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back to article Violent Hamlet 'bard' by British Library Wi-Fi filters

British author HM Forsyth was working on a book in the British Library last week when he needed to read Shakespeare's Hamlet, so he did what anyone would do these days: he Googled it, safe in the knowledge that MIT has put the Bard's entire output online. And that's when something nasty happened: The Library's WiFi denied him …

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Great Post,

More like this please and less of the (to us a phrase use on another site) slashvertisments.

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Just wait till all the ISP's initiate filters to prevent access to porn.....

Bet there will be some anomalies then!

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Bet there will be some anomalies then!

I suspect the residents of Scunthorpe will be hoping the usual filter mistakes doesn't get made.

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*We are sorry, but the play you are trying to research contains scenes of nudity,*

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Anonymous Coward

Happened already

Scunthorpe's council bought in a new email system around 2001, which filtered out ALL emails and email addresses containing Scunthorpe.

Anon - as I work in the local area!

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It seemeth fit that the staff resolved the issue promptly -

Redeeming time when men think least they shall.

(closest fit i could manage from Prince Hal in Henry IV pt 1)

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But they didn't. IT said "not our problem", the library staff said "it's the WiFi, not us". it was only when it went public on blog/Twitter that the library saw fit to stop censoring books.

More complete account

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So he's sat in the British Library, but trying to access a book on the MIT website, he didn't think about getting off his arse and fetching a real dead tree copy of the book off their shelves

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Well...

So he's sat in the British Library, but trying to access a book on the MIT website, he didn't think about getting off his arse and fetching a real dead tree copy of the book off their shelves

Well ... he's sat at the British Library, at a computer with internet access, and the text of the play is available on the internet (dumb filters permitting). Perhaps he chose not to make a fetish of inconveniencing himself.

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Re: Well...

Is that a fetish?

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FAIL

He mentioned in his blog that it takes about 70 minutes for the British Library to fetch a physical book. That's why he thought that accessing an online copy would be easier.

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You'd think...

"So he's sat in the British Library, but trying to access a book on the MIT website, he didn't think about getting off his arse and fetching a real dead tree copy of the book off their shelves"

You wouldn't even have had to get off your arse to follow the prominent link to Mark Forsyth's blog entry. If you had, you would have read (in the first paragraph):

"It takes 70 mins to order a physical book".

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"So he's sat in the British Library, but trying to access a book on the MIT website, he didn't think about getting off his arse and fetching a real dead tree copy of the book off their shelves"

Others have already said, but the British Library doesn't work like that. Like other research libraries, you have to order a book and it's delivered to you in the reading room. The trend nowadays is to encourage the use of digital copies, as the physical books in collections such as the BL or Bodleian are often so valuable. After all, if you asked for Hamlet in the BL they would probably assume you wanted to see their First Folio, or other rare copies...

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Why didn't he plug into ...

... Project Gutenberg instead?

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Re: Why didn't he plug into ...

Because it is also filtered. The filtering happens at the network level.

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@Big Yin - Re: Why didn't he plug into ...

"The filtering happens at the network level."

But that *can't* go wrong. After all, it's the only thing that's going to protect our children from porn and eeeviilll paedoes and...

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Excellent

We must protect the children from culture!

Err...hang on...

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Re: Excellent

> We must protect the children from culture!

Well, you might want to "protect" then from Titus Andronicus. Death, rape, killing the rape victim for being raped, cooking and eating one of the character's children and most of the cast meet a gory and violent end.

"Culture", like the maturity of people (not just children) covers a very, very wide spectrum. And what is fit and proper for one individual may be completely unacceptable to another (whether older or younger).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Excellent

"Death, rape, killing the rape victim for being raped, cooking and eating one of the character's children and most of the cast meet a gory and violent end."

Sounds a bit like the Christian holy book. PROTECT THE CHILDREN!

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@Pete 3 Re: Excellent re. Titus Andronicus

I believe that sort of fiction is now illegal in the UK, or is it just pictorial representation (for the moment)? I'm a bit worried that I downloaded Oedipus Rex, but that's freaky anyway so I suppose I deserve to have the book thrown at me.

