Unraveling Obfuscation

ob fus cate – 1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy 2. to make obscure or unclear

Inconsistency is the spice of life

Posted by Todd McKinney on March 12, 2008

Cory Doctrow has a really useful bit of advice for making general website content accessible to bloggers. I picked up a few tips that I’m planning to incorporate where necessary. Particularly, the bit about Creative Commons licensing makes a lot of sense. The people that I DON’T want to steal my content and use it for their splog will do it anyway, no matter what the license legalese says. The people I DO want to have pull something and talk about it may just pass by if it’s not explicit. Might as well just say “go ahead – sharing is good”. In fact, I kind of gave a tribute to that basic fact in my hello world post here.

The part about the article that made me chuckle, then decide it was worth calling BS on, then laugh a little more while I’m writing, was this

Enough with the legal boilerplate. If your every page on your site ends with “(c) 2008 Paranoid Co Inc, all rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced without permission,” then bloggers may just take you at your word and write about someone else’s site. You don’t need this kind of language — your stuff is copyrighted the second you type it out, in every country that’s signed the Berne Convention (that includes the US). Your overzealous lawyer is scaring away the bloggers who’ll tell the world about your stuff.

On that very page, scroll way down to the bottom, and what do you find? Well, what have we here…

iw.jpg

Follow the (c) ParanoidCo. Inc.  link, and It starts off with this gem:

Please read our conditions of use carefully as by using the website you will be taken to have agreed to be bound by them. We reserve the right to vary the conditions of use at any time and will post any variations here. You are advised to review the conditions of use on a regular basis as you will be deemed to have accepted variations if you continue to use the website after they have been posted.

And continues later with:

Copyright in these pages is owned by Investis. United Business Media owns the copyright in the content published on the website except where otherwise indicated by a third party’s proprietary notice. Images, trade marks and brands are also protected by other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced or appropriated in any manner without written permission of their respective owners. Unless specifically prohibited by a notice published on any page, you may make a print copy of such parts of the website as you may reasonably require for your own personal use provided that any copy has attached to it any relevant proprietary notices and/or disclaimers. All other use is prohibited.

Now, I’m certain that Cory doesn’t control the editorial and legal policies of Information Week, and being a blogger of his magnitude it’s not like he needs link juice from me. But still, doesn’t it just seem a little bit funny to be giving advice in a forum that is actively NOT following it? That is doing the very thing that you’re thesis says is wrong? Maybe that’s the point, in some clever twist, Cory might be poking at the IW lawyers and provoking change. We can hope.

One last thing, while we’re at it. The list only went to 17, and I prefer round numbers so I would like to add:

18. If you’re a big site that’s literally plastered with ads, please don’t take a nice digestible 17 point list and splay it across three pages. I know it gets your page view numbers up and gives you more ad impressions. But it hurts you in reader perception. I feel used and taken advantage of when you treat me like a sharecropper in a clickfarm. I’ve got a scroll bar – just put the story on the page and be done with it. That way I only have to turn off your stupid auto-playing flash video ad once instead of three times.

Update: I went back and read through all the comments, and both of these point were taken up by readers. So, I’m not the first to point it out. On the plus side, that does validate that it’s kind of wacky. Another plus – IW editors seem to be listening to the criticism.

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