photographic copyright June 5, 2017 12:55 PM   Subscribe

This AskMe question is looking for help in order to do something of dubious legality.

Basic photographic copyright is clear-cut: copyright belongs to the author of the work. Yet comments pointing that out have been deleted. Yes there may be complications WRT employment contracts but until the OP clarifies that they are in fact entitled in some form to these photographs, advising them to just take the media from a shared folder is dodgy at best. I understand the question has other problems and has probably been a PITA for the mods (and I sympathize), but even lowly nanny photographers do have rights to the materials they create. This should be pointed out to the nanny's employer unless we are now okay with letting folks grab stuff that is not necessarily theirs.

I did contact the mods about this question re: it breaking the guidelines.
posted by oneirodynia to Etiquette/Policy at 12:55 PM (75 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

It's a bit of a weird setup because there's sort of noisiness/framing problems with the question but a pretty straightforward core question which is (a) mechanical and (b) about pictures of their own kids.

So I get the fact that there is a potential copyright angle to it, but it's also so very far from an example of a situation where the centrality of the issue is copyright concerns that folks insisting on that being the locus of the answers and, even after a mod note asking folks to just focus on the question (or, implicitly, shrug and move on), continuing to try and argue about that has been an odd thing.

Basically I kinda feel folks on the instinct, and I realize that the mod view of it as a collection of those answers is more complete than any individual's intentions with it. But it ends up feeling like insisting on making the question a referendum on external moral concerns instead of just taking or leaving it.

Which isn't unique to this question, there's a whole complicated vein of Ask territory that that applies to in one way or another. But this was something where we made a pragmatic call to not have this question slide sideways into a kind of abstract argument about copyright, and we need people to be willing to work with that.

Dubious moral or legal standing of an idea in a question is not and has not been a hardline basis for rejecting or derailing questions. Sometimes people have sort of dubious ideas. We may take action, or allow more pushback, on notable/serious stuff, but this isn't really a case of that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:03 PM on June 5 [4 favorites]


You're definitely oversimplifying this. There are a number of questions that come into play: the employment relationship; fair use; possibly implied license. One of the key things they're asking how to do it making a back up copy, something that has often been found to be fair use.

IANY(C)L or the OP's but this it not nearly as clear-cut a case as you make it out to be. I don't know what your bone to pick is here, but it's weird MeTa.
posted by mercredi at 1:04 PM on June 5 [16 favorites]


Without getting into the moral or legal quandary, I think the Asker should be able to receive answers that discuss the legal issues involved. I dunno, as an Asker I'd vastly prefer a wider range of answers to a narrow range of answers.
posted by lalex at 1:07 PM on June 5 [7 favorites]


I dunno, as an Asker I'd vastly prefer a wider range of answers to a narrow range of answers.

Which is a totally legit preference to have—one I often share—and clear framing in a question to that end is a good way to help set expectations about the answers one is looking for.

That said, it doesn't work to apply that personal preference broadly to everyone else's questions, and "please answer the actual question asked" is one of the things we've tried to stick fairly consistently to as an organizing principle over the years. For questions that aren't framed broadly, or which specifically ask a pretty narrow question, that often means a lot of stuff that could be relevant falls outside of a reasonable interpretation of the bounds of what was asked.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:10 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


Many AskMes center around things that are dubiously legal in various jurisdictions. I realize it's frustrating as someone who probably understands this particular issue more than it appears the OP does, but that doesn't mean it's appropriate to have a "this isn't legal!" answer in the thread. The question is mechanical. The legal issue is actually pretty grey. Pointing out that this may be murkier than the OP is presuming it it from an ethics standpoint could be a fine codicil to an answer that also answers the question they are asking, but otherwise it isn't.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:25 PM on June 5 [12 favorites]


I came back to that question probably 4 or 5 separate times this weekend hoping for...some kind of update...only to find deleted answers. It seems like there's an awful lot going on behind the straightforward technical question, and not just the legal/photograph issue. So much uneaten popcorn.
posted by phunniemee at 1:27 PM on June 5 [3 favorites]


As a parent, this kind of collection of photos and videos would be incredibly valuable to me. A child isn't one person to a parent; they are a new person every year (or every few months, when they're very young). For every version of your child you know, there might only be a few photos. For me, for example, it's very bittersweet to think that there's very little left of the kid who used to run around the room pretending to be a rollercoaster car. I have videos of my son, but not videos of *that* son.

If allowing the question to be answered as-is doesn't harm the site or expose it to legal risk, I hope the question stays up and is answered.
posted by Jpfed at 1:35 PM on June 5 [8 favorites]


I mean, this goes very much into turning every question into a legal/moral/CYA-fest. Which wouldn't be all that hard.

