Time to move to photo.net?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I see that the LF forum archives (and many recent questions posted on this page) are now fully accessible on photo.net. Don't know when questions from here will start showing up over there; might this one?

Here's the URL for our new home:



-- Terry (tcdvorak@aol.com), June 08, 2002


In my opinion, the Q&A belongs on this site and not on Photo.Net. The Q&A goes hand in hand with all the other excellent information that can be found on this site. It was Mr. Luong who had the original vision of putting this site together, one from which we've all benefited. I think that this site should stay intact.

I would add that the method for taking over this Q&A is of dubious ethics. In fact, it stinks.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), June 09, 2002.

Absolutley! At least we didn't need another bloody password system.

-- Trevor Crone (trevor.crone@sega-europe.com), June 09, 2002.

While I share some of Neil's and Trevor's trepedations, I think we must be honest. Q. Tuan created this wonderful place using Greenspuns services... and Greenspun has decided to move those services to photo.net... if you live in somebody else's trailer, you go along for the ride.

I think we should also realize that this is a public forum. It has always been open to anyone. The only thing that has kept it a cozy community is relative obscurity. On photo.net, it will still be public but much more visible (photo.net vs. ai.sri.com/~qluong/photography/lf) so there will be more noise... but more photographers will have an opportunity to benefit from this tremendous and unique source of LF info and advice. I am willing to suffer a bit toward that end.

-- Glenn Kroeger (gkroeger@trinity.edu), June 09, 2002.

Anyone want some cheese with your whine? Reality is that fresh postings here at greenspun.com can still be accomplished only because the migration to photo.net is being performed incrementally. I'd suggest we all get over to the new location now, thereby making things easier to follow during this transition period.

-- Sal Santamaura (santamaura@earthlink.net), June 09, 2002.

Neil, you seem to be under the impression that somehow photo.net has stolen the forum from its "home" on Tuan's server. In fact, since its inception it has been running as part of Philip Greenspun's free services on greenspun.com. When you click the link on Tuan's page you were going to another site running forum software. The labelling of the pages is so inobtrusive, and the graphics similar enough to Tuan's page, that you might not have noticed this.

Now that system is in the process of being wound down. As you know, the system has been going down for longer and longer each time. photo.net is another venture started by Philip Greenspun. It is is organized as a for-profit corporation, but in fact it's revenues just cover its expenses and at the moment it is run by unpaid volunteers. However, unlike it greenspun.com, it does have a revenue stream, pays its ISP charges, and has a little left over to upgrade hardware, etc.

Philip announced to LUSENET moderators last December that the service was being wound down. Some of them found other homes for the forums. However 13 photography-related sites were still without a home as Philip was about to leave on a four-month vacation. There is still a small group of Philip's friends, including some of the people at photo.net, who kind of keep an eye on the greenspun.com machine but it is not at all unlikely that the machine will go down without anyone noticing for days at a time. Philip asked us to move the remaining active photography forums that had not found alternative homes to photo.net.

If you have been coming into the forum from Tuan's page, it will look almost the same. It is true that photo.net has very slightly more branding than greenspun.com, so the transition to the forum site is not quite so seamless, but it is nearly so. And the software is almost the same.

So, the decision to start the migration was made with some sense of urgency and in the interests of the forums, for which Philip felt responsible, and because we at photo.net felt that it would be very synergistic with our site and therefore worth the week of effort that it has taken (so far) to move the forums, especially since nearly 40% of the forum participants were already photo.net members.

-- Brian Mottershead (mottershead@photo.net), June 09, 2002.

I would suggest that for now this community move to photo.net instead of dispersing into various sites. As it has been said here, the option to move to a new home from photo.net is not closed if a better solution can be found, even if the unsolicitated move makes thing a bit more difficult. I will elaborate on the LF page.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (luong@ai.sri.com), June 10, 2002.

What I find curious is the number of forums that are being assimilated at one time. The progression seems to have gone something like the following: Offer free services, and when a site owner goes to all the trouble to make the site successful, take it over. This is what I find to be objectionable.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), June 10, 2002.

Neil, I think that while it is true that the forum owners are very interested to integrate the different Lusenet forums (and in particular this one) into photo.net to add to photo.net lustre, I don't think what happened was the result of a premeditated plan. The main benefit for Philip Greenspun in maintaining Lusenet back then was to showcase his expertise in DB-backed web sites. Unlike in photo.net where there is a perpetual licence to publish that you concede to use the service, there was no such thing for Lusenet, and legally the current LF Forum data doesn't appear locked in photo.net.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (luong@ai.sri.com), June 11, 2002.

It was certainly not a premeditated plan. Philip announced to the moderators last December that the free LUSENET service would be winding down, and that they should make other arrangements. After six months several photography-related forum had not done so, and the situation with LUSENET was getting dicier and dicier especially as regards to human resources to oversee it. As I said, it was Philip's initiative to have the forums moved to photo.net, and this was not the culmination of some nefarious scheme to steal the forums, but a sincere effort to prevent their demise.

