Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(December 1997)

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Subject: Re: mailing list instructions (copyright)
From: murr rhame <murr @ vnet . net>
Date: Sun, 14 Dec 1997 21:16:47 -0500 (EST)
To: nolan @ tssi . com
Cc: List Managers <list-managers @ GreatCircle . COM>
In-reply-to: <>

On Fri, 12 Dec 1997, Mike Nolan wrote:

> > > The policy on this list is that anything you post, while remaining
> > > you property, may be reposted elsewhere. 
> > 
> > I doubt that a listowner can give away a subscriber's copyright with a
> > notice like the one listed above.  Both parties must agree to the
> > terms of a contract for the contract to be valid.  

> While it is technically true that both parties must agree to the
> terms of a contract, all of us agree to numerous one-sided contracts
> every day, they're called 'contracts of adhesion' in law school, I
> believe.  Look at the back of the ticket at the parking garage, or
> at the receipt for your film at the photo shop. 

> The other issue is the redistribution of 'original' material written
> for your list.  In this case, the poster is the copyright holder,
> and assuming your terms of service discusses the possibility of
> redistribution (which is sort of the whole POINT to a mailing list,
> usenet group, or chat room, isn't it?) then you should have a
> perfectly valid offer and acceptance for posts sent to your list. 

> By posting to the List, you are granting non-exclusive
> redistribution rights to your message to all individuals and
> organizations who receive or transmit it.  We cannot control nor do
> we attempt to control any redistribution of posts to other mailing
> lists, to any USENET newsgroup, via the web, or any other type of
> redistribution, retransmittal, or reproduction. 

[Please pardon my crude trimming of quotes.  I could not find a
graceful way to cut the quotes down to a reasonable size without
killing the context.]

I agree that some one-sided contracts do exist and are recognized by
law. On the other hand, there are limits on what you can expect
another party to agree to.  As an extreme example, I could add this
phrase to all of my posts: 

   "Anyone who quotes back this message in whole or in part message
    agrees to pay Murr Rhame one thousand dollars US currency." 

I presume that I would have no legal grounds to collect my $1000. 
Absurd contracts can be thrown out as unconscionable, even if both
parties initially agree to the terms.  I still have doubts that a
nearly-anything-goes redistribution notice would be recognized by a

I'm don't know the law in this area.  I do know that when I make a
post to a restricted access mailing list I do not expect to see my
post republished on a web page or forwarded to usenet without my
permission.  Many mailing lists have been created specifically to
avoid both the random noise of usenet and to avoid the random
redistribution of articles often seen on usenet.  This does run
somewhat counter to the free exchange of ideas which mailing lists
promote.  On the other hand, there are many topics which would not be
discussed on-line at all if not for the level of privacy which is
possible on a restricted access mailing list.  As others have already
noted, the rules for redistribution must be appropriate for the
particular forum.

- murr -

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