"How do I install this aftermarket hitch onto my Subaru Outback?" --> "WHOA THERE! Using an after market hitch means that you don't get factory testing and could kill someone in an accident and/or make your insurance not pay up, not to mention that doing it yourself means your trailer could fall off and kill hundreds".

"How many Tylenol should I take if I took 2, two hours ago?" --> "Go See A Doctor! No other advice here can be trusted."

"How do I flash the firmware on my iPhone 6?" --> "You don't. That's illegal. And even if it's legal where you are it's not your firmware and you don't have the right to modify it."

"I found some open alcohol containers next to a dumpster alongside a dead neighbor's belongings, should I drink it." --> "Of course you shouldn't, life is about maximizing safety, no fun shall be had by anyone" #hamburger

Anyway, I'll stop the rant, but that's a viable question which isn't robbing the nanny of any sort of professional income based upon pictures that were willingly shared with them over a few years of employment and interaction and, from here, falls firmly into the field of "tech support" instead of legal matters. If the question was centered around hacking into, or otherwise co-opting, the nanny's accounts or shared folders then you'd certainly have a point.

I agree with cortex: legality, while important in many cases, can't be the be all end all focus or else you end up having to shut down askme altogether in very short order.

How to handle which questions are deleted and which stand? That's something I'm less able to speak to, but I also don't draw a paycheck from you folks so it's no skin off my back. Hard to moderate, I have no doubt. I also have faith.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:40 PM on June 5 [24 favorites]


My weird thing with the question is that if the OP weren't going all scorched earth on the nanny relationship in the first place, there probably wouldn't have to be a technical question at all and the photo ownership issue would be moot.
posted by phunniemee at 1:46 PM on June 5 [23 favorites]


Weirdly, after reading that post and the answers multiple times I didn't see the mod note. Sorry about that, I have no good explanation, and I apologize. And no, I don't think that pointing out that works are copyright their authors is a precedent for turning every Ask into a referendum on their legality. That's silly. Of course copyright is more complicated than that, but that's the starting point for "can I take these photos that someone else took?" I would assume that if this had been addressed in the OP's contract with the nanny there would be no question of very quickly copying all the nanny's photos and videos before she is fired. Otherwise, why not just ask her to hand over the files presumably licensed by her employer?

As far as deleting the question, it's entirely possible to re-post without the crappy framing *as* a purely mechanical question. As it stands, it reads as a somewhat vindictive gank of works to which they probably do not have license; surely the easiest thing to do if everything is aboveboard is just *ask* for copies.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:51 PM on June 5 [3 favorites]


I see where folks are coming from, and to be clear I certainly don't think the question or technical answers should be scrubbed.

Just that "Hey, this could land you in a bit of hot water so you might want to read X and Y about copyright wrt shared albums, and possibly consider alternatives like paying the nanny for the rights to her photographic product" is an answer that reads as useful to me.
posted by lalex at 2:02 PM on June 5 [4 favorites]


Seems like taking and sharing photos of the kid(s) was part of the nanny's job (probably not explicitly in her contract, but in practice), which might arguably make them work for hire. In cases of work for hire the copyright lies with the employer.

I'm not a lawyer (but I do work in media where my employer owns my photos taken as part of my job).
posted by purpleclover at 2:20 PM on June 5 [8 favorites]


Wait, so you're saying that going to a photo repository that someone has set up specifically for you to get photos/videos that they have taken and then getting those photos/videos is of dubious legality?

Is this one of those "once lawyers get involved then everything is of dubious legality" things?
posted by ODiV at 2:26 PM on June 5 [11 favorites]


My weird thing with the question is that if the OP weren't going all scorched earth on the nanny relationship in the first place, there probably wouldn't have to be a technical question at all and the photo ownership issue would be moot.

Yeah, that was my thought, too. There's a lot going on here that makes me feel a little weird, and who technically owns the copyright to a bunch of family photos is fairly low on the list.
posted by Copronymus at 2:26 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


There's so many angles from which this is not that dubiously legal, and the commercial and artistic value of the thing being discussed are so fractionally miniscule as to basically render the question moot. Not that you can't have a good argument about it on the internet, but those arguments are not going to have any practical application to the real world, because the kind of money involved wouldn't be enough to pay a lawyer's receptionist to make the appointment.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:29 PM on June 5 [6 favorites]


[I'll be a popcorn-ruiner twice over and note that while bringing the procedural question and copyright concerns about the moderation in that question to MetaTalk is totally fine, proceeding into a breakdown of and chatfest about that question at large isn't really something that should happen here. The question had some framing issues, for sure. So it goes; that's something for the mods to keep an eye on long term and work with the asker on if it turns into a recurring theme.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:31 PM on June 5 [3 favorites]


