Caution: Online Publishing is Permanent

By Blane Warrene

Interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal (sorry – subscription required but there is a free two week trial!).

It seems that today’s attorneys are using the Wayback Machine and other caching services like Google to nail down folks on what they have potentially said, posted, hosted or otherwise executed online in years past even after pages have been deleted.

Precedent has now been set via a lawsuit by Dell against a small computer maker who in the past used as a bit of humor and redirected to his own business site.

Using the cache of old pages – Dell was able to gain a favorable ruling and take possession of the domain and close it down.

As a web professional, great thought should go into any endeavor that has the possibility of crossing the line. I am not suggesting supressing free speech – however – consider legal fees and your reputation when possibly shifting into unchartered waters.

  • Seems like an interesting discussion. This goes in line with what many people dread and oppose – a physical notice being assigned to anything virtual. Which will inturn lead to policing.

  • I’ve warned people in past on this very issue, especially related to blogs. While the obvious point is that companies can see things are defamatory to them, imagine if you were posting items that could be seen in a negative light if a potential employer did a search for your name on the Internet? Now you need to think about future prospects as well. This stuff is around for a very, very long time. There is no way I want to be in a situation where I lose a job, or contract based on something that I published on the net in a seemingly “fun” or “silly” moment.

  • johnroc

    This just goes to show that what my mother told me when I was a little kid is still correct. Watch what you say. You may regret it later, and you can’t go back and change it.

    Even without the Wayback Machine, you never know who may have saved a copy of what wrote. If it was libel, revealed confidential information, was part of a fraud, etc. there can be legal problems. Even if perfectly legal, a future employer may find it offensive.

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