Monday, November 25, 2013

The Oddly Specific Denial

I'm reading "When Did You See Her Last?" today, by the author called Lemony Snicket, and it has the following very interesting denial on its copyright page:
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.
This is weird for two reasons: first, it should go without saying that any entity is not responsible for things it didn't do. But, if it doesn't go without saying, why is a disclaimer only needed for websites, and not for every other media packet in the world?

Does this therefore imply that Little, Brown is responsible for all of the TV shows, movies, podcasts, radio broadcasts, magazines, newspapers, and books that it doesn't own? And, if not -- which would be a really silly implication, obviously -- why on earth does L,B feel the need to tell us that, for this one category of media, just for our knowledge, they don't control anything they don't control?

I'm sure this, like most legal language, is the remnant of some unpleasant situation in the past that an executive decided to fix forevermore by printing a big notice in all of the L,B books in the future. But that's the boring, staid explanation -- I prefer the more baroque possibilities of what TV Tropes calls the Suspiciously Specific Denial.

(I've probably mentioned this before, but one of my best friends in college had a great example: he would often remark, usually in a reasonable context, that he "had never been convicted of a felony in New York State." I've since used that several times myself, and it usually elicits at least a double take.)

What would it mean if L,B were responsible for everything in the world -- except for those few "websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher"?

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