This seems to me stretching to find a legal problem where the issues are extraordinarily unlikely to ever be subject to a lawsuit or other actual legal review. Do the parents have implied permission to save the photos? Did the nanny do anything to protect her copyright or make clear that she was only sharing the photos for limited purposes? Does the employment relationship factor in? Who knows! Lawyers could spend hours arguing about it, but, in reality, this has about zero percent chance of ever being the subject of a legal proceeding, so those questions will never be authoritatively answered and are essentially academic. It's one thing to tell people "hey, be careful, you might realistically get sued here, etc. etc.," but it's another to say "hey here's a wildly unlikely issue-spotting exercise that might apply to you."
posted by Mid at 2:36 PM on June 5 [6 favorites]


I was uncomfortable with the nanny issues being shut down. I hope the asker is fair to the nanny. If a caregiver a bunch of pictures of my kid, I would feel fine about wanting and taking possession of those pictures for personal use.
posted by theora55 at 2:39 PM on June 5


But this was something where we made a pragmatic call to not have this question slide sideways into a kind of abstract argument about copyright, and we need people to be willing to work with that.

I find this decision needlessly arbitrary. I mean, I am so certain that there have been other questions where someone will comment, hey, you may wanna think about the legal implications as to what you're doing/asking.

It's also a bit irritating that people are saying, "it's obvious these photos aren't worth money" or thinking along those lines, because it really isn't necessarily obvious.

Wait, so you're saying that going to a photo repository that someone has set up specifically for you to get photos/videos that they have taken and then getting those photos/videos is of dubious legality?


It is of dubious legality, which is why some people brought it up.

Also, I'm not sure exactly what RolandOfEld is saying here. There are plenty of questions where the advice is, you should go to the doctor/you should talk to a lawyer, and it doesn't necessarily shut out the other advice. Again, the line drawn here seems really arbitrary.
posted by girlmightlive at 4:17 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


All lines are arbitrary.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:33 PM on June 5 [6 favorites]


The point being that you strive for a fairly consistent position that works for more cases than it fails, but yeah there are always exceptions, etc. Nobody is saying this is the empirically perfect place to draw the line or that we've never strayed over it. They're saying this is pretty consistent with how we have chosen to make AskMe work, and for the most part, it seems to fail us less often than it works.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:37 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


Wait, so you're saying that going to a photo repository that someone has set up specifically for you to get photos/videos that they have taken and then getting those photos/videos is of dubious legality?

"Get" or "view"?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:25 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


(because I went to a photo exhibit that was specifically set up for people to see photos and I don't think it would have worked out well for me if I'd taken some and brought them home...)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:26 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


In general, whenever possible, we aim to keep people's questions up, and try to get them answers to the question they're trying to get answers to. Even if the asker has included distracting details, or comes across a bit offputtingly in what they've written. (Sometimes it's impossible, the question is too clearly problematic for whatever reason. But I'm saying we err on the side of getting people answers when possible.)

This question is a situation where it's plausible (though maybe not a lock) that the OP has a right to do the thing they're asking about. Pics of your own kid, taken informally by your own nanny during her work for you, and shared to you in a copy-friendly format, with no indication anyone's trying to make money off these pictures -- it's not unreasonable to think these are pics you can save a copy of. That level of reasonably-plausible is all we need, to help the OP with their question -- or choose not to help them, if you think they shouldn't be saving copies.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:05 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


If I was legitimately concerned for a questioners safety or liability a short PM would seem quite appropriate. Turning a straight forward question into a flame war about the morality of current localized intellectual property case law (assuming one was actually an actual attorney specializing IP litigation) perhaps less appropriate.
posted by sammyo at 6:52 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


It's just as plausible to me that those are the exact reasons that the issue can blow up into something bigger, and that's just through my experience as a working photographer. I really don't have any other way to say that it seems strange to me that that that perspective wasn't welcome.
posted by girlmightlive at 6:54 PM on June 5 [3 favorites]


But I will say mentioning possible legal issues doesn't have anything to do with morality, but people definitely interpreted it that way.
posted by girlmightlive at 6:56 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


They didn't ask if they should do it, or if there might be legal ramifications if they do. They didn't ask for working photographers or attorneys to offer unsolicited legal advice. They asked for tech support. If I wrote an askme looking for a procedural on the best way to roll a tight joint, the last people I'd want to hear from would be Jeff Sessions and pipe manufacturers. Unless they had the killer method for rolling tight joints. Why I shouldn't do it isn't relevant to the question.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:11 PM on June 5 [10 favorites]


This kind of basic question about copyright is very widely misunderstood and at the same time important.

