[vcf-midatlantic] Culpability and Provenance

Herb Johnson hjohnson at retrotechnology.info
Thu Jan 14 23:09:10 UTC 2021

Well, while I have a lot I could post on these matters, I won't. I'm not 
a lawyer and these are legal matters. The rest is discussion not advice.

Certain content one might obtain from others accidentally on an 
abandoned computer, is outright illegal to own and distribute. Delete it 
- period. Other content is proprietary and still in distribution, thus 
an actionable issue by the active producers of that content.

And of course, most of us with a clue know what is "private 
information". Nobody here is "researching" people's private information. 
This is a vintage computing discussion. Private information must be 
deleted, copies only to owners who want it and are given opportunities 
to ask. Most people seem to be indifferent; some are not.

The rest, is about technical content of old programs out of use, and 
possibly original programming done (as in sources, binaries). These 
things are, in my opinion, the business of those of us in vintage 

What to do about finding that stuff, has been in discussion for decades. 
There's common practices about that content. While owners could take 
actions, many owners are disinterested in doing so, or "unavailable", or 
in some cases have released their published works. Owners have rights, 
and the right to say "delete". At least they used to, when content 
resided in their own hands. Another subject.

Informing former owners about discovered content beyond impersonal 
programs and documents, has some merits both to us and to the prior 
owners. Tony shares his experience, that he's informed some owners about 
protecting their data.

All that said, I'm informed by the posts on this subject, from persons 
who identify their sources of authority on their decisions (Tony 
mentioned HIPAA compliance for instance). And by various experiences 

Authority and or experience matters to me, when I see advice, certainly 
when I give it. I don't say I have much authority, other than years of 
practices; I have no authority on legal matters, little on business. I'm 
a technologist by training and historian by circumstance.

Myself: I preserve the history of development of certain programs and 
hardware on my Web site. Much of that is published information, 
descriptions and repairs of hardware, documentation, sources or 
disassemblies. Some of it is biographical information from public 
sources and personal correspondence (republished by me with permission). 
Generally I have permissions, as owners of content have the rights to 
say "no", and privacy rights.

Over the decades: I've been contacted by content-owners or their heirs 
or their associates and customers. Most thank me  for recognizing those 
known to them, a few for recognizing themselves! Some provide more 
information. Some people want their privacy, or at least used to when 
privacy existed. And some, are no longer interested in certain past works.

So it seems to me:

If the VCF Inc. chooses to, they might gather some informed and 
authoritative opinions and recommendations and practices, and make that 
information available, as a service. They may also choose to do so, to 
inform their officers and volunteers as to "best practices" within the 
VCF collection.

One service might be, to identify kinds of content - such as I and 
others have identified - and suggest the kinds of practices one might 
take. That service alone, may help persons in deciding what to do, where 
to seek advice.

But I'm not credentialed in most of these matters. I have certain 
practices I follow. Mostly I tell people "this is at your own risk. Seek 
professional, legal or more experienced advice. I'm not responsible for 
your consequences. Make your own choices." Otherwise I lead by example 
and effort and results, I hope.

regards, Herb Johnson

Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey in the USA
http://www.retrotechnology.com OR .net
preserve, recover, restore 1970's computing
email: hjohnson AT retrotechnology DOT com
or try later herbjohnson AT comcast DOT net

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