9.551 editorial responsibility for Internet publishing

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Sat, 17 Feb 1996 17:18:11 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 551.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Patrick John Coppock <patcop@alfa.avh.unit.no> (179)
Subject: Re: Publishing on the Internet

I thought this press-release from Electronic Frontier's Norway Chapter
might be of interest for members of the HUMANIST list. I'm sure the authors
would be interested in any kind of comments from people here (see their
e-mail addresses below)


> Editorial responsibility on the Internet is absurd
> EFN press release on editorial responsibility 9th February 1996
> The introduction of a general editorial responsibility on
> the Internet is absurd since the Internet encompasses
> services which in society in general do not have such an
> editorial responsibility. For certain Internet services
> editorial responsibility can be appropriate for special
> types of uses, such as for instance the distribution of
> journals. A discussion of editorial responsibility for
> special kinds of uses of certain Internet-services is
> different from some kind of general responsibility.
> The idea of a general editorial responsibility on the
> Internet witnesses a lack of understanding of the fact that
> the Internet is composed of different services with
> different kinds of allocations of responsibilities.It is
> only the sender and receiver who decide what is to be
> distributed via the Internet, Internet service providers
> carry packages but do not know their contents.
> In our society we have norms and laws for what is
> acceptable. On the Internet these rules are often defined
> as "acceptable use". New electronic media demand that we
> re-examine laws, norms and rules. Unfortunately many people
> believe that a state of lawlessness is prevalent on the
> Internet. This is not correct, Norwegian law is also
> effective on the Internet.
> Many people believe too that ethical issues have not been
> considered. This is not true either. Electronic Frontier
> Norway (EFN) is one of several organisations who are
> looking forward to a debate about ethical issues that
> involve others than users of the Internet. It is important
> that the whole of Norwegian society gives its backing to
> laws and norms for the use of the Internet, since Internet
> is an integrated part of both Norwegian society and the
> international society.
> EFN is skeptical to users being deprived of their
> responsibilities, and this can be a consequence of
> introducing editorial responsibility.
> -----------------------------------------------------
> Arguments against editorial responsibility
> Users have a responsibility for following Norwegian law.
> A person who uses the Internet in Norway, has a
> responsibility for following Norwegian law. Borders are not
> visible on the Internet, and this must also be taken
> account of when deciding and practicing rules. Increased
> international coordination of lawmaking is important.
> The police investigate encroachments of the law, on the
> Internet as elsewhere in society. Infringements of rules
> and norms are normally indicted and taken up with the user
> by responsible persons, either in the firm/institution or
> with the Internet service provider.
> What is an editor?
> Paragraph 430 of the Criminal Punishment Law defines an
> editor in this way: "By editor of magazines or journals is
> understood in this chapter the one who makes decisions
> about the publication content, either he is denoted as
> editor or as publisher in some other way."
> An editor is a person who has responsibility for content
> and opinions that other people express. An editor has
> control over content. Personal home pages, messages by
> electronic post and on electronic conference systems it is
> only the sender who can change and be responsible for.
> The Internet service provider has responsibility for being aware
> If an Internet service provider is made aware of materials
> which are against Norwegian law, and which he can
> technically regulate, he shall remove this. Service
> providers should develop rules for ethical behaviour (most
> service providers have today accepted UNINETTs ethical
> rules and rules for acceptable use) on the Internet and
> make these known for users.
> Practice on the Internet in Norway today is in accordance
> with the two points above.
> There is a great difference between having responsibility
> for removing infringements (awareness) and having
> responsibility for content (editorial responsibility), if
> one has an editorial responsibility one must evaluate
> content before this becomes accessible on the Internet.
> EFN considers that prior censoring of all information that
> is to be distributed via the Internet is unacceptable.
> Journals shall have an editor
> A journal (as defined by law) has a responsible editor, so
> also should electronic journals. In a journal the editor
> controls the content.
> Conversations shall not have an editor
> On the Internet we do not wish to have editorial
> responsibility for conversations either, what two or more
> people converse about we do not wish to control by having
> an editor. Conversations on the Internet can occur as
> sound-based conversations, as video-conferences or as
> writing (discussion groups or person to person).
> Letters shall not have an editor
> No one other than the sender shall be responsible for the
> content of letters, this being independent of medium (for
> reader responses in newspapers and journals other rules
> apply). Electronic mail shall not have an editor.
> Web pages
> World Wide Web is the most widely known service on the
> Internet today, therefore a bit about this service.
> Web pages are a form of communication from one person to
> many others. This involves there being a clear
> responsibility for web pages. Since responsibility is
> clearly defined, it seems unnecessary to move this
> responsibility over to others than the originator.
> In some cases one wishes to have an editor for collections
> of web pages, this should be made clear on such web pages.
> An example here is a firm or a research institute which is
> presenting information about its activities. A journal
> which is published via World Wide Web, shall have an
> editor.
> Editorial responsibility on the Internet is absurd
> To introduce a general editorial responsibility on the
> Internet will be absurd (see the points on conversations
> and letters). A comparison with editorial responsibility in
> the hands of Internet service providers is that pencil
> producers be made responsible for all use of pencils in
> Norway.
> The introduction of editorial responsibility for certain
> services on the Internet is another discussion, and EFN
> would like to take part in this, but assuming that
> responsibility for content shall lie with the person who
> decides the content.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> Resource persons one can contact in connection with this press-release
> * Ingrid Melve, tel 73 59 65 02 (work) 73 53 3041 (private) / fax 73 59 64
> 50 / Ingrid.Melve@uninett.no
> * Thomas Gramstad, Tlf: 22 44 36 83 / thomasg@ifi.uio.no

------------------------------END INSERT---------------------------------

Patrick J. Coppock tel. +47 73 59 08 71 (office)
The Norwegian University of tel. +47 73 59 88 70 (lab)
Technology and Science tel. +47 72 55 50 91 (home)
Dept. of Applied Linguistics fax: +47 73 59 81 50
N-7055 Dragvoll, Norway e-mail: patcop@alfa.avh.unit.no

WWW http://www.hf.unit.no/anv/wwwpages/PJCHome2.html

"A person divides people into buyers and sellers, and forgets
that buyers are also sellers. Will his grammar change if I
remind him of this?" L. Wittgenstein, 22.11.1931