BBC's Restraints

4 Conversations

BBC's Restraints1

(apologies to Arlo Guthrie)2

This song is called BBC's Restraints and it's about H2G2, and the Restraints imposed by the BBC legal department, but BBC's Restraints is not the name of H2G2, it's the name of the song, and that's why I called this song BBC's Restraints.

You can't say anything you want, 'cause of BBC's Restraints3

You can't say anything you want, 'cause of BBC's Restraints

Post an URL, it'll be removed

Talk some s**t, and you'll be reproved.

You can't say anything you want, 'cause of BBC's Restraints

Now it all started about two years ago, its going on two years sometime 'round April nineteen hundred and ninety nine, I mean just before the start of the new millenium, that is to say not the last one but this one we're in now, not now as in when this song got wrote, which was about two years later, that is in this millenium - so to speak.

But it all started back in '99, when these few friends got together and built themselves a place on the World Wide Web. Now, friends, we all know it really started years before that when Douglas Adams wrote a book called the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was a real funny book all about being a sort of Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything, and was full of all kinds of weird and interesting stuff about different kinds of folks from all over the Galaxy; but it was mostly just fiction, although there was a lot of true stuff in it as well, and some really good humor poking fun at folks, and how everybody says and does silly things from time to time, and all kinds of mind - expanding, consciousness - raising, thought - provoking sorts of things, and lots of folks read the book, even more than once or twice, and Douglas Adams got real rich and famous and bought himself a spaceship.

But that's not what this song is about. This song is about how some other folks got an idea from the book, (or maybe it was from the title of the book), anyway these friends, I say these computer savvy friends got together and decided to build themselves a website where they could invite all kinds of folks from all over the world to just come on in and talk about stuff, and write stuff and read stuff other folks had wrote, kind of a new sort of living, breathing guide that would constantly be updated and revised.

Now I have to tell you that this ain't the first time a bunch of folks got together and started talking and writing and reading stuff using the Internet, because that's why the Internet was started in the first place. The difference was that all this talking and writing and reading was supposed to make a place where folks could find out about all kinds of weird and unusual stuff, and it would be real easy to read and talk about and it would be free; and folks could talk freely about stuff, and it would be constantly growing and getting bigger and better and would be a lot of fun and a useful Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything.

Friends, this was truly a good idea, and folks started coming on by, and registering and signing up and using their e-mail addresses and making up passwords and talking about stuff and writing about stuff and reading stuff that other folks had wrote, and every body was making friends with every body else, and folks started putting up pictures of their friends and families and pets and cars and backyards, and artists started making special pictures just for H2G24, and foks was sharing information about other places they knowed about on the World Wide Web by posting URLs5.

And every body was having a real good time talking and reading and writing and putting up pictures and posting URLs for nearly two years, and there was thousands of folks from all over the world, I mean there was folks from nearly a hundred countries dropping by every day, talking and reading and writing and putting up pictures and posting URLs and all kinds of groovy things, and then one day when the original few friends was having some donuts and coffee and no one had enough for the tip, someone realized they was all going broke. I mean there was barely enough cash money to pay for the donuts. So these original few friends got together and had themselves a secret meeting, and they decided they needed to get someone with lots of money to sort of take over the money part of H2G2, so they could get back to all the creative things like talking about stuff and writing stuff and reading stuff other folks had wrote.

So they put up a kind of 'temporarily closed' sign on the H2G2 website, telling all them thousands of folks from all over the world who had been coming by every day to talk and read and write about stuff that they would be back real soon -- and they was. I mean the H2G2 site was only closed for a few weeks6, although some folks had been so used to it by now that they felt it was more like years. But anyway the H2G2 site was open again, and folks could start right back into talking about stuff and reading stuff and writing about other stuff and posting URLs and so forth.

