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Dialectizer Shut Down 373

endisnigh writes: "Another fun, interesting and innovative online resource goes the way of corporate ignorance - due to threats of legal action, the author of the dialectizer, a Web page that dynamically translates another Web page's text into an alternate 'dialect' such as 'redneck' or 'Swedish Chef' and displays the result, has packed up his dialectizer and gone home - see the notice here."
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Dialectizer Shut Down

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  • I don't know. Sue them for caching your homepage and we'll see :-)
  • Sure you're missing something... like the fact that they are too stupid to realize they can block access from particular IP addresses. I mean, what do you want from an IT department consisting of a bunch of failed tellers who took an MCSE class?

  • Hey, that gives me an idea! I can run my site through Babelfish and then sue for theft of content!
  • But the dialectizer takes the site, changes it, and then presents it as the property of the original owner (e.g., Microsoft). MS can control how their site looks in browsers, but they can't control what the Swedish Chef does to it bork bork.
  • by wendy ( 42400 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @08:31AM (#1065874) Homepage
    The dialectizer sounds a lot like the "Game Genie" device used to alter the play of video games. Inserted between a copyrighted work and the viewer, it causes the work to appear differently to the viewer. It does not modify the underlying work, and its display is only temporary, never (or not by the dialiectizer's doing) stored as a fixed copy. The 9th Circuit found that modification, if there was copying involved, to be fair use in Lewis Galoob Toys v. Nintendo of America [].

    Here's a description from Micro Star v. Formgen Inc. []:

    *fn4 A low-tech example might aid understanding. Imagine a product called the Pink Screener, which consists of a big piece of pink cellophane stretched over a frame. When put in front of a television, it makes everything on the screen look pinker. Someone who manages to record the programs with this pink cast (maybe by filming the screen) would have created an infringing derivative work. But the audiovisual display observed by a person watching television through the Pink Screener is not a derivative work because it does not incorporate the modified image in any permanent or concrete form. The Game Genie might be described as a fancy Pink Screener for video games, changing a value of the game as perceived by the current player, but never incorporating the new audiovisual display into a permanent or concrete form.
    As the site argues, the dialectizer only offers another means of viewing publicly accessible web documents. It uses its own rules to redisplay a public copy. What's next, an argument that all web browsers infringe because they don't follow HTML specs and so display the pages differently from the page authors' intent?

    (I had these cites handy because I've been waiting to see the same misguided challenge raised against ThirdVoice [] or my poky annotation engine [] for offering web page annotation.)

  • Nothing is fair use in America. Everything is a reason to sue.
  • by kwsNI ( 133721 )
    Reading /. in "redneck" was always one of my favorite past times.

    Funny, it always seemed appropriate for CowboyNeal articles.


  • by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @08:33AM (#1065886)
    That brings up the question...

    What if the dialectizer were a program that you ran on your computer that translated the pages?

    It would be perfectly okay, right? Now what's the difference between that and running the program off of someone elses computer to be sent back to you?

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
    It's not what it is, it's something else.
  • Sorry, I wasn't very clear in that post. The case wasn't about routers really. IIRC, the defendant compared their actions to that of routers and other equipment that copy data. The judge didn't buy the router comparison because they don't hold data very long. I wish I could remember what the case was actually about. Then it might make a bit more sense.

  • by shaping_innovation ( 171598 ) <> on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @07:44AM (#1065891) Homepage Journal
    Does this mean something like Babelfish would be in violation of copyright laws? And dosen't copyright law allow for parodies of sites?
  • by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @07:44AM (#1065893)
    Just a thought, but wouldn't stuff like that be considered a parody, and thus fair use?

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
    It's not what it is, it's something else.
  • by HeghmoH ( 13204 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @07:45AM (#1065895) Homepage Journal
    Our legal system has transformed from a mechanism for justice (if it ever was this way) to something that people with money use to get their way. Don't seriously tell me that these sites actually believe this is copyright infrigement. They just don't like having their pages translated into these "dialects", so they get out their wallets and have it shut down. Our legal system needs to be fixed to prevent this, but I honestly can't think of how. Maybe a loser-pays system would help. I dunno. Anybody have some decent suggestions on this?
  • Maybe it won't offer me a terrible amount of extra protection -- heck, I probably won't be doing anything that would need the protection anyway -- but if I can get a similar deal with an overseas provider that I can get within the States, then why not?

    I'm already going with a .cx domain, I've decided =) com, net, and org are getting overdone. Especially com.

  • What then of Google and it's locally cached copies?

    Web sites give or deny permission to cache via the facilities provided by various headers returned on HTTP requests. See RFC 2068: Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1 []

  • Ever hear of the CBLDF, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund? It's a fund to help comic book writers targeted by ridiculous legal action, mainly independent titles.

    Last time I checked many of the books CBLDF was supporting were basically porn like Cherry Poptart. Most of the people suing them are not big corporations but are large parent groups who (understandably) don't think that porno comics should be sitting next to Batman on the comic store shelves (where their kids could easily buy them). I tend to agree with the parents. These stories are not meant for children and should be careful not to represent themselves that way. They should be kept in special section (like they are in my comics shop.)

    BTW I know Cherry Poptart was started (at least in part) as a parody of many 60s teen comics like Archie. I am just saying that few people buy it solely on the merits of its writing...

  • And, since adding content changes it as much as remvoing it, doesn't that put Hotmail in danger of being a copyright violator?
  • Yes, seeing "slap ma' fro" all the time *is* funny. Natalie Portman told me so. And was Linus Swedish or Finnish? Someone told me he was Finnish.
  • by Abigail ( 70184 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @10:49AM (#1065906) Homepage
    What if the dialectizer were a program that you ran on your computer that translated the pages? It would be perfectly okay, right? Now what's the difference between that and running the program off of someone elses computer to be sent back to you?

    That's the same issue as you cannot video tape something from television, and rebroadcast it, while showing it in your own home, for a small audience, is fine. Neither can you buy a CD and broadcast it over the radio without paying for the rights. Even if the CD was free of charge.

    The difference is that rinkworks is serving (that is, they are publicating it) the translated pages, and not the original creators.

