NOTICE: AMENDMENT OF POPEHAT TERMS OF USE FOR MINNESOTA RESIDENTS

It would be nice if everyone could read Popehat under the same terms and conditions. Unfortunately, given the diverse laws that apply in different jurisdictions, that's just not possible. We previously announced special Terms of Use for our good friends in Canada, as required by their flourishing and cherishing of their unique culture vis-a-vis hurty words.

Now circumstances require us to create special terms of use for Minnesota residents. See, some of you have occasionally said that, despite our best efforts and lack of relevant skills or experience, you occasionally learn something at Popehat from posts like this or this. That's problematical in Minnesota.

You'd think that Minnesota residents should be free to learn whatever they want from any site on the internet. You'd be wrong. The State of Minnesota determines not just what degrees may be offered there, but how its residents may learn things on the internet. Recently the Office of Higher Education has instructed Coursera — an institution that offers not degrees, but free courses on a variety of subjects online — that it may not provide its free online courses to Minnesotans without state permission. Coursera has edited its terms of service accordingly.

Notice for Minnesota Users:

Coursera has been informed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education that under Minnesota Statutes (136A.61 to 136A.71), a university cannot offer online courses to Minnesota residents unless the university has received authorization from the State of Minnesota to do so. If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera, or (2) for each class that you take, the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota.

Now, I think it's unlikely that Popehat would be treated as subject to the statute. We're not a learning institution and we don't offer "courses," per se, except in the sense of "a course of abuse." But we can't be too careful. We're talking about a state that thinks it should dictate whether web sites in other states can make free online content available to its citizens. Who knows what they'll do next? I don't want to subject Popehat to Minnesota's onerous disclosure requirements or pay fees or be subject to injunctions if some functionary within the Minnesota Office of Higher Education decides that Popehat is attempting to offer courses in, say, Spammer Communications. I don't want to have to go to Minnesota to defend myself. Lakes make me itchy. Plus, my lovely wife spent only a couple of years there in the 1970s and I still laugh at her accent, so I'm concerned that legal proceedings there may not go my way.

Therefore, in an excess of caution, please be aware of the following change to Popehat's terms of use:

ATTENTION MINNESOTA RESIDENTS:

BY VISITING AND READING POPEHAT, YOU AGREE TO AND ACCEPT, UNCONDITIONALLY AND WITHOUT RESERVATION OR DISPUTE, THE FOLLOWING TERMS:

1. IN THE EVENT YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM POPEHAT, EVEN SOMETHING SEEMINGLY INSIGNIFICANT LIKE "I HAD NO IDEA LAWYERS WERE SO DISTURBED" OR "THAT SINGLE FACT BURIED IN THE NINTH PARAGRAPH OF KEN'S UNSETTLING RANT IS FASCINATING" OR "PONIES ARE TERRIFYING," YOU AGREE TO INDEMNIFY, DEFEND, AND HOLD HARMLESS POPEHAT AND ITS OWNERS, AUTHORS, INVESTORS, STAFF, AND ASSORTED WRETCHES FROM ANY ACTION AGAINST POPEHAT UNDERTAKEN BY THE STATE OF MINNESOTA AND ITS CONSTITUENT BUREAUCRACIES AND OFFICIOUS FUNCTIONARIES.

2. BUT YOU AGREE NOT TO LEARN ANYTHING FROM POPEHAT. IF YOU ARE READING POPEHAT, AND FEEL YOURSELF ON THE VERGE OF POSSIBLY LEARNING SOMETHING, YOU WILL EXIT POPEHAT INSTANTER BY CLOSING YOUR BROWSER WINDOW OR NAVIGATING TO A SITE LIKE SLATE.

3. ALTERNATIVELY, BEFORE READING POPEHAT, YOU AGREE THAT YOU WILL FIRST FLEE THE STATE OF MINNESOTA, REACHING A DISTANCE OF AT LEAST ONE HUNDRED (100) YARDS OUTSIDE THE STATE BEFORE READING POPEHAT. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MAY YOU THEN SHOUT ANY OF THE CONTENT OF POPEHAT BACK INTO MINNESOTA TO A PERSON OR PERSONS WHO HAVE NOT YET FLED SAID STATE.

We thank you for your attention.

via Amy Alkon.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Shawn says

    As a resident of Sioux Falls, which is only a very short distance from the border, I gladly welcome anyone who wants to escape the state that gave us gems like this and Michelle Bachman!

  2. ShelbyC says

    How would they have jurisdiction over a website that doesn't have any presence in Minnesota, doesn't mail any catelogues or packages to Minnesota, etc?

  3. strech says

    @ShelbyC:
    I'm not sure they would have jurisdiction, given the lack of physical locations or goods. I think they just want money:

    George Roedler, manager of institutional registration and licensing at the Minnesota Office of Higher education, clarifies that his office's issue isn't with Coursera per se, but with the universities that offer classes through its website. State law prohibits degree-granting institutions from offering instruction in Minnesota without obtaining permission from the office and paying a registration fee. (The fee can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, plus a $1,200 annual renewal.)

    Nevermind that applying this principle could end up shutting down the website as every state would proceed to shake down every university offering courses.