It is not the intention of photo.net to compel people to participate in a forum. We couldn't do so if we wanted to. We want to provide the forum with a home, because operating vibrant photography forums is our mission. But if we can't earn the confidence of the forum members, there is absolutely nothing we can do to prevent them from going somewhere else, either individually, or en masse.

-- Brian Mottershead (mottershead@photo.net), June 11, 2002.

Tuan, it is true that the photo.net Terms of Use grant photo.net a non-exclusive, perpetual license to use the uploaded content, but only as part of the photo.net web service. We can't use the content anywhere else. For example, we wouldn't be able to sell the movie rights to your LF contributions.

The reason that the lawyers put in "perpetual" rights is that the content is being published in the context of a discussion forum and the forum archives are made available ("published") indefinitely. We wanted our right to do that to be clear.

As far as what type of usage rights people were granting to Philip Greenspun when they uploaded content to his personal web site, one can only wonder about this, since the terms of use were never spelled out. What is clear is that nobody thinks that Philip ended up with the copyright to the content, since it would have taken an explicit grant to accomplish that. But what type of usage rights Philip was getting is not clear at all.

The terms of use on your site (which perhaps apply to the postings) say only that the contributors retain their copyright to the content, but also leave it unclear as to what type of usage was being granted to you or Philip regarding the publication of the content.

-- Brian Mottershead (mottershead@photo.net), June 12, 2002.


I'm a bit confused about how exactly photo.net has acquired the legal rights to publish all the postings in the lusenet large format archives on the photo.net site. I know I personally did not sign over my copyright to all the postings I made in the lusenet forum to photo.net (or anyone else). As the creator of those postings, I am the legal copyright owner and remain so unless I sign a legally binding agreement stating otherwise - or release my works into the public domain. At this point, I have done neither. In effect, photo.net is infringing on my copyright (and everyone else's who ever posted on lusenet) by hijacking the archives from the non-profit lusenet service and relocating them to the for-profit commercial photo.net site.

I realize that both sites were created with the skills and talents of Phillip Greenspun (thanks Phillip), but to me there is a fundamental difference between a non-profit online community and a for-profit commercial service.

I have mixed feelings about this whole issue. As someone who occasionally gets paid for writing about large format equipment, I resent the fact that the words and knowledge that I donated to the non-commercial lusenet site have been effectively stolen by the commercial photo.net service. I willingly donated those words and knowledge to the lusenet large format forum in the spirit of giving something back to the large format community. I did not agree at anytime to let my words and knowledge be used to generate more traffic on a commercial site. I know Brian claims the photo.net does currently make a profit (and I believe him), but that may not always be the case (if there is no intent to ever show a profit, why is photo.net not a non-profit?). So, not only is the legallity in question, but so are the ethics of taking postings from a non- commercial site and relocating them to a commercial site without the permission of the authors. I'd feel the same way if someone took the content of www.thalmann.com/largeformat and posted it on a commercial service without my permission.

On the other hand, it's probably better in the end to have the lusenet large format archives available on photo.net than to be inaccessible in the near term - and it's definitely better than having them lost forever.

I'm not trying to tell others how they should feel about this issue. It is up to each individual poster to decide how they feel, or if they even care, about the move from lusenet to photo.net. Personally, I doubt if I will be as active on the new photo.net large format forum as I was on lusenet. I have a lot of demands on my time these days, and while it made me feel good to contribute to lusenet, I'm not so sure I want to donate my time to the commercial photo.net site.

Just my personal thoughts on the subject....


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), June 12, 2002.

Kerry, I am not sure about the legalities here, as I said in my previous post. First, there is no question of anyone having signed over their copyright. We don't even ask for that on photo.net. What is under discussion is what usage rights have been granted to whom. Unless posting them on LUSENET put them in the public domain, the copyright stayed with the original poster.

On photo.net, this is all covered in the Terms of Use. People retain the copyright to their content and grant photo.net a license to use it on its web service. On greenspun.com, nothing was spelled out anywhere, so what rights were being granted and to who is completely unclear. People were uploading their forum contributions to Philip's personal web server and he served them, in the context of the forum, to the world. Nobody was signing contracts granting usage rights.

Now Philip has requested photo.net, a for-profit corporation, of which Philip is the majority shareholder, to operate these forums, as he is planning to shut down the greenspun.com service and the forums have not found an alternative site. Philip could argue that if he had the right to serve the content when it was part of the forum on LUSENET, he can transfer the forum to a different machine. This could be debated, and certainly photo.net is interested in having a thriving forum that adds lustre the site (as Tuan correctly put it), not in engaging in lawsuits on interesting copyright issues, which the lawyers would no doubt find entertaining, and nobody else.