    -- Abigail

  • Have you got the money to fund a legal battle against a multinational bank with trillions of dollars at its hands (yes, that's a t, not a b or m)? I don't.

    Disregard the fact that you might well win money in a countersuit... would you want to risk the chance that you'd lose (think... this is the wonderful American judicial system we're talking about here) and have to pay off BoAs high priced lawyers? I wouldn't.

    I agree that BoA are just being ruthless bastards, but I'm sad to say that with the current status of the judicial system, might (read money) does make right...

  • Quoth the poster:
    Does this mean something like Babelfish would be in violation of copyright laws?
    Heck, let's take this to its logical extreme: When I browse, the requested pages hop via several different servers, which each must store copies of the material (even if emphemerally). So each and every site is a violator of copyright, unless the original site provies an explicit grant of right to copy. Thus, by merely browsing the Web, I am violating, and inducing others to violate, the copyright of the sites I visit.

    Traditional IP law is dead. The corpse just doesn't know it yet.

  • re-read my post above. I'm arguing that ad-striping is definitely OK when implemented as a filter on your own computer, but that setting up a public-access ad-stripping web proxy is probably not OK by a strict interpretation of copyright law. I'll also add that IANAL, and that I do strip ads when I browse.
  • by xant ( 99438 )
    Enjoy. []
  • Suddenly I have visions of T-shirts with Dialectizers source code printed on them....
  • by orabidoo ( 9806 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @08:42AM (#1065919) Homepage
    It makes sense to have a distinction between what you can do as a local user, and what you can do in a server and then retransmit to random people. In the first case, it's part of the browsing process; you browse with Netscape, your neighbor browses with IE, I browse with Lynx and my neighbor with w3m, and we're obviously allowed to, which pretty much amounts to setting up arbitrary filters between the incoming HTML and our screen. But if I grab a page from your server, modify the HTML, and send it along to another host, then I'm sending a derived work of your content, which is only OK by copyright law for a few situations. Parody is one of these situations, so (IMO, IANAL) the dialectizer should be OK as an auto-parodizer. But, say, a public access ad-stripping proxy might not be OK. For personal use and on your own computer, filters are just part of the viewing process, so they're always OK.
  • Next time you're up against a multi-trillion dollar company, and their army of lawyers, please tell us how you respond. It's easy to criticize someone when you're not the one on the verge of being sued. And even if he did win if this went to court, would you want to risk it if it didn't?
  • hey, you're making fun of it, but I actually had someone argue to me that the jive filter was racist. a pretty humorless way to see things, if you ask me..
  • Oh for god sakes, the dummies thing is a completely different matter. It didn't involve copyrights at all, but rather trademarks. And no one is stopping you from saying the words "for dummies" (If they were, you couldn't say "IDG" ether, now could you?). Rather, they are stopping people from Titling things with the words "for dummies" in them. There is a pretty big difference, and they really have a valid point. Not to mention that were ok with the title "for dummiesZ"

    . Should I be able to call anything I want "Linux"?

    Or Solaris? And why aren't all of you people pissed at ESR for when he tried to trademark "Open Source" for himself?
  • Yes, the legal system should be changed to prevent this kind of frivolous litigation. Unfortunately corporate lawyers are encouraged to file lawsuits on behalf of their respective corporations - even when they know that such lawsuits are baseless and stupid.

    So here's a thought: Isn't the threat of a lawsuit a form of assault or threat? We live in a culture and economy which lives and dies by the dollar. To threaten a relatively defenseless individual with legal action is tantamount to threatening to harm them. The legal system should be altered so that individuals have legal remedies when they are bullied this way.

    For example, the owner of The Dialectizer should be able to sue the Bank of America for the very act of making a frivolous threat. The corporation would then have to provide an appropriate redress, paying The Dialectizer's legal fees and paying damages for causing the site owner to suffer, etc...

    Yeah, I'm a Mac programmer. You got a problem with that?
  • I'm going to be getting my own domain sometime soon, and the more I see things like this, the more I'm interested in finding a hosting company outside the USA.

    Can anybody reccomend an affordable (Around 20 USD/month) hosting service that's outside the US, offers linux/unix-based hosting, and has a decent selection of features? (See here [] for a good idea of what I'd like ["Bronze" version])

  • by Christopher Thomas ( 11717 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @11:07AM (#1065944)
    # Really simple dialectifying Perl script.
    # Written by Christopher Thomas
    # This can be transformed into a CGI very easily. Sample code for this
    # has been included but commented out.
    # This code may be freely used, distributed, and modified.

    # Libraries.

    # use whatever_cgi_library; # CGI
    use strict;

    # Translation tables.
    # Make up a set of these tables for each dialect you want to produce.
    # Remember that this is case-sensitive.

    # Jar-Jar table.
    # I've set this translation table up to mimic the "Jar-Jargonizer" that
    # was featured in Quickies a while back.
    # I've forgotten many of the suffix translations the original script did.
    # No great loss.

    # Translate prefixes of words.
    my (%jarjar_prefix_trans);
    %jarjar_prefix_trans =

    # Translate suffixes of words.
    my (%jarjar_suffix_trans);
    %jarjar_suffix_trans =
    "'re"=>"sa be"

    # Translate whole words.
    my (%jarjar_word_trans);
    %jarjar_word_trans =
    "I'm"=>"meesa be",
    "microsoft"=>"the Sith"

    # Translation table hook pointers.

    my (%jarjar_table);
    %jarjar_table =

    # Master table indexing hook tables.

    my (%dialect_tables);
    %dialect_tables =

    # Utility functions.

    # This function translates the specified list according to the specified
    # dialect rules.
    # Arg 1 is an array reference pointing to the text to modify.
    # Arg 2 is a hash reference pointing to a dialect hook table.
    # Returns 0 if successful and an error code if not.

    sub translate
    my ($text_p, $htable_p);
    my ($prefix_p, $suffix_p, $word_p);
    my ($errcode);
    my ($this_line);
    my ($index);
    my ($key);

