Re: Do you give permission to use your materials?

Subject: Re: Do you give permission to use your materials?
From: Thomas Knepher <tknepher -at- blue-pumpkin -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 20:21:06 -0800

Not if I have a choice!

About six years ago, I worked for a backup software company. Our customers
were primarily OEMs and we published seven or eight "customized" versions of
our manuals (most customization amounted to changing the name of the product
and putting on a new cover). One OEM wanted to write their own docs, so I
was instructed to send them my Frame and Help files. The company's Tech
Writing group then called me three or four times a day for the next three
months with questions about the docs, the program, etc. One morning, in a
nasty mood, I asked their writer (who had called four times to clarify the
same obvious point) if he had ever actually used the software. It turns out
he hadn't--he was working on a Mac and couldn't install our software. He was
simply rewriting the stuff I sent and depending on me to clarify points he
didn't understand. I got really disgusted and (with my boss's permission)
told him in somewhat less-than-polite language to write his own damned
documentation. Never heard from him again.

More interesting than that, though, is the fact that I bought a tape drive
to back up my home system from a well-known vendor and found that it comes
bundled with my old company's backup software--no surprise there, market
coverage was about 75% when I left. The surprise came when I opened the
manual (in a pdf file) and found a five-year-old guide I wrote before my
department was "downsized." It didn't match the current version of the
software and was dangerously outdated in a couple of places. I compared it
with my original copy and only the copyright date and a couple of
screenshots have been changed.

After 35 years in the Tech Writing biz, I understand the concept of Work for
Hire pretty well, and I suspect that they can do what they want with my
manual, but I sincerely wish there were some way to keep Them from using my
stuff (with my name in it for all to see and curse) after it becomes
obsolete. I've got four or five software manuals from companies I've worked
or contracted for that are in fairly wide circulation now, and I hope they
will be retired/buried when it is time.

There. Now I feel a little better. Has anyone else run into this issue?

Thomas Knepher
Technical Publications Manager
Blue Pumpkin Software
mailto:tknepher -at- blue-pumpkin -dot- com

"Computers are useless--they only give you answers"
---Pablo Picasso

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