Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dear Madame Moneygrubber

I was getting over being pissy, when Madame Moneygrubber from the Big Museum in That Place contacted me wanting its second pound of flesh -- and they won't take it in cellulite from my ass. C'est la vie.:

Madame Moneygrubber
Intellectual Properties Manager
Peeport Museum

Dear Madame Moneygrubber,

First of all, yes, my new position is quite interesting. Although, being an associate professor at a highly-respected community college with bright and fascinating students in a major metropolitan area cannot compare to sitting in a leaky, asbestos-infested basement shuffling photocopies from one file to another. Also, having colleagues who respect me and demonstrate interest in my work places so much responsibility upon my shoulders. Life was much easier when all of my colleagues not only underestimated my abilities, but also undervalued my skills by eroding all of my responsibility in order to shore up their own position and develop their martyr complex of being "overworked." There is so much more pressure here; but, as you know, one must follow the money, and since I am being paid three times what I was making at the Peeport – as much, if I am not mistaken, as my former supervisor’s supervisor and, perhaps, yourself – that I had to make the change. Of course, that means that I can no longer plead the moral superiority of poverty so evident in most of the Peeport employees.

Which brings me to the purpose of my last missive. Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I understood that you make an initial charge for image reproductions and a later charge, after publication, for the licensing. I am, after all, educated, with three graduate degrees, can read your policy despite the ways that you make it less than easily accessible on your website, and do actually read my email. My question actually went to the origins of this policy. As you must know, given that you mention your association with local historical societies repeatedly and constantly in every conversation, that most institutions charge for both the reproductions and rights in a lump sum at the time of the transaction. Since the Peeport’s policy seems to double the cost for the use of an image, and create more work on your end, you can see how I might be curious, as a former archivist, why this unusual policy was put in place and if it might cut into the use of your collections.

As you say, you think the Peeport’s policy is a fair one. I would not expect you to consider it otherwise, as your job and your sense of importance depend entirely upon collecting these fees for the Peeport. You are also correct in that few other repositories offer what you do. They merely provide excellently scanned images, as half of the cost of the Peeport, and within a week (over a weekend in the case of the tiny institution down the street from yours).

The Peeport, on the other hand, was kind enough to stall its response to my query for two months, when I had the great pleasure of contacting you to remind you of my query. Perhaps this was planned upon your part, since the delay caused you to provide me with the employee rate for the images, which you would not do when I was an employee because you wanted to treat me with the same consideration as you would any other professional historian. At least, that was true when it came to the charges. In regard to the research, the library staff was very considerate in not pestering me with questions or suggestions about my research, as they do with other historians who visit the institution.

The Peeport was also gracious enough to offer the services of its Publicity Department to write part of my manuscript for me in exchange for a discounted rate on the images. Naturally, the Peeport’s policies are ethical enough to offer only to write the sections that would deal with the Peeport itself. As your Big Wig Local Historian pointed out to me when I first asked if he would consider looking at my manuscript, he was not going to do my work for me.

Indeed, I was quite impressed with your institution’s desire not to foster competition, and therefore bad blood, among its employees. When I met with Big Wig Local Historian, he made it clear that I was not to compete with the reprint of his own book – for twenty years an established standard history for an industry that existed in the town for 50 years of its nearly 400 year history. Since he does have a lifetime of research in the area, and I am only a young upstart with a PhD and a single other publication with a mere academic press, I had to agree that his took precedent. Unfortunately, my own ego forced me to continue with my own project, but he was professional enough to refrain from criticizing my book in a public forum in exchange for $1600 and a credit. His sense of ethics, of course, deemed that he correct some of my grammar to merit the title of “consultant.”

Again, I must reiterate that I am not challenging your charges nor refusing to pay. In fact, between Historian and your department, I do believe that the Peeport has made more money from my book than I ever will, and I wrote the thing! Isn't the irony amusing? (Even photographer of the cover image did not receive payment. He is an employee of the Peeport, as you know, and you have an agreement that he pay you a percentage of the sales from his images that include the Peeport. So, I suppose that you received 10% of nothing in this case! Yes, irony abounds and it is amusing!) All jesting aside, you all are the most important institution in the town, if not in the entire region of southern New England, or New England itself. Thus, it is only right that you derive some profit from anyone’s work on the area. I should absolutely pay any price that you name since my own appellation will forever be associated with the town (and, by extension, the Peeport). In fact, I should pay every business in the town, maybe even every resident or at least every descendant of its original settlers whose names I mention (which would include you several times over, would it not?), for the same privlege since I am attempting to make my name from the town's history, and the town's people should receive some of the profit.

Additionally, I do understand the need for libraries and historical societies to charge for some of their services in this era of evolving technology. As you say, “many historical societies don’t know enough to charge more for the images and information they offer.” They would have much larger budgets if they abandoned that pathetic concept of not-for-profit and that old New England tradition of free public libraries. Information is power, and those who control it should have the right to profit from it. After all, if we can’t pay the price, then we shouldn’t be in the game of researching history. We less-than-wealthy historians should leave research to the leisure class, who are probably more competent at writing the correct type of history than mere academics.

So, once again, I thank you for your time and interest. Of all of my colleagues from my time at the Peeport, you certainly show the most enthusiastic interest in the progress of my book. Rest assured, as soon as I begin to receive royalties for its sales, you will receive a check for the licenses for the images.

One more thing: there has been some noise from Speilberg's and Scorsese's people about the movie rights. Should I also have them contact you?

Clio Bluestocking.

****No, I did not send THIS letter! I wanted to, desperately. In fact, I wanted to send another one that consisted primarily of suggestions that she and her institution violate themselves repeatedly. Instead, I thanked her for her information that "this has always been the policy" and pointed out to her that the reason that libraries and historical societies don't charge more for their services might be because they are not run for a profit.


vuboq said...

I think I might have to start referring to urinals as "peeports."

Are you enjoying teh snow?

Clio Bluestocking said...

Hee! And the Peeport was a bit of a urinal in so very many ways!

Teh snow is pretty! Prettier still for the knowlege that it will go away in a day or two.

Hahn at Home said...

That is a letter that definitely needed to be SENT.

Thanks for your vote, too!

Clio Bluestocking said...

Well, given that the cleaned-up, polite-suthun-lady version automatically set Madame Moneygrubber into a defensive mode, she might have had me banned from the Peeport for this one.

By the way, the name "Peeport" is not one for which I can take credit. My Human (an occasional character in this blog and constant character in life) came up with the name when he first visited the place. His full name for it was "The Little Disney Peeport." Considering the way the place was run from on high, the name was quite accurate, so it stuck. Plus, it just sounds funny.


Unless noted otherwise, copyright for all written content held by Clio Bluestocking.