    # Default to success.
    $errcode = 0;

    # Read arguments.
    $text_p = $_[0];
    $htable_p = $_[1];

    # Sanity check.
    if ((!(defined $text_p)) || (!(defined $htable_p)))
    # Bad arguments.
    $errcode = 1;
    # Extract hook pointers.
    $prefix_p = $$htable_p{prefix};
    $suffix_p = $$htable_p{suffix};
    $word_p = $$htable_p{word};

    # Blithely assume that these hook pointers are valid.

    # Translate.
    for ($index = 0; defined ($this_line = $$text_p[$index]); $index++)
    # Pad the string, to make life easier.
    $this_line = " $this_line";

    # Replace prefixes.
    foreach $key (keys %$prefix_p)
    # Take precautions against munching HTML tags.
    $this_line =~ s/([^\w\])/$$suffix_p{$key}$1/g;

    # Replace words.
    foreach $key (keys %$word_p)
    # Take precautions against munching HTML tags.
    $this_line =~ s/([^\w\])/$1$$word_p{$key}$2/g;

    # Remove padding.
    $this_line =~ s/^.//;

    # Store this line back in the array.
    $$text_p[$index] = $this_line;

    # Return the result.
    return $errcode;

    # Main program.

    my ($target_URL);
    my ($dialect_choice);
    my (@page_text);
    my ($hook_p);
    my ($index);


    # Get arguments.


    $target_URL = $ARGV[0];
    $dialect_choice = "jarjar";

    # Get a table to the hook table for this dialect.
    $hook_p = $dialect_tables{$dialect_choice};

    # Sanity check.
    if (!(defined $hook_p))
    # No such dialect.
    print "ERROR: Can't find dialect \"$dialect_choice\".\n";
    # Try to read the specified web page.
    @page_text = `lynx -source $target_URL`;

    # Blithely assume that this worked.

    # Translate the page.
    translate(\@page_text, $hook_p);

    # Dump the page contents to standard output.
    for ($index = 0; defined $page_text[$index]; $index++)
    # Don't add newlines; we've kept the old ones.
    print $page_text[$index];

    # Print a trailing newline, just in case the web source didn't have one
    # and a human is viewing the output.
    print "\n";
  • Looks like he needs to add two new filters: - The politically correct-izer - and the lawyer-izer
  • So, when is all of this so-called web activism going to kick in. For years I've heard about how individuals count. How the small voice matters. "You can make a difference!" Well, every day it seems to be and more hogwash. Even the boisterous readers, posers, losers, geeks, CIOs, and programmers visiting Slashdot haven't kicked ass. Why is it that even the best and strongest groups on the web don't actually fight this crap? So, we might be "up in arms" but nothing comes of it.

    I'm not so sure. There's one thing that we do do: it appears that we give money to organizations like EFF, ACLU, etc. I joined EFF a couple of years ago in response to some publicized outrage (I don't even remember what it was), and I gave a lot more this past December when the DVD thing started heating up. My reasons were partly motivated by the publicity that some issues were getting here on Slashdot. If publicity had an effect on me, then I suspect it had an effect on others as well. I bet a significant portion of Slashdot readers are EFF contributors. (Poll idea!)

    Giving money to EFF may be a cheezy alternative to "real" activism, but at least they really do something, and they need the money. And maybe funding specialized agents to work on our behalf isn't all that bad a strategy. Is it any different from what the Bad Guys do with their lobbyists and congressional bribes?

  • Send them some POLITE but to-the-point messages explaining how upset you are with them as a company. Taking business elsewhere is always a scare for businesses.

    Bank Of America Contact page []

    Note: .. blind flaming accomplishes nothing, but sensibly made points made by 1000s of unhappy people might.
  • I wrote to the author of the Dialectizer and suggested that he could use my URL as a demo and offered an idea whereby he could maintain a list of "acceptable sites" where the owner has given permission to Dialectize their content. Here is his reply to me (my words in italics):

    >I think it is sick how corporate America is
    >snatching the rights to everything and
    >everyone. You can't even have fun anymore
    >without some lawyer somewhere getting bent out of shape!

    "To be fair, the lawyer was actually pretty nice (I talked to him on the phone),but he had to do what his clients asked him to. But your point is well taken. I feel the same way you do. Big corporations have an awful lot of power, which, in itself, isn't necessarily a bad thing, but combined with a culture in which the courtroom is looked upon as the first, not last, line of defense, it's a nasty mix for ordinary guys like you and me. I have little doubt that I'm right and no doubt that I'd lose a lawsuit, were one to be filed.

    I thought of your idea of allowing the Dialectizer to hit sanctioned web sites, but you point out the problem yourself. It would take several hundred thousand sanctioned web sites before it would make much of a difference, and by then the script would be nasty on the server, as several hundred thousand pattern matches would have to be done per request.

    At the very least, though, I guess you can copy and paste text from other web pages into the "Dialectize Text" box.

    Thanks for your letter of support."

  • (of course it's absured, BUT...)

    What about opt-in? I already sent permission for the dialectizer to do its evil work upon my website. It's a possible source of hits, good PR...
  • I would disagree....

    Its simple...the dialectizer is a tool that users
    use. It doesn't store pages and serve them, it
    translates for users.

    The fact that it is re-transmitting the content
    to the user is a technical artifact of how it
    was created. It should be treated no differently
    than if you downloaded a perl script that did the
    same thing and ran it yourself on the pages (which
    would be fair use)

    In my eyes it would be like stephen king suing
    the maker of Red Tinted glasses because someone
    read a Stephen King book with the glasses on, and
    the tint changed the color of the page, and thus
    infringed on his copyright by delivering a
    deriviative work to the end user.

  • []

  • A suggestion: contact Bank of America and tell them how you feel about their legal threats against the creator of the Dialectizer. Here is how to reach them:

    1. Go to
    2. Click on "Contact Us", and choose your state.
    3. Go down to the bottom of the second column and click on "General Inquiries and Customer Service".
    4. At the top of the page, click on "Click here to send a secure e-mail using SSL to Bank of America".
    5. Write your message, using "Comments and Suggestions" for your subject.

    I'd be respectful but firm.

  • would Andover be interested in hosting the site?