Now the reason H2G2 was back so quick was because a real rich and powerful company had kind of taken it over. This company is called BBC, which means something like Big Brother Corporation. So anyway we was all anxious to get back into talking and reading and writing like we had done before, and folks started dropping by again, only a lot of folks noticed that all the pictures that they had put up on their special personal spaces had all been took down. Then they saw that all them URLs they had posted wasn't there any more. And some quotations of stuff other folks had wrote, even lyrics from songs and lines from poetry was all removed. And folks from some of them other countries who had wrote stuff in their own languages noticed that every thing they had wrote in their own language was gone too. Even the 'Don't Panic' button had been replaced by a plain old 'Help' button!7

So folks started in to talking and writing and reading stuff that other folks was saying about where and why all them pictures and URLs and quotes and foreign language stuff had gone, and folks started saying that it was on account of the Big Brother Corporation that had made things so strict. And some folks was cussing and swearing and getting mad, and every time they cussed or swore or got mad every thing they wrote was removed, so they just got madder and cussed even more and some of them was even kicked out of the site and some folks got so riled that they just packed up and left, and more and more folks started getting all worried and anxious and riled up. Most folks was still having fun, but everyone felt they was having less fun than before the BBC stuff happened, and some folks started talking about how H2G2 was doomed, which naturally made things even more gloomy. But that's not what I came to tell you about.

Came to talk about lawyers.

Now, lawyers are a strange and amazing bunch of folks who make their living by arguing with one another. I mean, they don't just shout and holler a lot, and folks throw money because it is so entertaining, I mean they - the lawyers - use lots of fancy complicated words from big fancy complicated books, and they use stuff they call evidence and precedents and statements and abatements, and they spend lots of other folks money talking and talking and talking and arguing on and on, until other folks, like judges, get tired and bored and confused, and make a decision which is called a judgement, and then other lawyers can use it as a precedent unless another lawyer appeals the decision, in which case more lawyers get together and spend more of other folks money. And this goes on and on because lawyers work real hard at making legal stuff so tiring and boring and confusing and downright weird that normally reasonable folks just don't act reasonable anymore.

Which I guess is why there are so many television shows about lawyers. I mean, this whole law thing has gotten so unreasonable and weird that some folks think it is real interesting, and lots of famous folks got involved with real complicated legal things, although actually they were usually real simple things like killing and stuff, but the lawyers made them so tiring, boring and confusing that they seemed complicated. So now a bunch of actors pretending to be lawyers shout and holler a lot, and folks throw money at them because they think it is entertaining.

I don't feel too good about it. But that's not what this song is all about.

So there's a bunch of folks who can't act reasonable or friendly, and they keep on being unreasonable and unfriendly because there's a bunch of lawyer folks who want to keep things unreasonable and unfriendly, because that's how they make a living, and they convince these other folks that they can make piles of money by staying unreasonable and unfriendly.

And each country has a set of rules that their lawyer folks put together, in as tiring, boring, confusing and complicated way possible and because these rules are written in big fancy complicated books using big fancy complicated words, only lawyer type folks can understand them, and they want to keep it that way, and friends, that's called job security.

Now, H2G2, which is part of the World Wide Web, which comes from the Internet, is really about a bunch of people who try real hard to be reasonable and friendly, and was put together by a bunch of good hearted, smart folks who want to see things become more reasonable and friendly.

Friends, you can see the problem here. The lawyers say that there's a bunch of unreasonable, unfriendly folks want to make money off a bunch of reasonable, friendly folks, and because the unreasonable unfriendly ones have all the money and power they think they are going to win. And maybe they will.

And the only reason I'm singing you this song is because maybe you are one of the reasonable, friendly folks who want things to become more reasonable and friendly, which would make H2G2 more reasonable and friendly, too. Or maybe you just want H2G2 to become more reasonable and friendly, which would maybe help make every body else more reasonable and friendly.