Since AskMe answers are viewed by a wider audience than those who post there, I think that at least some mention of this very real copyright concern might be appropriate in any question/discussion where it's relevant. Otherwise, that idea is missing even more from the popular understanding of this kind of thing.

A single mention of it in a question like this helps normalize the idea that any artist or creator's time, skill, and expertise are valued; that art is valued regardless of some subjective external measure of value; and that this kind of protection of creative content is woven into the culture for everyone.

Of course that has to be balanced with other concerns that I'm not considering at the moment. I'm just saying that having a consistent place-a-question-always-goes, while boring for people who see the same questions all the time, might represent the first encounter for someone new to the site (possibly even a non-member just searching the web in 2019 for "nanny photo rights" and hitting this particular question), and might be important for that reason.
posted by amtho at 7:32 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


"(because I went to a photo exhibit that was specifically set up for people to see photos and I don't think it would have worked out well for me if I'd taken some and brought them home...)"

Fun fact, US court precedent says that when you view a digital image stored elsewhere, you create a local copy, so there's no distinction.
posted by klangklangston at 7:51 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


What "possible legal issues?" Unless the parents are going to turn around and license the pictures for a major ad campaign, there is no conceivable universe in which the nanny is suing for copyright infringement here. There are no damages; nothing is changing except parents who currently have photos of their kid will be assured that they have access to that same photos in the future.

An AskMe question about how to use iCloud to save pics of your kid is not remotely the place to raise awareness in the popular understanding of the amount of effort and skill that goes into producing creative works.
posted by zachlipton at 8:46 PM on June 5 [15 favorites]


Fun fact, US court precedent says that when you view a digital image stored elsewhere, you create a local copy, so there's no distinction.

That's not just fun but useful! Wouldn't it be more useful in an AskMe about that exact activity than buried in a MeTa that only a few will ever see?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:49 PM on June 5


I honestly can't tell if you're trolling. The asker doesn't care about the legal debate about copyright, so no, it wouldn't be useful to them in answering their actual question.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:54 PM on June 5 [7 favorites]


Definitely not trolling, but I'll definitely drop it now.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:04 PM on June 5


Wouldn't it be more useful in an AskMe about that exact activity

No, as a stand alone response it would be noisy, off topic, and potentially aggressive... because, this question at least, is not about the legalities of iCloud. It's about non-artistic/non-professional family photos and tech issues surrounding them, not legal disclaimers and case law for some abstract version of the same.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:08 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]




"Fun fact, US court precedent says that when you view a digital image stored elsewhere, you create a local copy, so there's no distinction.

Joseph Gurl:That's not just fun but useful! Wouldn't it be more useful in an AskMe about that exact activity than buried in a MeTa that only a few will ever see?
"

Throw it in to the TIL Meta if it's new to you.
posted by Mitheral at 9:20 PM on June 5


Oh for fucksssake. It's my question, and I happen to be a lawyer, and it sounds like a lot of people around here don't know the first thing about intellectual property law. Or what it's like to have kids.

Mods: I'm sorry for the hassle. Feel free to delete the question. I've saved the pictures of my two-year-old, which I plan to enjoy looking at until the minute they throw me in the clink.
posted by thursdaystoo at 10:17 PM on June 5 [54 favorites]


The question probably could have been just "how do I efficiently copy a lot of photos from a shared iCloud folder?". The details added nothing to what was a straight technical question, although I understand the obvious frustration with the circumstances that required the AskMe.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:19 AM on June 6 [5 favorites]


Metatalk: no link- no clink
posted by clavdivs at 4:05 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


20/20 is hindsight, EndsofInvention. It's easy to think about phrasing when it's not your question, your stakes, your emotion, your context.

Whilst I understand the urge to extrapolate - and often slap a bit of conjecture and even judgment in there - is an almost intrinsic part of AskMe, and moreover can sometimes be helpful; let's read the room a tad and not scold the OP.

If you've ever asked a question and had some choice snap judgments thrown your way, it's an unedifying experience to say the least.
posted by smoke at 4:37 AM on June 6 [4 favorites]


I should clarify; I'm not saying that you, in particular, are judging the OP. But given some of what's been tossed around in here already, they might feel that way.
posted by smoke at 4:40 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


The pictures probably count as works for hire and aren't the property of the ex-nanny (what a stupid word that is)
posted by thelonius at 6:21 AM on June 6


I don't know, I think this actually kind of falls into the category of human relations questions, where someone is like "My spouse is being HORRIBLY ABUSIVE, how can I make him stop doing one tiny thing? I love him and don't want to leave" and people are like NO SWEET JESUS GET THE FUCK OUT BEFORE HE MURDERS YOU. Like, sometimes the answers an Asker needs aren't the ones they're asking for?

