Friday, August 28, 2009

Oh Boy!

There is nothing nearly as fulfilling or rewarding to an artist, as giving away full Copyright and all Reproduction Rights to their creative output - especially when they can do it within a contract that not only doesn't stipulate any fees or provisions for a simple credit line for them, but which also saddles them with any liabilities that might conceivably arise involving that artwork.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

a letter to the editor, and another expressing disbelief at the unfairly burdonsome and predatory nature of something referred to as a contract.

Heck, who else would you address this shaggy dog story to, but to an editor?

There is no court of inquiry for bad contracts that I know of, so here is an open letter expressing exasperation, asking for comments or suggestions, and appealing to reason and fairplay.
And please, if you are out there writing new contracts for writers, do your homework, check with Writers Guild of America or the National Writers Union, find a way to write up a fair and balanced contract that allows you to wring every last penny out of anything within your grasp while at the same time respecting the writer or photographer or other illustrator as a creator of intellectual property, with real compensations, and which sounds like something that you could be proud to sign yourself - and keep the world free from any need for diatribes like the following:

[letter to the editor, I cannot imagine who else to write to]

email subject line - about the death of Newspapers and Journalism and the rise of pseudo-newspapers engaging in unethical business practices

Dear Editor,

I write to you to tell this scary tale, old news to many no doubt, but shocking still to me, and I feel I must tell the story to someone, while there is anyone who might understand the feelings aroused or the sense of urgency I feel, as if I have discovered a monster for the first time and want to warn a world (that of course, already knows).

The demise of newspapers, real newspapers and real print journalism, is very real, very visible in our communities, and very much a part of the public dialogue, but for me it has never come as "close to home" as it did when I began receiving inquiries and contacts from entities posing as news organizations, who apparently are primarily set up to collect content and steal secondary rights in order to create vehicles for advertising, who have found new ways of turning legal structures like the oft-maligned "work for hire" (which has it's legitimate, albeit narrowly defined purposes) into remunerative unethical business practices.

At first, I was curious, intrigued, as even the seamiest thing can be interesting to look at at first, if the wind is right and you don't know what you are looking at yet.

For the last few days I have been in contact with a creature who has scared the bejeezus out of me, by email, and under false pretenses. This creature is in fact a zombie-newspaper (I imagine this term to be my creation, pending research) posing as a well-intentioned member of the community, with the pretense of trying "mighty hard, yes sirree bob" to just do something nice for the community, (local "real newspapers" here are dropping like flies, making room for the carpetbaggers).
When pressed, they sent me a contract to read and sign, no mention of negotiation, no suggestion that the contract is a sample. And when I started asking about terms in the contract, one or two at a time, I was met with reactions suggesting that this contract was a great one, that it was standard in the industry, and that everyone else signed it! "Wow!", said the writer in response to one of my questioning emails, "if you approach your column with the same skills as you use in questioning this contract, it will be a great column for us!", he went on to distract me with wild complements on what he called my "voice", and with suggestions of further "assignments" - to which I replied by pointing out that I am not a journalist, merely an artist in love with running sentences on as far as possible.
This went on for a bit, then I began to realize what I was dealing with.
When the mask really slipped finally, I reared back, recoiling in horror, my eyes vibrating in their sockets, hunting vainly for a way to hide, now that the very eyelids themselves had peeled back and run the long way up and across my accommodatingly bald pate, to hide themselves behind the ears; ahh, the simple ears, even though the monster revealed himself only on the monitor screen, even so, the primitive reaction of the simple ears was to quail in fear.

What do I do with people like this? There is no one to turn to, no Law to cite as violated when an employer insists on a unethical use of the "work for hire" type of contract, loading it with unfair provisions that are not compensated for, and containing only the most fleeting and un-detailed reference to the writer as "contributor".
I am aware that there are legitimate uses for the "work for hire" contract, but what these new "content collectors" are doing should be a crime, since what they are doing is taking secondary rights without any fair compensation and reducing the creator of intellectual property to the status of hod carrier.
If they want to present themselves as Newspapers, why aren't they hiring Journalists in the first place, instead of taking advantage of casual bloggers?

There are several long diatribes that I have drafted but not sent to that zombie-newspaper individual, instead, I have tried to write simple and short emails, truly interested as I was in really giving the proposition a fair hearing - I am delighted to negotiate, and to work with a team doing interesting and fun work. But when this person asked me to include high resolution photos along with my text for the paper to "use", and I asked him what the compensation for the photos was, he promptly answered that they do not pay for photos at all, as if that was the most natural thing in the world. I then asked what the status of the Copyright is in that case, and he said that the paper assumes all Copyrights and all Reproduction Rights, regardless US Copyright Law of 1976 as championed by Edward Kennedy. When I asked him how that benefits the photographer, and to please explain how then the photographer is compensated, the conversation degraded markedly.