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Re: Excellent

In fairness, the rape victim isn't killed for being raped so much as for being left blind, deaf, mute, limbless and generally unable to live any kind of life.

The really nasty bit is that the right to do these things to her was the payoff that Titus' enemy gave to her own sons for their help kidnapping her in the first place. Shakespeare had a bit of a Tarantino period.

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@frank ly - Re: @Pete 3 Excellent re. Titus Andronicus

"I believe that sort of fiction is now illegal in the UK, or is it just pictorial representation (for the moment)?"

It was the Tory Baroness O'Cathain who actually *did* propose a "Dangerous Writings Act" to go along with the "Dangerous Pictures Act" which would have criminalised anything written that would have been classed as "Extreme Pornography"!

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/06/dangerous_writings_endangered/

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Trollface

Re: Excellent

Sounds like the Manga Woodblocks from distant Nihon had been delivered successfully at the Bard's door.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @frank ly - @Pete 3 Excellent re. Titus Andronicus

This is why I detest the UK.

And in the words of Ellen Ripley...

"Did IQs drop sharply while I was away?"

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What author worth his salt needs to read Hamlet? Can they (they being PROPER authors) not recite it word perfect?

N00b is all that springs to mind, and its a word of which the bard would have made much use.

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Anonymous Coward

+1 for the title.

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Another Twitter triumph

Note that only when the library user went onto Twitter with his problem was anything done about it. Also note that a smiley face at the end of a tweet more than compensates for any amount of inconvenience, cluelessness, incompetence and bureaucratic idiocy.

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Re: Another Twitter triumph

" Also note that a smiley face at the end of a tweet more than compensates for any amount of inconvenience, cluelessness, incompetence and bureaucratic idiocy."

whereas if you only need to compensate for an amazing amount of idiocy, just use an

"innocent face"

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Joke

Re: Another Twitter triumph

"note that a smiley face at the end of a tweet more than compensates for any amount of inconvenience..."

I sense sarcasm. Perhaps a different emoticon would have suited the situation better:

- We've made adjustments to the filtering software :|

- We've made adjustments to the filtering software :D

- We've made adjustments to the filtering software :P

- We've made adjustments to the filtering software :Q

- We've made adjustments to the filtering software (.)(.)

Maybe not...

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Culchure?

I won't have nuffink to do wiv it 'nless its that stuff that makes me cheese blue!

On a more serious note; filtering is the same as censorship.

What is or is not appropriate for anyone, children or otherwise, should not be down to the software running a filter.

Education, starting with parents and continuing at school is where filtering and the reasons for it should occur, simply closing off access to anything a little shaky is ridiculous and without making it clear to a child or individual why something is unsuitable for them is a failing in their education.

Sound judgement is learned by being able to look at the good and bad things in life; not acquired through the denial of the 'bad' things. Without them there is no means to achieve balance.

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The Law of Unintended Consequences.

With broad filters, algorithms and fuzzy logic, this sort of thing happens suprisingly often. (Yes, I'm looking at you “my work filter”, which lets El Reg through but blocked Microsoft Technet!)

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Re: The Law of Unintended Consequences.

blocked Microsoft Technet!

Not all filtering is bad then...

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16 comments

And no mention of taH pagh taHbe'

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Bowdler?

Come on, El Reg. We already have a family-friendly Shakespeare, prepared by Dr Bowdler. Did noone think to find out whether the archetypal Victorian was sufficiently toned down for today's delicate sensibilities, or whether that was also filtered out?

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Anonymous Coward

One groan a sentence.

You have outdone yourself! Groan a minute! +1

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This post has been deleted by its author

Paris Hilton

Really? How could you have left this out?

An entire article on Hamlet and no mention of Faith being a Strumpet or hiding in her private parts?

-1 for this article...

(Paris, because she seems to match the above quote better than the childcatcher...)

