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Old 02-14-2008, 08:32 PM   #1
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Forum policies

Could somebody tell me if the forum policies exists somewhere were I can read them. People are claiming that a specific policy exists and I want to check that this policy really is a policy since i find the policy stupid.

The claimed policy is that you should use the country information about a person to decide if to answer a question or not.
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Old 02-14-2008, 08:59 PM   #2
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I don't think that qualifies as a policy because it is practicably impossible to follow. Slightly over half of the members here do not have their location listed. Of the ones that do, how would you know that the location is correct? How the heck could you know what the applicable laws are?

A reasonable policy would be to suggest that the recipient of the information check to see what the local laws are.
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Old 02-14-2008, 10:31 PM   #3
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That was my personal opinion, and here is my opinion as a moderator. I was not aware of this policy. Had I known, I would have tried to convince the others that it wasn't practicable.
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Old 02-15-2008, 02:01 AM   #4
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Could somebody tell me if the forum policies exists somewhere were I can read them. People are claiming that a specific policy exists and I want to check that this policy really is a policy since i find the policy stupid.

The claimed policy is that you should use the country information about a person to decide if to answer a question or not.
There is no policy not to answer a question based on location that I know of. However, I do try and tailer my answers based on the user location sometimes. It just makes it much easier to answer than saying: if you live here the answer is but if you live here the answer is ... For example I seldom recommend the Kindle as a solution to folks that live in Greece.

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Old 02-15-2008, 07:26 AM   #5
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There is no policy not to answer a question based on location that I know of. However, I do try and tailer my answers based on the user location sometimes. It just makes it much easier to answer than saying: if you live here the answer is but if you live here the answer is ... For example I seldom recommend the Kindle as a solution to folks that live in Greece.

Dale
Check this thread:

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=20028

Where people are saying things like:

Quote:
Please note, Jon, that BarnOwl is in the Netherlands. I don't know if that country has yet implemented the EU Copyright Directive in its laws, as the UK has, but, if it has, then removing DRM from a LIT file will be illegal for him, as it is for me. We must certainly not encourage people to break the law!
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What we want to try to do if we can is to not post a reply to someone who we know lives in a country where using such tools are illegal. I know it won't be possible to do this 100% as not everyone puts in the location. So we can only try to do what's right. But if someone from a country that removing the DRM is illegal and does it, it's not our fault.
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So does the policies exists in written form or not so I can check them? And if the above is correct then it is rational not to tell people were you live.

But since I have seen many people answering questions with "ConvertLit" even if the questioner is from UK or Germany I have a hard time to believe this is a policy.
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Old 02-15-2008, 07:30 AM   #6
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Personally I think it is nonsense. A simple answer like

"Convertlit will allow you to turn an encrypted LIT file into its decompressed state."

Personally I assume people are smart enough to see if they have the right computer, hardware, book format and rights to use something. In other words, brains.

Failing that, this should finish of any such reactions:

"Convertlit will allow you to turn an encrypted LIT file into its decompressed state. Only allowed in some countries."

Or if you want to be a total sadist ... put this in your signature:

"All my forum posts are dependent on location and subject to law... bla bla."
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Old 02-15-2008, 07:50 AM   #7
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We moderators run this board according to certain common-sense guidelines, such as "don't suggest that people do something which is illegal". These policies are NOT written down, because no written policy can ever cover all the eventualities. When something arises which a moderator is unclear about, we have a chat about it in our private moderators' forum and reach a consensus about what the best thing to do is.

It really doesn't help anyone to have "barrack room lawyers" analysing our every word, or trying to "catch us out". We sometimes get the impression (hopefully a mistaken one) that there are a few people out there who take great delight in trying to do that.

We try to make this board a friendly place, but there are occasions when we do have to "lay down the law", such as when someone advises another board member to commit a crime. Please accept that, folks - it's one of the conditions of being a member here. If you think that a moderator has done something outrageously unfair, you can send a PM to the board owner, Alexander Turcic.

Thanks!
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Old 02-15-2008, 08:03 AM   #8
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That is all wonderful of course. But people have common sense too, at least you can expect that. One can also be realistic. The forum has a search feature and internet has too.

The responsibility for people's actions in regards to using software and or methods should be their own in the end.
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Old 02-15-2008, 11:11 AM   #9
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That is all wonderful of course. But people have common sense too, at least you can expect that. One can also be realistic. The forum has a search feature and internet has too.

The responsibility for people's actions in regards to using software and or methods should be their own in the end.
True, but some people, especially those who are new to the whole eBook world, may be unaware that there are laws that deal with circumventing DRM on copywritten material and that these laws are different country by country. In this regard, I see nothing wrong with someone suggesting or warning users to check the laws in their own country before removing the DRM on their files. Whether one agrees with the laws or not is really irrelevant as it relates to someone else's decision to break those laws. In my opinion, it would be irresponsible to encourage users to circumvent DRM from their eBooks without also making a statement that doing so may not be legal in their country.