    I thought Andover was hosting the site: I clicked "geek" and... wait a minute... are you telling me people really talk like this? :)

    ok, more seriously and correct me if I'm wrong, but if this thing were open-sourced there'd be mirrors and variations everywhere already. With many eyes, all dialects are shallow :) As it is, it looks like might die along with the rest of the closed world

  • nah, it wasn't you, it wasn't on slashdot, and it wasn't a troll. and as a troll, I find it funny :)
  • The pinkscreen proxies too -- photons from the TV screen pass through it before reaching the viewer. The argument is that the dialectizer or any other proxy never makes a fixed copy, but only modifies the web content in transit from provider to viewer. Thus it has never created a separate copy to infringe the original.

    -- visit Openlaw [] to help fight copyright overreaching --

  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @07:45AM (#1065974)
    I propose a new dialectic:

    F*ck you!

    Lawyer Translation: You are hereby ordered to cease and desist immediately under CFR 938.10 subparagraph b, which states: "No parody or other humor may take place via a purely online forum which modifies language without the consent of the people using said language". Furthermore, plaintiff hereby declares...

  • by Fat Lenny ( 150637 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @07:47AM (#1065981) Homepage
    I saw this a couple of days ago, and this is just plain stupid. The U.S. seems to be filled with ridiculous legal threats simply to crush the little guy who is not doing anything wrong, but can't afford to be legally in the wrong, and/or defend themself when they are in the right.

    What does this mean for:

    Google's WML converter []? []?


  • by delmoi ( 26744 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @09:08AM (#1065983) Homepage
    I think that's a bad Idea, a very bad one, actually.

    I posted about this in another post, but I guess I'll do it again.

    Imagine you write some code. And Microsoft steals it. Now, you don't know whether or not MS stole your code because you can't see it, but your pretty sure they did. Would you really want to try to sue them, if it meant you would have to pay Microsoft's legal fees?

    Or imagine that some company dumps toxic waste in a poor neighborhood, Corps do this occasionally, and sometimes the win the suits. Do you think that the poor community could afford to pay Generic Megacorps legal fees when they loose? Probably not. The bad guy isn't always rich, and the Good Guys don't always win.

    BUT, Generic Megacorp, or Microsoft could still threaten to, and actually sue whenever they wanted. After all, they have tons of money, and could afford to take the risk of a loss. All this would do would make it more difficult for people without money to sue, without really impacting people with money. And that's exactly what we don't want.
  • What about Babelfish or Silk? Does this mean we all net translation software would amount to a copyright infringement? This is a horrible precedent. Though the intent of translating the pages was humor, there is little difference between dialect translation and language translation. Scary.
  • That's a very good point. Racial and sexual harassment lawsuits generally require companies to show they took due diligence against reported behavior. If somebody complained about the site being translated to Jive, the lawyers would certainly recommend firing off a letter.

    Still clearly the bank would have very little chance if they go to court.

    What would be interesting would be if somebody gave a cease and desist to Babelfish which is a lot closer to a genuine copyright violation.
  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) < minus pi> on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @10:09AM (#1065989) Homepage
    I agree....

    How about this...

    If the plaintif loses or his case is dismissed
    with prejudice, the the defendant should be able
    to bring suit against him for legal fees (for
    both suits)

    Allow the judge or jury to make the determination
    based on the income of both and whether the
    original plaintif (now defendant) had a semi-valid

    Ie, if you sue microsoft and lose, microsoft
    suffered no real hardship by the trial and has
    no ability to sue.

    If they sue you, and they lose, then you can sue
    them for legal fees.

    The idea here is to try to level the playing feild
    and give the "Good guy" with little money the
    ability to have equal legal representation of any
    "Bad Guy" with lots of money.

    Also the idea is to punish "bad guys with lots of
    money" who bring about frivolous lawsuits. (bad
    guys with no money have a hard time doing such
  • What? So he's supposed to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees until it gets straightened out?

    He won't -- all BofA said is that they may try to sue him -- what BofA most likely won't even try if it will meet anything that resembles resistance, as they know that they will lose and will be sued for frivolous lawsuit. Banks hate bad publicity more than anything else.

  • That's not the point. As with the DMCA, it's really not about copyright at all. It's the fact that you, the user, can go to a public place and make fun and laugh at someone's serious corporate image, mis-using the corporate image, and generally being obnoxious with it.

    What a bunch of assholes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @07:48AM (#1065996)

    I dunno about you guys, but I for one am glad to see this thing gone. Who wants "jive" speak anyway? Do you really think seeing "slap ma' fro" all the time is funny? Do you think that real people of African descent talk that way? I'm glad I wasn't raised on 70's blaxploitation films.

    And what about "redneck"? Southern-Americans have it bad enough, what with the Yankess harassing them about the flag they flew in the War of Northern Aggression. I don't think making fun of the way that they say "y'all" is very proper.

    And lastly, the Swedish chef. Can we really tolerate the amount of anti-Scandinavian bigotry which we are bombarded with daily in the media? Linus himself was of Swedish extraction, and it is no secret that his father was a chef. Granted, he had a tendency to throw chickens around wildly and make noises that can't quite be described as speech, but that's no reason to rub salt in old wounds.

    Shame on you Slashdot, for supporting this monstrosity.
  • The setup you describe, with a server containing scripts in an interpreted language that are then downloaded directly to the end user's client machine to be interpreted, is an accident of history. Computers don't have to be set up this way, as seperate Von Neumann boxes on a network, with language source transmitted directly between the two, stored on one and interpreted on the other. If some other design besides the Von Neumann had appeared, the situation would be totally different. When other designs beside the Von Neumann are made feasible, the situation will be totally different. Carving laws into stone based on transitory accidents is foolish government.
  • I'm beginning to think that the law needs to be made clearer, not by precedent-making lawsuits, but by legislation. Yes, I know that most legislation relating to the 'Information Age' (or 'Digital Millennium') has been stupid, misguided or downright corrupt - but for the sake of argument, imagine for a moment that legislatures in whatever country were capable of making intellectual property law to benefit consumers.

    Explicity define what is fair dealing for works which are made electronically available, via the Web or otherwise. I would say that the following should be allowed:

    - Saving copies of a file to local disk, to look at later. (Like timeshifting a TV programme.)

