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Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.

by kudra (Vicar)
on Nov 13, 2000 at 21:14 UTC ( [id://41348] : monkdiscuss . print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

The question of under what conditions words should be repeated has come up several times that I can remember:

I have two concerns with the reposting of information: context and the potential to modify someone's voice. The first point I already covered in the June conversation. As for the second, I don't believe at all that anyone has acted in the past with malicious intent, but I do see it as a possibility when the words are posted under the control of someone other than the author.

I guess I actually have one more reservation: where the information is reposted. I've been involved in a few conversations about Deja's habit of repeating people's postings and making them available under different conditions than they were originally posted under. I'd be deeply disturbed if someone took my postings and charged people to read them, for example.

But I'd also rather not see things too restricted to the point where you can't make a copy of someone's post to keep for later reading.

For some people, what type of public the chatterbox is governs their behavior there, and also the question of whether they will even use it or not. For that reason, I think it would be best for the nature of the chatterbox to be clarified officially--one way or the other--to prevent any misunderstandings. Either everything said in the chatterbox--and the site--should be subject to reproduction, or there should be restrictions (only with the author's permission, or only on Perl Monks, or only as a paraphrase). The important thing is to decide so that we aren't all operating under different assumptions.

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(tye)RE: Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.
by tye (Sage) on Nov 14, 2000 at 01:07 UTC

    First, I don't care whether chatter or nodes are or should be copyrighted. Until someone makes a credible threat of legal action here (a day I hope I never see), that has little practical importance. I feel discussions in that direction actually detract from the issue because they lead to statements like "you can't".

    I'm also opposed to most versions of an "official PM policy" on such things. I don't want "The chatterbox is now officially public, and if you don't like it go away." I don't want "No quoting from the chatterbox" as that will just turn the occasional gaffe into a "you broke the rules" rant, missing the real point.

    Lets just educate rather than make policy, that way we have some hope of agreeing on a statement:

    "Many people contribute material to this site for many reasons. Many hope to educate or entertain. Before reusing material from this site, you should ask permission of the person who provided the material. This is mostly common sense. If you don't get a person's permission before you reuse their words/works, you could easily upset or offend them, even if you don't see why they would feel that way. If you do get their permission after honestly and accurately describing how you plan to reuse their words/works, then you are unlikely to have problems.

    "One exception is that, when replying directly to a node, it is generally considered acceptable to use small quotes from the node that you are replying to, without getting permission, in order to indicate what part of the node you are commenting on.

    "Archiving material from this site for your own personal purposes is also unlikely to be problematic.

    "Most code is posted for educational (and entertainment) purposes and so using it for private, personal purposes is usually expected. However, you should certainly get permission before using it as a non-trivial component of a money-making venture. For cases in between, please try to use good judgement as to whether you should ask permission.

    "Before reusing a large amount of material from this site or using material for profit, you should also coordinate with the site owner (insert preferred method of contact here)."

    Okay, am I even close? (:

            - tye (but my friends call me "Tye")
      I'd say your close, for whatever my opinion's worth. This is pretty much what I had in mind (as far as level of formality--I'm not interested in a 'law', just a clarification), and I agree with what you said as well.
RE: Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.
by jptxs (Curate) on Nov 13, 2000 at 22:12 UTC

    Since I caused all the new hoopla about this, I feel the need to comment. I posted a log of a (very interesting) conversation as a meditation recently for any who did not see Java vs. Perl from the CB (no CB log included). I did it because there have been nodes discussing the whole Java/Perl/other languages thing in the past, too many to list in fact (and after getting so thouroughly schooled after posting the discussion I won't even attempt to produce a partial list that may leave out what someone thinks is the salient point).

    My feelings are that if something is interesting enough for people to say here it should be OK for others to read here. I am finding it very hard, despite both calm and angered explanations, to dicern where the real difference is between a statement made in the CB and one posted to a node. Yes, I know one is fleeting since there is no official CB log, but how does that really make it different. kudra actually had the best explanation for why there was no CB log in my opinion at Is it a good idea to log the chatterbox, where she states (paraphrasing here) that it is the trivial stuff and silly FAQ answers people give out that make the CB log a bad idea becaue 90% of the time it'll be boring as hell. I may have misunderstood what she meant, but I think that makes sense anyway.

    What I don't understand is how someone might say something in the CB that they would not say in a node with regards to any real topic of conversation. "So you speak the same way in a bar and at a PTA meeting? huh?" No. I do not. (though not as differently as my wife would like) However, I do speak the same way in public forum of type A and public forum of type B. i.e. I do not treat any public forum, percieved to be fleeting or not, differently one from the other. If one is concerned about one's appearence anywhere, one need be concerned about it everywhere.

