W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > whatwg@whatwg.org > July 2009

[whatwg] do not encourage use of small element for legal text

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2009 23:32:39 +0000 (UTC)
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0907302322420.6420@hixie.dreamhostps.com>
On Sun, 19 Jul 2009, Eduard Pascual wrote:
> On Sun, Jul 19, 2009 at 12:29 PM, Ian Hickson <ian at hixie.ch> wrote:
> >
> > [...]
> > On Fri, 3 Jul 2009, Eduard Pascual wrote:
> > > It's clear that, despite the spec would currently encourage this
> > > example's markup, it is not a good choice. IMHO, either of these should
> > > be used instead:
> > >
> > > <p>Your 100% satisfaction in the work of SmallCo is guaranteed.
> > > (Guarantee applies only to commercial buildings.)</p>
> > >
> > > or
> > >
> > > <small>Your 100% satisfaction in the work of SmallCo is guaranteed.
> > > (Guarantee applies only to commercial buildings.)</small>
> >
> > In practice, if the author wants to make the parenthetical text smaller,
> > he will. The question is whether we should encourage such small text to be
> > marked up in a way distinguishable from other stylistic <span>s.
> 
> Indeed, making legal text clearly readable should be a goal. However,
> I don't think it is too much a HTML5 goal: afaik, in most countries
> there are general laws that define which kind of text can hold legal
> value on different kinds of media, dealing with details such as
> minimum size and color contrasts for each media, maximum speed for
> running text (like bottom-screen text on TV ads), and so on. Of
> course, these will vary from country to country and/or region to
> region; but IMHO general law is the area where legal text should be
> handled with. Authors hence should find advice about the actual
> requirements for legal text to be legally binding (ie: asking their
> lawyers for advice), and honor such restrictions when putting a
> webpage together.
>
> It is pointless to make specific encouragements or discouragements on
> how to include legal text on an HTML5 document: a good advice may
> backfire if it leads a good-intended author to do something that
> doesn't match local laws on that regard; and evil-intended users will
> ignore any advice from the spec and just push as much as they can to
> the edge, looking for the most "hard-to-read-but-still-legal" possible
> form.
> 
> The basic task of HTML (the language itself, not the spec defining it)
> is to provide authors with tools to build their documents and pages in
> an interoperable way. HTML5 does well that job in the area of small
> print, providing the <small> element to mark it up. That's exactly
> enough, and IMHO there is no point on trying to go further.

The spec now has no encouragements at all. This is all it says:

# The small element represents small print or other side comments.

It then has two non-normative comments:

# Small print is typically legalese describing disclaimers, caveats, legal 
# restrictions, or copyrights. Small print is also sometimes used for 
# attribution.
#
# The small element does not "de-emphasize" or lower the importance of 
# text emphasized by the em element or marked as important with the strong 
# element.

This is about as neutral as I can make it while still keeping it useful.


> > > I'm not sure if the word "legalese" was intended to refer to all kinds
> > > of legal text, or just the "suspicios or useless" ones. In any case, a
> > > more accurate wording would help.
> >
> > This wording is vague intentionally, because it is a vague observation. I
> > don't know how we could make it more accurate.
>
> If vagueness is intentional, just take thing explicitly vague, rather
> than a term that some may just take as "vague" but others may take as
> "catch-all" and others seem to even find offensive/despective.

I really don't understand this objection.


> > > First, leave the formal description "The small element represents 
> > > small print or other side comments." as is: IMHO it is accurate and 
> > > simple, and that's quite enough to ask from a spec.
> > >
> > > Next, replace the note that reads "Small print is typically legalese 
> > > describing disclaimers, caveats, legal restrictions, or copyrights. 
> > > Small print is also sometimes used for attribution." with something 
> > > like this: "Small print is often used for *some* forms of legal text 
> > > and for attribution. [...]"
> > >
> > > This makes clear that HTML (technically) allows using <small> to put 
> > > legal text (or anything else) in small print, but it doesn't 
> > > encourage any specific usage of small print.
> >
> > I'm not convinced the suggested text is any better than the current 
> > text, to be honest. [...]
> 
> [...] The key on the sentence "Small print is often used for *some* 
> forms of legal text and for attribution." is the emphasis on "some": 
> this should be enough for any reader to understand that, if only some 
> forms go on small print, other forms just don't. The "some" achieves 
> your intended vagueness, and the emphasis makes such vagueness explicit 
> enough. The current wording "small print is typically used for 
> legalesse" is not just vague, but as ambiguous as the term "legalesse" 
> itself: a significant proportion of authors might miss-understand it and 
> assume that any form of legal text is legalesse, so it can be on small 
> print, but it isn't require to be so (because of the "typically"). 
> Addressing this potential missunderstanding is the exact intent of my 
> proposed text.

I really am finding it very difficult to have any concern over this 
particular text, but in the interests of moving on, I've changed the text 
so it doesn't say "legalese".

-- 
Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Thursday, 30 July 2009 16:32:39 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.4.0 : Wednesday, 22 January 2020 16:59:14 UTC