  4. says

    I used to work in admissions at a school here in Dallas. We had an online program. This school, let's call it "Directional U," became aware of this law the hard way. One of our students didn't like his grade and complained to the Minnesota AG. The result of the complaint was, of course, no more offerings to potential students in Minnesota.

    I wonder what the practical effect would be of offering courses anyway; who is Minnesota going to pursue if there is no physical presence?

    strech: Don't give them any ideas.

  5. htom says

    We select very special people to be administrators here in Minnesota. You'd be very surprised at what they will attempt to do. One of them is rumored to have said "If we could just get rid of the students, we could run a proper university." (Minnesotans have all heard that before, and know of our special administrators, so they're not learning anything by my posting here.)

  6. says

    Darn it. I got about halfway through that blog post and started to learn something, so I stopped. But, then I realized I was not in Minnesota, and so resumed my regularly unscheduled learning.

  7. Globex Corporation says

    I hadn't noticed your Canadian EULA before. Thanks for pointing that out to me, I have now scuttled my plans to drag you before the BCHRT for some imaginary offence you may or may not have caused me.

    Truth time: I'm pretty left leaning. I lean "lefter" than both Kodos and Kang in your pending presidential election. But, I'm a staunch supporter of free speech and I am often embarrassed by our various human rights tribunals. This one made me want to cry: http://www.cbc.ca/news/offbeat/story/2011/04/21/bc-zestys-comedian-lesbian-insults.html

  8. Steve Florman says

    I promise not to learn anything. That shouldn't be difficult, as not only do I still live in Minnesota, but the people of my Congressional district keep electing Michele Bachmann. (In our defense, you should see what the other party usually gives us for an option.)

  9. twency says

    Dear residents of Minnesota: by reading the rest of this post you consent to being enrolled in my online course in Special Relativity.

    (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared)

    Say that out loud, three times, right now.

    Congrats! You've graduated.

    Minnesota Office of Higher Education: COME AT ME BRO.

  10. Charissa says

    I saw this this morning on another site and already sent an email to the Office of Higher Ed. Ridiculous that a stat that somehow manages to get credit for having well-educated citizens should attempt to ban something like this.

  11. Boxy says

    @En Passant: Your link is broken, and it sounds interesting.

    Would this hold up under the first amendment if given a serious challenge? They're not offering any kind of certification, just information, and the state seems to be putting a prior restraint on speech. I don't see anything particularly magical about the word "course" that removes its constitutional protections.

  12. Ukko says

    Here in Minn-ah-sohhh-ta, we believe in hiring the mentally disabled. If they're severely retarded, we promote them to the Office of Higher Education.

  13. En Passant says

    Just a half-baked thought here. Don't try this at home, kids. Do it online, but only after donning your legal bozo costume —

    The best grounds for challenging the Mn Office of Higher Education are dormant commerce clause grounds, not First Amendment grounds.

    Mn isn't forbidding the speech. Mn is requiring out of state educational institutions offering coursework to Minnesotans to pay an Mn tax or fee.

    Mn taxes the out-of-state institutions credits to discourage competition with in-state institutions. That is discrimination against interstate commerce.

  14. says

    Uh oh. I have free downloads of some of my how-to articles on my web site. While it seems unlikely that Minnesota residents, who let these idiots out of the Mickey Ds mainstreaming program and into gov service, would actually _learn_ from my tutorials, I better not take any chances.

    Ken, I'm not all lawyerly and stuff, so I need to s/t/e/a/l/ make educational fair use of your new Terms of Use. 'Kay?

  15. matthew says

    As a current resident of MN I want to say a few things:
    1) I'm from WI, not MN.
    2) While reading Popehat, this site has only lowered my IQ, and there has been no actual learning at any point by myself
    3) Also, while I have read back the contents of Popehat to others in MN, it has had a similar mind numbing effect on them as well.
    4) I'm from WI, not MN.

  16. wgering says

    So does this only apply to programs offering degrees?

    Personally, I'd love to see a few of the shadier "online universities" (really just the educational equivalent of snake-oil salesmen) go under, but I'd rather it be from the collective realization that the people running them are gelatinous masses of greed and malevolence than from government intervention.

    Now, if this is meant to apply to any form of online course material (such as Khan Academy or MIT's OpenCourseWare)…well…I really have no response for that. I don't believe that the free spread of knowledge is something any reasonable person could oppose, and so I have trouble accepting that there are, in fact, people who oppose it.

    On the upside, it's good to know that California doesn't have the dumbest state legislature anymore!

  17. Lago says

    saw this story earlier today, haha

    @StephenM3; it seems they informed Coursera that the schools they work with would have to comply with the registrations thinking Coursera would cooperate. Coursera gave them the middle finger and adjusted their TOU instead. Roedler isn't backpeddling or even saying it was a misunderstanding, he's actually trying to defend what they did.

  18. says

    @Steve Florman "… you should see what the other party usually gives us for an option."

    Consider voting Libertarian. We support None Of The Above as an official option on all ballots. In the mean time, we are NOTA for you.

  19. David says

    As a recalcitrant resident of the State of Minnesota, I hereby submit my plans to a) ignore the Coursera requirements, and b) follow with great care all requirements set forth on Popehat.

    Thank you.

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