Comment housecleaning

As a gentle reminder, Ate Up With Motor is an automotive history and commentary site, NOT a marketplace, a restoration guide, or a forum for technical advice. Therefore, it bears repeating:

  • I am NOT a mechanic or an engineer; I CANNOT tell you how to fix, modify, or restore your car or truck, or provide any technical advice. (I’m not qualified to do that.)
  • I CANNOT provide any financial advice. I can’t help you appraise cars, trucks, parts, or automotive memorabilia; I can’t advise you on how much these things are worth or whether they’d be a good investment or not. (I’m not qualified to do that either.)
  • I am NOT in the business of buying or selling cars, trucks, parts, or automotive memorabilia.
  • I CANNOT help you buy or sell cars, trucks, parts, or automotive memorabilia; Ate Up With Motor doesn’t run classified ads and is NOT intended as a forum for connecting buyers and sellers.

I’ve been telling people that over and over again since the inception of Ate Up With Motor almost 15 years ago, but I still regularly get comments asking for repair advice, for help with valuation or authentication, or to buy or sell a particular car or part, no matter how frequently and emphatically I tell people I can’t help with those things and don’t want the legal liability.

Consequently, I’ve removed quite a few older comments along those lines, and if (when!) I receive more in the future, I’m strongly considering simply deleting them. (As noted in the Comment Policy section of the Terms of Use, I reserve the right to decline to publish, unpublish, or delete any comment on this website, with or without notice.)

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  1. Happily, AUWM remains a fantastic historical site full of fascinating stories and, despite your “not being a mechanic”, an gift for understanding and imparting technical knowledge on display. (I’ve spent a long time studying your article on Simpson gearsets and the Chrysler Torqueflite; I’m… modestly confident I kinda understand them.) Long may it continue.

    Incidentally, do you have any more articles in the works? I don’t mean to chivvy; the existing library is plenty of reading!

    1. I did recently renew the site’s domain registration and will shortly renew its domain validation certificate (the SSL/TLS certificate that enables HTTPS connections), but at this point, I’m not sanguine about future new content. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t like to do more or that I don’t have ideas on that score, but I’m so intimidated by the growing regulatory morass that I honestly don’t know that it will ever be feasible.

      1. Aaron, I wonder if you get so many car and parts queries because Ate Up With Motor ranks so high in search queries.

        As to the future of your website, have you considered switching over to a vendor such as Substack? Your content is of such high quality that at least a partial paywall might work. In Substack’s case, there is no charge to you except for a percentage of subscription revenue, and they take care of the backshop stuff.

        I don’t mean to pitch Substack per se. My sense is that they have some downsides, such as website formats which aren’t terribly flexible. I also don’t know how well existing comments would transfer over if you wanted to do so (in my book your comment threads tend to be the best of the auto history sites).

        My hope is that if you want to get back into writing about cars that you find a way to do so that is financially sustainable. The auto history field desperately needs writers of your caliber.

        1. The financial sustainability is really not the issue. Switching to a different platform would just compound the problems that seem likely to prevent there from being any new content, which center on the fact that California (and the states rushing to follow in its ill-advised footsteps) has endeavored to override substantial swaths of the First Amendment. This will get worse once the full scope of Prop. 24 takes effect next year. (The new law does at least have a broader definition of what constitutes “publicly available” information than does the current law, which ONLY counts information from federal, state, or local government records, but it imposes a wide range of complex and punitive new requirements.) I honestly don’t know if the regulatory climate leaves any room for me to research or create content for Ate Up With Motor, and it makes finding images even more of a can of worms. As a professional writer who does a lot of research-based nonfiction work, it’s a really frightening and upsetting situation.

          1. I don’t think people grasp how horrifying Prop. 24 is. It will make it illegal for any business, service provider, or contractor to sell, share, or disclose any personal information of any California resident for any purpose without a written contract that restricts what the recipient can do with that information, forces them to comply with Prop. 24, and gives the seller/sharer/discloser the right to demand the revision or deletion of the information at will. The current business-to-business exemption also expires January 1, so Prop. 24 will effectively subject any exchange of information in any business capacity to a permanent and highly restrictive nondisclosure agreement that cannot be waived. Farewell, freedom of speech; sayonara, First Sale Doctrine.

            Prop. 24 prohibits retaining information, so people like me may be forced to delete reference materials, notes, and old emails.

            It will also ban the use of pop-up and modal consent banners or pop-ups for content that requires consent. I haven’t the foggiest idea how they expect that to work, but it’s an explicit statutory requirement. So, instead of targeting big tech companies, the voters have created a set of rules that ONLY big tech companies like Google and Microsoft (which really want you to remain logged in all the time) can possibly comply with.

            I don’t see how any online business other than Facebook and Google can survive the environment the law will shortly create. It is disastrous. I’m trying to seek legal advice, but I think it’s too little, too late. Ate Up With Motor will likely be collateral damage.

          2. If you are looking for some free legal advice, you could approach vendors such as Substack as a prospective client and ask how they size up the California regulations. Substack has pretty deep pockets and an aggressive growth strategy, so surely its lawyers would be paying attention.

            Have any organizations such as the Media Law Resource Center, the Society of Professional Journalists or the California News Publishers Association weighed in on this issue? I would also hope that j-school faculty who specialize in media law would be willing to chat with you about their relevant research. In addition, if the regulations also impact college media, groups such as the College Media Association could plausibly offer insight.

          3. NO commercial service or vendor that isn’t a legal aid provider is going to offer free legal advice like that, especially to someone who isn’t a current client (and almost certainly not even then). Doing so would create liability for them. The response of commercial services and vendors to these laws has been to (maybe) add a data processing/service provider addendum and a few compliance-related settings while doubling down on the contractual assertion that each client is solely responsible for complying with all applicable privacy laws and regulations.

