Re: Re SGML URC spec comments

Paul Hoffman (
Sun, 25 Jun 1995 20:48:34 -0700

Message-Id: <v02120c15ac13d64c2c33@[]>
Date: Sun, 25 Jun 1995 20:48:34 -0700
To: "Terry Allen" <>
From: (Paul Hoffman)
Subject: Re: Re SGML URC spec comments
Cc: "Terry Allen" <>,

>Global annotations are designed to be displayed as overlays on the
>base text, right?  This is not "pointing to," which of course is
>fair use.

I disagree. How they are published and how they are displayed are very
different things. If they are published in a way where the publisher is
forced to include other people's comments in the published form, that would
be wrong and unsupportable morally and (generally) legally, I believe.

However, I believe that the designs discussed had the comments/criticisms
published separately. The reader then chooses to display them:
- out of context
- in context visually overlaid
- in context visually adjacent to
- sequentially after the source material
You might be able to argue that viewing software which overlays comments
infringes legally in some countries on the author's rights presentation,
but I doubt you can argue that software that shows comments adjacent to or
sequentially after would infringe on copyrights.

>This is something that has no equivalent in print (for
>a change).

And that's the fun part! :-)

>They carried a banner identifying themselves.  That was the
>point for them, as they remarked in public.  It was an act of speech
>(accomplished through being in the parade); the Court ruled that the
>organizers had the right to exclude them.  That's all.

Correct. But the group wasn't "commenting on" the parade; they wanted to be
in it. Of course they wanted to be in it with their banner and their views:
their speach. The Supreme Court said that they couldn't force their way
into someone else's protected speach with their own protected speach. But
nothing said that they couldn't comment on the parade. Further, there are
many(?) US lower court decisions which say that protesters at parades must
be allowed to protest next to the parade, unless there is a severe public
safety issue; they can't be forced to some other part of town; there may
even be a SC ruling on this. To me, that's commenting on, in the context

>The point Souter makes is that the
>speaker gets a clear shot at his audience, without overlay, if he so

I read the decision as that the speaker gets a clear shot at the boundaries
of what is said in the context of their speach. If there was part of the
decision that talked about overlays or commentaries, I'd be interested in
hearing it.

>| And, even if your reading of the case was correct, who says that a single
>| ruling from one country's supreme court should have an effect on what is
>| and isn't allowed or specified on the world-wide Internet? Let's ease up on
>| the US-centrism a bit here, shall we?

>Can you suggest a better model for free speech than the U.S. tradition?

One that doesn't have the overlay of Supreme Court rulings that some folks
think restrict the speach of commenters? Seriously, I'd suggest that if you
want to talk free speach, don't start looking at the way that that "free"
has become "free-like" in the past 50 years. For example, remember that
many countries that have less free speach in general than the US does, have
more free speach in specific areas.

>Would you suggest that we adopt the median worldwide standard for
>freedom of speech?  the average?

No and no. I suggest that we start at the extremes of free speach and let
each level of locality restrict it as they wish. I will agree that no
publisher is forced to publish the works of others; I will not agree that a
publisher has complete control over how each user views a piece of their

>This is not about US-centrism, this
>is about whether publishers on the Web will be allowed to control
>the conditions under which their information is presented.

These "artistic rights", as they are called in the Berne Convention, are
widely disagreed upon throughout the world. The US has only been a
signatory to the Berne Convention for how long? Less than 5 years while the
rest of the civilized world is moving on 45? Starting with restrictions
based on a recent US view of artistic rights seems US-centric to me.

If freedom from overlay is a world-wide accepted legal restriction, we are
correct to make design choices based on it. Otherwise, we should not use
this as a basis for our designs.

--Paul Hoffman
--Proper Publishing