Class Notes: Miss Manners’ Guide to Netiquette

At the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Discuss and defend their personal concept of netiquette
  • Explain their philosophy of ethical network behavior as it pertains to:
  • Personal privacy
  • Legal issues such as libel/slander
  • Intellectual property
  • Copyright law
  • Creative commons
  • Explain the concept of the Creative Commons
  • Identify and explain the different “licensing” levels that the Creative Commons provides
  • Explain the concept of “open source”
  • Explain the concept of “public domain”
  • Explain the difference between a copyright and a patent


What is “netiquette?” Netiquette is a set of guidelines which help to ease the disconnect that can exist in online communication. Wikipedia has a wonderful article on netiquette. has another good link.These are general rules of the road, but there are also more specific guidelines that cover such technologies as email, blogs and instant
messaging. has opened a dialogue on blogging ethics. Harvard’s Martin Kuhn has a paper (in PDF format) on blogging ethics as well. Rather than read the entire paper, focus on Appendices A and B.


Post a blog entry that details your own “code of ethics.”

Remember that we are expecting two posts a week at this point in our class.


A topic that always seems to fire our passions is that of privacy. With the advent of the Internet, this has become almost non-existent. Whether the problem is offering too much personal information as in the case of many MySpace profiles or whether it is businesses with poor data management skills or even corporations falling victim to crackers, privacy and in particular identity theft is a growing concern. Wikipedia has a decent entry on data privacy.


Sometimes concerns over a lack of privacy come as a result of legislation, such as the USA PATRIOT Act. If your eyes glaze over at the thought of reading a legislative bill, Wikipedia has a summary that might make a bit more sense. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has an article that highlights their perspective as does the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Libraries Association (ALA).

Automated services

Try to answer this question:

What are Internet or web “bots” and what impact might they have on one’s privacy?

Check this Wikipedia link to get yourself started.

Intellectual Property

One of the challenges any student faces is that over what constitutes fair-use of intellectual property. The U.S. Copyright office offers the legal standard, but the folks at Lamson Library have a number of wonderful books that deal specifically with copyright law as it pertains to the type of projects we will be creating.Here are a few more links you should check out:

Creative Commons

One answer to the vexing problem posed by the fundamentals of copyright law is the Creative Commons project. In this project, authors can assign a number of licensing options ranging in their level of restriction.Here are a few questions for you to answer:

  • How many different Creative Commons licensing combinations are there?
  • How is this different from public domain material?
  • How is this different from open source material?
  • What benefits can you see that might come from the expanded use of the Creative Commons concept?


Try creating something uniquely yours (it does NOT have to be very intricate) and post it to your blog. Give it a creative commons license following their directions for including the appropriate identification.

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