What not to post!

From: David Mertz <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
Date: Tue Oct 05 2004 - 13:21:45 CDT

On Oct 5, 2004, at 1:58 PM, charlie strauss wrote:
> Here is the kitcat paper on source code. While I have no qualms about
> sharing a discussion paper with OVC colleagues, I dont think this
> should be internet published wholesale. Therefore I would suggest
> that this e-mail attachment be deleted from the archives of OVC if
> possible.

OK... I guess this means it's time I need to explicitly say this to the
list. Basically, it's NOT a good idea to post things to this list that
you don't want archived! I've removed or redacted a few items in the
archive, at specific request of their original authors--but I'd really
rather not have that responsibility on a regular basis. Moreover, I
only control the archive at gnosis.python-hosting.com, I cannot stop
someone else from archiving their own copies of posts; or (perhaps
accidentally) letting their mailboxes become world-readable.

Unfortunately, there's a big legal quagmire we--really I--can get into
if I am EDITOR of the archive, not simply maintainer. That is,
so-called common carriers have many exemptions from liability over
transmitted contents. But as soon as one starts using editorial
judgment over the content of a site (including a website, a mailing
list, a list archive, etc), one acquires responsibility over it. So if
someone posts something libelous, or that violates copyright, and so
on, I can be sued as the editor of that content. And even just
selectively deleting posts puts me in the role of editor (but
especially if I delete posts from members who don't specifically
request it).

It's true that even common carriers are required to (provisionally)
remove content that is alleged to violate IP, under the DMCA. But this
is a very different thing than facing criminal or large civil damage
suits for publishing the content in the first place. And that's only
the copyright part. If someone had a trade-secret, libel, PATRIOT-act
"material aid", tortious interference, etc. claim, simple "take down"
doesn't offer me protection.

I *do* minimally escape editorial discretion by neutrally removing
anything an original author requests. But if I start being asked to do
this manually with too great a regularity, I'll probably balk at
serving as archive maintainer at all. Partly it's the extra
incremental effort, but mostly it's the potential, very tricky,
liabilities.

In Charlie's case, he should have put the mentioned resource on a URL
he controls (with a robots.txt file that tells search engines not to
index it, or possibly even access control)... and have interested
individual request the resource (or it's password, etc.) off-list.

Yours, David...
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Received on Mon Nov 1 15:28:42 2004

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