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PAS 78: A lesson in Terms and Conditions

November 15, 2006

For some reason or another, the UK’s PAS 78: a guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites came across my radar again today, and it reminded me that the resource is now free. With excitement, I went to download my very own copy of the guide, and for once, I decided “Maybe I should read the terms and conditions…”

Here is what I found:

Under the terms of the BSI licence number 2006CO0066, by which this document is available for access, download, viewing, searching and printing, the following terms and conditions apply

  1. You are not permitted to place an electronic copy of the PAS78 document on your personal, company or organisation's internal or external IT network nor are you permitted to take extracts from, expand, modify or otherwise alter the Work in any way or include these in other documentation. By completing the end user registration form, you are permitted to print one copy of the licensed standard (if required), for use at any one time.


I can’t place an electronic copy on my personal, company or organization’s internal or external IT network? How, then, am I actually supposed to view it in the first place?

If I view it – there is a temporary copy on my computer somewhere, isn’t there?

And the computer on which I am viewing it is connected to my network and therefore off-limits as well, isn’t it?

Even if I could get past that, and do complete the end user agreement registration form, I am permitted to print one copy… for use at any one time.

So I can’t print it, because it would need to be somewhere on my network to do so. And even if I could print my one copy, it is only for use at any one time. You mean, I get one shot at reading it, and if I don’t get everything out of it that I can, too bad? I can’t use it more than once?

Catch-22. In order to download it I need to agree to the Terms and Conditions. If I agree to the Terms and Conditions, I can’t really download it, can I?

Surely they must be joking right? This is an oversight? Anyone?

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19 Responses

Comment by Frances Berriman — Nov 15 2006 @ 10:38 am

I’ve had the PAS78 document sat on my system for a few months now. I’m in exactly the same situation. Infact, I find it hard to think of anyone working on the web who isn’t. Sounds crazy to me!

Comment by Mike Cherim — Nov 15 2006 @ 10:49 am

It’s probably just the wording that sounds iffy, but I’m sure it’s not the intention. I have a local area network (LAN) to which I have a PC connected, but internet downloads aren’t automatically available to everyone on my LAN unless I make it so by downloading to a shared folder or placing the download on the server. Thus to download and to view it on my PC wouldn’t violate those terms, even though I’m connected. To put this in a different light, I’m connected to the web, but that doesn’t make the file available on the web unless I put it there. I’m sure they just don’t want it redistributed which is reasonable.

I don’t understand why they don’t want it redistributed to employees on an intranet, instead of placing the demand on their resources as company employees download it for themselves — that seems a bit silly — but that’s their call I suppose. Maybe they just want to record the stats. That said, enforcement of such a policy would be futile.

Comment by Ben Ward — Nov 15 2006 @ 11:38 am

Now perhaps this is just me being a bit of a bit of a hippy, but it really rather strikes me that documents like PAS 78 and the accessibility world generally would benefit hugely from a Creative Commons license.

Comment by Carl Camera — Nov 15 2006 @ 11:46 am

Hmmm. It’s not really an electronic copy on your hard drive, it’s more of a magnetic copy. So it’s only in electronic form when it’s in RAM – but you don’t place it there, you transmit it there… so… I’d say you’re safe on all counts.

Comment by Adam Schilling — Nov 15 2006 @ 2:44 pm

Oh, the irony! ;-)
LOL @ Carl Camera’s comment.

Comment by feather — Nov 15 2006 @ 3:42 pm

@Mike: I understand their intent, but don’t you think that an organization like the DRC would have their legal counsel review something like terms and conditions before publishing them? The fact that the wording is “iffy” is exactly the problem.

@Carl: I like your reasoning. I might run with it :)

Comment by Mike Cherim — Nov 15 2006 @ 4:13 pm

I know you understand, and I agree, Derek. By the very fact that one has to determine the intent of a legal and binding agreement illuminates the fact that it’s flawed. It should be spelled out. Or, even a simplification would work better than its current state: You can download this document and use it for yourself on your computer but you are not allowed to share it with anyone. Simplified, and certainly not written in legalese, but right to the point it is. :-)

Comment by Steven Clark — Nov 15 2006 @ 4:21 pm

The question is whether or not the creators or PAS would sue us for breaching the conditions, I hope not. A second concern in your snippet would be how come I can’t put a snippet online in an article discussing best practice?

“nor are you permitted to take extracts from”

Further, how come I can’t sit in my office with co-workers and PAS open to discuss its content?

