Recommended Etiquette for Online Service Users

February 16, 1996
Electronic Network Consortium

Online services provide personal computer or word processor users with such communication services as e-mail, bulletin board and information retrieval services for news and database, and interactive transaction services including online shopping via telephone line or electronic networks.

Just as in our everyday life, many people participate in and utilize the world of online services in various ways. So that you can enjoy your participation in an online network and have a constructive exchange of communication, you need to observe some rules of etiquette, just as you do in daily life. Such rules as paying due respect to other user's point of views as behaving with kindness and consideration, as observing a little discipline are very important. Each member of an online network is expected to observe the copyright laws, laws that in daily life tend to be handled carelessly as well as to follow unique network etiquette rules.

In this document we have summarized recommended rules of etiquette, providing examples for your reference. Online network beginners especially should take a good look at this document.

1. Several Considerations before Starting Online Network Communication

1-1. Basic Principles of an Online Service

Usually online service providers provide membership policies describing a member's responsibilities, prohibitions, cautions and the like. Naturally, you should read and observe your service provider's basic policies before using their services.

1-2. Characters That Can Be Used in an Online Service

There are differences between the characters used by a personal computer or word processor and the characters used for an online service. In particular, such symbols as those for frame, numerics with dots, and roman numerals are often incompatible. Note that hankaku katakana cannot be displayed by Unix models.

1-3. Recommended Writing Styles for Online Network Communication

As for writing format, ease of reading is most important. Writing in double space is not appreciated by other members because it takes too much space. But typing single-spaced lines of all the same length are not easy to read and therefore not favored by other members. For easy readability and effectiveness, type in paragraphs with a single space between each. The content of your writing should be simple and to the point. Focus on main point. A long message is not welcome; you should avoid it. If your message is not read by other members, your whole effort in writing a lengthy message will be meaningless. Avoid quoting another member's message too often. If you quote too much, your message will lose its meaning and become pointless.

2. User ID and Password

2-1. You need to protect your user ID and password properly.

A password for an online service is equivalent to a password for a cash card. Consequently, it is a very important duty for an online service user to guard the password so that other people cannot steal it. Please use the following precautions to safeguard your password properly:

2-2. You should not use another member's user ID or password.

Also, you should never steal and use another member's password.

2-3. Do not use the same password for other online services.

If your password is ever stolen and used, your monetary damage would be enormous. It may seem troublesome, but we strongly recommend that you use a different password for each online service.

3. E-mail

3-1. Basic Mental Attitude

(1) Consider other members feelings.

Treat e-mail as you would treat ordinary paper mail. Always put yourself in your recipient's place. How would you feel if you were the recipient?

3-2. Things to consider in using e-mail service

(1) When sending e-mail to a member whom you haven't met in person, first introduce yourself.

(2) Do not get angry for a late reply.

Your recipient may have many other things to do.

(3) Do not take content of e-mail from an unknown person at face value.

The electronic network society is very large and there are some unscrupulous members who might try to cheat you. If you receive an unpleasant or suspicious e-mail message, you can either delete it or report the incident to your system administrator for a follow-up action.

3-3. Others Rules

(1) Do not share a private e-mail message to the public.

If an e-mail message addressed to you is private, never repost it or otherwise disclose it to the public without prior consent from the sender. You could be charged for violating privacy or become involved in other complications.

(2) Do not send direct mail with a commercial purpose to other members.

Commercial online services charge members both for sending and for receiving an e-mail message. If you send a commercial e-mail message it will cost your receiver money to read your advertisement.

4. Bulletin Boards and Forums

4-1. Basic Mental Attitude

(1) Bulletin boards and forums are different from e-mail.

E-mail is used for private communication between specific network members. On the contrary, bulletin boards and forums provide opportunities for open discussion and any member has the right to post a message or an article. But, just as with everyday communi- cation, you need to follow some rules.

(2) Have a give-and-take approach.

Do not be selfish. When you ask for help, show your appreciation to those who help you. Try to help other people who need help. An online network is like general society, and the same rules apply including:

(3) Libel and defamation are not allowed.

When you post an objection to an other member's posting, base your objection on fact and take special care not to hurt the other person's feelings. Never demean another member's character.

(4) Don't post pornographic images or texts.

The online network society is just like general society and consists of the young, the old, males, and females. Do not upload illegal pornographic videos, commercials, or text to bulletin boards and forums.