    - Printing out copies for personal use. (If you can read it on screen, why not on paper?)

    - Distributing copies to others, provided those other people would themselves be able to get a copy, if they could be bothered to. Thus if you save on disk and give it to a friend, that's explicitly allowed. And if both of you subscribe to the same paid service (eg stock quotes) it should be allowed for you to pass on information which your friend could access, if his modem weren't broken. He pays the fees too, after all.

    - Caching and indexing; such labelling and modification of the document as is necessary to store it in a cache or index it efficiently. Returning the document or part of it, perhaps highlighted, as the result of a search.

    - Hyperlinks are allowed. This is a no-brainer, but just as well to get it in there explicitly.

    - Archives of historical documents and files which were publicly available. There might have to be exceptions in here for libellous material and other nasties, but in general I don't believe that copyright law should be a tool for suppressing leaks.

    - Finally, translation and parody, as long as it is made clear that the content has been modified in this way, and of course the people who are given the modified copy could also have gotten the original copy for themselves.

    Now, I realize that some of these are probably already allowed by copyright law in most countries. Perhaps they all are. But I'd rather have these things laid down with certainty; uncertainty about what the law says makes anyone vulnerable to an expensive lawsuit from a firm with deep pockets. They might just win, or at least manage to bankrupt you before they lose.

    I don't think that any of the above would reduce the incentive for authors and publishers to create new works. And that is the purpose of copyright law, with the intent of benefiting the public. The Web could become a very unpleasant place with legally enforceable bits of JavaScript preventing you from printing pages, people being sued over hyperlinks, and other nastiness. Some of this is happening already.

    There probably isn't a snowball's chance in hell of any legislative body working out fair dealing for the Web any time soon. But it's another thing to add to the wishlist.
  • I happen to agree and have also been saying for
    years that this government needs to fall. I like
    the "Invite all the state government people to DC
    and nuke the lot"...hadn't thought of them.

    Its funny...the sentiment is rampent these days.
    I was pissed off after my 2nd time in one day
    trying to get my new motorcycle registered at the
    RMV, I was ranting outside the building about
    how "This government just needs to fall" and some
    random guy who was leaving th ebuilding turned to
    me and said "Now that ill agree with".

  • This is a _program_ which allows a user to Voluntarily translate a page.

    Good point. Is this really any different than babelfish []?

    So long as the good folks at Pantone (the ink people, industry standard color matching) don't start litigation against Oakley (the sunglass people) for showing their swatches in a different tint...
    (yeah, it's a stretch)
  • by KahunaBurger ( 123991 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @11:52AM (#1066010)
    Note: I am neither defending nor condemming the individual web sites which asked the dialectizer to remove them, or the guys decision to cut himself off entirely rather than continue to deal with the mounting number of "disconnect" requests.

    Good point. Is this really any different than babelfish?

    Or the jesus translator (sorry lost the link), or the candaianizer and all the rest (there are a LOT of these things).

    Bablefish is probably the best example though, it is doing the same thing that this guys was.

    The bablefish doesn't do the same thing this guy was at all. Though the technological process may be similar, the transformation of the work is completely different.

    The bablefish takes a peice of text and changes the language that it is written in. The content, and more importantly, the context of the message is unchanged. A political rallying call in french is still a political rallying call when translated to english. A bunch of blond joke in spanish are still blond jokes in english. (though puns would just sound dumb). A health alert in english is still a health alert in portuguese. Ad nauseum.

    But the entire point of these dialect "translaters" is to change, not preserve context. Any text read through it becomes a joke. A person who writes on political topics might be perfectly happy for people to read them in other languages, but annoyed to have them turned into a swedish chef joke by someone who isn't even creative enough to do the "parody" on their own.

    Again, this is not a legal argument, so save those flames for someone else. But there is a reason that this guy has been flooded with requests to not link to people's sites while bablefish likely hasn't recieved any such requests. They aren't the same thing and people who have worked hard on a site know the difference. If you don't recognize that (possibly non-legal) difference, you won't understand the context of this announcement.

    -Kahuna Burger

  • by EngrBohn ( 5364 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @07:49AM (#1066014)
    But in all seriousness, releasing the code to the dialiectizer would allow us to enjoy it without putting rinkworks at risk of lawsuit, and without overloading rinkworks' server. Not having thoroughly examined their site, I don't know that they don't offer the code -- I just didn't see it upon casual inspection.
    Alternatively, perhaps recoding it as a plug-in would be a good idea. Same benefits, plus it'd be seamless -- just click a "dialectize" button.
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • Something that the whimpering free-speech herd always seem to forget is this:

    Even in the United States, free speech is *not* guaranteed. Period.

    The first amendment to the US Constitution bars the *United States Government* from abridging a citizen's right to free speech. This does not guarantee anyone the right to say anything they like. It *just* means that the Federal Government can't be the one who stops them.

    In a number of recent cases in the US, employees have been fired from companies for remarks they've made whilst at work. The free-speech wibblers (including the ACLU) keep coming out of the woodwork, claiming that the employee's first-amendment rights have been violated. Which is totally wrong. Because when you work for a company, things you say can be attributed to the company. The company is, in part, paying you to be their agent. If you say something that misrepresents their interests, they can (and should) discipline you appropriately. This could mean termination.

    I feel that it's silly for a company to go after a translator site, especially one which is quite obviously lighthearted in intent and nature. But no one's rights have been violated.
  • Isn't this site acting as (basically) just a big router? If I took jive, rewrote it in microcode and stuck it on a Cisco router, would that be a copyright violation too?

    Want to work at Transmeta? MicronPC? AT&T?

  • by Booker ( 6173 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @11:57AM (#1066021) Homepage
    It makes sense to have a distinction between what you can do as a local user, and what you can do in a server and then retransmit to random people.

    So write the dialectizer in Java, and run it on the client. Problem solved?

  • I just checked, and bablefish can be used to translate the Bank of America site. I wonder if they received the same letter...


