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Re: Copy to Clipboard - ambush and abuse by javascript

From: Dan Brickley <danbri@danbri.org>
Date: Sat, 5 Jun 2010 08:26:33 +0200
Message-ID: <AANLkTimcbHyuQhCLmtI8-K3LqmevxiHqbt3NklTi7Z48@mail.gmail.com>
To: Noah Mendelsohn <nrm@arcanedomain.com>
Cc: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>, "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
On Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 9:45 PM, Noah Mendelsohn <nrm@arcanedomain.com> wrote:
> Tim Berners-Lee wrote:
>> This I think seriously violates the function
>> of Copy, and the user's rights.
> Yes, I agree completely.  It's obnoxious, unhelpful, and contrary to the
> spirit of the platform specifications for copy/paste.

[ yup ]

>> Should browsers ensure that Copy is always a
>> read-only operation, unless they have INSTALLED code to do something
>> different?
> I agree with the spirit of what you're asking for, but I'm not sure the
> words "read-only" capture the essence of what's needed.  Copy is, of course,
> an operation that identifies data for transfer, and the corresponding paste
> is necessarily an update operation on the target document or system.
> My deeper concern is that in fact certain sorts of data manipulation are
> expected and useful, particularly when doing format conversions as part of
> copy/paste.  So, for example, if I am reading an HTML document and I select
> multiple paragraphs of text, it might well be appropriate for a copy
> operation to put at least two versions on the clipboard:

Are browsers currently exposing the facility to put different flavours
into different clipboards? I have lost touch with OS clipboard APIs,
but if this is possible, it opens up some nice issues and maybe

> HTML Clipboard format:
> <p>Text of para1</p>
> <p>Text of para2</p>
> Text Clipboard format:
> Text of Para 1\n
> \n\n
> Text of Para 2
> I think it's important that whatever rules we set for browsers not prohibit
> such helpful re-expression of the same information using different formats.

Two big 'customer' for a good spec here are namespaces and RDFa.

Consider the copy/paste scenario of someone highlighting a paragraph
like "<p>In the 1980s I attended <a rel="foaf:schoolHomepage"

1. From a namespaces perspective, copying exactly that markup loses
the attachment to the declaration of the 'foaf" namespace. So a
rich/intact/full/smart version of the data on the clipboard might be
normalised somewhat, to pull in namespacing info.
2. From a webarch perspective, you need to know that rel="..." in this
flavour of HTML/XHTML is one that has qnames in it, otherwise you
won't notice that the namespace is being used. Or whatever
namespaces-like mechanism the new RDFa WG proposes for their RDFa in
HTML 1.1 syntax.
3. From an RDF/RDFa perspective, this fragment doesn't contain enough
information to be be very useful. It says that there is *something*
that has a certain schoolHomepage. As part of copy/paste behaviour,
perhaps there is a need to go up the DOM to find the nearest enclosing
chunk of RDF and determine the URI (if declared), type (perhaps?) or
(complex but potentially useful) other identifying properties of the
thing this is a property of.
4. From a privacy and etiquette perspective, anything that involves
copying more info than the user has selected could be a gateway to
abuse, or could leak more data than is intended (eg. copying from an
intranet into a mail).

>  We need to find a formulation that encourages such useful reformatting, but
> prohibits the sort of inappropriate updates that are described in the Daring
> Fireball posting. In any case, it doesn't seem to me that the term
> "read-only" quite captures what we want.  Thank you.

I can imagine lots of scenarios where when copying out of data you
might want to preserve structural integrity and copy out enough
surrounding context (namespace declarations, base URIs etc) that the
copied chunk keeps more of its original meaning. I can imagine a few
scenarios in which doing so could be harmful. For example, a user
copying a table cell from a confidential document might not want to
reveal the context (perhaps a corporate takeover plan), yet that
context might be implied by URIs used higher in the DOM. But I can't
see a way of distinguishing between the two cases without asking the
user, and I really don't like the idea of popups asking questions on
this topic. Perhaps an experts 'smart copy' option is the best that
could be done here?


Received on Saturday, 5 June 2010 06:33:28 UTC

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