Web editor netiquette is a seriously neglected
Publishing on the web - compared to print - is cheap, quick,
and disposable. But it carries the same responsibilities to your readers, your
sources and other web editors.
my web site include links to other sites?
There is nothing in international
copyright convention or treaty to prevent you linking to another site (and certainly
nothing in UK law). It is always courteous to ask permission, or at least inform
the site of your intentions - most will be grateful to see the link, and pleased
to be consulted.
There is an issue about how the link works. Using the
site's logo or trademark without formal consent is likely to be in breech of law.
If you use frames, so that following the link shows their page enclosed by your
page, could be construed as "passing off" the content as if it were yours, in
breech of their copyright. Finally, the context of your link might cause offence
("The Worst Site in the World").
Can I copy information
from the internet?
All the usual editing functions of your computer will
work within your internet browser, so you can cut or copy material from the internet
without any problems. It is also possible to download whole pages, which can be
converted into plain text.
Some sites provide special 'downloadable' files,
often in Microsoft Word format or Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF).
These files can be printed to look like the original document, and cannot be edited.
How does copyright affect what I publish?
find a lot of serious twaddle talked about copyright - usually by people
who should know better. Copyright applies in the exactly the same way on
the internet as in any other medium; material belongs to the person or organisation
that created the work, unless and until they choose to waive their rights, or
sell them. So anything published on the internet belongs to someone.
will allow - even encourage - downloading, copying and republishing; some will
ask for payment, some will forbid copying. In law, it is usually permissible to
use a reasonable amount of a document for the purposes of review, news or discussion.
In this case, the original source should be cited (and possibly linked).
in doubt, be guided by notices posted on the site.
But be clear - there
is no copyright in ideas; if something inspires you - or simply helps you
- it's good manners to give credit where it's due; but, just as you don't need
to ask the author before citing a reference, so you don't need permission for
links to web sources. Netiquette says you should remove a link if asked by the
site concerned; and you certainly must never use a logo or other graphic without
Must I respond to enquiries?
you encourage your visitors to write to you, then you should either add "I
do not promise an answer - but I'll help if I can..." or, send an auto response,
and a full reply at some point. A simple note of your response policy is good
In general, you do have a choice in whether to reply or not, and
if you make your policy clear, you can ignore inappropriate contact with a clear
You should never feel you need to reply to abuse or illegal
contact, and would be wise not to.
You have to make the judgement; how
much damage to the site's reputation will follow from failing to respond; you
may have a million visitors - but each visitor is entitled to think they are the
only one, and that writing to you is doing you a favour - unless you tell them
otherwise. Needlessly upsetting honest enquirers may mean they take their business
What is spam?
Spam is the
internet equivalent of junk mail - any unasked for mail, especially with advertising
or appeals, is spam. The difference is that it arrives as email, and it downloads
in your visitors' time, so wastes their money.
Whenever you invite your
visitors to leave an email address, they should be clear what you will do with
this personal information; and should be warned if you intend to send more than
one mailing (if they leave an address, you can assume they expect something!)
is bad manners, breaks the rules of all reputable service providers, and is often
illegal, though not often enough. Read more about search
engine spam - and how to avoid accidentally spamming!
I need a Spash Page?
Splash pages, for those that don't know, are graphic
introductions to the main site. Usually very heavy files, often Flash, often slow
to load, even for those with broadband.
Think about it; it's pure vanity.
People are not visiting to see you show off, they want the meat of your site.
Repeat visitors will be particularly irked at having the same old junk foisted
on them every visit. If you really, really must do it, do add a 'skip this' link,
preferably big enough to conceal the images.
If it helps, remember that
a splash page will never get listed in a Quality Directory, nor will it get bookmarked.
And no sane webmaster will link to it. That means your key URL - 'www.domain.com'
- will be invisible. And maybe the whole site will get sidelined.
if you are aged 14 or below, or are a web designer, please ignore the above; different
rules pertain for your sites. But woe betide anyone adding such rubbish to a client
How this page works ...
This page is to help anyone with
an interest in Netiquette - or simply in the use of the internet. If you want
to ask a supplementary question, write to me - I do not promise an answer - but
I'll help if I can, and may add it to this page.
I welcome your views on
the whole idea - did you find it useful?
Thanks to John Hunter,
for raising the matter of web site response.