RE: "The use of Metadata in URIs" and UK law


Get is a handshake at the very least.  One computer reaching out to
another and asking for information, its up the computer being asked what
'should' or 'should not' be returned to that user.


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf
Of Pat Hayes
Sent: Saturday, November 11, 2006 5:09 PM
To: Ed Davies
Cc: Henry S. Thompson;
Subject: Re: "The use of Metadata in URIs" and UK law

>Henry Story wrote:
>>To me, unauthorised resources should be protected by Access control 
>>mechanism, not by the shape of the url.
>To me too, but apparently not to the lawyers in this case.
>The key question is, in my view, what the meaning of a GET request is.

>Is it "give me a representation of this resource which I assert I am 
>authorized to access" or is it "please give me a representation of this

>resource if you think that the user name, password, referer, or 
>whatever, of this request entitles me to it"?

I suggest that it is not, and cannot possibly be, either of these. Or
indeed any other English paraphrase of some communication act between
human beings. GET is not a conversation, it is a mechanical transfer
protocol. We can of course speak metaphorically using this language,
just as we speak of machine "instructions" and software "agents" and so
on: our technical vocabulary is riddled with these suggestive usages.
But sometimes it is vitally important to remind ourselves that these
really are only suggestive metaphors. Computer hardware does not obey as
humans obey orders; software does not act as humans act; and GET does
not request, assert, claim or suggest in any human senses of these
words. It simply initiates a process which results in bytes being
transferred from one place to another on a network.

Pat Hayes
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Received on Monday, 13 November 2006 17:14:29 UTC