A Tale of Two Requests

The H-Net Discussion Network on Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association had requested blog posts on the various sessions that people on the listserv attended. Specifically this was posted by J. Brian Wagaman, senior list editor. I sent the URL to my blog posts and Dr. Peter Rollins, one of the co-founders of PCAACA, wrote back saying he liked them. (I wrote about his response on TCE and he was talking specifically about my PCA/ACA 2011 blog posts.)

I have recently had two requests to take down blog posts about Popular Culture panels I attended.

One is the model of courtesy and I immediately took the post down. This presenter wrote:

Dear Dr. Davis,

I apologize for the randomness of this email, but it came to my attention that my presentation ideas from the recent PCA/ACA conference are posted on your blog. While I sincerely appreciate your interest in my work, the talk was a part of a publication I am working on and hope to find a home for soon. Because of this, I ask that you kindly remove the ideas pertaining to my paper from your blog.

Thanks so much for your understanding.

Author’s first and last name
Followed by author’s position at the university.

I am sorry you won’t get to read the post, because she had an interesting presentation. However, she was polite and collegial and I have TCE here to be a help and not a harm. While I think that blog posts are more persuasive, since it says people are interested in your topic, I respected her request.

The other request was not so collegial.

I just discovered that a summary of my presentation at the PCA/ACA conference has been posted on your blog. (“Name of the Blog Post Redacted”)

This is a serious and unauthorized violation of my intellectual property rights. Please remove this information from the web immediately.

You do not have the authority or permission to reproduce and disseminate my ideas. My presentation contains research that I am currently developing for publication, and your use/distribution of my contents without permission is theft. The images you reproduced are also copyright protected.

Please do not force me to contact the other presenters, the program director, your employer, and my institution’s lawyer about this legal and ethical breach. Also, please respond ASAP that you have received this message.

Author’s first and last name, Ph.D.

I’m going to tell you more about this later, but right now my hands are shaking and my heart is pounding and I got the latter email over forty-eight hours ago.

I’d love to know your take on these emails.

FYI: I made both posts private.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because you are a regular reader here and remember the Live Blogging kerfuffle from the CCTE conference in March. Hmmm. Maybe all conferences which are supporting/encouraging live blogging should put that in their conference program and provide labeled tables for bloggers (like MLA, from which I got no confused folks asking me to take posts down).

Update: This has been edited to give the link to the request for blog posts on PCAACA.

9 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Requests”

  1. I’ve enjoyed following conference presentations your blog. My own perspective encompasses both academic and non-academic blogging. Neither request represents an attitude you’d see among open access and digital humanities crowd. Well chosen graphics for each. Soon I’ll be checking my feed reader for both. Perhaps just as well neither is aware of that possibility.

    I would appreciate the courtesy of the first request and honor it, perhaps asking to be notified when the paper was published and expressing interest in reviewing it on the blog.

    As for the second, there are trying moments to having a lawyer daughter with a mean streak, but this would not be one of them. Other thoughts occur to me: how insecure and unhappy #2 must be; less kindly ones about reviewing the work when it appears; or just ignoring it, consigning work and author to non-existence.

    In the end, I hope I would remember to weigh the troll’s venom against Dr Rollin’s praise, taking each for what they are worth.

  2. Although polite, both requests for you to take down the blog posts reflects something that deeply disturbs me about higher education; although we pay lip service to “saring” and making our research and work open and accessible, really, we’re just doing the research because of our careers. And why? Because that’s what we’re told me need to do. Want the TT job? Get published. Want tenure? Get published. We are so afraid of anything that might jeopardize that publication that you end up with strange requests to NOT share information/research/etc.

    For me, the discussions I find here and elsewhere on the web are invaluable to my own research and thinking. I can’t afford to go to conferences, nor can I be on top of everything that is published ever on a certain topic. The web, blogging, and other forms of digital publications and publicity are ways to create an academic community. Apparently, that’s not what we’re here for.

    Tenured Radical has a post about how unhealthy jr professors are. I have to think that the second email stems from the immense pressure so many your professors, on and off the tenure track, feel.


  3. You thought the second request was polite? Really?

    My presentation contains research that I am currently developing for publication, and your use/distribution of my contents without permission is theft.

    He accused me of stealing his work. He said I am a thief. Outside of the justice system, such an accusation can never be polite. Then he accused me of theft AGAIN by saying the images are copyrighted. (They are not.)

    Please do not force me to contact the other presenters, the program director, your employer, and my institution’s lawyer about this legal and ethical breach.

    He says that I am going to FORCE him to do something. I am putting him in a position where he will have to do something bad/harmful/problematic. Under no circumstances have I ever forced this man to do anything. Nor do I have that power. He is putting the blame (or responsibility) for his actions on me rather than accepting the responsibility of his actions himself.

