Princeton Cemetery, January 1996

Dilbert Hack Page Archives

I started my Dilbert Hack Page in January 1996 because, despite a lot of e-mail to the Webmasters at United Media, the layout of their Dilbert page was really lame. I could do better, and I was pretty sure I could avoid copyright problems by linking directly to their images.

I also knew they'd eventually figure it out and write me a threatening letter. Well, they finally did. They sent notice that ``United Media intellectual property cannot be used... without the express, written consent of UFS'' and pointed out how they could make my life unpleasant if I didn't remove the page.

I asked a lot of laywers for their advice. I got some great feedback. I also sparked a raging debate on a law and policy mailing list. After carefully reading 160 messages of lawyers arguing about my page and the issues surrounding it, I decided to take the safe exit and remove my page.


Technical details
How did the page work? What did it look like?

Correspondence with United Media
Read the letters that got everything started.

Other interesting letters
I received a large volume of private e-mail. As people grant me permission, I'll be posting my favorite letters.

Cyberia-L Archives
Cyberia is a listserv dedicated to ``law and policy for computer communications.'' Many active people on the list are practicing lawyers, so the discussions get fairly technical. Search for articles around August 1996 to read the argument over the Dilbert Hack Page.

To subscribe, send e-mail to with no subject and the message ``subscribe cyberia-l'' in the body by itself.

Designing a Web of Intellectual Property
Terje Norderhaug and Juliet M. Oberding wrote a very interesting research paper on IP issues and the Web

The Link Controvery Page
Extensive links to legal and other resources about linking.

Hey, can I get your source code?
Nope. If you set up another Dilbert Hack Page using my Perl script, I could potentially be liable for contributory infringement. The issue is whether my script has substantial non-infringing use. I don't want to deal with it. On the other hand, a good Perl programmer could hack it together from scratch in about an hour.


Thanks to Scott Adams for making a comic strip relevant and entertaining enough to be worth the bother. I'll keep sending in my suggestions. Maybe I'll get a cool DNRC title.

Thanks to all my friends, colleagues, and family for supporting me and cheering me on.

Thanks to all the Dilbert Hack Page readers who voiced their support for me. Many sent their opinions to United Media's executives, their lawyers, and Scott Adams himself.

A huge thank-you-very-much goes out to Karen Coyle, Susan Evoy, Larry Hunter, Carl Page, and Al Whaley from CPSR (Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility). They introduced me to Cyberia-L, the Noderhaug and Oberding paper, and other helpful resources.

Cyberia-L has been an immensely valuable source of information. My page really struck a nerve with their community, and I deeply thank them for their wonderful discussions: Warren Agin, Rob Apgood, Dan Burk, Edward Cavazos, Linda Defendeifer, Sean Donelan, Seth Finkelstein, Mike Godwin, Jason Gull, Trotter Hardy, Bruce Hayden, Howard Knopf, Mark Lemley, Wes Morgan, David Post, William Quick, Bill Sommerfeld, Bill Stewart, Bob Stock, Eugene Volokh, Bryan Wildenthal, and others who I may have forgotten.

Dan Wallach, CS Department, Rice University
Last modified: Tue Oct 27 16:25:28 CST 1998