  • David never has better than a 90% chance of beating GoliathCo if he sues them when he's dead right, between luck of the draw and the quality of the lawyers he can afford vs. the quality they can afford. So in a loser-pays court, it's worth GoliathCo's time to spend 10X what David spends on lawyers, partly because they've got positive expected return, and partly because they chase away most of the potential Davids by looking big and scary and by making it clear that not only is losing a lawsuit against them a bad deal, but winning a lawsuit against them takes a much bigger upfront investment to counteract GoliathCo's horde of lawyers.

    The good part about this is that it also chases off most of the anklebiters from bringing less-winning lawsuits. Also, when they lose, they've usually chased off the low-value lawsuits, so the cost of David's lawyer is usually much less than the value of the case itself.

    If Mean Nasty GoliathCo unfairly sues David, Loser Pays means he's got to come up with an amazingly strong defense or settle right away - because he's got to pay for GoliathCo's Horde Of Lawyers, so even if his attorney is Pro Bono or defending him free-up-front in return for a chance at legal costs if he wins, he's got a good chance of losing big.

    On the other hand, if Unfairly Ripped Off GoliathCo legitimately sues Nasty Little David, Loser Pays means they need to keep their costs low because they may not recover much from the case if David settles, which he's got even more incentive to do if he's the Bad Guy. So they're likely to start off with a Threatening Form Letter rather than a well-structured case even when they're right.

    So why haven't the Brits descended into pre-Neanderthal chaos? They haven't? (:-) More precisely, it's tough to sue or even criticize misbehaving big companies in the UK, because of Loser Pays. It's especially bad because British libel law doesn't have the American development that truth is an adequate defense against libel, so you can get sued, and lose, for saying true but unfriendly things about them in public. There was a celebrated case a few years ago where somebody's bank card glitched his money, and he tried to get it reimbursed, and they sued him for libeling their Totally Bug Free bank card system, because after all they could lose immense amounts of money if the public thought it could possibly be their fault, therefore it *couldn't* have been their fault, therefore he's liable for immense amounts of money plus legal costs. (I forget the details; I think it may have been Midland Bank, but I could be wrong, and yes, the cash machine system *was* wrong.)

    By the way, people also propose "reforming" the tort law system by forbidding lawyers from taking cases on contingency (e.g. no money if they lose, 33% of the take if they win.) This also would make it hard for the little guy to afford to sue the big guy, even if he's willing to risk the Loser Pays costs.

  • I herby give dialectizer permission to touch anything from my domain(s).

    Now all I have to do is put up a proxy server.
  • Okay,

    other brought it already up with Babelfish etc. But I wonder if that doesn't make Google Illegal? They cache the text of websites to search it later? Or am I missing something here (besides that google is a company and not an individual?).

  • I'm surprised no one else gots'ta seen dese filters elsewhere. Right On! Abo ut 4 years ago ah' saw de JIBE'd version uh de GPL and could't stop laughin'.

    From some link off de same page ya' could git de source. What it is, Mama! Dough not 'esplicitly stated ah' always assumed it wuz public domain and free t'copy; I've neva' seen any dojigger, copyright, o' license in de source. What it is, M ama!

    I used t'gots' some version uh it runnin' around, but kin't find it right now. As ah' recall it compiled fine unda' AIX and Solaris, but poo'ly unda' Red Hat and DOS (Bo'land CPB 4.0 afta' runnin' it dru de lex on AIX)

    I dun did some quick search and found a link [] t'de same source ah' o'iginally had. So, if ya' plum wanna JIBE some little yo'self o' start an jimmey source version u h de serva' dat should be some baaaad start.

    or for the jive impaired ...

    I'm surprised no one else has seen these filters elsewhere! About 4 years ago I saw the jive'd version of the GPL and could't stop laughing.

    From a link off the same page you could get the source. Though not explicitly stated I always assumed it was public domain and free to copy; I've never seen any name, copyright, or license in the source.

    I used to have a version of it running around, but can't find it right now. As I recall it compiled fine under AIX and Solaris, but poorly under Red Hat and DOS (Borland CPB 4.0 after running it thru the lex on AIX)

    I did a quick search and found a link [] to the same source I originally had. So, if you just want to jive a little yourself or start an open source version of the server that should be a good start.

  • Sorry, taking the ENTIRE original work and then modifying it is not a fair use parody. You are certainly welcome to emulate the parodied conent, but using it wholesale generally loses, like those "Dilhole" cartoons. You can draw your own cartoons that roughly look like Dilbert and say they are a parody, but you can't take Dilbert comic itself and change the text bubbles and call it fair use. The ringworks guy takes a much smarter approach- he claims that this is akin to simply looking at the original content through "dialect" goggles. Essentially that his program is a filter, not a work or art in itself. This is a much more useful argument.
  • Man, I'm really bummed that I can't read the KKK's web site in Jive anymore- that was a blast.

    But I really can't see how this is that big of a problem, considering the T'inator and that Jesus filter thing that do more or less the same thing as dialectizer.

    With the popularity of the dialectizer soon to be severly diminished (how many times can you read the same ONE website in Redneck) why don't we just propagate the idea to all of our servers? Like DeCSS, but with higher load :) I'll happily run it on my 11-hits-a-month site!

  • But in all seriousness, releasing the code to the dialiectizer would allow us to enjoy it without putting rinkworks at risk of lawsuit, and without overloading rinkworks' server.

    This is actually very straightforward to clone. Back when Quickies featured the "jar-jargonizer", I'd spend half an hour fidding with Perl and posted a clone script as a comment.

    I'll do the same here.

