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[whatwg] Pre-Last Call Comments

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Sat, 13 Jun 2009 01:01:50 +0000 (UTC)
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0906130054330.1648@hixie.dreamhostps.com>
On Wed, 3 Jun 2009, Andrew W. Hagen wrote:
>
> In current-work, section 4.6.6, there is this explanation of the small 
> element:
> 
> "Small print is typically legalese describing disclaimers, caveats, 
> legal restrictions, or copyrights. Small print is also sometimes used 
> for attribution."
> 
> This paragraph should be removed. Please do not advocate, encourage, or 
> indicate acceptance that any legal text should appear in small print.

The above paragraph is not encouraging it, it's merely describing a 
statement of fact.


> In the law, in some circumstances, the size of the print can support an 
> argument that a contract, disclaimer, restriction, caveat, legalese, or 
> other legal text should be ruled invalid by a court.

Indeed, but I should hope nobody is taking legal advice from the spec.


> Furthermore, it is generally a bad idea to encourage people to put legal 
> text in small print. This includes copyright notices, as well as any 
> other notice.

I think that this is an unrealistic desire.


> Legal text should appear in regular-sized print to keep it as readable 
> as possible. When legal text is put into small print, that is 
> regrettable. The paragraph should be removed. The best policy would be 
> to not mention legal text in the context of the small element.

Ironically, encouraging people to put small print in <small> elements 
actually helps with what you are concerned about.

Authors and web designers are going to write their legal text in small 
font sizes regardless of what we do. That's just the way things are. 
However, they have several ways they could go around that, for instance:

 * Using CSS
 * Using <small>
 * Using PNG files with tiny font size text hard-coded into the image
 * Using PDFs
 * etc

In all but one of these cases, there's basically nothing you can do about 
it. However, if we manage to encourage people to use <small> to mark up 
their "small print", a user agent can offer to actually bring this text to 
the user's attention. For example, a Firefox extension could hook into 
pages and make all <small> elements render in clear white-on-black 16px 
serif text, to make it absolutely clear.

Thus, encouraging authors to use <small> to mark up legal text works 
towards the inclinations of authors (to hide the small text) to achieve 
the goal you desire (to make the legalese more discoverable).


> Secondly, a subsequent example paragraph is not quite right. The 
> statement that it contains "a copyright" is off. It's just a notice of a 
> copyright.

Fixed.


> Furthermore the general principle that should be recognized here is that 
> no one should be led by example to place legal text in small print. The 
> example in question might be changed to:
>
> In this example the footer contains contact information and an aside.
> 
> <footer>
> <address>
>   For more details, contact
> <a href="mailto:js at example.com">John Smith</a>.
> </address>
> <p><small>E-mail checked regularly.</small></p>
> </footer>

For the reasons given above, I have not changed this.

-- 
Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Friday, 12 June 2009 18:01:50 UTC

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