Saturday, August 30, 2008

Upside down: Do right - pay up front. Do wrong - don't pay at all

Do you feel sometimes like as more you follow the rules and regulations as more you get penalized? I had a moment like this today again. Yesterday in the mail I found my latest copy of the XYZ (I insist: No bashing), one of the various publications, which are a must read in my job. An usual, quick immediate glance revealed an interview with Marion Nestle, PHD, a well recognized nutrition and food industry expert. The interview deals with her just recently released book “Pet Food Politics”. In it she reveals a most complete account about the 2007 recall. She provides critical background information about all parties involved in and official institutions handling the actual event. Her curiosity led her to come up with a detailed analysis not just of the event itself but also of the pet food industry in general and the politics, potential disadvantages and dangers of a globalized pet food supply. About the book is said that it is a fascinating pet owner’s must read that cannot be missed and is supposed to be the most riveting book of the year. Well, they convinced me, I am going to get it and as we go along may share some thoughts with you.
But that’s not really what bothered me today. When I saw the interview, I thought it maybe a good idea to get some copies and distribute them for free to some of my health conscious pet owning customers, like a customer service kind of deal. Being a (though unknown) writer myself, a website creator and having written software in my past, I am familiar with and the purpose of copyrights. They are there to protect the author from unauthorized use of his materials and people simply copying someone else’s intellectual property and profiting by doing so. So here I go, calling up the number listed in the publication’s section “Did you know that unauthorized copying or distribution of XYZ is not permitted?” The first news given by the lady on the phone, was, “yes, reprints of the article are available.” Then she asked how many do I need? “Well, what’s the minimum?” “The minimum is 500 copies.” “Hmm, I was more thinking along the lines of 100 copies, I mean, we are a really small business.” She responded: “Well, did you think about buying copies of the actual magazine?” My answer: “Yes, but the magazine is $5.95/copy, so that’s 600 bucks, a little steep, don’t you think?” Her response to that: “Not really, it would cost you quite a bit more to get the reprints.” At this point I had lost my interest, I told her so and the conversation was ended with a warning during which I was advised that it is a crime to copy or distribute copy righted XYZ materials. All I had to say was: “Listen Sherlock, that’s why I called you in the first place.” I was so frustrated, I even forgot to wish her a nice weekend. After all, she’s just an employee doing her job.
My point is: I could (and probably should) have just made some copies myself, distribute them, shut up and probably nobody ever would have taken notice. But no, my conscience told me, that’s wrong. Now I get penalized with a drained wallet. It’s like: “Well, you want to do the right thing? We show you how it’s done. And while we are at it, we take you to the cleaner.”
I was thinking about cancelling my subscription, which is very pricey to begin with. But it is one of the most important tools I need to do my job. So I will continue to subscribe. For the publisher himself I would like to ask: You seem to be on the right track. You don’t do any advertising in your publication (which justifies your price, I guess), so you can be free in your speech and objectively say what you have to say about any pet food out there in the market. It is a fact that it is not the big guns making the highest ranked products in your reviews. Quite contrary, it is the smaller players, the privately owned and independently, owner operated manufacturers who provide the best food for our companion animals. And these companies sell their products through businesses like our, the very small retailer. We “smaller” guys want to do the right thing. We know better than anybody that there is no free lunches, that is why we don’t want anything for free. So, why, if we, as great believers in and supporters of your publication ask you for a favor, why on earth do you think you have to take us to the cleaner? It just blows my mind. It was a win-win situation for everybody: XYZ would have benefitted by selling a few more subscriptions to my customers, they also would have gotten rid of 100 copies they have laying around anyway and would have gotten a “reasonable” price paid. Marion Nestle would have enjoyed selling a few more copies of her great book. My customers would have learned something on a topic important to them. And finally, our store would have improved customer relationships.
As to providing my customers with the info like I had intended initially: I am still thinking about running over to Kinko’s tomorrow… Or better yet, I have my wife type the whole thing into my computer, then I change a couple words here and there and distribute it as then “My” intellectual property. Sorry, XYZ, looks like you shot yourself in your own leg on this one. You could have made a buck and a half. Hopefully you learned a lesson about being greedy.

No comments: