LINGUIST List 3.575

Tue 14 Jul 1992

Disc: Citing LINGUIST

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  1. , Re: 3.562 Accents: LINGUIST in the news

Message 1: Re: 3.562 Accents: LINGUIST in the news

Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1992 12:33 CSTRe: 3.562 Accents: LINGUIST in the news
From: <>
Subject: Re: 3.562 Accents: LINGUIST in the news

Barbara Partee indirectly raised an important question in her posting
about sending a LINGUISTnet discussion to a newspaper, namely this:
 what are the laws and conventions governing free speech and/vs.
copyright on electronic bulletin boards? It's time that we look more
directly at questions like this, because they are going to become
increasingly complicated as we increase our use of electronic
communications media.

The fact is that "laws and conventions" have not kept pace with new
communications technology: there are no precedents for the new
juxtapositions of media and kinds of messages being transmitted. I'll
mention a few of the issues as I understand them to get people
thinking and talking about them. If you want to read more about this,
you might want to look at I. Pool (1983) _Technologies of Freedom_.
 Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, from which I
gleaned some of following information. It's almost a decade old, but
it brought to my attention things I didn't know, and I suspect you
don't know either.

The First Amendment, for instance, applies variously to the three
major communications media (broadcast media, common carrier (e.g.,
telephone lines and U.S. mail), and print) because of differences in
scarcity and "indivisibility" of resources. Telephone and mail have
been considered "indivisible" because noone can have access to
everyone unless everyone is included in the network; therefore these
media have enjoyed special protection and government support to assure
equal access to everyone (indeed, in many countries, the "P.T.T",
including also telegrams, are all government owned and operated). Part
of the definition of a common carrier is that it allows one-on-one
communication. The privacy of messages communicated by common carrier
is protected by strict laws: it is a federal offense to tap a
telephone line and to interfere with the U.S. mail.

Broadcast frequencies have been apportioned and licensed because only
a limited number can be distinguished in a small geographic area,
e.g., you can't have several radio stations broadcasting at the same
frequency in the same town. Since the messages communicated by
broadcasting are ephemeral, it is difficult to cite them and
especially to quote them verbatim. (They are rarely of a "scholarly"
nature anyway, and so direct citation isn't often an issue for _us_.)
 And since they reach so many people, who have a choice of only those
frequencies to tune in to, free speech is _limited_ in broadcast
media; entities which get broadcast licenses have to agree not to
pervert the common good.

The medium of print, not being subject to either scarcity or
indivisibility of resources (anyone can scrape up enough money to
publish a newsletter), is the most unrestricted in the matter of free
speech. It is also the most durable, and thus quotable, citable, and
copyrightable. Thus you can publish virtually anything you want in
print, and the laws and conventions regarding quoting, citing, and
piracy are quite clear.

Now, however, the lines of demarcation between these modes of
communication are becoming blurred, and so it is not legally clear
whether the protections or freedoms originally accorded to one or
another medium now extend to similar "kinds" of communications send
out over other media. (For example, some telephone conversations are
sent not over wires but over the ether, e.g., via cellular phones and
portable phones; there is now a law prohibiting eavesdropping on
cellular phone conversations, but it does _not_ yet extend to portable
phones (according to the Today Show, July 9).) Furthermore, the
points noted here concern the laws of the United States; they do not
address international issues at all.

Electronic bulletin boards span all three media: they _broadcast_
"print" via _common carrier_. Here are some of the inconsistencies
I've noticed, which need to be addressed in order to assure to the
scholarly community both maximum free speech and appropriate copyright

	Since e-mail is sent via common carrier, it is against US law for
anyone but the sender and the receiver to look at it without
permission. If your department chair or administrative assistant or
local "superuser" is in the habit of peeking at your e-mail, that is a
federal offense--or is it?

	Bulletin boards are also sent by common carrier, i.e., over wires.
 But they are also sent to thousands of recipients, so the one-on-one
nature of phone conversations and regular mail isn't there. The
sender knows that it's not a private communication and that thousands
of strangers will see it, and so can leave out anything that he or she
may not want "overheard". That is, the sender has to protect herself
from having private things overheard by censoring her own message, as
she would if she were talking with several people on speaker or
extension phones. But what about the recipients of bulletin boards?
 Do laws protecting people from obscenity or libel protect them here,
given that the medium in question is not broadcasting but common
carrier? If I call up my friend and tell him that Barbara Partee is
an XYZ and does ABC, that's gossip. But if I "call up" the readership
on the LINGUIST net and say the same thing, then what? I'll probably
be censured by the linguistics community, but Barbara Partee can't sue
me--or can she?

	Messages posted on bulletin boards are virtual print. But it's not
clear that they enjoy the same freedom of speech and copyright
protection as real print. It's a well-honored courtesy to acknowledge
the source of an unpublished idea as "private communication." But
p.c. implies that someone told you something personally, knowing
enough about you and what you'd do with the information to risk
telling you. It may be stretching things to call an idea gleaned from
a bulletin board "p.c." Furthermore, it's not clear that the
originator of idea X wants to be quoted on it. A bulletin board is
not a refereed journal, nor even a conference presenting working
papers, where a person _expects_ to be held accountable for what he or
she presents. A bulletin board is a place where informal exchange of
ideas takes place. If people have to fear future vilification for
their irresponsible publication of stupid, half-baked ideas, they will
be very hesitant to write anything to the LINGUIST net. (In fact,
this did happen in the early months of LINGUIST. Some people
submitted informed but not perfectly formulated remarks or queries to
the list, and others, seeing something to critize, hit the reply
button and snotted off to the entire subscribership about it. It was
then they who came off looking snotty, but it was unpleasant and
embarrassing for all.) On they other hand, noone wants other people
picking up their nifty ideas and turning them into books of their own
with no acknowledgement. But it is often difficult to remember who
wrote such-and-such a comment (sometimes the comments come with no
names, but only cryptic e-mail addresses, attached). Searching for a
key word in the entire text for a given time period (if you can
remember the approximate date) may work if you keep copies of all the
LINGUIST postings or summon them all from the archives. But it's more
difficult than searching the printed articles you've read, because the
LINGUIST net presents such a broad range of linguistic topics, and
your printed articles are likely to be much more limited in number and
scope (and you may have other clues to help you remember where it came
from, e.g, it was about half-way through that green book, on the
bottom of the left-hand page).

