Ethics and Law

If we can just stay ethical. Heaven and earth, let it be so.


I was equally surprised and shocked to find that my edited or unedited posts/messages are considered "fair game" by some reserachers for their own benefit and absent any consent on my part.
Are the writings of group participants in cyberspace forums "free game" because they are posted in public? (My opinion? No, they are not. The level of privacy that participants perceive for themselves, not the one they really have, must be taken into account
There was a lengthy discussion of this issue -- whether posts to lists belonged to the author -- on the tech-society list about 6 months ago. I beleive the outcome of the discussion was that if YOU create something it's yours. Just b/c you haven't filled out your form and sent in your 20 dollars doesn't mean it doesn't belong to you. Of course having actually taken the time and money to formally copyright something will make a claim easier to defend in court, but whenever soemone takes something that isn't theirs and uses it without attribution, a flag should go up

Postings, like any other form of expression, are copyrighted the minute you create them. They don't require a copyright notice. (This is outlined under the 1978 copyright protection revision.) The "Green Report" issued in 1994 reaches the conclusion that online stuff is the same as offline stuff - you can't just take it and use it any way that you see fit. (We writers tend to be a bit touchy about copyrights and such.)

My practice has been to regard all internet posts which do not claim copyright as being in the public domain, a gift from the author to the cybercommunity
This is covered in the Berne Convention on copyright. The internet makes no difference. The writer owns their message. Period. No exceptions. To use someone elses words is stealing.

The issue of permission on quotation from lists is a matter of judgment, and, as I see it, would depend on the nature, size and sensitivity of the list and on the nature and size of the quoted passage.

It is conventional in ethnographic research to ensure the anonymity of all "informants". Nonetheless, anonymity has not been provided for the individuals quoted in this thesis. Most of the quotations presented here are taken from Usenet postings, and Usenet is a public medium. There is no intimation of privacy when posting to a newsgroup that has a potential audience of millions of people. Citing a posting from a newsgroup for the purpose of academic research does not seem to present any ethical dilemma. Nonetheless, in a few instances, where postings discuss sexual deviation or illegal activities, the names have been suppressed to avoid embarrassment…

Unlike Usenet news, electronic mail is considered to be a private medium. It is a violation of accepted Net courtesy to publish an e-mail correspondence without the permission of all individuals involved. Where this thesis has quoted an e-mail conversation between myself and another party the permission of the author to publish has been given.

Ken is refering to professional rules designed to ensure accuracy and reliability in scholarly work. Most professions have such standards. However, complying with these standards often raises social questions. Professional groups often respond by setting up "rules of ethics" designed to curb the behavior of the professions' most renegade members. These ethical "rules," however become law within the profession. Law, however, is a far cry from ethics.…

Let us remember that rules are rules, law is law. Both of those are preexisting restrictions on behavior that carry sanctions for violations. Ethics (I actually prefer the word "morality") is a forward looking process whereby one evaluates, using the often insufficient evidence one has at the time, the effect ones action may have on others in the future. Thus, ethical decisions are difficult and, because the future is hard to predict, often wrong. One cannot, however, avoid the process by reference to law, rule or professional custom

We have been speaking about the group consciousness and group unconsciousness...did someone mention group "conscience?".

But perhaps if you put recipes for fertilizer bombs up on the net and child pornography, perhaps your activities should be prevented or perhaps, if you have committed a crime, you should be proscecuted.

Ethics are a personal matter and we each resolve them in our own way
Whether on the net, or elsewhere, I have seldom seen people expect expelled members of a community to maintain the ethical norms, rules, and the social contracts that were part of the community that expelled them. Everything's a trade-off. When a community that values confidentiality chooses to expel a member, it accepts the natural consequence that the expelled member will talk.
we only resort to law when ethics, intelligence and creativity fail us.
You suggest that Eileen projects untrustworthiness. I don't think so. I would argue that she lacks integrity. You see my dictionary tells me that integrity is a "firm adherence to a code of morals." When it says "code," it is not talking about a cryptogam, it is talking about law. (ie, Ciminal Code, Uniform Commercial Code, and my personal favorite, the Code of Ethics) Thus, people with integrity have an internal set of laws that govern their reponses to reocurring situations. They may keep promises and fufill contracts no matter what the circumstance. In fact, they may even have an internal "Code" of evidence, to determine what facts can be considered when deciding what internal law should govern a specific situation. These people are not necessarily trustworthy, but they are usually predictable.

The problem with these codes (whether internal or societal), and with law in general, is that it too is a trade-off. The law provides predictability, but in return we accept the fact that it will produce injustice and even silliness a certain percentage of the time. This is one of the reasons why, when faced with a group of people who pride themselves on their integrity, I always sit with my back against a wall and my wallet hidden in my underwear.


I find the idea of most codified rule-systems dangerous. Sticking to the letter of the law in the effort to preserve individual freedoms and the like, tends to lead to a confusion between the map and the territory IMHO.
You will note that on a recent thread regarding personal codes of behavior or ethics, I was absent. Whether internal or enacted by the legislature, I think codes are a way of abandoning intelligence and responsibility.
You and I couldn't agree on what day of the week it is. We should be used to that by now. You multiply ontologies; I reduce them. You make dichotomies; I unite them. You are a Freud'n Klein type; I'm a James'n Dewey type. (They were all psychologists, ya know) But we are similar in that we both feel strongly that we are on the right path and doing the right thing.
Intellectual copyright? Copy. Right? Cope, write.

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