Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Book Bag

I have always been a voracious reader. As a child, I preferred reading to almost any other activity (except maybe riding horses.) I remember one time my father came into my room (which faced the street), pointed out the window and said "Why don't you go out and play with the other kids?"

"But Dad, I'm reading!" I replied. I couldn't grasp how he didn't understand that sometimes there was nothing more absorbing than a good book.

I was lucky in that regard, because I come from a long line of dedicated readers. My mother's family all read, all the time. My Aunt D jokes about how boring we are when we're together on New Year's Eve, because we're all typically absorbed in books, and it takes a real effort to rouse oneself in order to get champagne and drink toasts.

One of the best things my Mom did when I was very small was create two things: The Book Box, and The Book Bag.

The Book Box was a large metal storage box that lived under the bed in the guest room, and which locked. In it were all sorts of amazing books, which she doled out as needed: when one was ill, if one had done well at school; if it was a week of rain on a vacation, that sort of thing. They were always special; perhaps fabulous picture books of Russian Fairy Tales; one of a series of books like the Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, things like that. I was never disappointed with anything Mom gave me from the Book Box.

The other wonderful tradition she created was The Book Bag. The Book Bag was always the very best part of Christmas, and was opened last. Mom was a master shopper, and was able to find a bunch of books that were just the perfect thing for each of us. Fairy tales, SF, and fantasy books for me; mysteries and puzzles for G; history and biographies for B.

It became such a cherished part of my childhood that when I had children I continued the tradition (bolstered by books Mom sent for the girls, of course.) Even now, the girls say it's the best part of Christmas, and we always open our Book Bags last. You know if you picked the right things, because everyone goes silent as they delve into their books, and wander off to chairs around the house to settle in and read.

Or, in the case of my cowboy husband, he and A set up a rope-tying practice session with a set of halter rope and a dining room chair, after he got Ashley's Book of Knots in his Book Bag this year. You know you live on a farm when...

I feel my Mom's presence often, but never more so on Christmas morning as everyone is opening their Book Bags. It's a tradition I know my own girls will pass along to their children, and I am already making lists of books to buy for them (in good time, all in good time.)

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year to everyone from us at the farm.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Beware: The BYC Owns Your Photos

Yes, that's right. The BYC owns whatever photos and messages you post in their online forum, but it wasn't always that way. I will explain.

I joined the Backyard Chickens Forum back in 2008. At that time, when I signed up, the Terms of Service (TOS) said one thing. Now, it says another. And in the interim, changes have been made to it, which were not sent to members, and which significantly impact how one should post things there.

A little background: I am a professional photographer (among other things.) I have a BFA in photography from Syracuse University. I had my first photo published in 1980, as the cover of a national magazine (National Fisherman.) I have sold my photographs on and off since then, and value the copyright on my images.

I am also a freelance writer, have been for many, many years. Had my first article published in a book in 1990, and I hold copyright on my articles as well.

I would never willingly sign away copyright to any photo or article to anyone for free without some sort of benefit to someone. For a number of years I have written articles (and submitted photos) to Backyard Poultry Magazine (which has no connection to the BYC, by the way), in exchange for a free advertisement for the American Bantam Association. For most of that time, I received no payment for those articles, but I do now due to a change in ownership.

But I digress. The point of this is, as a professional, I would never sign a TOS in which I would agree to turn over the rights to the things I posted, photos or other content, to a forum website. So when I joined the BYC back in '08, I am certain no such provision was in their TOS at that time.

Not long ago I decided to leave the BYC (why is the topic for another blog post.) Before I did, I had asked a Moderator there to just delete my account and all my photos. Here is his reply:

"As for deleting an account, BYC has no delete option.  All photos and content forever remain property of BYC.  Just part of the signing up, user agreement."

You can imagine my surprise and dismay. WHAT?! I emailed back for clarification. No response. I emailed one of the Admins, asking to be sent the TOS as it existed when I joined the BYC back in 2008. No response again, and when I tried to log in subsequently, I found my account had been banned. 

Wow. Just wow. And here's the thing: most websites, when they change their privacy policies/TOSs, send out an email at least annually to their members, letting them know about the changes. Major changes will often get a separate email. So that if a member disagrees with the new TOS, they can remove themselves from the site. The BYC never did this, ever, in my entire time there. Pretty sneaky, IMO.

I actually queried several lawyer friends of mine, and the response was, even if it's a bad agreement, if you agree to it, it will likely stand up in court. So despite me never giving the BYC permission to own my photos and articles when I joined, because they changed their TOS on the sly, now they own my stuff. And they can use it any way they want, for whatever they want.

I will note that the BYC has a calendar they produce, which I presume is made with members photos. And I also presume, due to the TOS, none of the members whose photos are used get compensation for their pics. Which to me is just despicable.

So I warn all of you who are members of the BYC, don't post anything there that you want to retain copyright to, not photos, not articles, nada. Because once it's on the BYC, they own it forever, and you'll never get a dime out of them. And if you ask for clarification on this change, they'll ban your account forever.

Charming business practice by arguably the largest chicken related forum on the Internet.

I will note that the ShowBirdBid forum has no such draconian policies, and is filled with excellent information and knowledgeable people who are more than willing to help folks learn more about poultry. I encourage anyone who is seeking a good online source for poultry info to check it out today. As well, there are a number of good groups on Facebook in which you can participate, not the least of which is the Show Poultry Group, and for those interested in Buckeyes, the American Buckeye Poultry Club group.

And in those places, you'll have no worries that your photos will turn up in a calendar or book or something, and you won't be paid for their use. Just good people and great info.