    All this goes to the point that I do not see any reason that sometihng said in one place should not be able to be reproduced in another within the site so long as it is kept in context. Anyone who read my little log will tell you the conversation was complete (right down to me making a total ass of myself trying to speak german badly). To other matters, reproduction on other sites, changing context, using the materials hewre for profit, I too say no. I just don't see why posting a very interesting and well-rounded discussion on a topic everyone seems to have interest in should be a bad thing.

    let the --ing begin. : )

    update: someone just reminded me that I could have asked permission. They are right. I could have and probably should have. But, since I thought next to nothing of it at the time, I didn't. Next time, should I have the even more insane impulse to try and do this again, I will ask permission of all speaking parties first for sure - if only to be polite.

    <myExperience> $mostLanguages = 'Designed for engineers by engineers.'; $perl = 'Designed for people who speak by a linguist.'; </myExperience>
RE: Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.
by Fastolfe (Vicar) on Nov 13, 2000 at 23:05 UTC
    There is no explicitely declared copyright or privacy notice on the site. For that reason, we must assume a) that all information posted (including personal information) will be made available to the general public; and b) all information we write and post to the site retains an implicit copyright (by US law and international treaty).

    Now, with nodes, this is fairly easy to interpret as being owned and copyrighted by the contributor (who's name is posted at the top of the node). For that reason, I think it's pretty clear that nodes cannot be taken, chopped up, posted elsewhere or otherwise used for profit outside of the context of this site (arguably vroom profits from the ads here, but obviously that's OK otherwise you wouldn't have posted your content here in the first place).

    The chatterbox, however, isn't so cut-and-dry. You can't just scrawl a conversational bit and claim that it's copyrighted by yourself any more than you can go on IRC and demand that everyone remove your conversations or cease distributing their IRC log files because your stuff is copyrighted and you forbid them from doing anything with it.

    The way I see it, the nodes are for us to formally express ourselves. Fair use allows people to quote the things we say (within reason), and by posting a node we're basically assenting to that. The chatterbox is meant to be a polar opposite: a place where we can let off steam, joke around, ask stupid questions, get into arguments, whatever. We feel comfortable saying the things we do because it's a transient medium. We don't expect the things we say there will be etched in stone, or that we will be later held accountable. I want that atmosphere in the chatterbox. I don't want to have to draft my chatterbox statements first. I don't want to have to worry that something I say will bite me in the ass later if I'm inaccurate, drunk or just plain stupid. That's why I don't say things like this in a node. I research first, then post.

    Now, quotes are fine. I have little problem with someone taking something I've said in the chatterbox and using it in a node as a proposed solution to a problem, or to help elaborate on an issue. More often than not they don't do a great job of providing context, so I'll need to follow up with clarification, but I don't mind that.

RE: Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.
by Blue (Hermit) on Nov 13, 2000 at 22:06 UTC
    I've seen a good number of posts that include something along the lines of "based on a chatterbox conversation..." or "J. Random Monk gave me the idea in chatterbox...", an no one has problems with these. This leads me to believe that people, in general, don't mind sharing their ideas.

    The chatterbox is a different forum then a node. Shorter, usually less formal, more spontanious. Just as an IRC chat with a friend will differ from a paper or presentation, style changes between nodes and chatterbox.

    Some of the comments I saw in the chatterbox (self referential, eh?) today had people talking about how they would have to watch what they wrote or not use chatterbox if it was publicly logged. I personally think that that would be a shame for our community.

    These give me a default behavior that I can use personally unless asked differently - give credit for good ideas seen in the chatterbox, but no verbatum posts without permission. This might be a good policy for PM to make official, so that people do not have to worry about what they say, like a police state with taps on every phone.


    =Blue might be eaten by a grue...

      The chatterbox is a different forum then a node. Shorter, usually less formal, more spontanious. Just as an IRC chat with a friend will differ from a paper or presentation, style changes between nodes and chatterbox.

      Clearly, what some monks are concerned about is that offhand, non-verified, etc. comments are going to be taken down and potentially held against them in perpetuity. If you've got a reputation outside the site and your livelihood depends on it, that's potentially worrisome.

      I think you're spot-on about the point of the chatterbox. As author of some of the posts you mention, I've found it a fertile ground for new ideas.

