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IWMW 1998: Publish and be Damned? Academic Freedom, Responsibility and AUP


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Slides for talk given at IWMW 1998 held at the University of Newcastle on 15-17 September 1998.


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IWMW 1998: Publish and be Damned? Academic Freedom, Responsibility and AUP

  1. 1. Publish and Be Damned? Academic Freedom, Responsibility and Acceptable Use Policy Colin K. Work University of Southampton
  2. 2. Analogies WWW = printed publication? But no formal editorial/review process WWW = library? But do selection/access processes exist? WWW=broadcasting? But no licensing mechanism WWW unique in terms of access
  3. 3. The Legal Position “Hands off approach” is not a tenable position may avoid “editorial responsibility” BUT almost certainly constitutes negligence You need to be able to demonstrate “due care”
  4. 4. Corporate Liability STAFF employer liable if employee given authority to act as he/she sees fit on behalf of employer if adequately supervised, employer not criminally liable for employee’s unauthorised actions but “vicarious liability” may still apply STUDENTS organisation not criminally liable for actions but failure to supervise use likely to constitute “reckless behaviour” or “a breach of a positive duty”
  5. 5. The Obvious Dangers Proscribed material obscene publications race relations etc. Defamation (libel) Copyright/Trademark violations Data Protection (personal data)
  6. 6. More Difficult Areas Authority of pages Rumour, speculation & gossip Minority group pages Personal opinion “Inappropriate” material The “Corporate Image”
  7. 7. Authority of Pages Problems arise when responsibilities in the organisation are unclear - Who has the right to publish on topic X? Eg. Prospectus Webmaster cannot determine who has rights, but may be instrumental in identifying conflicts, forcing resolution
  8. 8. Rumour, Speculation & Gossip It is essential that official information can be clearly identified and distinguished from unofficial material protect corporate identity insist on use of disclaimers be alert for users confusing their official role with private opinion attribute official pages to a department
  9. 9. Minority Groups Minority groups within the institution (eg. ethnic, political, gay societies) may wish to publish on the WWW minority views may cause offence potential for WWW wars (eg. Turkish & Greek societies) Webmaster should: a) ensure strict adherence to AUP b) refer elsewhere for conflict resolution
  10. 10. Personal Pages Need to be clearly distinguished as such ban use of corporate logo require use of disclaimer discourage links from official to personal pages use a registration/vetting process institute a review/monitoring process consider use of separate server
  11. 11. Other “inappropriate” material Might include certain medical, forensic, artistic or social material which would normally be deemed unacceptable Insist on “sponsorship” from relevant dept. Establish mechanisms to support restricted access Various special cases are acceptable under JANET AUP with appropriate supervision
  12. 12. The Corporate Image “Having completed my first year at … I would like to say the place is awful …” Would this statement have a place on your server? Conflicting interests lead to problems Recent “propaganda” issues at Soton include a meningitis outbreak and a major hacking incident. Are there circumstances where controlling information is justified?
  13. 13. The Webmaster’s Dilemma Between a Rock and a Hard Place corporate body vs individual acceptable use vs academic freedom responsibility vs lack of authority
  14. 14. A Survival Strategy Share (up & down) responsibility for page content Establish clear rules and guidelines Do not make policy on the fly Establish referral routes Focus on real issues, not theoretical ones
  15. 15. “Share” Responsibility Page content is NOT webmaster’s problem HoD should be responsible for departmental pages SU Exec should be responsible for clubs, societies etc. PR Dept. should have major responsibility regarding the “corporate web” Tutors may be willing to accept responsibility for some student usage
  16. 16. Rules & Guidelines AUP needs to be part of org.’s regulations In absence of official policy, use “guidelines” Force formal acceptance of AUP AUP should cover ALL electronic info Supplement AUP with guidelines and examples Avoid simply cloning JANET AUP (but of course your AUP must co-exist with it)
  17. 17. Referrals Avoid being cornered into making on the fly decisions about acceptable use - establish a network of referral bodies: editorial board equal ops/welfare officials course tutors security & legal people
  18. 18. Conclusions Webmasters SHOULD NOT make publication policy Webmasters SHOULD have input into the policy making process and advise users Webmasters should arm themselves with processes to “police” the Web with minimum contention AUP is key to smooth operation Procedures should be in place to deal with problems when they arise
  19. 19. Finally The formulation of an Acceptable Use Policy is non-trivial if it is to serve the interests of all concerned. Is there sufficient interest, a workshop on this topic can be arranged Any comments: