Another Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come

In 1994 I was a Beta Tester for a new version of a Desktop Publishing (DTP) program, PageMaker, so I was working with the new version long before it was released to the public. I had used earlier versions of the program in my commercial printing business. I had tested several DTP programs when the first versions, typically Version 1.0, appeared. Unlike all of the other DTP programs, PageMaker was a very direct descendant of traditional typesetting and layout in the way that those tasks were approached. Also unlike the others, the developers apparently consulted heavily with printers when they initially defined the software specifications, because the technical terminology of the program was the same as the terminology that printers had developed since the 1480s, so there was no need for a printer to “translate” the terms when they started using the program, which made the learning curve considerably shorter.

I knew that I had a couple months of lead time before the program was released to the public and I had been doing some technical writing in my spare time for a couple years. I saw an opportunity. I knew I could write and illustrate a book about the new version of the program and deliver it to a publisher around the time of the program’s release.

I phoned an editor (The Editor) at the largest English language computer book publisher in the world. I won’t name The Editor or the publisher (The Publisher). It doesn’t matter who The Editor was and The Publisher is still the largest in the world, so it is easy to figure out which business it was. During the phone call The Editor agreed that it was a very good book idea and asked me to send him a formal Book Proposal. A formal book proposal is typically a “blueprint” for a book before it is written. It usually contains one or two sample chapters and a detailed outline of the structure of the remainder of the book. It is a very detailed plan, a plan that any competent writer could use to produce the proposed book. If the production of the book was approved by the editors at the publishing company, I would get a contract, then write the book.

Because I had given the project considerable thought, I already had the entire structure of the book outlined, so I quickly wrote the required sample chapter, performed an editorial review, then mailed the proposal to The Editor five days later, using a mail rate that assured that the material would be delivered in two days. Time was critical if the book publication was to closely coincide with the release of the program.

I waited for a phone call from The Editor.

Three weeks later I received a letter via the postal service. The Editor informed me that they would not be publishing the book after all.

Three months later I walked into a large chain bookstore. After finding a novel I wanted to buy, I wandered into the computer section. I spotted a book on the new version of PageMaker offered for sale by The Publisher. I took the book from the shelf and read the contents. The book’s structure was an exact duplicate of the proposal I had developed and sent to The Editor. Exact. The sample chapter contained the same material as the one I submitted. The softbound book had an attractive cover. Someone else’s name was on the cover. Someone who made the money for writing the book.

After that experience I became quite, well…”prickly”… about intellectual property rights. And of course, I learned something: Any future book proposal would be written under contract. I would get paid regardless of who ended up writing the book itself.

And now, the long-in-coming point of all of that…

Yesterday I received a “Request for Permission” via email by way of FaceBook. The Request is shown here (click on the graphic to view it at a reasonable size). I clicked on the Don’t Allow button. The request was so objectionable in so many ways that I have listed my objections below. Perhaps the most important to photographers is the second item on the list. I’ve edited the contents of the list down because the above setup was so long and, as an artist I know once pointed out (correctly, I believe), the majority of visitors to this site are viewers, not readers.

Access my basic information  On the surface this isn’t objectionable to me. It would make sense to me to include this information in an online yearbook and it is information that I have chosen to publish via FaceBook, anyway, so it is public information. I don’t mind being contacted by the members of my graduating class through information displayed by an online yearbook. Unfortunately, there is no link to the YearBook, so I can’t review it to decide if it is something I want to be involved in, even if only in a passive capacity.

Access my photos  This is the BIG NASTY. I can’t allow them to access my photographs and use them with impunity, since there is no mention of copyright, how they might be used, or payment terms. My articles on Crossings are fed directly to my FaceBook page. Allowing unrestricted access to my photos would amount to handing over the copyrights to slightly less than a thousand photographs (though some of them are of admittedly poor quality, and only useful to illustrate a story). It is a blanket permission, so they could use them in any manner or media they saw fit and without compensating me.

Send me email  Huh?… I apparently don’t receive enough junk email already. I guess I need more crap to arrive in my Inbox.

Post to FaceBook as me  Let’s clear this one up: This means that this organization would be allowed to impersonate me. There is no good reason to allow this, since it is not a permission to impersonate me in a standup comedy routine, which is the only type of impersonation I will tolerate.

Access my data at any time  There are no proscribed limits to this, which means that any information found anywhere can be used by SchoolFeed, and in any manner they choose.

The entire concept seems way too invasive to me. It also is unnecessary. Any of my former classmates can easily contact me via FaceBook.

The worst thing on the list is the attempt to steal copyrights, of course. This type of online behavior is why I don’t post my photographs on online photo sharing sites. The copyright terms are simply too murky. I’ll just have to pass. Anyone who knew me in school can find out what I’m doing and/or view my photographs on Crossings, anyway…

Featured Comments

From Charissa Dyal: I have been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this web site. Thank you, I’ll try and check back more often. How frequently you update your site?

From Al Morrow: Good one…reminds me of the time I had a writer’s credit left off an album…A tune Greg and I wrote for Ronnie Dawson…