      OTOH, if the *context* is clearly represented "Mind you, this was a chatterbox log and no opinion expressed herein should be taken as definitive of anyone's considered or even unconsidered opinion, the poster may have been just letting off steam or fooling around, as even Monks need to do occasionally", what's the sense in saying a person will be *misrepresented* by posting a chatterbox log?

RE: Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.
by rlk (Pilgrim) on Nov 13, 2000 at 21:37 UTC
    use Disclaimer::IANAL;
    My understanding is that everything that you say (or write, type, etc.) is copyrighted. Consequently, your words can only be repeated either with your permission, or in the context of fair use. (It's also worth noting that, unlike patents, copyright doesn't prevent independant creation, e.g. if I, in Ohio, say "Hello", and Bob, in California and not having heard me, says "Hello" five minutes later, it's not infringement, and we both have copyright on what we said. Of course, this examle is invalid, because something as trivial as "Hello" couldn't be copyrighted.)

    Fair use is, of course, a complicated, vague concept. However, it's generally held that short quotations are acceptable. Everything else is not well defined.

    To wit, this is legally on solid ground (though it's rather rude):

    "Monk XYZ is a big dork, because he said, 'blah blah Perl blah blah blah Java'"!
    Whereas this is potentially (again, the law isn't very clear) a case of copyright infringement.
    "Hey, I just got flamed by MONK XYZ! Look at what he said!

    > Dear So-and-so
    > You suck! Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah.
    > Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah.
    > Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah.
    > Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah.
    > Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah.
    > - Me
    Though it's certainly possible that Monk XYZ would be proud of the flame, and wouldn't mind you repeating it.

    Ryan Koppenhaver, Aspiring Perl Hacker
    "I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave."

RE: Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.
by AgentM (Curate) on Nov 13, 2000 at 21:58 UTC
    I'm a little hazy on these copyright laws, but I do see the problem clearly.
    • The Chatterbox is a public Forum, viewable (though not appendable) by Anonymous Monk, i.e. everyone on planet Earth.
    • Therefore, posting to the Chatterbox is the equivalent of alerting anyone who willing to read your post of your words.
    To me, this seems equivalent to yelling out something on a crowded street. It is doubtful that such things can be copyrighted. What I post in the Chatterbox will be used to judge me in some manner, no matter what I say, so my advice is simply this: say what you mean and mean what you say. I find that paranoid people WOULD be against a chatterbox archive project because their words may be held against them later (just like those porn photos you posed for in college "for money"). All to often, I find the chatterbox alive with humor (ala missing humor section) and really stupid and meaningless comments. Personally, I couldn't care less what is in the chatterbox, but I understand that others could and do.

    My personal opinion is that what is posted in the chatterbox cannot be copyrighted (c'mon, that even sounds ridiculous). If you want to make sure that what you write is copyrighted, you should throw in a little (c) 2000 bob in your signature. I don't, because I don't care, others may. You may also alert others of your copyrights in the chatterbox in the same manner.

    AgentM Systems nor Nasca Enterprises nor Bone::Easy nor Macperl is responsible for the comments made by AgentM. Remember, you can build any logical system with NOR.
      Correct, but still you need that persons permission to bring up a cite in public.
(brainpan) RE: Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.
by brainpan (Monk) on Nov 14, 2000 at 07:50 UTC
    I think that one point needs to be clarified here, as it seems like the various posters to this thread are coming at this from two different perspectives and may not realize it. As I stated in this node, there are three types of communication here, with varying degrees of formality: creating a node, using the chatterbox and /msging someone. As it stands now, all but /msging are world readable. The thing that I think we're getting hung up on is that the dynamic of the chatterbox is such that it's essentially a conversation among friends / peers / community members. When you're talking to a group of people in any context you realize that things may be repeated, however you're less likely to say certain things when talking with a group of friends at a restaurant that you might say to the same people if you were in a more private place. The chatterbox is structurally a public place to a greater degree than any restaurant is, as any faceless person can drop by and listen in. Herein lies the problem.

    Due to the structure of this place if you want to communicate to more than one other person you are forced to either /msg each participant in the conversation, take the discussion public or go elsewhere (email, whatever). Anyone posting to the chatterbox knows and implicitly agrees that they are posting to a transient public forum. This particular discussion was sparked by a higher ranking (than myself) member of the monastery posting a conversation in the chatterbox to a node. This changed only the transitory nature of the conversation, not it's accessibility for random members of planet Earth.