And this is clearly, "How can I get technical support to be an dubiously-legal not-great person", and I really wish some, "Hey, this thing you are asking is questionable and wouldn't be a problem if you just didn't fire her immediately because she's quitting, it's not too late to save this whole situation" answers had been allowed to stand.
posted by corb at 7:19 AM on June 6 [5 favorites]


In the light of day, here’s my additional take: intellectual property law is very complicated, and doubly so in this area, and I can’t exactly fault anyone for being confused by it – lawyer or otherwise.

But the moral panic response here is just really embarrassing, and tilted in the wrong direction: should some dad you’ve never heard of be allowed to save copies of a million baby pictures of his kid he’s afraid he’s about to lose? Fuck no! What about the legal doctrine you don’t really understand at all and how it pertains to the rights this nanny has to the pictures of the kid?

You can choose to read panicky questions people ask here charitably or like an asshole. As the wise drafters of 17 U.S.C. § 109 put it: “You’re being an asshole.”
posted by thursdaystoo at 7:25 AM on June 6 [8 favorites]


I agree with corb.

Also: I know if I were designing a nanny contract, I'd include wording about any photos of my kids belonging to me and being "works for hire". Since the OP is a lawyer, maybe that's in his nanny contract also (although he didn't mention it). However, on the off chance it's not:

When I first started doing design work, the copyright system seemed so weird to me -- both as a creator and a user of other people's art (mainly stock images, but also works associated with a museum I worked for) -- that I actually went to the UNC law library to look up the actual statutes and ask for help. It's been a lot of years since then, but I remember finding the actual laws non-intuitive, frustrating, and oddly comforting, depending on what perspective I took in the moment.

In the end, what I found seemed to match the most extreme-sounding informal accounts I'd read from other designers. I do know that I still own all the photos and graphics I made while working for companies making web sites for them, except for two instances: once, I worked for a major university that had its own contract with explicit "work for hire" language; and secondly, when a small publisher wanted to re-use a graphic I'd made and I sold the rights to them for a tiny amount of money. The publisher was more clued in about copyright issues than I was and realized they did have to make a separate contract for it.
posted by amtho at 7:26 AM on June 6


to be an dubiously-legal not-great person

The OP is right here in the thread. This is an unnecessarily crappy paraphrase.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:33 AM on June 6 [24 favorites]


[responding to thursdaystoo] My focus isn't on blaming/whatever the OP. It's on people who encounter AskMe's more-useful-than-average questions and answers, in the future, particularly younger adults (hi there I know you're reading this) who absorb a baseline idea of how society works through casual reading.

Also, a mention of this kind of issue might help worried Dads avoid tragic loss in the future by alerting them that this could be relevant, so that, for example, photo sharing and ownership could be addressed before something like this happened.
posted by amtho at 7:33 AM on June 6


the OP is indeed in the thread calling other users embarrassing and assholish, so idk
posted by lalex at 7:35 AM on June 6 [10 favorites]


Continuing to debate the imaginary details of the case is pretty much exactly what cortex asked us not to do. Equating possible violation of copyright on some pictures to an abusive relationship is not necessary. Others read AskMe, yes, but the answers are there for the asker. I imagine if the OP had left out the reason they can't just ask for the photos, most of the questions would have insisted on knowing why and made "cute" comments about just asking. Derailing questions by insisting on details not given is not helpful. If there are two different answers you would give depending on the OPs answer to your question, post them both and explain yourself.
posted by soelo at 7:36 AM on June 6 [8 favorites]


Genuine question -- my post's never been the subject of a MetaTalk thread before: Am I supposed to sit this out, like the kid in a writing workshop who's having his story discussed? If so, I'll shut up.
posted by thursdaystoo at 7:41 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


Well, the different answers might be [nothing] vs. [I will spend 5-8 minutes or more re-creating how I myself do this task, and then will step-by-step instructions for you, since you are an awesome guy who also cares about others and I wish to support your pro-social behavior, and to give you extra time to transmit your great values to your children and others].
posted by amtho at 7:42 AM on June 6


No, feel free to ignore this thread, thursdaystoo. It hopefully will be closed soon because I don't get what's left to discuss?
posted by agregoli at 7:43 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]


thursdaystoo, I'd say sitting it out is often the best course. In this case, the MeTa is about a mod decision/site policy, not really about your question -- but trying to defend your question can turn it into a discussion about your question or about how you're interacting here. Which IMO isn't going to be productive.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:45 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Okay. Sitting out now.
posted by thursdaystoo at 7:47 AM on June 6


It's easy to think about phrasing when it's not your question, your stakes, your emotion, your context. …

Yeah, all questions are interpersonal. When there's a pretense otherwise, is what creates conflict. It's an ideal that AskMe is a community-driven service in which answerers set aside their own contexts/concerns, responding to each question in not just good, but best faith. Like, if you applied best-faith reading to the OP's question, what would your answer look like. The asker could be radiating all sorts of perceived vibes in their framing, but you/me as answerer acting on those aspects would not be helpful and not be giving benefit of doubt. This approach has a liberal appeal, in a way.

And it's not necessarily that the site doesn't care about ethics, etc., or is intentionally controlling people's critical thinking abilities. On the other hand, that's really what's going on for them, when people can't seem to stick to at least answering "the question and only the stated question". I see it as entirely a normal response and not inappropriate but rather a natural behavior due to coming into contact with the confines of the constrained structure of AskMe. So there are more general, deeper meta-issues involved, like Why is the environment this way? Can it be more fair or naturalistic for users? Does this scale? Etc. What can help is reminding users the rationale for this format.

The last time I asked a question, the only thing I learned about it was people will find ways to respond to every little thing you said, or implied, except your stated question, and they will do it subtly or otherwise. Again, it's not like real life communication where you/they get real-time opportunities to clarify and re-do, where inquiry is expected/normal. So the artificial constraint of "please answer the stated question" is a heuristic in the interest of getting a system to work, even if the rule feels really limiting from some points of view in some instances.
posted by polymodus at 8:04 AM on June 6 [6 favorites]


My focus isn't on blaming/whatever the OP. It's on people who encounter AskMe's more-useful-than-average questions and answers, in the future, particularly younger adults (hi there I know you're reading this) who absorb a baseline idea of how society works through casual reading.

As someone who started reading this site when I was ~20, I completely disagree. This is in no way our responsibility as posters on this site. If a young adult reader can't distinguish advice given to a specific person in a specific situation from general advice for everybody, or if they can't recognize the fallibility of human, non-expert MeFi users, that's on them.

Anyway in general, I think the mods made the right call on this. And I actually think this is a separate issue from "answer the question or don't comment". Here, I'd say one or two comments on the copyright murkiness is probably fine, and the mod call is about avoiding a total derail of the AskMe thread which will also keep the thread itself from becoming fighty.
posted by capricorn at 8:56 AM on June 6 [7 favorites]


If a young adult reader can't distinguish advice given to a specific person in a specific situation from general advice for everybody, or if they can't recognize the fallibility of human, non-expert MeFi users, that's on them.

I typed "young adult", but I guess I was really thinking older kid/pre-college, especially with less educated parents. And that's _not_ on them (even an older person). I refuse to blame other people for not knowing things.


Here, I'd say one or two comments on the copyright murkiness is probably fine, and the mod call is about avoiding a total derail of the AskMe thread which will also keep the thread itself from becoming fighty.

I totally, 100% agree with this.

Actually, though, there are now _zero_ comments having to do with the rights of the photographer in that question. If there were _one_, or if the idea were introduced that the photographer was giving the parents a generous gift by even sharing those photos, or if the word "copyright" appeared anywhere in the question or responses, I wouldn't be in this Meta now. Balance begs for some tiny acknowledgment of that dynamic, instead of a gratuitous judgment of an employee ("unceremonious") for giving two weeks' notice using the most convenient, immediate mode of communication at hand - especially since that is where a lot of people's thoughts went, so that kind of response would be an accurate representation of an answer to "what do I do about this problem". Answer: "make sure you've considered this aspect of the situation first, then do this technical stuff". Balancing human considerations with technological solutions is not a side issue.

I'm sure it was frustrating and annoying and possibly precipitated a crisis in the household. However, the wording used sounded angry, and sometimes anger can lead to treating other people as members of a class rather than as individuals with rights and feelings.

FWIW, I considered answering that question, but decided not to since I figured someone else would address the whole copyright thing and I didn't have the sleep needed to do it well.

Not seeing that side represented at all bothers me, though, particularly since the OP seemed to be reacting to the situation out of an (understandable) feeling of betrayal and anger, and with a plan to surprise a nanny who "thinks she’s going to stay on for two weeks." This was troubling to me. I get that saying, "but you don't see _her_ side of it" might make the OP angrier -- for all I know the nanny was a horrible person who was cruel to the children, anyway -- but there are a lot of dynamics at work in this space.