    My point is that for a program this simple, you may be off simply writing your own version rather than asking for source, if the simple clone will be adequate for your needs.
  • Why don't we all just pack it up, cut our lines, and restrict the use of our web pages to ourselves. Copyright infringement, indeed. The absurdity of this is that a bank, as a powerhouse with billions of dollars and a team of lawyers larger than many sizeable companies, can frighten the average citizen into shutting down, when properly represented in a court of law, he would likely be awarded a counterclaim for frivolous lawsuit. Next thing you know, the President will be suing Leno & Letterman for doing impersonations. Streisand will be suing Matt Stone & Trey Parker for using her image in their Halloween 'Spookyvision', and Microsoft will shut down Slash for the use of the Borg Gates image. Let's just declare fair use dead, wipe it from the books. Large powerful corporations now own the copyright to everything. You can no longer express your own ideas, because someone else has already thought of them. You must first get permission from the Company. Permission denied.
  • BoA & its lawyers were terrified of <somehow> being able to hijack their URL, pass it through Dialect and have the results returned to some unsuspecting customer in all of its politically incorrect-ositude. They don't want the heat, can't claim they didn't know anything about it and would prefer not to make a headline on CNN about it. Self righteous or not you should expect this sort of thing by now.
  • In essence, a web browser is a translator. It translates HTML into something formatted. By claiming that Dialectizer or whatever it is infringes upon a copyright means that just going to their web site with a web browser is infringing upon their copyright.

    Their response to this would be: Dialectizer redistributes their (modified) work to other parties. Whatever anyone does to the content before viewing it, doesn't matter as long as they don't redistribute it. (Although DMCA changes the rules regarding that too, but we're gonna kill off DMCA.)

  • This is horrid! If this is accepted, and a court backs this action up, then things like translations are copyright infringments. You thought not being able to watch DVDs under Linux was bad? How about not being able to read documentation because it can't be translated?

  • back in the old school world of the printed page, when things moved at a sane enough pace that legal censorship could kill something overnight, there was a concept called fair use [] which protected the use of copyrighed materials under a number of circumstances, particularly for criticism, review, or parody. This is the same concept that has kept aolsucks [] alive. If reading the Banc of America web page in redneck doesn't count as parody, I don't know what does.
  • Seems like metahtml [] is a similar tool and is open source; it was used to create the outstanding zippy the pinhead filter [], which makes all web browsing a pleasure. I only wish there was a way to integrate the zippy filter into my everyday life so I could filter conversations, meetings, and television programs through it....
  • ...we frequently refer to as lawyers are nothing but analy retentive idiots.
    Why do we let them rule our world? Dialectizer was supposed to be a fun thing, just like Ask Jeesus [].
    Maybe we should load them all up into a giant spaceship (along with marketing types) and fire them into an unknown direction (sort of like what they've done in THGTTG).

    Actually, I have a better solution but I think it is banned under Geneva Convention :)
  • Let us take this to its logical conclusion.

    If I hold up a glass mirror to my monitor, I can read crappy corporate websites as mirror images. Does that violate their sanctimoneous copyright? Should I seek to stop Pilkington's making glass to prevent such infractions.

    I'm staggered that there are people sufficiently pea-brained out there that they'd consider such a site a threat.

  • by ebunga ( 95613 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @07:57AM (#1066086) Homepage
    In essence, a web browser is a translator. It translates HTML into something formatted. By claiming that Dialectizer or whatever it is infringes upon a copyright means that just going to their web site with a web browser is infringing upon their copyright.
  • Manipulating others' content, via cacheing, linking or translating, is what BSCs (Big Stupid Corporations) are trying to prevent.

    See [] for a discussion of the NSF-sponsored Internet 2 research project to enable cacheing.

    This is going to be a major culture clash, and hopefully will result in some new laws dealing with cacheing & these other issues. On the one hand, everyone from AOL to Google to the NSF (via Internet 2) agree that cacheing is a great way to make content more readily available. On the other hand, clueless corporations want to use the DMCA and other copyright baseball bats to keep utter control over what happens to their stuff.

    PS: Sorry for posting this as a top-level comment, but the other discussions on cacheing seemed specific, rather than addressing the more general issue.

  • So they're going to pay Lawyers $$$$, threaten freedom of speech, and look like complete idiots whereas they could have achieved what they wanted by just adding this line to httpd.conf:

    Deny from

    Fucking clueless corporate bullies. Too bad stupidity is not lethal.

  • wouldn't stuff like that be considered a parody, and thus fair use?

    Is it a parody of the content that is being dialectized, or is it a parody of the dialect?

    When I look at a redneck-ized Slashdot, I don't think, "Haw Haw! Slashdot is written by rednecks! Hee hee!" I think, "Heh. Redneck talk sure is funny."

    (Note, I'm not defending Dialectizer's persecution. I'm just playing Gates' advocate.)

  • by DGregory ( 74435 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @10:41AM (#1066092) Homepage
    As everyone can see from the Swedish chef and jive posts that the dialectizer isn't actually shut down. It is still available, you can copy and paste text into it. You just can't aim it at a website. I bet half of the people here didn't read the notice and assumed that it's actually completely shut down. It does have decreased functionality, however, and I think it's a great injustice that he has to change it.
  • by DreamerFi ( 78710 ) <> on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @09:07PM (#1066093) Homepage
    It makes sense to have a distinction between what you can do as a local user, and what you can do in a server and then retransmit to random people.

    That would make all proxy servers illegal. Squid essentially does what you describe.

  • If it's so bad, why haven't the Brits descended into pre-Neanderthal chaos?

    Because crooks either moved to US or are too busy exploiting anti-free-speech uses of local laws (ex: "defamation" lawsuits against ISPs)?

  • So, what if I view the Bank of America web site while wearing X-Ray Specs or 3-D glasses, or through the bottom of a gin bottle? I wouldn't want to get the X-Ray Specs company in trouble for copyright infringement. More importantly, is it "fair use" for the images from the Bank of America website to be copied and displayed on my retina? Otherwise, my rods and cones will have to establish a legal defense fund... (not to mention the thousands in royalties that my inner ear will owe)

    <rant>When will corporate and legal America learn that the Internet is a transmission medium, like air, while simultaneously being the world's largest public library? Try suing either of those and see how the public reacts.</rant>
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @08:04AM (#1066114)
    no, we get rednecks in the uk.

    Fat, balding, drunk, slobbish, stupid, ignorant, Sun reading twats...

    often seen abroad, wrapped in the union jack, getting the shit kicked out of them by the police, or foreign rednecks about half their size...

    much to the amusement of all who are embarrassed by these losers.

    Check out the news re Copenhagen today, for example.

