Personal ramblings...

If you read nothing else on this page, please scroll down and at least read the last paragraph.

Ever since I began this website in 1995, I have been of the opinion that the concept of freely-available material on the internet only works when we don't try to rip other people off by stealing their work and claiming it to be our own. For this reason, until recently, the source for all of the pages on this site has been available for viewing via a single right-mouse click or from your browser's menu item.

I use the words "until recently" because "until recently" that simplistic methodology has worked well.

During my 'surfing', I sometimes come across a page or two from my site which has been taken and used elsewhere without my consent or knowledge. Provided my original copyright notice is still in place and the page displays a link to my site, I generally have no objection.

However, recently I was made aware of a website which had systematically taken virtually every single page of my radio and electronics calculators (plus some others), removed my copyright notices and replaced them with their own. I was aware of at least two other people who had also had their material stolen and similarly altered by the same site and I had to wonder if anything on the site was its owner's own work!

The site is hosted and run by a small computer company's managing director and I had to question whether I would entrust any business of mine to the employees of a company who, clearly, had no scruples or business ethics of their own!

(As a licensed radio amateur, I was additionally offended by the fact that this company director was purporting to be the holder an American ham radio callsign which hadn't yet been issued!)

Because my own site has been around for a relatively long time, a lot of the material on it enjoys quite a favourable position on the internet Search Engines and that, of course, is the primary reason for the better stuff being 'leeched' (I use the words 'better stuff', loosely!).

Unfortunately, in this instance, my polite requests for the stolen material to be removed were met by a torrent of personal abuse, rantings about how he had fought in the war for "upstarts like me" (I was born in 1947, by the way!) and ravings about the internet being "Public Domain" so I had little alternative but to persue it more officially - initially to his Web Hosting Provider but, ultimately, to their multi-national network provider.

Although many people might agree with him that stuff on the internet is Public Domain, my view is that publishing material on the internet does not make it Public Domain any more than publishing a novel or a cd or a computer program makes those Public Domain. Luckily, the governments of every single civilized country in the world hold a similar view and, in this case, I was able to invoke the Digital Millenium Copyright Act which was established in the offender's country for this specific purpose. After much email and, eventually, an international 'recorded delivery' notice by snail-mail, the material was removed from his site.

Is it all a fuss over nothing? Well, for an individual instance such as in my case, you could, perhaps, argue that it is. But many 'amateur' sites such as mine (and particularly students' personal sites) carry some sponsorship to help finance their internet connection and, if their potential visitors are 'siphoned' away, the reduced number of visitors could result in actual financial loss.

If I can use some of my spare time to help discourage these leeches, that has to be a good thing. Besides, if these people never contribute anything new and original themselves, within a very few years, there won't be anything new and original!

Owners of sites which contain similar - though independently-produced - material often engage in friendly rivalry in order to keep their own site one 'step' ahead. This has to be a healthy thing but, again, can only work if the material is independently produced.

HTML code - and much of the JavaScript code - used to display Web Pages is, by its nature, Public Domain but, where the core JavaScript language has been used in unique ways to produce unique (possibly user-interactive) software, that, in my opinion, is where Public Domain ends. There is a big difference between looking at someone else's source code to learn how a certain feature is accomplished and taking complete copyrighted programs and claiming them to be one's own. It doesn't matter whether those programs are in the form of 'encrypted' executable files or in the form of viewable text-based source code. Either way, they are someone's intellectual property and are protected in law by well-established copyright laws.

Because of my unfortunate experience with the above website, some of my pages now have the very simplistic precaution of reminding visitors of copyright issues should they right-click on the page to view the source code. Unfortunately, of course, like a lock and key, this simple measure only serves to discourage and inconvenience honest people but, nevertheless, it reminds everyone.

Anyone is free to use one or two of my pages or photographs provided they have the courtesy to ask me first, they don't remove any copyright notices and they provide a reasonably obvious link to my site's Home page. Personally, I don't think that's too much to ask!