I'm genuinely grateful to the mods and the system for caring about this stuff and working as hard and as carefully as they do. I still have the "donation" page open from a couple of days ago and plan to show my appreciation in a tiny but concrete way soon. Even if my take on this isn't embraced, I still appreciate that there _is_ a central guiding approach and it's better than the alternatives.
posted by amtho at 9:40 AM on June 6 [7 favorites]


It's my question, and I happen to be a lawyer, and it sounds like a lot of people around here don't know the first thing about intellectual property law. Or what it's like to have kids.

Kind of AskMe in a nutshell, really.
posted by My Dad at 9:43 AM on June 6 [7 favorites]


As a reader I found some of the literary machinations a bit clumsy, but the biggest problem is the bait and switch. Why spend all that time building up the reader's sympathy for the "nanny" character and making the poor lawyer guy an almost clownishly villainous Snidely Whiplash type, then not deliver any payoff? The showdown all happens offstage, infuriatingly. There's the goddamn gun on the goddamn mantle, but then in the final act, it's just gone and everybody's eating cheerios and watching small claims court television. What even happened? I feel like I've been set up, frankly. I think maybe you're too close. Maybe put it in a drawer for a year and then revisit?
posted by Don Pepino at 9:48 AM on June 6 [18 favorites]


When I was 13 years old, I had an English teacher who was really into writers like Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy. One day I asked why we were reading so many stories with tragic endings. He said something like, "Because that's how life is."
posted by amtho at 9:53 AM on June 6


polymodus: " So the artificial constraint of "please answer the stated question" is a heuristic in the interest of getting a system to work, even if the rule feels really limiting from some points of view in some instances."

That's fine but sometimes experts on the question can see that the wrong question is being asked (not to say that was the case here; just speaking generally)..
posted by Mitheral at 9:55 AM on June 6


More often, people who consider themselves to be experts on the question decide for themselves that the wrong question is being asked and then ask and answer the "real" question, which results in a long thread full of "experts" chiming in to answer that question rather than the OP's actual question. I realise it's not as fun to answer what's actually asked instead of weaving a dramatic narrative around it full of heroes and villains, but it is literally the point of AskMe.
posted by billiebee at 10:30 AM on June 6 [23 favorites]


f there were _one_, or if the idea were introduced that the photographer was giving the parents a generous gift by even sharing those photos, or if the word "copyright" appeared anywhere in the question or responses, I wouldn't be in this Meta now.

I'm a firm believer of "be the change" and would suggest that if someone (anyone) thinks that is so important, someone try to answer the question being asked within the standard AskMe loophole structure of "You can do this and that to get your photos but you should also be aware that this may be in dodgy ethics/legal territory depending on what your specific relationship is with the nanny" No one did that. The deleted answers were nearly all shame-y judgeme stuff. None of them answered the question.

Happy to be proven wrong, but I strongly suspect no one has ever gotten in trouble for making a digital copy of someone else's digital photos of their own kids (absent some shitty divorce or "you didn't pay the photographer" situation) and keeping them at home and looking at them.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:43 AM on June 6 [14 favorites]


Of course you're right, jessamyn. If all that were available were shamy or antagonistic answers, then it makes sense that those would all need to go. It sounds like the shaming quality was the real problem.

I will say that I'm hoping for a different standard than whether someone will or will not get into trouble for whatever activity. People doing better than the minimum is the glue that holds the world together, and the world seems need gluing lately. I'll always try to encourage that.
posted by amtho at 10:55 AM on June 6


If you have a question that's a bit of a snoozefest, don't ask it in such a way as to hint at a much more compelling and dramatic question and then get all wrapped around the axle when everybody wants to answer the yummy gossipy question you teased them with.

We need to get hundreds of pictures and short videos of our kid off a shared album in Apple’s iCloud photo sharing service ASAP. Please help us permanently save these pictures and videos.

All of the viewing and sharing of pics has been with i-phones (rather than a Mac).

We’re willing to use a pay third-party service, if that’s the best route. Complicating factor: we need to do it by Sunday night.

posted by Don Pepino at 12:02 PM on June 6 [14 favorites]


People doing better than the minimum is the glue that holds the world together
People answering questions that are not asked is not always "doing better" though, and that is the issue. It is not always clear whether the extra info is helpful or distracting, so the mods have to make the call.
posted by soelo at 1:04 PM on June 6 [5 favorites]


My weird thing with the question is that if the OP weren't going all scorched earth on the nanny relationship in the first place, there probably wouldn't have to be a technical question at all and the photo ownership issue would be moot.

They may have done the nanny a favor by firing her when she gave notice, though. A company I worked for did that with an office manager who gave two weeks notice, fired her on the spot and said that was her last day; she filed for unemployment on the basis of being fired not for cause and was awarded benefits. The company contested the award and lost.