            Cynical self-preservation notwithstanding, that isn’t an entirely unreasonable stance. The California laws are a convoluted mess. Figuring out what they (and the associated regulations, a whole other can of worms) actually want people to do even in the situations where the rules make a modicum of sense is not straightforward, and understanding how they’re supposed to apply in circumstances the framers of the law and the authors of the regulations obviously didn’t think about at all is a very dicey matter.

            I haven’t seen any indication that journalistic organizations are concerned. So far as I’ve been able to determine, the privacy policies for magazines and newspapers deal only with usage of their websites and how they handle things like subscriber data, not with editorial operations. They can probably get away with that: The California law provides an exemption for the “noncommercial activities” of a news-gathering organization or people who work for one, which applies to newspapers, magazines or other periodicals, TV or radio news, and wire services. So, someone who has a press card as a reporter for a newspaper probably doesn’t have much to worry about in that regard. How far that extends into, e.g., writing a nonfiction book, or making a documentary, remains unclear, and the implications are worrying.

            Prop. 24 greatly compounds these problems by trying to adopt additional provisions borrowed from the GDPR in ways that are, inter alia, really at odds with freedom of speech. Ironically, the GDPR expressly directs member states to make allowances for “the right to freedom of expression and information, including processing for journalistic purposes and the purposes of academic, artistic or literary expression” (although how that plays out in practice is another matter, and undoubtedly varies from country to country), and the GDPR at least tries to make provision for balancing competing interests. However, because the California laws are based on a flimsy pretense of “consumer” protection (while defining “consumer” as literally any natural person residing in California and extending the protections to cover virtually any interaction with any “business,” to the point that the Legislature is still arguing about whether “consumers” should be allowed to use the rules to modify or delete their own employment records), they haven’t even attempted to replicate the balance-of-interests approach.

            The attempts Prop. 24 makes to try to reconcile consumer privacy rights with freedom of speech (which are less of an afterthought than with the CCPA, but still inadequate) are mostly focused on journalism — which is better than nothing, but provides little protection for “academic, artistic or literary expression” — and the allowances made for news reporting that deals with “a matter of public concern” leave it even less clear what the framers of the law expect people to actually do.

            (The ones who should be most immediately concerned about all this are filmmakers, because even if you have signed contracts or releases for people who appear in your film, it appears that Prop. 24 will give California residents the unwaivable right to demand that you remove or change their segments at any time, no matter what their contract or release may say, potentially pulling the rug out from under an entire project with little warning.)

            As I said, I’m trying to obtain some proper legal advice, but my resources for that are very limited and I think it’s going to be too little, too late. I fear that what will happen is that the First Amendment dangers of Prop. 24 and the various CCPA lookalikes in other states will be largely ignored until the laws have had a chance to become further entrenched, at which point it will be very difficult to do anything about it.

          4. Part of the difficulty with limiting a law’s concern with freedom of speech to journalism is that lawmakers and courts continue to struggle to decide what qualifies as “journalism,” particularly in the age of the Internet. There remain significant factions that would love to strictly limit journalistic protections to a narrow category of “legitimate news organizations,” which is an extremely dangerous proposition in several respects; the courts, meanwhile, often return to the standard of reporting current events of public concern, which leaves a lot of gray areas. (A good deal of the routine reportage of even “legitimate news organizations” only meets that standard in the broadest sense, although it would be hard to argue that the public interest would be served by excluding things like sports and entertainment news.)

            Beyond that, the issue is that journalism isn’t — and shouldn’t be — the only aspect of freedom of speech and freedom of expression that is protected by or deserves the protection of the First Amendment, or for that matter the California Constitution. The CCPA and Prop. 24 explicitly reference Section 2(b) of the state constitution (which they use to effectively define what are considered news organizations), but their framers and advocates don’t seem at all concerned with Section 2(a), which affirms the right of every person to “freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects.”

  2. I have a glitch in my vision that prevents me from seeing the word “not”, so I am glad to read above that AUWM is my one-stop-shop for locating antique auto parts, installation instructions for those parts, cost and availability and where to buy rebuildable cores, the best method for adding a turbo to a ’48 Crosley, and how much money I will make investing in a rusted shell of a sedan with a flat head 6 I found along a trail in the forest.

    On a related note…
    I completely understand why you end up with these posts with questions for repair, purchase, parts sourcing and so forth. This site is one of very few sources that provide this level of highly detailed and correct information on automobiles and related technologies from the 20th century. Half the people who post those types of questions hope you can help them, and the other half are hoping this site attracts readers who will see their question and can provide the information they need.

    I have done the “classic car” ownership thing and I know what it’s like to find parts for these cars. And I did it before the internet – so you were stuck in the classified section of the rather thick Hemmings Motor News you bought in the store. Then you drive to Carlisle (PA) and walk miles through piles of parts looking for what you need. It’s only fun if you enjoy doing it.

    The fact that you can post a question on a website that describes your favorite classic in fine detail makes it just too tempting for the old car enthusiast to pass up. I predict there will be more “How much is a tangerine orange Sears Allstate worth?” questions in your future.

    1. I do understand why people ask the questions, which is why for many years I’ve tried to be very patient about them. It is frustrating when I get a comment asking for repair or maintenance advice immediately below several other comments where I’ve told people clearly that I’m not able to provide that kind of advice, however. Also, there can be a risk of worrying legal liability if people think I’m providing technical or financial advice. The very last thing I need at this point is to get roped into someone else’s argument about whether something is authentic or fairly priced, or for anyone to think I’m some kind of appraiser! (Did you know that the feds consider the appraisal of personal property a financial activity, and if you’re “significantly” engaged in it in a business capacity, that can make you subject to a whole raft of regulations meant to govern banks? No thank you!)

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