Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(March 1997)

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Subject: Re: First Amendment Rights?
From: Cyndi Norman <cnorman @ best . com>
Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 13:31:24 -0800 (PST)
To: klarsen @ panix . com
Cc: list-managers @ GreatCircle . COM, cnorman @ shellx . best . com
In-reply-to: <v03007804af605a065a09@[]> (
Reply-to: cnorman @ best . com

   Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 12:37:10 -0500
   From: "Kent S. Larsen II" <>

   I agree with Alan's comment that in the case presented yesterday, the
   listowner may be at risk because the list is hosted on a state university
   machine. In this case, are you the listowner, or is the university, or is
   the state?

I doubt it.  I ran my list for 6 years on a computer at the University of
Calif at San Diego.  There was never once any implication that I had to
comply with any rules particular to UCSD or the state of Calif.  And my
list talks a lot about lawsuits and government abuse.  I dont believe we
ever talked about UC, but we certainly could have.  (I have since moved the
list to a private ISP at the request of UCSD since I am no longer a grad
student there.)  I think the only thing they cared about was bandwidth.

And how is running a list at UCSD different from, say, my department's
newsletter (paid for by state funds)?  It has an editor and items are
considered for inclusion based on topicality, length, content, etc.  Even
as a member of that dept, I could not get whatever I wanted printed.  Given
the nature of the newsletter, pretty much anything anyone wanted to write
would indeed get printed, but the editor always had the last word.

Many state-funded universities publish literary or academic journals.  They
have the right to reject anything submitted to them.

Another question might be does the ISP or the state or the university, etc
etc, have any say over what must go through the list or what can't go
through the list?  This is completely different from the original question
of rights of subscribers.  If UCSD did take an interest in the content of
my list, they probably would threaten to shut it down if I didnt comply
(and they could).  But they would be doing this for reasons internal to
them, not because of potential liability if I refuse to allow certain

   Generally, the subscribers don't actually pay money for the right to join,
   but they are contributing to the list (perhaps this is a form of payment?
   They are giving the listowner stuff to publish - and magazines and
   newspapers often have to pay for material to publish).

You obviously havent tried to sell something youve written :-).  Most
magazines and newspapers do not pay their contributers.  Only the ones
turning a profit do...and not all of them (granted, their circulation is
far higher than all the others put together).  Most places pay in copies of
the issue the submission appears in.  Also, people do not get paid for
publishing in scientific or academic journals (as far as I know).  Besides,
I am not getting anything from my list, beyond personal satisfaction.  My
subscribers are not providing me with a service or payment beyond the
support and information any other subscriber recieves.  Nor do I get
payments from elsewhere (such as advertisers).

I have no obligation to my subscribers, other than those I choose to take
on (and moral or ethical ones).  I get no money at all for running this
list and webpage; in fact it costs me $10/month.  Obviously, I get a lot
out of this, or I wouldn't do it, but it's not anything tangible.

   So perhaps there is a kind of implied contract between the listowner and
   the list members. Your list rules are some of the terms of this contract.
   The contract also has implied rules - one of which may be the right of the
   list member to post to the list.

Nope, sorry, no way.  I don't even have an obligation to keep someone on
the list.  I have terminated people for violating my rules.

   If you place a list member on 'ignore' you may be breaking this contract,
   giving the list member grounds to sue you.

I would say that the subscriber has no grounds to sue for recieving a
"partial service" if they would have no grounds to sue should the service
stop.  If I close my list because Im sick of running it, no one would
suggest I owe anybody anything.  So why would removing some of the service
be a legal problem?

   If I'm right, however, it would be wise for listowners to spell things out
   in a welcome document, and try to keep the welcome document up-to-date with
   all rules adopted.

I think this is a good idea for a lot of reasons, though I believe it is
unnessessary from a legal standpoint.


"There's nothing wrong with me.  Maybe there's                     Cyndi Norman
something wrong with the universe." (ST:TNG)         

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