RE: WWW Bill Of Rights?

Fisher Mark (
Fri, 20 Jan 1995 14:46:44 +0100

Daniel W. Connolly writes in <>:
>* How much "right to privacy" are users entitled to?
(much good stuff deleted...)
One idea would be to apply a one-way function to the hostname/username
combo. This should allow reasonably sophisticated accounting ("just how
often *is* cindy.gif being accessed by how many different people?") with
reasonable privacy.

>* What are the responsibilities of authors that make links to other
>folks work? For example, the NCSA folks put my email address and a
>link to some of my stuff on the "help on HTML" page. I don't remember
>if they asked me before they did it or not. All I know is that I
>suddenly got a zillion messages from "clueless newbies" asking how to
>do server-side includes, how to center text, and how to use Mosaic.
>Suppose webmaster at site X includes a link to site Y. Site Y changes
>their stuff, and the link becomes stale. Joe user follows the link,
>and his browser tells him "Sorry, something broke*". Joe complains
>to webmaster@Y that his system is broke. If Y is lucky, he can consult
>his logs and find out from Referer: info that site X is the culprit.
If you are linking to someone's email address, you should ask their
permission first. Simple courtesy. Stale links are a problem whether the
link is automatic via HTML hypertext or manual via references, citations, or
whatever. Our library consultant tells me that only about 10% of her book
requests generated via references, citations, etc., etc. are directly
satisfiable; books go out of print, are "in print" but out of stock while
the publisher waits for enough orders before ordering an additional printing
(or the book is out of stock but listed as in print while the publisher
hasn't decided whether to actually print more copies), etc. If the author
of a document wants to link to another document, checks that the link was in
operation while they write their document, and checks that the link is not
likely to go stale i.e. there is no notice in the linked document or its
containing local web that this is just a temporary web, the author has done
as much as they can. Civilizations rise and fall, businesses go bust
(personal victim of two failed startups :)), suns go nova; the universe is
dynamic, not static.

>* What is the copyright status of text and graphics on the web?
Depends on what the publisher wants it to be. My assumption is that a
document is copyrighted with no general right to tweak the document unless
otherwise explicitly stated.
>I suppose the polite thing to do is to send email and just ask.
Nice to see an instance where common courtesy and the law agree...

>* Can information providers tell clients not to pass on Referer:
>information? That is, can an information provider declare that the
>address of its documents are sensitive information, not to be
This is a whole 'nother can'o'worms, wandering into the field of
high-security applications (mandatory access controls/B-level security). I
have a hunch that the Web is just not suited for this kind of access, due to
the stateless nature of HTTP as well as the various other security
considerations you would probably want to implement at the same time you are
protecting your Web addresses. Security gurus: any comments?

>* I'd rather not get into discussion of when little Johnny that
>discovers via Prodigy, and Johnny's mom sues
>prodigy for violating the terms of service... but somebody's got to
>figure out how to resolve those things. I think some folks might
>consider it a valuable service if Prodigy would strive to filter out
>nasty stuff. Technically, I don't see how they could. I think they'll
>have to wash their hands of liability on this issue somehow, but...
I hope that this will be implemented as a client-side option. There are
people who would not care for themselves to ever be exposed to it, while
others would want to block access for their children up until a certain age.

>* Does a web document act like a newspaper or a magazine w.r.t. lible
>and slander?
Since the public part of the Web is intended as a mass medium, I would say
so, with perhaps some modifications for the fact that the user has to make a
conscious decision to follow a link, whereas watching TV is fairly passive
and reading a magazine or newspaper is less so.

>Just thinking...
My $0.02US...
Mark Fisher Thomson Consumer Electronics Indianapolis, IN

"Just as you should not underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon
traveling 65 mph filled with 8mm tapes, you should not overestimate
the bandwidth of FTP by mail."