we can infer only that the term of the license implied by posting to the site is "for now." Ultimately, if we receive no instructions to the contrary from the author, "for now" will become "forever"; but until then, they are not the same.

        The license will not end on its own. To end the license, the author must actively revoke it. There is no implied limited duration.
        There is no implied duration at all beyond what is implied by the facts right now. That an author posted content back then and hasn't asked us to remove it since, implies that the author has granted us license to publish his content on the site from then through now, but nothing more. Now+1 cannot be supported until such time has passed with no contrary indications from the author.

        That's what I was trying to say.

        I should point out that for all practical intents and purposes, our interpretations are the same: If an author posts to the site, we can reasonably publish the post on the site until the author says otherwise.

        Cheers,
        Tom

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