Having said that, it is not clear what rights anyone has, after the demise of LUSENET, to copy the forum anywhere else. If Philip, doesn't have that right, when he was operating the forum service to which people were posting the content, then neither does Tuan, because his Terms of Use (assuming they apply) don't explicity grant him any rights over the forum content either. And if Philip and Tuan don't have rights to perpetuate the forum on a different server, then certainly nobody else does either.

As a practical matter, photo.net certainly would honor anyone's request to delete "their" content in the LF forum, assuming that the person authenticated that it was his content. Even this is a bit of non-trivial matter in many cases considering how much of the stuff was posted with only a partial name and an often fake email address.

Kerry, one piece evidence that photo.net, despite being organized as a profit, operates as if it were a non-profit, is that a real profit organization wouldn't touch a legally cloudy situation like this with a ten-foot pole. We're just trying to do the right thing, and so it is a little discouraging to have it seen as stealing.

-- Brian Mottershead (mottersherad@photo.net), June 12, 2002.

I totally agree with the points raised by Kerry (see my personal account). As for the legal status of the Lusenet postings, I would think that's the same as the Usenet postings. Anyone know about them ?

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (luong@ai.sri.com), June 12, 2002.


First, just let me make it perfectly clear: I made no threat of any sort of legal action in my previous post. Nor did I request removal of my posts from the archives that were moved to photo.net. Those were both topics broached by you, not me.

Like I said, I have mixed feelings about this move. All I'm trying to say is that I gave my consent to have my contributions published on the free lusenet forum, and I made no such consent with respect to the commercial photo.net service.

As you freely admit, moving the lusenet large format archives adds "lustre" to photo.net. You just increased the value of photo.net. And you did so with content created by others, without their permission and without compensation.

Whether or not photo.net currently makes a profit is irrelevant. photo.net is owned by Luminal Path, Inc. - a for-profit corporation. That's a fact. By "acquiring" the content of the lusent archives, the market value of photo.net instantly increased and became more valuable to Luminal Path, Inc. and more attractive to potential buyers. I have no idea if the shareholders of Luminal Path, Inc. have any intention to ever sell photo.net. Point is, at the end of the day, as the shareholders, they OWN photo.net and can sell it to any one they please, at any time, for any amount of money.

I'm not claiming those shareholders will get rich off my contributions. It's a matter of principle. I donated those contributions to a non-profit, and they are now being used by a for-profit corporation. That goes against the spirit of Tuan's goal to create a totally non-commercial online large format community for the free exchange of information without commercial ties. Tuan worked hard to keep the lusenet large format forum free from commercial influence. How sadly ironic that it should all end up in the hands of a commercial venture.

I won't bother to quote the entire phot.net terms and conditions (available at: http://www.photo.net/terms-of-use ), and I'm not a lawyer, but from what I read in the following paragraph, it certainly appears that photo.net is in violation of their own "terms and conditions". They warn their users against posting material owned and created by others, but then do exactly that, en masse, by importing the lusenet archives without the consent of the originators of that material.

Here's the specific paragraph I am referring to:

"Submitting material that is the property of another, without the consent of its owner, is not only a violation of this agreement, but may also subject You to legal liability for infringement of copyright, trademark, or other intellectual property rights." Again, I'm not trying to create a federal case here, nor am I trying to influence the opinions of others. I am merely stating my feelings on the move from lusenet to photo.net. I have no personal vendetta against Philip Greenspun or photo.net. Quite the opposite. I appreciate all of Philip's generous support of lusenet over the years. What I do have an issue with, is photo.net's method of acquiring new content without the consent of the creators of that content.


P.S. To anyone who thinks I've gone off the deep end on this issue, I strongly suggest you read Tuan's comments at the link in his post above. Tuan has a LOT more invested in the lusenet large format forum than I do, and his opinion should carry a LOT more weight than anything I have to say on the subject.

-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), June 13, 2002.

Kerry, you might be right.

However, if you are, then it means that this incarnation of forum must die, with its archives. The reason is that if you are right, nobody, not Philip, not Tuan, nor anyone else, would have the right to copy the content of the LF forum off this particular system to another place without first getting the permission of every contributor whose content was going to be copied. Since many of the contributors did not even post under valid email addresses their consent would be impossible to obtain. As for those whose addresses are valid, it would still be impractical to get most of their consents in any reasonable amount of time. So, if you are right, when this system goes does forever, which will be soon, this incarnation of the LF is finished, along with its 60000 message archive.

Of course, the community can find its way somewhere else and start over to build new archives.

However, fortunately, I think you are probably wrong about the law, although I would be the first to admit that it is not clear.

As for where the value lies, the really valuable thing is the community. The archives serve only to attract new members but an ongoing supportive community is more important than archives even there. The archives are of much less value to anyone without the community. That is why I very sincerely hope that the community will find photo.net a congenial place and congregate there, as Tuan has urged.

-- Brian Mottershead (mottershead@photo.net), June 13, 2002.

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