I agree totally, like a lot of these disclaimers so many holes are covered that one couldn’t actually use the article legitimately, or it seems. I’m not sure I’d be willing to go to court on the magnetic versus electronic argument but it sounds half reasonable. Maybe I’d argue that the spirit of PAS is accessibility and by sharing the document I was making it accessible to the guy in the next office.

Comment by Anup — Nov 15 2006 @ 5:56 pm

“nor are you permitted to take extracts from” — this means you can’t cite it? I assume “fair use” will probably allow citing it though.

What was amusing to me is that I assume the authors themselves cannot read the copy either from their own work computers! (Not that they would always need to, but they may want to test the web pages!)

Comment by Ben Buchanan — Nov 15 2006 @ 9:49 pm

I can’t immediately find the reference, but Australian copyright law suffers/suffered from almost this exact wording. My impression is that the original intent was to say “you can’t keep a permanent electronic copy on your computer, you can’t distribute your own copies either, all you can do is print one copy for your own use”, however clueless lawmakers and policy writers didn’t understand the technology well enough to get it right.

From memory this particularly applied to e-books on CDs attached to dead trees books. The concern was that people would give the e-books to their friends, but the legalese actually meant you’d broken the law if you viewed the e-book or copied it to your own hard drive. Which IMHO is one of the reasons people started ignoring copyright laws in the first place :)

Comment by Olly — Nov 16 2006 @ 6:01 am

IIRC, it’s not actually free. The DRC have just “bought” a whole load of licenses for it and made them available for download.

But yes, the T&Cs are very silly. I didn’t think people ever read that sort of thing anymore. We’ve all got click happy and hit “agree” no matter what it says ;-)

Comment by Robert Wellock — Nov 16 2006 @ 7:37 am

You are allowed to place a copy on a network. What it means is you don’t place it in a shared public common area and should keep it to an individual machine or a secured user account.

Obviously you can cite the work within reasonable confines.

When it is sent to the printer is counted as a data transmission rather than the physical document itself, so that gets over hurdle three.

What is worrying whoever wrote the Word Document doesn’t know how to spell or proofread documents. I think the PDF is the same too.

"¦ Accessibil[i]ty "¦
"¦ cereb[r]al "¦

Let alone several websites and terms and abbreviations being misspelled, eg M[A]CCAWS there are tonnes more put.

I got fed-up seeing the mistakes though there are several others.

Though that is what I would expect from our government.

Comment by feather — Nov 16 2006 @ 9:39 am


You can download this document and use it for yourself on your computer but you are not allowed to share it with anyone

Yeah, that should just about do it, I would think. Nothing like clear, simple language to make things easier :)


IIRC, it's not actually free. The DRC have just "bought" a whole load of licenses for it and made them available for download.

Interesting – if that is the case, then they should likely rephrase the following from their registration form:

One electronic copy of the guidance is available free per individual

What a mess :)

Comment by Tim Huegdon — Nov 19 2006 @ 2:48 pm

We've all got click happy and hit "agree" no matter what it says ;-)

Yup. Guilty as charged Olly. I had absolutely no idea about that in the terms and conditions and have had a copy on my local machine for quite some time.

So what now? Do I delete it or feign ignorance?

Comment by Steven Clark — Nov 20 2006 @ 4:19 pm

I have to admit I never usually read them either but mainly because they never quite mean anything worthwhile. Maybe they should try making more human readable content there so we actually do more than tick the box to get the pie… (re: accessibility and plain and simple language)

Which reminds me of a post somewhere a few weeks ago citing an american law which used to say when two trains came to an intersection both trains had to stop and turn off their engines until the other had completely left… no I think it was in a software engineering text now I think of it.

Legislators are funny things… how could we forget the good Senator’s tubes?

Comment by mike — Nov 21 2006 @ 8:42 am

Would I be right in thinking that the terms and conditions themselves actually form a part of PAS78 itself?
If so, or if there are similar terms and conditions on the website, then you have broken them by posting the excerpt at the top!

Comment by feather — Nov 21 2006 @ 11:49 am


If so, or if there are similar terms and conditions on the website, then you have broken them by posting the excerpt at the top!

Interesting. Of course, I have no way of knowing if a similar Terms and Conditions statement exists within PAS78 itself, as I haven’t downloaded it because of the Terms and Conditions.

How very circular this is! :)

Comment by Montoya — Nov 21 2006 @ 1:04 pm

Oversight? More like lack-of-sight. Whoever wrote this couldn’t have been thinking at all.

Comment by feather — Nov 25 2006 @ 6:29 pm


Not sure, but was that lack-of-sight supposed to be a play on the fact that PAS78 is about accessibility?