I was debating talking about this on this blog, but, it’s what I do. I’ll likely be sued over this blog post and will loose everything. Since there are libraries with computers I’ll keep blogging when I’m homeless and my wife has left me. Onward.
Weird Awkward Bitterness
So, as some of you may know, I was fired from a job about three years ago (THREE YEARS AGO). There was always a bit of animosity between the leadership and I. By leadership I mean the arrogant, distant, socially awkward PI that ran the office and the owner of the company. The owner, we’ll call him Rom Clenchin (obviously a pseudonym), actually only met me maybe twice since he lives in Boulder, Colorado.
The situation was awkward because I am always trying to figure out how I can move up, no matter where I work, and how I can learn new skills and advance my position. It’s just the way I am. I think the company was not too receptive to that. Like at many CRM firms, employees are often just expected to sit down, shut up, and do their work. Ambition, in my experience, is not encouraged. Just get your job done.
Well, when I wrote the “Tonopah” blog post that detailed the area we were working in, they fired me. I’m not going into it again, but basically, the thought I violated the company confidentiality policy by talking about the project.
Now, let’s fast forward to today. I’ve got a new book out. You may have heard of it. If not, the “Field Archaeologist’s Survival Guide” can be found on one of the tabs above if you’re on my website right now. In that book I used pictures from various places I’ve worked. Some of the pictures came from projects I was on while working with the aforementioned company. I took all the pictures with my personal camera and none of them are in the style of actual project photos. What I mean is, there are no photo boards, no features, not even any artifacts. They are candid shots that were likely taken while I was on lunch or on break. I’d be willing to bet that if you’re reading this that you’ve probably taken pictures on a project and most likely posted some on a social media website.
Somehow RC seems to think there are pictures that were taken on his projects in my book. First, none of them are even labeled so he can’t really prove it. Second, they are personal photographs and I can find similar ones on Facebook right now from current and former employees from that project and multiple projects. Doesn’t seem to matter, though.
A few days ago I received a Cease and Desist letter from RC's lawyer. It says that the employee handbook says that when you are terminated or otherwise leave the company that you have to return all materials that belong to the company. That totally makes sense, of course. The problem is that the photos I took most certainly DO NOT belong to the company.
Now what am I going to do? I can’t unpublish the book. I can put in different photos for the next edition, though. However, a number of copies have been sold already and I can’t take those back. Also, why didn’t the lawyer send copies of that letter to EVERY former employee? They all have pictures too. Well, most of them do, anyway.
I’m going to contact a lawyer on Monday and see what my options are. Of course, I really don’t have the money for this, so, I don’t know what I’m going to do, ultimately. What I really don’t get is why RC is so bitter about all this. Why is he hanging on so much? The man is well over 60 years old and could have a heart attack if he’s not careful.
Are you a PI or a company owner? How do you feel about people taking, and using, photos from your projects. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about official-looking photographs like those that would appear in a report. I’m talking about candid site photos. Does someone need permission to use them even if the photos are not attributed to any particular project or company? What’s your policy? How are you dealing with the fact that nearly every employee has a digital camera and a computer in their pocket? It’s a new world and we need policies that reflect the technology we have available to us.
As usual, I appreciate any feedback.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field, or, at a homeless shelter.
I called the lawyer on Monday. First, he was instantly antagonistic. It was a little weird. I told him that I probably did take pics on their projects but that they'd have to prove which ones were theirs. He asked why I was taking pictures when I should have been working. I told him that it's because I'm an archaeologist and I love my job. I told him that we all do it. I don't think he believed me.
He wasn't aware that nearly every employee, both current and former, have pictures on Facebook. Sure, they're not in a book, but they weren't "returned" when those people left either way. He's going to check on some things and get back to me.
My guess, I won't hear from him again. Hopefully he's telling his client that they can't really win unless they want to bring lawsuits up on at least 50 people or more. Probably more. I told him I won't use any photos taken from their projects in future publications, but, I still think I have every right.
More updates when they happen.