And it doesn't matter that she was a nanny, apparently -- or whether she was being paid cash:
It is important to note that a nanny who accepted a cash wage nanny job, off the books, can still file for unemployment benefits. In this situation, the former employer becomes responsible for the filing and payment of all Social Security and Medicare, Federal and State unemployment taxes. This includes the employee portion of Social Security and Medicare! This is the most common way a family skipping the "nanny tax" gets caught. Discharged household employees often feel they have little choice but to apply for benefits when they need some income between jobs for groceries, rent, etc.
posted by jamjam at 2:24 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I think this is a tough case because there are a lot of not dissimilar questions where the answer really does need to be "you're asking the wrong question; there's a copyright problem here." And distinguishing those cases from this one is kind of tough. And if you're a person who is concerned about the public perception of the value and protection of creative works, you want to latch on to anything that might threaten that.

So I get that, but I'm not sure what bringing up copyright issues adds in terms of a practical answer to the question. If the question was "I bought these portraits from a photographer. I want more copies but the photo place won't make them without a release. How do I copy them?" then yeah, an answer of "You don't. Go back to the photographer and determine who owns the rights and purchase a release or the copies if you don't own them" (along with an explanation of how copyright works in this context) would make sense. But that's not the situation here. Is the OP supposed to get the nanny to sign a release? Do they pay for the rights to the photographs, and if so, how much? Unless the parents are selling the photos to a stock agency or plastering their kid on billboards, that's not how people behave. Once you've brought up copyright, there's no real advice to give, because nobody actually negotiates with their nanny after they quit for the rights to snapshots of their kid.

So if you want to say "you're doing something of dubious legality," what exactly do you advise the OP to do next?
posted by zachlipton at 2:29 PM on June 6


One possibility, assuming this wasn't work for hire: when they pay her the two weeks' severance or whatever, add $30 for the rights to all the photos -- a bargain -- and have her sign an informal release or at least agree, via e-mail or letter, that the parents have exclusive rights (except for the nanny's own use) to use the photos.

To preserve the last shreds of modern childhood's privacy, I'd also include a request that she take them down once the parents have their copy, or, if she wants to keep them up for sentimental reasons, to remove all names or links to the family (to preserve the last shreds of privacy available to kids now). This is what I'd do. Or you could _not_ add the extra cash and still have her sign a release.

This is a legit thing, because the parents haven't paid for a different photographer to come take photos of the kid. They are getting real value and paying for that value.

Some people would say that "nobody" pays employment taxes for nannies, but it's still better to actually do it, and it's become more expected over time.

It could also, incidentally, facilitate the exact result the OP was looking for. As part of this, the nanny could provide a USB drive with the original files of all the photos.
posted by amtho at 2:57 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I think you say, "you're asking something of dubious legality, the photos belong to her and the fact she put them in a shared viewing folder rather than giving them to you outright may actually have been her guarantee against exactly that kind of peremptory treatment. However, if she doesn't leave with a bad taste in her mouth, she's much more likely to be cooperative. Why not just text her back and say, "Okay! We'll be sorry to see you go, but if it's the right thing for you, we totally understand. Let's meet up Monday and figure out how to make this transition easier on the kids!" And then in that meeting, you ask if she can give you a stick with the photos or transfer them over, because assuming she's not a monster, which most people aren't, why wouldn't she?
posted by corb at 2:58 PM on June 6 [8 favorites]


I like your idea, corb. Plus, that gives the kid(s) a chance to say goodbye to her, and her a chance to say goodbye to the kid(s). Just suddenly losing contact with someone you've been spending time with for months -- especially when there's a kid involved -- is going to be a bit of a wrench.
posted by amtho at 3:07 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


I thought we weren't supposed to be having a chat fest about the question at large, per mod note above?
posted by cooker girl at 3:25 PM on June 6 [8 favorites]


just wait until you all find out that the photos also contain unauthorized third-party copyrighted material

also the iphone was cursed and deleting the photos will kill the children

not so smug now are you
posted by klangklangston at 5:23 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


*clever remark about Vivian Maier*
posted by chococat at 5:54 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


FWIW if I'd asked the question I would have appreciated a comment that I think about copyright. It's not something I'd consider, and it'd certainly change how I thought about the situation regardless of the exact letter of the law or the probability of getting sued. This is not out of bounds for AskMe: did you consider this related thing?

So as a non-participant it'd have been nice to see a non-derailing comment. I didn't see the thread in real time though. Kind of sounds like all comments became derailing.
posted by mark k at 7:51 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


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