Amy Alexander on Thu, 18 May 2000 12:34:48 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-bold] Dialectizer closes; a victim of the Corporate Napster Bandwagon?

Regarding today's slashdot story at

The Dialectizer ( project dynamically
translates web pages into alternate "dialects", such as "redneck" or
"Swedish Chef."  

In his notice at ,
the author discusses why he's been forced to effectively shut down the
site for now, due to intellectual property threats from Bank of America
and others. Apparently Bank of America used the term "contributory
copyright infringement" in their accusation of what he was committing.

Hmm... isn't that the same sort of sin Napster et al have been committing? 
It's a great corporate-legal catch-all; could of course be used to go
after the makers of VCR's, copy machines, and probably people who have
photographic memories. 

But, let's look at what Dialectizer does. It parodies (dialects, web
language, etc...) The author gives his explanation of the humor, lest
someone accuse it of being discriminatory at
There is clearly no way anyone is going to mistake his "dialectized" pages
with the originals.

Now, lets look at the AltaVista Babelfish translation 
engine. ( As far as I
can figure out, Babelfish would seem to have less of a legal leg to stand
on than Dialectizer. Babelfish, after all, translates web pages into
languages other than that which they were written in, without the owner's
permission, and they often come out as ridiculous as Dialectizer, but
sometimes more disturbing. (For example, I've seen Babelfish confuse
"colorful" with "colored" and turn a newspaper story about colorful
baseball players into one about colored players.) Babelfish can't
claim Fair Use as a parody, and there's a far greater risk of people
confusing Babelfish's translations with the originals than there is with

So, are the folks at Babelfish/Altavista, who would seem also guilty of
"contributory copyright infringement," shutting down their service under
legal threat? Doubtful... they must have a legal team to scare away the
boogey men; I don't suppose the guy at Dialectizer does.


"The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." 
					 	-John Gilmore, I think

Nettime-bold mailing list