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Old 02-15-2008, 02:13 PM   #10
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Part of what's going on here is that we're trying to work out some sort of cohesive policy on this, and several other matters, which can then be posted in a publicly accessible place. It's taking some time because there's a lot going on with the site, and it's a complicated situation.

As for the specific detail of not answering a question based on where someone lives ... speaking as an individual now, not a Moderator, seems to me that someone from the Netherlands can easily read an answer given to someone in, say China, where very little is prohibited in the way of copyright infringement.

Seems to me that given the givens, about all we can really do there is the "check your local laws" type of approach.
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Old 02-15-2008, 03:11 PM   #11
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It would help if there was a wiki page on format shifting. I used to add something like "may not be legal where you live" to my posts on ConvertLIT (say). This was not a comment based on the location of the original post but a generic comment that legality varies from place to place. I stopped doing so because of the extra typing involved, but I would be happy to add "see format shifting in the wiki" where appropriate. Note that I am not suggesting that the wiki point to tools for format shifting (although the conversion page already does), but rather that it discuss the legality of the practice.

The legal situation isn't always black and white, In the US, format shifting for personal use is legal (a fair use) except when it involves stripping DRM. If it does involve DRM, then my understanding is that some federal district courts have held that DMCA trumps fair use and others have not said one way or the other. So its legality may depend on where in the US you live. See Question: What is the effect of the anti-circumvention provisions on the traditional defenses to copyright law?.
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Old 02-15-2008, 03:20 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh View Post
Part of what's going on here is that we're trying to work out some sort of cohesive policy on this, and several other matters, which can then be posted in a publicly accessible place. It's taking some time because there's a lot going on with the site, and it's a complicated situation.
That needs to be done sooner rather than later.

The cop on the beat can't just say "You can't do that, because I'm a cop and I say so!" He is charged with enforcing a written law, and that law must exist in writing and be able to be cited if a question about the legitimacy of the enforcement arises. So it is with MR moderators. You really need a stated policy you can point at. It doesn't need to be a set of hard and fast rules, because as HarryT commented, you can't cover all contingencies. There does need to be something that presents guidelines, and explains why some things are disallowed like "Talking bout X and providing pointers to it could result in the board being taken down!"

On a practical level, the issue is what is the purpose of the policy? The only valid purpose I see is protecting MR itself, by trying to prevent stuff that might result in something like a DMCA complaint. But laws and standards differ considerably around the world, so I don't think you can simply ban any discussion of the issues, and I don't think you should adopt a "least common denominator" approach that attempts to stop anything anyone might find offensive. Try to do that and you might as well shut down the site.

The question is exactly where you draw the line. I'd draw it at banning any direct pointers to tools to break DRM, but I'd hesitate to ban discussion of such tools. The question I ask is what threats the site sees? What is MR trying to prevent, and why? There isn't a publishing equivalent of the RIAA or MPIA, so I'm not as concerned about people taking action against the site as I would be about the fate of, say, noted torrent haven The Pirate Bay.
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Old 02-15-2008, 04:25 PM   #13
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That needs to be done sooner rather than later.
I couldn't agree more. We haven't just started working on this, it's been developing for some time. As I said, part of it is the complexity, and deciding exactly where to draw that line, but part of it is also the Volunteer Workers thing.

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Originally Posted by DMcCunney View Post
The cop on the beat can't just say "You can't do that, because I'm a cop and I say so!" He is charged with enforcing a written law, and that law must exist in writing and be able to be cited if a question about the legitimacy of the enforcement arises. So it is with MR moderators. You really need a stated policy you can point at. It doesn't need to be a set of hard and fast rules, because as HarryT commented, you can't cover all contingencies. There does need to be something that presents guidelines, and explains why some things are disallowed like "Talking bout X and providing pointers to it could result in the board being taken down!"
Again, you'll get no argument on that point, in fact the taking down concern is a motivating factor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DMcCunney View Post
On a practical level, the issue is what is the purpose of the policy? The only valid purpose I see is protecting MR itself, by trying to prevent stuff that might result in something like a DMCA complaint. But laws and standards differ considerably around the world, so I don't think you can simply ban any discussion of the issues, and I don't think you should adopt a "least common denominator" approach that attempts to stop anything anyone might find offensive. Try to do that and you might as well shut down the site.
Nope, we're not interested in trying to be so inoffensive as to make the place bland and lifeless. We are interested in keeping the community a respectful one, but that's not really the topic under discussion here.

As you point out, the fundamental question is where to draw the line.