(5) Give thoughtful consideration to other members privacy.

Unless you have prior consent, do not disclose another person's personal facts, private pictures, illustrations on a bulletin board or forum. You might be subjecting the other person to hatred, shame or other unpleasantness. You woudl be infringing his privacy right's and you could be sued for libel.

(6) Post only sincere and responsible messages.

By posting an ambiguity along with a well-established fact or by posting irresponsibly, you cause unneccessary trouble and you lose your credibility. Post each message with sincerity and responsibi- lity.

(7) If you are a net veteran,

(8) The way net beginners should behave

If you are a net beginner, listen humbly to the advice from a net veteran.

4-2. Considerations When Participating on a Bulletin Board or Forum

(1) Introduce yourself in a profile section.

If there is a section in the bulletin board or forum for users introductions, take that opportunity to introduce yourself. Other members will understand your posting more clearly by reading your profile.

(2) Follow the subject discussed in the forum when posting your message.

You inconvenience other users by doing multiple posting of your article to various forums. It is good manners to post your article to the most appropriate forum.

(3) Choose the most appropriate subject name.

Use a subject name that represents the content of your posting.

(4) Read other members' postings carefully.

Some network users cause unnecessary trouble by posting careless messages without reading the message log closely, thus inconve- niencing other users. Before posting, understand the content and intention of other peoples' posts and follow the general topics discussed in the forum. Especially when you post your first message, give thoughtful consideration not to disturb the atmosphere of the forum.

(5) When you post your comments to somebody else's message, make it clear as to which message you are appending your comments to. That way another member can read the message log later and follow the flow of threads.

(6) Do not quote another people's message too often. Try to limit to the absolute minimum the amount of another person's messge that you quote. It is inconvenient for other network users to read the same messages over and over again.

(7) Do not post a one-way message. Always remember that an online network requires two-way communication and try not to post a one-way message.

(8) Try to remain calm when the discussion becomes heated. When you are involved in a heated discussion, don't send your comments immediately. Try to calm yourself down and read your comments before posting. When you are excited, it is very likely that you will start nitpicking another user's comments, thus causing inconvenience to all other users.

5. Handling of Copyrights

5.1. Basic Attitude

(1) Things to Consider

Some postings in a bulletin board or forum may be copyrighted. Posting somebody else's message without getting the writer's prior approval may be an infringement of copyright. Posting other person's programs or text that you have downloaded from the network without prior permission from the registrant and the copyright owner may be an infringement of copyright. Network beginners should especially be careful not to do this, because it is easy to violate copyright unintentionally. The following may be an infringement of copyright:

5.2 How to Reposting and Quoting Another person's Messages or Articles

The following are examples of reposting and quoting another person's copyrighted works. Each has some differences. Please be careful in selecting the most suitable way.

(1) Producing a Dupicate and Reposting the Original

When you are reposting another person's messages or text in full or in part, you are producing a duplicate or reposting the original. When you repost, you should get permission from the originator or publisher. You should also get permission from the standpoint of sending over the commercial online network. (agreement of wired transmission)

If you repost without permission, you are committing a violation of unwarranted reposting and duplicating, which are specifically prohibited by publishers. You might be sued for violation of copyright.

(2) Regarding a Quote

A quote refers to the quotation of another person's article or message, to show how it compares with yours or to back up your comments. A quote is permitted in the copyright law and you don't need to get permission from the copyright owner. But you should put the quoted portion within parentheses with the clear identifi- cation of its source, such as the specific location of the article posted, its title, and the copyright owner. A quote should be limited to what is necessary to back up one's opinion or to comment on the article. A quote is considered duplication or reposting if it is used for any of the following purposes:

6. Watch out for Viruses.

6-1. Fundamental Attitudes

(1) Be careful with an e-mail message from an unknown sender, composed of binary data in ISH format. (the format used for converting such binary data as programs to text format) There is a chance that such an e-mail message is infected with a computer virus or might be the virus itself. If such an e-mail message is forwarded to you, do not download it but report it to your system administrator or administration office.

(2) Perform a virus check on software before uploading it. When you are planning to upload such files as software or binary data, be sure to perform a virus check with a test program.

6-2. Others

(1) Prepared yourself for virus prevention.

If you have a virus problem, you can limit the damage to the minimum if you perform a periodical virus check and keep a frequent backup of your programs.

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