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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Gail Mortenson: AP Wire Story

I have a confusing set of thoughts about an Associated Press (AP) Wire Story that I just received in one of those email newsletters, and I'd like to share that confusion with you. 
 
First of all, though not necessarily the most important point in this blog post, the story is about how one Gail Mortenson who does some kind of freelance editing work here in DC filed a request to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in July to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to forward email messages to their, let's say, substitute/replacement/competitors. 
 
But before I characterize the story, let me note that I wanted to try to find the source so that I would not be ignoring copyrights if I were to post it on this blog.  First it had been sent to me in a newsletter -- I hope the publishers of this newsletter requested permission -- although they may have distributed a finite number of copies, I would bet that it wouldn't qualify as a reasonable definition of "a limited number." 
 
Next, when I put Gail Mortenson into a search engine to find the source of the story, I noticed that Gail has now been launched to a new status in notoriety.  All the "sharing" services had pointed to some reference to this article, most of them publishing it in its entirety.  Did any of these people buy rights to reprint? 
 
I tried to find a direct reference to the AP wire and I spent a great deal of time chasing links.  I found a site where I could buy reprint rights from AP, but none of the rights really seemed to qualify as "reference in a blog post."  Surely weblog posting has not now become a form of "print media."  With the number of readers that I attract, the appropriate licence would probably be "email to friends, colleagues and/or group."  That's my own hybrid of two available categories. 
 
I could probably "technically legally" post with advertisements and relative impunity.  But I'm not interested in doing what's "technically legal," I'm interested in doing what's right.  That having been said, I'll touch on the essence of the story -- I don't want to refer to it -- I might have to post an advertisement that runs counter to the interest of the sponsors of this blog. 
 
I truly sympathise with the plight of anyone who is in the situation where they have lost touch with revenue sources, but then that means that I also sympathise with the ISPs who would then have to contribute to the financial health of their competitors after losing their primary customers.  That would at least be very embarrassing, albeit often earned from the kind of conduct that sends people packing. 
 
Based on my recent experience trying to escape a defunct outfit called "Highstream,"  I have to say, "Good Luck."  I still haven't been able to get a refund from them for the 3 months of service that I didn't get after they abandoned me.  I got a postcard within days of the date when they planned to ditch on their customer base announcing that I would become a PeoplePC customer.  It would appear also that PeoplePC belongs to Earthlink (now if not always?). 
 
I didn't want PeoplePC:  They have a memory-hogging dialer program that only runs under certain versions of Microsoft Windows, and certainly not under Linux, where I was able to use Highstream under both platforms.  That's not what I would call an "acceptable substitute" of "comparable value."  Tough luck if you have to buy a new computer with resources necessary to use the dialer and switch operating systems, because that's our plan for you.  You have a week to react at which point you'll have to start paying for something you don't want.  I don't think so. 
 
So I started my own "forwarding" process.  I started looking for a new ISP.  I use mostly plain text ("vanilla ASCII") and have the occasional medium-sized download, so dialup is easily sufficient for me.  All I needed was a cheap dialup service, so I found one called CheapDialup.net and the service has been excellent. 
 
Only one problem, but not from CheapDialup.net -- the other day my bank account was billed for a month's service of PeoplePC -- a service that I not even considered for more than 3 months -- and had certainly not used.  Fortunately, I started having suspicions after I cancelled my Highstream account, so I had platform personnel at the bank annotate my account in case such an event may occur. 
 
I think PeoplePC is about to get a valuable lesson:  They should have to pay for that lesson; I'd like to suggest that they buy new computers for their easily-acquired customers, computers equipped with enough memory and disk space to accomodate their dialer, and loaded with a compatible operating system.  I suggest Vista -- after all, it should be a version that has a reasonable amount of support before the clock runs out on it. 
 
Anyway, if I can't get this much cooperation (refraining from charging me for a service that I haven't used, refunding me for the balance of unused service after cancellation as guaranteed under our contract and "opting me out" of an unacceptable and rejected "replacement/substitute" service), then how are they going to get ISPs to forward email?
 
One step that I would like to suggest for the community, though, is not intimately linking account logons to email addresses.   I suppose that the assumption is that there is some "stability" in an email address, just as you'd expect people who buy their homes to live at a fixed location. 
 
I'm not sure either is a valid assumption anymore.  You can lease a domain for a certain length of time, but surely there are a number of cases where prior rights have been claimed to owners' domains.  And if "market volitility is here to stay" with the wide range of financial products offered in combination with a generation of "Internet Speculators" or "Day Traders," then I suppose we can also expect a lot of mergers and acquisitions in these cycles of consolidation and dissolution. 
 
And another thing:  It's OK to want what's yours, but don't be so eager to charge somebody for something -- they might not have bought anything. 
 
Ernie
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