Some bastard decided to post multi-megabytes of MP3’s of copyrighted material to alt.fan.douglas-adams. I posted this there and to him. His address bounced. Figures.

Dear Sir or Madam,

There are many forces in the Universe, and on Usenet. Two of the ones you may be aware of are Etiquette and Law.

Etiquette is politeness, it is the general guidelines people are meant to adhere to in order the society should continue to function on a reasonable level without everybody hating the rest of the world. These include things like not putting your elbows on the table, eating with your mouth closed, and helping people who are carrying heavy bags in both hands though doorways.

An addition to etiquette is Chivalry, where you go out of your way to make a persons day better. Crossing the street to help little old ladies, that kind of thing.

The point to this is that society has unwritten rules which enable it to live happily ever after. On a freewheeling society such as the Internet there are a great number of conventions that let everybody exist together in harmony. These include technical things like the way E-Mail is delivered, more minor things like putting additions to usenet-posts at the bottom, putting a “– ” separator before your .sig and keeping your signature under 4 lines.

AFDA is one of the more relaxed newsgroups around. They don’t really care much if your sig is five or six lines, or if your quotes are at the top. Groups like Alt Fan Pratchett tend to bite your hand off if you feed them that kind of thing.

But usenet is a text-based medium, no graphics beyond that which ASCII can render, no HTML (another of those conventions I mentioned earlier) and no files that are not Text. For those that wish to post other files, “binaries” as they are known, there is a whole tree of other newsgroups where you post them. By convention, if you think other people should have these files, you either put them on the Internet somewhere (Geocities, Angelfire, try heading to for some other places that give you free webspace) or you post them to an alt.binaries.* group and post a short, text based, message to the group you want to tell saying that the files are in this place if they want them.

Because the Internet is not yet free, many people pay for the time they spend online. This means that a common way of getting at newsgroups is to press a button that downloads all the messages on a newsgroup, so they can be read offline, replied to offline, and then you can go back online to post your replies. This means that people do not *chose* what they download. They download the lot. Everything. Including any multi-megabyte files that some moron has decided to place on a non-binaries group. Please remember this.

Lastly is Law. I am a computing student and an Internet Citizen, not a law student. Douglas Adams writes very good books. He my not write them fast enough for us to be totally happy with it, or consistent enough that everybody understands them, but they are very good and very funny, and this newsgroup was set up to discuss them along with life, the universe and everything.

Douglas makes money by selling these books. The BBC and Mr Adams makes money by selling the CD’s. Once you have bought the CD’s you are legally allowed to make a backup of them onto MP3 or 4 for your own personal enjoyment. This means that both the BBC and Mr Adams get upset when people decide to give his work away for free. When Mr Adams gets upset, his lawyers get involved. When lawyers get involved (as you are about to find out) things get very nasty indeed. With all the press that pirating MP3’s is getting at the moment, lawyers are just itching to find out how far the law will go.

So, to sum up, you have broken Internet Etiquette, Copyright law, and taken another step into the regulation of the Internet. Also, and this is worst of all, you have cost money to people who had nothing to do with your stupidity.

Not bad for a days work is it? I hope you enjoyed it. Have a nice day.

Yours sincerely,

Nicholas Avenell