    Having called me a thief and refused to take responsibility for his own actions, he ordered me to reply to his email. Okay, he said please. But he also said ASAP and he had already been rude. Saying please does not make a demand a request. –I will admit this last may be a misreading on my part, but I would say it is a reading far more in line with the rest of his email.

  4. Sorry, I mis-typed, although ONE was polite. Please don’t think that I would ever argue that accusing you of theft is polite.

    Seriously, I’m worse than my students. Dude in the second email needs to chill out and get over himself.

  5. I would not bother myself with#2. That person is simply throwing his/her weight around, and is probably that way with his/her colleagues on a daily basis. You could reply with chapter and verse about what is NOT protected by copyright, but you have far better uses for your time.

    The real threat is not that he called you a thief, but that he threatened to bring this to the attention of the conference, the program director, other presenters, and your employer. With that in mind, I think you should keep (make them PDFs) a copy of your blog entries, that offensive email, and your reply. Then please try to clear your mind of this unpleasantness.

    Ultimately, I think that conferences need to be encouraged/pressured to develop a policy on live-blogging. When the call for papers is issued, responders should be told whether live-blogging is a feature of the conference (and non-negotiable), whether live-blogging is forbidden, or whether presenters can “opt out” of live-blogging. When the conference is announced, potential attendees (which would include bloggers) should be told the same thing.

  6. Ok, I may be a simple person far removed from the world of academia, but why do these professors go to a conference and present their unpublished research or ideas if they are afraid of them being stolen or used? In the business world, these would be secrets and not shared except with the boss demanding an update on what you have been working on. If you choose to share it, then you should be happy someone re-shared the information. Oh, and the second person is a rude jerk.

  7. Golly, several things come to mind. One, I agree with Paul Munson. One reason to go to conferences is to learn and be better at what we do, whatever that may be. I presented my use of metacognition as a meaningful way to achieve assessment, and one of the other presenters asked, “I love this…do you mind if I use it,” to which I replied, “Of course not. That’s what we’re all here for, isn’t it?”

    Second, I had already thought about what ReadingWriting has noted. I cruise the web often picking up “best practices” that I can try in the classroom. I suppose that’s “stealing,” yet the web is hardly private (despite what my students think). Rarely is it any one idea but a synthesis of several methods that I customized for my teaching style. And if I took courses, learned these, and used them, would that be stealing? If I checked out books from the library and gleaned ideas from them, would that be stealing? Of course, the difference is the I would have bought the books for the course or the library would have bought them for its stacks. A conundrum. Yet it is because I do this – constantly cruise looking for ways to be a more effective teacher – that I realize I have to accept as valid that my students do this too. They cruise the web to better understand their reading text, but then (hopefully) rephrase what they have figured out into their own terms.

    But third (and really what I thought of first) is…have you ever taught Business Communications? I have. The first message is a BEAUTIFUL example of a indirect message “denying” a request (in this case, allowing you to post): present the reasons in such a manner that by the time the request is made, the audience feels that it is the only reasonable action. The second message is a BEAUTIFUL example of breaking all the rules and alienating the audience and maybe not even achieving the compliance desired: using “you-viewpoint” to attack, words with strong negative connotations, etc.. (In fact, if you don’t mind my stealing this, I could use it in the fall when I teach Bus. Comm. again.) The textbook begins the first chapter making the claim that EVERYTHING a company does is “public relations,” including words and actions by their employees. As higher ed teachers, in some sense we are our own corporations, and we should be aware of our public relations. Who knows if this communication could surface at a later date (especially these electronic days) and cast the authors reputation in a different light?

    And fourth, I work with people just like this. (sigh) We propose “cooperative learning” among our students but not among ourselves. (heavy sigh)

  8. Feel free to share them in class. In fact, if you hadn’t commented, you could have sent them to the post to read the post and then asked them to discuss the messages. Of course, if your students are like mine, they might read the post and NOT the comments, since that wasn’t assigned.

  9. Paul Munson is right on target.

    I attended the digital section of MLA and one thing that stuck out in my mind is that they warned young assistent proffies that publishers don’t like to publish a dissertation if it’s already been on the web. While that was sobering, and something like that may have triggered #2’s freakiness, a live blogging session of notes–disjoint and unpolished as they at times can be–is hardly the equivalent of a highly crafted piece being placed on the web.

    I should say to #2 as my friend used to say to me: Don’t get your knickers in twist.

    I’m sorry for the unpleasantness you had to deal with, but I’m happy you’re here. I do enjoy your blog; this fan votes for you to carry on!

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