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I'd draw it at banning any direct pointers to tools to break DRM, but I'd hesitate to ban discussion of such tools.
That's the rule of thumb we've been operating under, thus far, but it's recently become clear that we need to create a stated set of guidelines/policies for some things. Trouble is, as clear as the need for a line is, it's hard to draw any sort of precise line that means anything.

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The question I ask is what threats the site sees? What is MR trying to prevent, and why?
Well, we clearly want to avoid anything that will draw the ill-will of lawyer types, but we also are interested in complying with the law for it's own sake for a number of varied ethical and practical reasons. That's a difficult and complicated thing to do when the law is on copyrights, toss in the DMCA, and it gets beyond crazy real quick. The recent move to a Canadian server was aimed at simplifying some of these questions.

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There isn't a publishing equivalent of the RIAA or MPIA, so I'm not as concerned about people taking action against the site as I would be about the fate of, say, noted torrent haven The Pirate Bay.
We are indeed less notorious, however, we've also developed a fairly high profile in a more "respectable" way. We have been given reasons to believe that we're ... observed by various companies. Some of those reasons have ... clarified the need for a clear set of guidelines.

The difficulty is in coming up with something that sufficiently covers the bases, but which can also be lived with, and which we can grow with as situations change, and doing it all on an "as we have a few minutes" basis.
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Old 02-15-2008, 04:51 PM   #14
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I couldn't agree more. We haven't just started working on this, it's been developing for some time. As I said, part of it is the complexity, and deciding exactly where to draw that line, but part of it is also the Volunteer Workers thing.
I've been a moderator elsewhere. I quite understand.

Quote:
Again, you'll get no argument on that point, in fact the taking down concern is a motivating factor.
I'd call it the main factor, frankly.

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Nope, we're not interested in trying to be so inoffensive as to make the place bland and lifeless. We are interested in keeping the community a respectful one, but that's not really the topic under discussion here.
That wasn't quite what I meant. I was basically saying I'd shy away from content rules intended to placate the most restrictive jurisdictions, because laws (and the attitudes that spawn them) differ elsewhere in the world.

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As you point out, the fundamental question is where to draw the line.

That's the rule of thumb we've been operating under, thus far, but it's recently become clear that we need to create a stated set of guidelines/policies for some things. Trouble is, as clear as the need for a line is, it's hard to draw any sort of precise line that means anything.
You don't need to draw a precise line. You need to provide a clear set of principles you use in drawing the line in any particular case.

I was a moderator of a bunch of electronic forums back in the early 90's. In a discussion in the moderator's area about rules, I stated I didn't want detailed rules for all contingencies. I wanted a legal framework I could use when I had to make judgments.

And when I did have to put on my moderator hat, I found it most effective to not only talk about the rule in question, but also why the rule existed and the purpose it served. My experience was that the vast majority of my participants wanted to be good on-line citizens, and when they understood the purpose of a rule were happy to comply. It was for the good of the net and the continued successful functioning of the forums, and I wasn't simply being arbitrary. (I must have done something right: there was a formal channel where users could complain the network management about moderators. I never got one. I did get nice comments holding me up as an example of how to do it...)

Quote:
Well, we clearly want to avoid anything that will draw the ill-will of lawyer types, but we also are interested in complying with the law for it's own sake for a number of varied ethical and practical reasons. That's a difficult and complicated thing to do when the law is on copyrights, toss in the DMCA, and it gets beyond crazy real quick. The recent move to a Canadian server was aimed at simplifying some of these questions.
Complying with what law? That's the problem I mean.

Moving to a Canadian server is one good move. The site owner actually living in Switzerland also helps. If someone wants to take legal action against MR, it's not a simple matter.

Quote:
We are indeed less notorious, however, we've also developed a fairly high profile in a more "respectable" way. We have been given reasons to believe that we're ... observed by various companies. Some of those reasons have ... clarified the need for a clear set of guidelines.
Precisely. MR is probably the largest and best known site devoted to such things. As such, it has achieved higher visibility, and stuff posted here will be more likely to be noticed. When people who are executives in some part of the industry or other pop up here unbidden to talk about what they are up to or explain what might be going on, you have to assume they feel this is a good place to reach a lot of interested parties.

Quote:
The difficulty is in coming up with something that sufficiently covers the bases, but which can also be lived with, and which we can grow with as situations change, and doing it all on an "as we have a few minutes" basis.
Like I said, don't try to craft rules. Espouse principles that can be used as the basis of rules, but leave the actual rules to case-by-case basis enforcement.
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Old 02-15-2008, 05:16 PM   #15
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Dennis, you'd have a very hard time being any more on the same page as we are this matter. Rest assured that what you're suggesting is pretty darned close to what we're trying to do.
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