    As stated above, although this partcular exchange of verbiage was sparked by one of our fellow monastery dwellers, I think that we could preempt a lot of future discussions of this sort if we require that someone be logged in to see the content of the chatterbox. Doing so, while not making any conversations inherently more private (as all someone must do is create a dummy account to listen in), it would at least serve to raise accountability somewhat, while giving participants a feel for who else is potentially listening in on the conversation.

    Having said that, I feel that I need to also address the other side of this. A fair part of what made me first create an account here was the sense of community that I felt in browsing some of the nodes and overhearing what was going on in the chatterbox. It would detract somewhat from the "monastery experience" if people were not able to get a feel for this aspect of perlmonks before joining. I know that introducing a full blown monk collaboration system into the workings of this place would probably be overkill, but perhaps having a public and a "private" chatterbox would solve at least some of the problem. The private chatterbox would be only be able to be overheard by logged in users as mentioned above. Restricting this to users above a certain rank would prevent dummy accounts from popping up too quickly if that proves to be an issue.

    As tye (who was elevated to pontiff mere moments ago) stated above, I would really hate to have any hard and fast rule or policy governing what goes on here. The freedom and accompanying sense of responsibility that goes with that is a major facet of what makes this place unique. Whatever changes the future brings, I sincerely hope that a Monastery Terms Of Service isn't one of them.

    And no, I don't own 27 pairs of sweatpants.
RE: Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.
by Albannach (Monsignor) on Nov 13, 2000 at 23:19 UTC
    Part of me thinks that we're really overblowing this whole issue, but the other part disagrees, saying that so many people wouldn't be interested if this was trivial. Then the first part said... oh never mind.

    Ok, I'm not going to be any more definitive than anyone else here, but I have some observations to offer. Before you get out the flamethrowers, I know this is all obvious, but sometimes stating the obvious helps! Also, lest this be misconstrued, note that I'm not meaning to imply anything untoward about any individual here.

    - anything you enter anywhere here (apart from /tell, maybe) may be read by anyone on the 'net
    - just because you see albannach say something in the chatterbox does not mean that it wasn't one of his cats lying on the keyboard, or one of his co-workers trying to embarass him
    - anything you read in a node, despite annotations or citations, could well be a complete fabrication
    - I could put a really deep metaphysical point here about the nature of existance and you wouldn't be able to prove it wrong either
    - you cannot stop people from logging the chatterbox themselves, short of having all the text converted to old english and written in a bitmap (but then you'd just get someone to write a kickass OCR in Perl...). In fact, it would probably be foolish to assume it was not being recorded somewhere. In public it would be very sad to think you were being recorded, but here the Chatterbox is often of great value, and I expect that many people, lurkers and otherwise, at least save bits and pieces.

    So, is there a solution? If everyone understands these points, is there a problem? Quoting myself in the chatterbox earlier (I reviewed this and gave myself permission ;-) "I'm full of good and bad ideas, I just can't tell them apart":

    - the Official Monastery Policy on the usage of the Chatterbox should make clear what is intended (as well as the potential risks noted above), though this may not have any bearing on what is legal, or what is actually done (has anyone ever been excommunicated, err, undef()'d from the Monastery?)
    - the chatterbox could have an /anon command so that your name wouldn't be shown
    - as has been noted above, it would be wise to confirm permission and probably allow review of any attributed text before posting it to a node. This would ensure the information is reasonably accurate, and nobody quoted in the text would be upset later. It may be that some would allow it to be posted if their names were obscured.

    I'm running a risk of getting into a commentary on the degradation of society as a whole here, so I'll cut it off for now. Of course I've been distracted so many times since I started this that it's probably all been said by now, but I'll be damned if I'm going to waste these electrons!

      I generally agree with everything you've mentioned, with the exception of the /anon command. I am very opposed to something like that. For all practical purposes, it would be the same as allowing Anonymous Monk to use the chatterbox. I'm all for freedom of speech, but there has to be accountability.


      e-mail jcwren
        I take your point and agree, but I was torn as to whether I'd rather get a good contribution from anon than no contribution from a nervous monk. Note that it isn't quite an anon monk, as you'd have to be registered to do it, and so you'd be one of the monks in the on-line list. I guess that pretty much destroys that idea right there!
RE: Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.
by clemburg (Curate) on Nov 14, 2000 at 00:03 UTC

    I'd go for outlawing direct citation of chatterbox content (as hinted at by the "logging it" request), and allowing summaries written on discussions in the chatterbox.

    This should keep embarrassing things from happening, and keeps the copyright discussion back to a minimum, too.