    Cultural note (and i use the term in its loosest possible sense) - the Sun is like a newpaper for morons - sort of like National Enquirer, but without the sense of humour. Its `reading age` was about 6, last i heard.
  • by BoLean ( 41374 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @08:05AM (#1066123) Homepage
    Nolo's website [] has a good overview of Fair use as applied to Copyright. I quote:

    Uses That Are Generally Fair Uses Subject to some general limitations discussed later in this article, the following types of uses are usually deemed fair uses:

    • Criticism and comment--for example, quoting or excerpting a work in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment.
    • News reporting--for example, summarizing an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report.
    • Research and scholarship--for example, quoting a short passage in a scholarly, scientific or technical work for illustration or clarification of the author's observations.
    • Nonprofit educational uses--for example, photocopying of limited portions of written works by teachers for classroom use.
    • Parody--that is, a work that ridicules another, usually well-known, work by imitating it in a comic way.
    • Seems like fair use under the parody clause but we all know that he with the lawyer and the money wins. Call the ACLU.

  • by jeff.paulsen ( 6195 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @01:34PM (#1066124)

    The first amendment to the US Constitution bars the *United States Government* from abridging a citizen's right to free speech. This does not guarantee anyone the right to say anything they like. It *just* means that the Federal Government can't be the one who stops them.

    Good post, but note that the 14th Amendment keeps other levels of Government from infringing your rights also - and USC Title 18 S. 241-242 provide for very stong penalties for anyone found guilty of conspiring to deprive you of those rights, even 'under color of law'. Up to and including death, if violent crimes are commited in the process of violating your rights.

    It's rarely been used this way, because of the ridiculous precedent set in US v. Cruikshank. The Court managed to rule there that the 14th Amendment only protects those rights granted by the Government (like voting), not basic human rights (like speech, assembly, and, the court ruled, guns).

  • The part of the Constitiution I feel is being smashed is "Freedom of Speech". If translation of a work is Copyright infringement , what kind of reasoning does that make? No one is fundamentally trying to either steal or take credit for another persons work. Consent to disclose the work is implied since the work was already openly posted on the web. If I don't speak French how am I to learn about French culture and current events withut being able to translate available web content?

    Another may be Illegal Search and Seizure since Judges have already shown a propensity to seize now and justify later . Lawyers know this, so when they threaten to sue you or threaten your host/ISP they know they have the advantage.

    And don't forget that what this guy was doing was providing a translation service. Translations were make on-the-fly and no permenant copies of the documents were made. It was up to the user to choose a page for translation.

  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @08:06AM (#1066126)
    Ever hear of the CBLDF, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund? It's a fund to help comic book writers targeted by ridiculous legal action, mainly independent titles.

    We need one for Internet sites facing this kind of bizarre legal harassment. We need an organization of people banded together (and taking donations, lets face it, it takes money), to help people fight this blossoming ridiculous legal activity.

    My guess is lawyers are now engaged in preventative-and-predatory maneuvers, first strikes against any possible percieved threat no matter how bizarre or untrue. I've seen legal departments go on automatic before, and it seems this is happening more and more often on the net.

    So, it's time to band together and fight.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @08:07AM (#1066136)


    I live in Austria, Europe, a small country that has recently received a fair amount of flak on an international level due to the fact that the new government is considered too right-wing. The main point of concern was and is that one of the parties in the new coalition government has a rather poor track record with respect to political correctness. Numerous outside governments (including the US) made copious amounts of well-meaning and patronizing remarks about how the free world has to watch that the standards of democracy and free speech have to be upheld in Austria now that this new administration is in charge, and so on.

    All of which is, of course, total drivel because said government was democratically elected and has so far shown not the slightest intention of altering the political system for the worse.

    If something like the shutting down of Dialectizer had taken place in Austria, free speech advocates would probably already be spraying swastikas on Austrian embassies in some places. But if this takes place in the USA with its sacred legal system that leans towards corporate fascism, everything is all right. How very nice >:-)

    Perhaps the citizens of the US should start giving some thoughts as to whether their own political and judical systems are still up to standards that allow them to preach to the entire world how things ought to be done...

  • > The first amendment to the US Constitution bars the *United States Government* from abridging a citizen's right to free speech

    Correct. The government is therefore obliged to not respect any law or civil action enjoining you from exercising your rights under the First Amendment, regardless of the plantiff.
  • squid is a cache, it doesn't modify what it sends. if a web-site operator tried to sue an ISP for having a squid cache for its customers, they'd get pointed to the notion of "common carrier", and to the HTTP RFC and the Cache-control header.
  • I think that dialects can be better understood after reading the following article.... []



  • doesn't make sense at all. One of the advantages of a client-server architecture is distribution of the application.
    of course it doesn't make sense at all with the net as it is. I just said that it makes some sense from the point of view of current, existing IP law. If you want to argue that IP law is braindead and outdated, of course I'll agree.
  • You're quite right, Bank of America could have easily solved the "problem" on its own end, without legal threats. That's why I went down to my local BoA branch and spoke with a banker there. They gave me an upper-level customer service officer's number, and I gave him the same message.

    Actually, they had received email about this, but hadn't received the Dialectizer's address. I suggested they look at the Slashdot story. (It's tough spelling over the phone; I wanted to spell out all of, but didn't think they'd get it.)

    If their legal antics bother you, please contact Bank of America and explain, politely, why you're bothered. This is particularly effective if you have an account at BoA.
  • by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @08:11AM (#1066170)
    I think a way that would work out well is that if the plaintiff loses the case, they would have to pay for all the defendant's legal fees, along with compensation for all the time they could have spent doing better things.

    This could put a bit of a dent in all those big companies' pockets... suddenly the little people (who would have never had a chance before) get nice big expensive lawyers, win the case like they should, and the bill gets paid by the company.

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
    It's not what it is, it's something else.
  • by Danse ( 1026 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @08:13AM (#1066181)

    Routers don't qualify. They don't keep the data long enough. I forget what case that decision came out of, and I'm not sure it applies everywhere (probably just one district). Not sure about the rest.

  • They could have done that.

    But they are prolly running IIS ;-)
  • by Danse ( 1026 ) on Wednesday May 17, 2000 @08:21AM (#1066206)

    Now they won't be able to read websites in their native language!

BLISS is ignorance.