Half-Mind Weblog

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Let me ask you, why do you visit hashing web sites? You’re looking for Hash House Harrier information, right? Isn’t the internet great? All this information, and all of it free! For now, anyway . . . yes, harriers and harriettes, it had to happen sooner or later: an HHH internet publisher is going commercial. Is this TEOHAWKI (the end of hashing as we know it)?

The good news is TEOHAWKI’s still a ways off. Our old friend Larry McDowell (the self-proclaimed “Legitimate Heir of Magic”®) is now selling membership plans to hashers through his Global Trash web page. The plans start at $4.95/month and go up to $29.95/month.

In plain English, Mr. McDowell is selling graduated levels of web page, e-mail, and domain name services. For now, he promises that GT’s free services to hashers – presumably, the lists of HHH contacts and upcoming events – will remain free. But one has to wonder how long he’ll honor that promise, in light of various statements he makes about his membership plan (and I quote):

With all the paid plans above, you get these additional features and benefits below:

  • Full Membership for free access to all . . . site pages.
  • Direct world hash directory entry . . . without normal review delays.
  • Direct hash contact entry into the world directory . . . without normal review delays.
  • Direct world interhash calendar entry . . . without normal review delays.

What’s going to be on the members (sic) page?

  • Access to a more complete menu of information services than will be on the public default page in the future.

Why is GT making this a mostly members only site?

  • As we add a lot of new services, we will slowly close some sections to the general public and open them to registered members only.

I don’t know about you, but when I read those statements, I foresee a future where some of those “free” services migrate over to the “members only” section of Mr. McDowell’s site. No, I don’t think it’s an immediate threat . . . not as long as he has competition, anyway. As long as other sites (like this one) keep their HHH contact and upcoming event info free, he’ll do the same. But what if Mr. McDowell could, somehow, restrict or eliminate his competition?

Let me tell you what I see on Mr. McDowell’s page that scares me, and should scare you too (again, I quote):

These pages copyright 1995-2002 by Larry McDowell dba Global Trash – Portions, but not the whole, of this web page and its extension pages may be copied for the trash or newsletters of individual, legitimate Hash House Harrier groups. It may not be reproduced on the internet, electronically or in other publications without the express permission of the editor, Larry Stray Dog McDowell. Though it is the goal of the Global Trash to allow for the free flow of Hash information, Global Trash relies on the sales of its publications to pay for this effort. This is done as a public service and designed as a not-for-profit effort, however a bit of cooperation is needed to help us to continue to provide these services to harriers. Thankyou (sic).

When I put this statement together with Mr. McDowell’s plan to restrict parts of his web site to paying members, I hear the approach of (distant sound of thunder) the Thing That Killed Napster. I can hear you saying, “Flying Booger, you paranoid bastard – how do you get there from here?” Here’s how:

Mr. McDowell has always slapped copyright notices on his publications, whether in print or on the internet. He even put a copyright notice on his songbook, large parts of which he copied word-for-word from mine! I didn’t pay too much attention to it until a few years ago, when Mr. McDowell told the Tasmania InterHash directory committee they couldn’t use any of the HHH contact information from his web site. He said the same thing again two years later, this time to the Goa InterHash directory committee. Guess what? When he says his stuff is copyrighted, he really means it!

But how can you copyright HHH information? Doesn’t that belong to all of us? I’m not talking about Mr. McDowell’s own original writing, like his editorials or his rip-off of my Ask Dr. Down-Down column; clearly, those are his intellectual property, and he’s totally correct in claiming ownership . . . shoot, I copyright my own creative writing too. I’m talking about the kind of HHH information offered by web sites like mine – and many others – primarily HHH contact and upcoming event info, but also general hashing news and history, ancient bawdy songs, and such.

When hashers send kennel updates or upcoming event notices to Mr. McDowell – or to me, or to any of the regional webmasters, or to all of us together – isn’t it their intent to share that information with the hashing world? Gee, I think so . . . I certainly don’t believe hashers want to see that information restricted to one web page only . . . they want us to help them spread the word. And let me tell you something else: you can look at all the other world and regional HHH information web sites, and you won’t find a copyright notice on any of them. Go check, and tell me I’m not telling the truth.

Nevertheless, Mr. McDowell claims copyright protection for everything on his page, and he has specifically and repeatedly told the other HHH publishers and webmasters not to copy any of the information listed on his page. Rightly or wrongly, we (the other publishers and webmasters) have honored his demands, and we do not copy his information.

Now, most of you have heard Mr. McDowell put forth the following proposition: that hashers only need to send contact or event updates to one address – namely, his – because his web site is international (and, to be sure, the best, the biggest, the only one that matters, etc.). In other words, why should hashers bother to look up the e-mail address of one or more regional webmasters when they can send their input to a single international web publisher?

So, what would happen if hashers listened to Mr. McDowell’s argument and started sending updates to him only, cutting out the regional webmasters? Mr. McDowell will copyright this information and it won’t be available to the regional webmasters. In time, this will kill the independent regional web sites. And should that ever happen, how long do you think it’ll be before Mr. McDowell asks you to pay for the information he “owns”?

Can you hear it? Shhhhh . . . the Thing That Killed Napster is getting closer and closer. I can hear it, drooling and muttering . . . TEOHAWKI!

Harriers and Harriettes, please support your regional webmasters. Support Mr. McDowell if you must, but don’t leave us out of the loop. Not every hasher reads Mr. McDowell’s site, and not every hasher reads the regional webmasters’ sites . . . if you want your HHH contact and upcoming event information to get out to as many hashers as possible, you need to update the regional webmasters. I know it seems like a pain in the ass, but if it keeps the Thing That Killed Napster locked in its crypt, it’s worth it.

Meanwhile, I’m going shopping . . . for wooden stakes and silver bullets.

- Flying Booger

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