	This are some of the problems alluded to by Barbara Partee's posting,
and we have not yet developed conventions for dealing with them.
 Let's start with a list of issues:

	1. Should we cite LINGUIST postings?
	2. If so, how do we cite them?
	3. If so, should we assume the same kind of intellectual
accountability for the idea as we assume for print publication? Or
should we all learn to recognize that any bulletin board citation
carries with it this caution: warning: this idea may be weak (but if
it turns out to be strong, _X_ gets credit for it)?
	4. Corollary to 3: Do we need to get prior permission from authors
of LINGUIST postings before we cite their ideas?
	5. If LINGUIST postings are citable, can we list them on our c.v. as
publications? (Whew! think of what that would do to the length of
"some people's" c.v.'s!) If so, should they be given a status apart
from the others, since they were unrefereed, not submitted to approval
by the scholarly community?
	6. Should LINGUIST postings be considered copywrited, or should
citing them simply be a courtesy?
	7. Should bulletin board postings be governed by anti-libel and
anti-obscenity laws? or should the community of subscribers or the
moderators handle this informally?
	8. How are answers to these questions, and others that will arise,
affected by the fact that LINGUIST is international?

Here are a few of *my* suggestions relative to these issues:

	a. Assume that whatever you read on LINGUIST is the intellectual
property of the person who sent it. That means you must cite it if
you use it publicly in any way.
	b. Sign your postings; don't expect people to tease your identity
from your e-mail return address.
 	c. If you as the originator of a posting do NOT want to be quoted
or cited, make that very clear in the posting. It seems to me that if
you will not take responsibility for the posting, then you also make
no claim to it; thus if other people appropriate it and call it their
own, with no reference to you, you have right to complain about it.
	d. Perhaps the moderators or the subscribership could compile a list
of key words to use in the message headings, to make searching for
postings easier. This is done on an ad hoc basis now, but the headings
are perhaps not as helpful as they could be.
	d. You may list your LINGUIST postings on your c.v., but they should
be given a separate, non-refereed, status.

I would like to invite other subscribers of LINGUIST to read Pool's
book, find other things to read, including up-to-date information
about how the First Amendment and privacy/copyright laws are being
interpreted, raise other questions, make other suggestions, and share
them with the rest of the community.

For the record, I claim this posting as my intellectual property
(acknowledging my debt to I. Pool's book). If you refer to it, please
acknowledge me and cite this posting, this bulletin board, and today's
date, July 13, 1992. (And I, once again, acknowledge and thank Helen
and Anthony, and their sponsoring institutions, for initiating and
maintaining this wonderful resource.)

Christine Kamprath

Note: There are many issues raised by the "convergence of modes"
(Pool's term) that are not directly relevant to bulletin boards but
are relevant to differential application of the laws to the various
communication modes, and thus to our understanding of the extensions
of free speech and copyright/privacy laws, e.g., books can be put
on-line and sent by common carrier, television programs are often sent
by common carrier (cable) and are easily video-taped, phone messages
are broadcast as well as sent by wire, etc. These may all be
important areas for us to inform ourselves about, possibly via this
bulletin board.

[Moderators' note: The problem of citing postings from LINGUIST is a
complex one. We know of a number of linguistic articles and papers which
have either mentioned LINGUIST discussions, or indeed have actually utilized
them as data for discourse analysis. None of these, to our knowledge,
contained quotes from postings, however.

Our main goal as moderators is to facilitate the exchange of information,
and to that end we have always maintained a liberal policy with regard
to LINGUIST postings. We have always felt, for example, that other
lists--and individuals--should be allowed to forward our mailings freely,
and have never attempted to place any restrictions on this. We have also
always felt that LINGUIST should constitute a relatively unrestrained
medium, one in which subscribers feel free to post half-formed ideas,
in the hope that, through the following discussion, those ideas
can be refined.

However, to some degree these policies of ours are in conflict.
The more LINGUIST postings are disseminated, the more we will
all feel pressured to submit only carefully constructed
messages. To prevent any loss of spontaneity, we've attempted
to place what we feel is a reasonable limit on the
dissemination of postings. This limit is summarized in the
introductory message which all new subscribers receive, as follows:

"The list is moderated and submissions are subject to
editorial discretion. But moderating is as light-handed
as we can make it, since we wish to encourage free and
open interchange. You are at liberty to pass on and
disseminate any LINGUIST message provided it is clearly
attributed to LINGUIST. But you may only publish LINGUIST
postings with the permission of both the list moderators
and the original author of the message."

This policy--like all LINGUIST policies--is open for discussion
and/or revision by subscribers. We certainly don't think that
the newspaper article which prompted this discussion was in any way
out of line. But what do you think of this policy as a general
quideline, particularly applicable to quotation in academic

Anthony & Helen

A footnote: we think Christine's suggestion of signing postings is a
good one. Many people don't--more from modesty, we suspect, than
anything else--probably assuming that putting their name in the heading
once is enough. But it's helpful to the reader to have the full name
at the end as well. Why don't we all try to establish this etiquette?

OOPS. . . .

Helen DRY & Anthony ARISTAR. . . .]
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