Aphelion Editorial 073
by Dan L. Hollifield
The Usual Rant from the Aphelion Senior Editor
Spam is on the rise, viruses abound, protect your computer or face having it messed up by some faceless entity! Fire!
Fear! Foes! Alert! Man the Barricades! The barbarians are at the gate!
Harlan Ellison is suing AOL over information that was transfered
through their machinery in an attempt to block plagiarism of his work!
OK, relax, its not that bad. I've just been more aware
of these things since my recent virus attack a couple of months ago.
There's not a day that goes by now that I don't get a alert that some
virus or other has been blocked from entering my computer, due to my
ISP's anti-virus/anti-spam programs, and the similar programs I now
have installed on my main computer. My spam is now up to something
close to 450 e-mails a day, with only 3 to 12 non-spam messages a day.
My telephone rings every few minutes with telemarketers, whose calls
get killed by my answering machine most of the time. Life is rapidly
becoming a series of filters that we use to buffer ourselves from the
nastier elements of our daily lives in civilization. And Harlan ought
to be able to sue AOL to force them to remove the stolen works and
provide the names of the offenders to the authorities if the pilfered
stories were posted on an AOL website. That sort of thing needs to be
But Harlan's swiped stories were posted on Usenet, not
AOL. AOL only carried the files from uploaded to destination, like a
phone company carrying a call. Should the local phone company be held
responsible for a crank call made through it's system? This time, I
think Harlan is chasing the wrong game. His lawyers have led him on a
pursuit of the deepest pockets, not the guilty parties. If Harlan wins
this one, every ISP would be open to lawsuits over the content of
information that simply passes through it. That's as if New York City
were to be sued for allowing the September 11th terrorists to operate
an airplane over the city's environs!
If you are fans of Harlan's, please write him a nice
e-mail or letter asking him to tell his lawyers to go after the people
who stole his work rather than the people who carried the signal. Any
lawsuit against AOL should be for hosting stolen works, not hosting
e-mail or file transfers. Even if you aren't a fan of Harlan's, a polite
note of disagreement with his lawyer's aims wouldn't be wasted effort.
Despite his reputation, Harlan Ellison will listen to reasoned, polite
arguments. He simply doesn't suffer fools gladly, that's all. I don't
have his e-mail address to offer, but I'm sure that there is a public
address that one could use. Google it, if necessary. And remember at
all times that Harlan is doing this because he wants to end online
plagiarism of everyone's work, not because he wants
to line his pockets. He has always been a "take no bull" sort of guy,
and this was a personal affront to him.
If the truth were to be told, I'm not even that big a
fan of Harlan, but I admit that he deserves respect as much as any
other writer who has placed his work before the public in any medium.
AOL needs to be held accountable for plagiarism posted on the websites
that it hosts, to the extent that AOL needs to provide information to
the authorities for legal action when plagiarism has been found in one
of their hosted websites. AOL is the world's worst ISP when it comes to
forcing the removal of plagiarised work, and they need their noses
thumped hard, I agree. But to pursue them when the guilty party is
clearly someone else is not good for anyone online.
Thanks for your time,
I now return you to your regularly scheduled reading...
© 2003 Dan L. Hollifield
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