Friday, July 10 2020

paella, shipping, and copyright law



banners/2020 07 10

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! It's an uncharacteristically cool morning here in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin. Last night's very exciting thunderstorm left a few lingering grey clouds in the sky. The more typical hot, humid mornings have been doing wonders for proofing Krang Bread, but life isn't all about bread. I'll take the cool weather too.

We could use some cool weather around here. We're about to head into a busy weekend of back-to-back party hosting for Rodney's birthday. Because of good 'ol coronavirus, we can't throw one giant open-invite rager in our backyard like we've done in past years. Instead, we're throwing two smaller, more cautious gatherings for each side of the family.

Yesterday, the dining room table was our party planning war room. Marissa and I sat in front of a blank page in her notebook to discuss the menu.

"So fajitas for my side," she pondered aloud. "And are we doing a side with that? I feel like we need something other than chips and dip."

"I think we should make paella," I said.

"Paella?" Questioned Marissa. "Does that go together?"

"Yes," I said confidently, then I muttered the rest of my thought into my coffee mug. "Probably."

"Probably?" laughed Marissa.

"Well it's close enough - one is Mexican and one is from Spain," I said, pulling out my phone to flick through some quick Google results. "Ah there you go - there's such thing as Mexican paella. We're going with that."

"OK, if you say so," said Marissa.

"To be honest, I was just filling out a recipe page for paella, and staring at the picture made me want to eat it again. Oh, can I make paella tonight?" I asked.

"Get off paella," said Marissa sharply, referencing a scene from Bob's Burgers.

Knowing that we're heading into such a busy weekend, we made an effort to lay low yesterday. Marissa spent most of the day shipping paintings. Last weekend's Astuary Art fire sale was a smashing success, but consequently her one-person shipping department was quickly overwhelmed with an intimidating amount of work to get through before the parties this weekend. Her shipping supplies were spread out on the living room floor. She feverishly worked with cardboard, tape, and labels to leave a towering stack of twelve boxes by the door.

"Will you leave all these on the porch tomorrow morning?" she asked.

"Oh sure thing," I said, admiring the skyscraper of neatly taped and labeled packages. "So this has to be like most of them, right?"

Marissa stood for a moment with her hands on her hips, mentally running through the orders that remained. "It's about sixty percent," she said.

"Oh right, it's a large," I replied. In our home project tracking system, a large was either supposed to be two weekday nights or an entire Saturday. As the sale shipping project was now spilling over into the third day of work, I felt the need to poke fun at how wildly innacurate her estimation proved to be.

"I know - I underestimated this. Just classic, huh?" laughed Marissa.

Apparently, Marissa sees her work the same way I see food. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs - or something like that. I guess that's not the cleanest analogy.

As Marissa was busy with her shipping work, I enjoyed lots of computer time tinkering with code and catching up on emails. This week, I've been going back and forth over email with a curator from the Wisconsin Historical Society. As part of their COVID Journal Project, they're encouraging people to keep daily journals of how the pandemic has impacted their lives and submit them to the historical society's archives - a tradition they first started when they encouraged Union soldiers to do the same during the Civil War.

Since I'm doing the writing anyway, I decided to reach out with interest. Now that we've passed the ninety day mark, they emailed me some instructions as well as a deed to sign.

Some of the verbiage in the document kind of scared me. As part of making a donation, you must transfer all ownership of the documents to the society so they can use, analyze, quote, and store it as they see fit.

"We would own your gift," explained the curator, "but we would never let that stop you from using the same work for your own purposes. Are goal is to make historical documents more available, and not less available."

I didn't spare any follow up questions. Coming up on almost a year of daily journaling and almost four hundred thousand words, I didn't want to make any rash decisions. "I know they're good people," I explained to Marissa. "But I don't want to accidentally transfer ownership of the whole thing to them. What if the archives get purchased? What if I were to get sued?"

Marissa and I spit-balled, like a round of dueling amateur copyright lawyers. "What if the deed just applied to the contents of the email. Like if I sent them a ZIP file, couldn't I just specify that the document only applies to those contents - the copy, and not the original?"

"Well think of, like, a picture," said Marissa. "If you copyright a picture, it doesn't matter if it's in a PDF, a website, or printed on a flyer. You're still using the owned work."

"But it would be my picture," I said. "I think since I own the original work, I can make copies on a case by case basis, and I can change the license for just a specific copy. That's at least how it works with source code - the license is always saved along side the code."

Luckily, the Historical Society is much more familiar with this stuff than we are. They were able to satisfy my numerous pedantic questions and make it clear that I can add my own verbiage to the contract declaring that the gift was just a copy of the journal at one point.

Copyright law is funny, isn't it? The problems can be interesting, but the verbiage is just so utterly boring.

Thanks for stopping by today. Happy Friday, and for those in either of the ten person gatherings coming to Rodney's birthday, we're looking forward to seeing you. Come hungry - we're making a lot of paella and fajitas.

Oh, and happy birthday to my dear sister Kelly. Hope you have an especially good day today.