opinion

Playing by the Rules

Stephen Yagielowicz
Whether it's a matter of law or the simple standards by which a game is played, rules define many of the elements of our society and our lives as members of that society. Ostensibly, this is for the protection and betterment of us all — but on occasion, the declaration and enforcement of these rules can be most troublesome indeed; leading to nuisance lawsuits and other legal, political, personal and corporate woes…

For example, many of my readers are adult webmasters and others involved in the adult entertainment and new media industries. If you fit into that category, then I have a quick question for you: have you read your Internet Service Provider's Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) lately (if ever)?

I've recently been studying the Terms of Service (TOS) and AUP used by a variety of local, regional and national ISPs and have noticed a wide variance in the language that covers the accessing of, and posting of, adult content. While all condemn the posting of "obscene" material, which in this observer's opinion is fine, as "obscene" content is now illegal in the U.S. and within many other jurisdictions — it is the more restrictive content prohibitions that some ISPs have which I find troubling: words like "pornographic," "indecent" and "offensive" — all describing content that may be objectionable to some and not appropriate for minors, but is nonetheless legal and Constitutionally protected.

Well, protected from governmental censorship anyway; but not, it appears, from the whims of corporate board members — many of whom, like the countless shareholders they represent — are avid fans of our wares. You'd think they'd want to extend to their customers the same level of privacy they would want for themselves.

But not everyone cares about privacy — and there's a lot of "busy bodies" out there.

For example, my lovely wife Dawn and I are in the midst of moving into a new home and I've been reviewing the rule book from the Home Owner's Association. The book has to be 100 pages thick; filled with gems such as how every home must have at least a two-car garage, and that you must actually park in it. They (the HOA) understand that when moving, many folks like to use their garage to store boxes and such and park their car in the driveway — they just want to hear from me (in writing) how long it will take for me to unpack and start parking in my nice new garage.

No kidding.

They can even tow my car out of my own driveway (at my expense) if I get in the habit of parking in it. You can park eight cars in my driveway — and I have an association-approved graveled RV parking area alongside the driveway that is big enough for the largest of motor homes, as well — but I can't park my car outside my garage without a permit from the council. Heck, I'm already screwed for installing the sweetest array of satellite dishes this side of Wright-Patterson without prior written authorization…

But it's the privacy issue that gets me.

You see, the HOA wants to make sure that you're complying with all their rules, so they put severe restrictions on the type, size and location of fencing to ensure that everyone could see through their neighbor's lots. With a requirement of "visually open" fencing (think chain link) and a maximum height of five feet, our total lack of privacy is assured.

Given the enormous size of some of our windows, and the silliness of some of our antics around the yard, I'm sure we'll be the talk of the neighborhood — a further blow to our privacy and the quality of life we're seeking.

But in today's world, who cares? Privacy over what you do; what you read and look at online; where you shop; what you buy and how you pay for it; who you vote for and who you work for, is nonexistent — your business is now everyone's business — and when someone makes something their business, they'll make rules to govern it and try to keep it all neat and tidy in a uniform little box.

The moral of the story is that rules do indeed govern many aspects of our lives and our businesses — rules that other people make and that we have to follow. Responsible operators will review the latest regulations, terms and AUPs surrounding their various infrastructure holdings; such as web hosting and access providers, local licensing and zoning — and yes, even the reams of regulations promulgated by your HOA. It's better than waking up in the morning to find you've been terminated over a policy violation.

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