In case this email is not long enough, I am including the draft for a final email to the zombie-newspaper person.
I am tempted to let him know that I am aware that he is going to help himself freely to my blog content if he wants to, because that is the way he revealed to me that his business operates, but in fact there is no real point in telling him that.
If anyone in your office reads this and has the time or interest in sending me a reply, I would love to hear any advice, these predators abound, and I want to know how I would best handle them.

Thanks -

Edward Huse

36 Prospect Street
Springfield, Vermont, 05156-3000


__ a draft letter of outrage, to a predatory collector of content posing as an honest newspaper, © by Edward Huse, 2009__

Hi there,

The subject of this email is yet one more last thing, s. v. p..
I recall that when we were talking about the impediments to my contributing to[your zombie-newspaper] (for one thing, that misnomered aberration of a "contract" that someone had the gall to compose was a rock-solid deal-breaker), I said "oh well, you will find someone to cover Springfield for you". Your comment in response to that was revealing, in that you said something to the effect of "Oh sure, there is plenty of material". That operative word, "material", and the earlier suggestion from you that I collect copy from other sources, makes it clear to me that I may be dealing with yet one more pirate who may have as a business practice the habit of collecting copy from writers, to [yawn] rehash for the advertising vehicles that pose as newspapers (Sherlock Holmes tells me that this is possible, looking at the fact that "the subject even presented such a contract for consideration, eh what?", oh my), and I am persuaded to think that, now that you know that I will not sign a predatory "work for hire" "contract" that is as ugly and unethical as the one we have been discussing, now that that is not going to happen, that I might now find that yet one more pirate may get in line and just go ahead and take any portions of my blog that are found useful, by just stealing at will, copying and pasting as he may please to, leaving it to me to identify and defend the assault [more yawning at old news about theft of intellectual property, after a few years it loses some of it's shock value].
Why not? - the conversational slip tells it all, why would anyone speak of taking the content of others to collect into a report of sorts if they had the habit of dealing honestly with writers - is this slip not revealing of a habit of just taking content with that gleeful sense of entitlement so typical of the predator? Is this a newspaper? Really? Really? Can't the predators just spend a few bucks for market research and find a good face to present that is real? No? It's been tried? It is fatally ugly? It's easier just to take the name of the dead and call it a newspaper? Well, well.
I am aware that this is part of the customary tool set that any "content" predator feels entitled to use, after all, Copyright Law contains no teeth, and the zombie-newspaper has no regard for the Copyright originating with and claimed by others anyway. Customary is not always a nice thing, after all, even criminals feel entitled to use their customary tools, just like doctors and dentists do.
The "work for hire" model for a contract, originally intended for use within a narrow range of circumstances to protect parties in a particular situation, has been perverted, and it's use as a tool for predators has made it an obscenity, used by undiagnosed criminal minds.
In the end, the loss to the predator is greater, not that they feel anything, but more because there is surely a special circle in Hell for the thief of intellectual property.
- Why pose as a "poor fledgling newspaper just trying to serve the community", hiding behind a pose of innocence and "crying poor"?
- Why not just own up to the truth?
- Making doughnuts? Really? Or shouldn't it be "milking artists"?
- Really, isn't the predator better than that? If he calls himself an artist, how does he sleep at night? How does he shave without facing himself in the mirror?

You should really thank me for showing you where the mask slips, I certainly won't be the only person to notice. I know that aside from the value you might get from rehashing these words for your columns, that you will also profit from this exvhange to perfect your approach to other naive fools (probably my only real regret is to help hone the predator tool set, even tho' I have also benefitted from the exchange) - typically, you have received all of this value at no cost! it didn't even cost you a beer!!

Even though your overboard complements and chumminess were obvious theater, even so, how naively silly of me, that I should allow a professional to amuse himself by playing me for a fool, buttering me up with ridiculous and highly inappropriate ravings about "voice" and such, while all the while laughing silently (as I have to chuckle now as well), taking notes and chortling so hard that the bluebarry gets confused and sends an accidental email. Remember, I am fully aware that I am not a writer with a "voice" or a "cool" blog, in Nature I might be what is referred to clinically as a "patsy for predators" (apparently the predators are attracted by the display). I have been successful despite the fact only because I know the difference, and thank you for reminding me of that, but you should also know that that is not how gentlemen behave (as prey and predator).
I wish you could convince me that I am wrong, so that the image of a monster could dissipate and we could have a ball making money, but how could anyone with a degree not know exactly what kind of contract that was? Terms come to mind, like "offensive", "criminal", "mercenary", not to mention "unethical", "rude", "coarse", "pretense", "classless", "abusive", and many others less generous than these. No one is going to listen to the claim "I was just taking advice/following orders", unless it is to receive the claim as further evidence of willful complicity in a barbaric charade.