Or maybe you are one of the unreasonable unfriendly folks who will be looking real hard at this song and stuff to try to find something to be unreasonable and unfriendly about, and take it to a lawyer and give the lawyer a pile of money so the lawyer can make this so tiring and boring and confusing that some judge will tell me I have to pay you piles of money, so you can pay more of it to your lawyer, so you won't have to worry about someone else who is even more unreasonable and unfriendly paying their sharp lawyer to get another tired, bored and confused judge to make you give them a pile of money. Good luck. I'm broke.

But if, I say, if you know someone who is reasonable and friendly, or you yourself may be reasonable and friendly, and you find yourself in court facing some unreasonable and unfriendly folks with piles of money and sharp lawyers with big fancy complicated books using big fancy complicated words, in front of a bored, tired and confused judge, if you're ever in a situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's walk over to the judge and say,

"Judge, You can't say anything you want, 'cause of BBC's Restraints."

And walk out.

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think that person is really sick and dismiss the case. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they are a visible minority8 and dismiss both of the cases. And three people, three, can you imagine three people walking up to the judge, singing a bar of BBC's Restraints and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you imagine fifty people a day, I say fifty people a day walking up to a judge, singing a bar of BBC's Restraints and walking out. And friends they may think it's a movement.

And that's what it is, the BBC's Restraints Liberation Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar.

With feeling.

So we'll wait for it to come around on the guitar, here and sing it when it does. Here it comes.

You can't say anything you want, 'cause of BBC's Restraints

You can't say anything you want, 'cause of BBC's Restraints

Post an URL, it'll be removed

Talk some s**t, and you'll be reproved.

You can't say anything you want, 'cause of BBC's Restraints

That was horrible. If you want to end oppression and stuff you got to sing loud.

I've been singing this song now for twenty five minutes. I could sing it for another twenty five minutes. I'm not proud...or tired.9

So we'll wait until it comes around again, and this time with four part harmony and feeling.

We're just waiting for it to come around is what we're doing.

All right now.

You can't say anything you want, 'cause of BBC's Restraints

"They're so paranoid"

You can't say anything you want, 'cause of BBC's Restraints

Post an URL, it'll be removed

Talk some s**t, and you'll be reproved.

You can't say anything you want, 'cause of BBC's Restraints

Because of BBC's Restraints.


A note about the style: The original Alice's Restaurant, written and performed by Arlo Guthrie, is delivered in a rambling, rhythmic cant, similar to that of Will Rogers. As with the original, the above works best if read aloud.

For more information on Arlo Guthrie and Alice's Restaurant, visit the official Arlo Guthrie website
1The inspiration for this song(?) is, of course, Arlo Guthrie's very funny '60s 'rap', 'Alice's Restaurant', about a real incident involving the consequences of littering, and to protest the US Draft. The story was actually turned into a movie.2Arlo Guthrie is a well known folk singer and songwriter, the son of Woody Guthrie, a famous folk singer and political activist who died in 1967 from Huntington's Chorea. To learn more about Arlo, visit his home page at (can I put this here? Oh well, remove it if you must!)3I wanted to use the word 'rant':"You can whine and you can rant"! Some might see this whole entry as a kind of rant, so it worked out anyway!4H2G2 was initially called TDV, which means The Digital Village', not as catchy as H2G2, is it?5Universal Resource Location, (I think!)647 days, I believe.7Thought by some to be the essence of H2G2, the original 'DP' button was aesthetically sophisticated and psychologically soothing, unlike the hopelessly common 'help' button. Even if pressing it did not actually help, it felt reassuring just to read the words, 'Don't Panic!'8Politically correct. The corresponding lyrics in 'Alice's Restaurant' would probably be unacceptable today. Sigh.9The original 'Alice's Restaurant' was about 2500 words, and the actual performance of the song would take anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the number of repetitions of the chorus, and the mood of the moment. This conception is about 100 words short of it's inspiration, but that's because I wanted to leave room for people to repeat the chorus at least 30 or 40 times!smiley -

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