    Christian Lemburg
    Brainbench MVP for Perl

RE: Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.
by mirod (Canon) on Nov 13, 2000 at 21:26 UTC

    My voice will go for: "The Chatterbox log can be posted if all participants to the discussion agree" and that should probably include _everybody_, even side discussions and metal being poured on monitors, just to be safe

      Here you got the point, the persons who are involved have to agree. As it would be with a fotograph of yours taken by someone if he'S going to publish it.
      And I think it shouldn't be that hard to ask for someones permission.
      Yes, you can read everything, even make a book out of it, if it's your own brain who melted the facts together, but always you will need to mark cites and to name the sources.

      Have a nice day
      All decision is left to your taste
RE: Who owns your words? A resolution is needed.
by jepri (Parson) on Nov 14, 2000 at 14:12 UTC
    Ok, I had written a middle of the road reply to this thread, but I tore it up. Here's my real opinion. It's not targeted at anyone in particular but if you wrote something using the words "outlaw", "allow" or "permission" then you should probably read this a bit more closely. But first the disclaimer:

    I'm part of the world community that doesn't vote for the president of the world. I don't live by your "say hello to me and I'll sue you" laws, and I'm constantly amazed by the fact that as soon as anyone comes up with an idea here, everybody tells them that it can't be done because they'll get their arses sued off.

    Some of the people here are unbelievable. You've got successful authors of perl books giving away their time and code for free, ditto mathematicians and hotshot coders, and then a discussion like this starts and some pinhead writes "No. You can't use my words. They're mine, not yours!". What were you going to do with them? Write your own book? I can just see the title - "1000 great legal warnings, by a PerlMonk".

    Update: There should be a break here. The bit above has very little to do with the bit below. We now return you to your scheduled rant

    Look, if you don't want people to read what you write, put it on paper, lock it in a huge safe, then dump it at sea. If you only want your intended target to hear it, you can catch an aeroplane to the persons town, go the their house, and whisper it in their ear. Cleverer people could use encryption and skip the plane flight. What other ways are there? Hmmm. I know, I could log onto a public bulletin board and post for all to see, and then BITCH ABOUT IT AFTERWARDS. THAT'S THE WAY TO MAKE SURE NOBODY ELSE SEES WHAT I WRITE.

    I was logged on at the same time as the controversial conversation and saw the the whole lot. I have my own copy of the conversation. What are you going to do about the other ten people who were around? Perform brain wipes on us to prevent us repeating what we saw? I've already mentioned it to a few people. It was very interesting.

    And here we come to the really interesting bit. How to deal with problems here. You could:

    *Contact the author (worked on jptxs)
    *Appeal to a higher power (vroom and the editorial team)
    *Use your means of participation that vroom has given you.

    You see the ++ and -- above my post? Choose ++ if you think there's something to what I say, -- if you disagree. That's your real chance to participate in a community and make your presence felt. Quit suggesting I shouldn't be allowed to do something 'cause you don't like it. Vote me off the island if you don't like it.

    This is the first online community I've fully delurked in and I'm buggered if I'm going to put up with a bunch of pretentious fools telling me that it's all going to change now because somebody had their feelings hurt. Come over here, sunshine, and I'll really hurt your feelings.

    And you can quote me on that.

    You can even print it.


    "Ooohhhh, I think I smell a lawsuit in that one" - Mr Leary

      And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have copyright and IP lawyers. :)

      Seriously, I have no problem with somebody going up to somebody else and saying "Hey, so-and-so said this-and-that on the chatterbox today." There's a huge difference between that and capturing conversations and posting them verbatim in permanent form.

      I think merlyn's pub analogy is quite apt. We need the Chatterbox to balance out the permanency of the nodes. If they're going to be equivalent, what's the point? And again, while legally there isn't going to be any differentiation (they're both posted in public places, even if temporarily), it's a matter of courtesy and decency.

      I disagree!
      As I said before and will continuously do:
      "Ask for permissions first before you bring up a cite!!!"

      Have a nice day
      All decision is left to your taste but only delimited by the rules and laws we gave us!
        By your logic I'd have to write to Plato for permission to use parts of his work in my last philosophy essay, not to mention Newton, Avagadro, Fermi, Bohr, Laplace, Gauss, Mendel not to mention Joule, Carnot, Watt, Wattson, Crick and a whole host of people who's comments, on and off record I have reproduced in the last few years. By your logic I can't even do this: little said:

        I disagree!
        As I said before and will continuously do:
        "Ask for permissions first before you bring up a cite!!!"

        Oh no! Another -1