I am in awe of the amazing little edifice of carrion-eater's filth created by the predator who convinces people to sign a contract that debases all parties to it (let's all serve the community! - take your name off of that and give it to me to wring everything that I can from it, all I can pay you with is this bright and shiny penny!) I didn't know it piled that high, but I rush to escape the stench, it is not the same fun as watching a train wreck.

Oh My! Where has the time gone! Geesh, I still have a raft of other collectors of copy for their own advertising vehicles who are busy nipping at my heels these days, as the death of Real Journalism and Real Newspapers has opened the gates to the carpetbaggers, so I will not be able to help you very much any more, and the beer will have to wait, unless you come up with some good "news" sometime (in the form of an honest contract).

Your terms continue to both stun and roundly amuse - "sad newspaper habit", "poor", "stipend", "contributor", "newspaper" - thank you, thank you.

Keep that huge "$20 stipend" old boy, (Oooh, Soo-o-o Pooooo-o-ooooor! Boo-hoo-o-o), and fear not as I won't be billing you a consultation fee by mail either, (I am sure you can appreciate that I have a good reputation to protect, so I don't want to soil my client list), but rather save it for that happy day when you buy me a beer (were you speaking of one whole beer? wow.) to thank me for what must have been a hilarious exchange for you to laugh about at the club - you will go to dinner on this story for years to come after all.
Just please, make sure, that the place where you buy me a beer at least has a selection between two decent Vermont microbrews on tap though, or I walk, and you'd better leave a respectable tip (one really can't screw everyone, eh?) - EH!

And when you pass this email around, be sure to include all portions like the quoted portion of your own email below*, it includes such treasures as:
1) "Er", and;
2) "With apologies … [to anyone, a laughable idea, certainly, ho-ho!]", and of course the ever popular;
3) "sad [widdle] newspaper habit", and the charming homespun humor of;
4) "make the donuts now …[you betcha, hayyup!, just a little honest homestyle donut baking now, let's get to it!, hayyup!]", and that perennial crowd-pleaser;
5) "sent from my VeroverpricedgeezegetaniPhoneforcristssakes RazzBerry …[Oooh, Soo-o-o Pooooo-o-ooooor! Boo-hoo-o-oooo]".

This completes today's performance of the award winning Theater of the Ether melodrama, entitled - "Hi, I am a shark in poor widdle homespun "let's-roll-up-our-sleeves-and-get-this-done-just-like-in-an-Andy-Hardy-movie" clothing, championing a bwave widdle effort to make a weal newspapew, so take your name off that, give it to me to wring profit from in every way I can think of, and take you Sir this bright shiny penney and one egg for that is all I can afford because I am poor, hold it, I need to take this call on my BlaaabBarrie, (it is only because I am poor, and because I can't handle an iPhone with these shark-y fins and sharp meat-eating teeth, that I even use a Razzberry at all, Sir, poor am I, you know), hang on, just leave the pics on my desk and get out, bring more next week, yeah right bye"

[Stage fades to dark]

All words, text, images, music, choreography, story line, and other design elements individully, in part, or in whole, of this fine work that is entirely the intellectual property of their creator Edward Huse, are the Copyright of Edward Huse, 2009, All Reproduction Rights are Reserved, under terms of US Copyright Law of 1976, (thank you, Ted Kennedy), and no transmission, reading, reproduction or any other use of this material is conveyed to any second or third or further party, nor is this intended as anything but a "read once and delete, do not disseminate" document.

[Pretty showgirl carries card across stage with large text reading; the end.]

*[the following is taken from the other party's email]

"Er, let me run this by my lawyer, as soon as he graduates from law school. (With apologies to Groucho Marx.)
Never mind the column, I'd rather just have a beer with you and hear what else you might have to say.
By the way, the only reason I have a B…berry (and a driveable car, for that matter) is that my … work in the … field subsidizes my sad newspaper habit.
Really gotta run and make the donuts now, so if I don't respond as readily (for now) it's just due to that. … Sent from my …"

Edward Huse

Predators will kindly abstain. Nobody leaves without writing a check.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The sleep of Journalism produces zombienewspapers.

Zombie-newspapers; the new, non-journalistic press. This is more or less the focus here, what is that new newspaper like that has replaced the old newspaper that just died after having been around for years?