Legalese to provide Legal Ease

An article about accusations of plagiarism in the podcast community crossed my desk this morning (thanks, unsurprisingly, to the pod-watchers extraordinaire over at Night-Time Foam Corner), that raised the basic question about attribution in an oral format.

This is something that Nathan and I have been trying to keep in the forefront of our minds as we record episodes. What is libelous or what is slanderous? We have come to praise Caesar, not to bury him, but could we still say something that is defamatory without malicious intent? The Wild West of the public record is something neither of us is particularly schooled in, and we don’t wish to accidentally run afoul of its tricky codes of conduct.

I base most of my technique on traditions of academic scholarship fostered in teaching citation techniques in high school. My advice to students is that if its doubtful that the information is common knowledge, then it must be cited. And as I take my notes for each episode on my tall yellow legal pads, I try to block each source into a clearly marked category so that when I refer to it in conversation, I can always say from where I got the information. Because, like my students, when I get close enough to the subject matter, I can forget what a generic “everyone” is expected to know, and what I have accidentally assumed is common knowledge because of my fannish proximity.

Part of the purpose of the Errata page is to provide a venue for accountability and correction. I’m pleased that this feature had been well-established before I read news of other podcasts having to delete episodes because of a lack of an ability to correct and addend their content. While we don’t look forward to being wrong, we do look forward to being able to incorporate audience feedback and corrections into the greater body of our knowledge base and of the public record of Python information.

—Ben

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