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Sounds like a bit of a self-important prat to me

1) He can't be bothered to wait for a book to be pulled up

2) He has, however, the time to hassle library staff because a site he wants to get to is incorrectly blocked (rather than just pointing it out and then getting the information from another site)

3) He quite unfairly paints the person at the information desk as downright ignorant for not having heard of MIT

4) He takes a totally unwarranted swing at the IT guys for checking the right spelling of Shakespeare. The library has millions of books, going back centuries - and Shakespeare himself famously didn't spell his name consistently. Checking spellings, rather than making assumptions, is almost certainly standard procedure

I haven't read any of his books. After seeing this, frankly I don't feel inclined to either.

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Re: Sounds like a bit of a self-important prat to me

He could have accessed the digitised copies that the British Library have.

http://www.bl.uk/treasures/shakespeare/homepage.html

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Re: Sounds like a bit of a self-important prat to me

"1) He can't be bothered to wait for a book to be pulled up"

As he points out in his blog entry (prominently linked to in TFA) it takes 70 minutes to do that. Maybe he thought that 7 seconds on the Web would be a more efficient use of his time.

"2) He has, however, the time to hassle library staff because a site he wants to get to is incorrectly blocked (rather than just pointing it out and then getting the information from another site)"

Maybe he imagined they would, or could, do something to help him. After he drew their attention to the fact that the institution for which they worked was doing something absurdly moronic on the grandest of scales. Moreover, the filter would have blocked the text he wanted wherever it came from.

"3) He quite unfairly paints the person at the information desk as downright ignorant for not having heard of MIT"

A "librarian" who hasn't heard of MIT is like a programmer who has never heard of Bjarne Stroustrup. (And if the person at the desk wasn't a qualified librarian... well, nowadays anything is possible).

"4) He takes a totally unwarranted swing at the IT guys for checking the right spelling of Shakespeare. The library has millions of books, going back centuries - and Shakespeare himself famously didn't spell his name consistently. Checking spellings, rather than making assumptions, is almost certainly standard procedure"

He said he wanted to download Hamlet, by Shakespeare. And they wanted to check the right spelling. People working for the British Library.

"I haven't read any of his books. After seeing this, frankly I don't feel inclined to either."

After reading your post, I'm not surprised.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sounds like a bit of a self-important prat to me

Sounds like you haven't read the fucking article, the accompanying links, or the previous comments by your fellow readers, yet feel the need to pass judgemental comment for the rest of us to suffer your own idiocy.

> I haven't read any of his books. After seeing this, frankly I don't feel inclined to either.

And frankly, I could not give a flying shit what you feel inclined or not to read.

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What else gets blocked?

Once it went public they had to unblock Hamlet. But how many lesser known works still get blocked?

This kind of problem is always going to happen with filters. Imposing filters on everyone to try to stop children seeing hard-core Cameron is simply not going to work.

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Stop

The Bible, being a book rather full of smiteing and begetting, should no doubt be covered by a "censored for sex and violence" rule...

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Britain, man the fuck up. This prudishness is unbecoming.

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Do not ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by cockup.

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If young David and the lass from Devizes have their way, there will be a lot fewer cocks up come January.

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Damned if they do and damned if they don't

The British Library are providing the public with a WiFI service. Being the establishment that it is it has to protect itself and it's networks. So yes, internet filters are flawed. But I wonder how the comments would go if the story was about how people in the Library were viewing violent pornograph on their networks or causing service outages by downloading all the malware that is out there onto their public networks?

This is a filtering system provided by the 3rd party WiFi suppliers. Climb of your high horses and come back to the real world/

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Re: Damned if they do and damned if they don't

I think the public (and call me dave) would be shocked, shocked, at the sort filth there is in the British library's collections. It's not called a deposit library for nothing.

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I'm surprised that the BL even has wi-fi. Won't be long before someone accuses them of rotting children's brains with their evil microwaves and gets it banned altogether.

The UK is progressively 'protecting' itself into a straitjacket.

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