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Dec. 13th, 2007 @ 11:35 am I love you kinkos, I mean fedex-kinkos
This morning I went by kinkos to print some apple documentation. I've done this a few times before - some of the key docs are 100-400 pages long and I like hard copies. Each visit, before I go in, somewhere a cosmic die is rolled to determine how much hassle I'm going to receive from the kinko person. Here are the rules as I have deduced them:

1-3: Completely ignore copyright issues
4-5: Half-heartedly bring up copyright, but quickly drop the subject when I point out what the document says on the subject
6: Require some kind of copyright-related forms to be signed and be impervious to logic

Today was a 6. I brought in three PDFs to print, plus a previously printed sample to streamline the laborious and improbably error-prone process of specifying what to do. She looked at the PDFs and told me I'd have to provide signed copyright releases. I pointed to the first page, which says:

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Apple Inc., with the following exceptions: Any person is hereby authorized to store documentation on a single computer for personal use only and to print copies of documentation for personal use provided that the documentation contains Apple’s copyright notice.

(Emphasis mine.) They could have worded this better - and in a larger font - but I guess they didn't expect to developers to receive the spanish inquisition at kinko's. I should file a bug report.

Anyway, she won't look at my printed copy and spends several minutes trying to comprehend the PDF while I became increasingly agitated. Human DRM at work - all the inconvenience with a fraction of the speed! Fortunately a guy with whom I had previously hashed this out walked in and I sicced him on her to speed things up. Then I read the relevant section out loud. She heard "single computer" and "personal use" and decided this meant I could only have a single copy of each document. So she said - I am not making this up - "OK, I can print these, but only if none of them is the same document as the one you have with you."

There are hundreds of documents it might have been, but it turns out it WAS the same document as one of the three I was having printed, because my printed version dated from 12/06 and I needed the version that was recently updated for leopard. I told her this in my best please-come-over-here-and-choke-on-my-fist voice, and she decided that as long as they were different revisions of the same document then it was OK. I didn't inquire as to whether she wanted to come over to my house and examine the other couple dozen documents they had already printed.

Now I can understand employees doing whatever they have to do to comply with the letter of the law. If I come in with a harry potter novel and ask for five hundred copies on their cheapest paper, I can see why they might have to refuse me. I don't know what the legal standard is for contributory negligence - but whatever it is, either most kinko's employees are regularly negligent, or volunteer copyright nazis like the one from this morning have no cause to plumb my orifices looking for evidence of wrongdoing. Hey lady, I'm printing three documents at a cost of sixty bucks. The gas to drive in there twice would erase any profit margin I might have had in my garage-based piracy enterprise. So just print the fucking documents, OK?

People cut in this mold are the good little citizen soldiers of the police state of the (near-and-nearer) future. Without the huge numbers of people who get a charge out of enforcing their idea of the law extra-diligently, it'd be close to impossible to keep the machinery of oppression in place. So she disgusted me to a degree far beyond that warranted by this one incident. I see her as today's philosophical standard bearer for tomorrow's secret police volunteer corps. "One copy to a person, comrades!"

Side note: the first time I went to fedex-kinko's after the unwieldy name made its debut, I asked the guy filling my order "Hmm... finko's, or kink-ex?" I didn't consider this to be especially witty but I'll tell you what reaction I didn't expect: the blankest look ever conceived. He had no idea why I said that. Are there people who treat the entire english language as a rote memorization exercise? Stop confusing me with your fancy made-up words! I have my hands full with all the regular words!
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From:howardtreesong
Date:December 13th, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
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Along these lines, I litigated a copyright case some time back in which the plaintiff accused my (corporate) client of maintaining copies of his software and using it to conduct freight logistics operations. The statute in question prohibits copies: his contention was that every time anyone booted up the software, an additional copy was made. In addition to suing the corporation, he sued every one of the individual employees who had potential access to the software -- regardless whether any one of them actually used it or not. Voila! He sought to turn what was at most a $100K problem into a $200 million claim.

This nut job moved for six injunctions during the course of the case, usually for our failure to root out every copy of any file he ever touched from every one of our computers. He was zero for six, and the rhetoric was terribly amusing but for the fact that it was so expensive. This guy is just the sort of nutter lawyer who would sue Kink-ex for contributory infringement on something like this.

The story, however, ends well: we tried the case, got a verdict against us for about $100K, but had a costs judgment against this guy for five times that. I'm told that the lawyer was fired from his firm and the client in question refused to pay the costs and has moved from the state. At the end of the day, courts and juries are not sympathetic to claim exaggerators who seek to turn minor or technical copyright violations into the next Enron, and so I tend to discount your IP-enforcement parades-of-horribles. I'm still sympathetic to your overall views on IP, however.

By the way, how did she square her "single-copy" rule with the obviously plural "copies" in the notice language? And doesn't Chez Phillips have a damn printer?
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From:extempore
Date:December 13th, 2007 11:21 pm (UTC)
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I have a printer but I don't really like printing thousands of pages. More importantly I can't bind a three hundred page document nicely like they can.
From:dabluebery
Date:December 13th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)

Some perspective

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Kinko's was a high-school / college job for me. It was before the Fed-Ex merger, but I'm sure my experiences still apply. There are two reasons for your experiences.

The first is extensive and ridiculous training on copyright infringement for every employee. They bring in outside trainers, and have continued education videos and tests. This goes all the way down to when you bring in a picture of your kid from Sears photography, because you want another copy for Grandma. Actual procedure for this, the customer's options:

a) obtain written permission from the photography studio
b) sign a waiver that will be filed in a drawer for 1000 years and never looked at again
c) direct them to a self-serve color copier, where invariably the employee will be instructed to set up the machine, including any color corrections or enlargements, then directing the customer to "press the green button."

Farce is a good word for the entire process.

The second reason is that there's a predictable stratification of employees at Kinko's. There are some to whom Kinko's is a temporary stop during school or college and they just go "meh," with all the corporate nonsense telling you you can't "even copy a hand-drawn picture a child made in front of you if it bears a resemblance to Mickey Mouse." (Disney is particularly vengeful in Copyright issues, so this is an extra class.) The second type are people who, for whatever reason, are stupid. But they're not stupid enough to work at Burger King and find a nice medium at $14/hr after five years at Kinko's. They eat up the rules and regulations, feeling important, eventually becoming experts at the runaround. You've got this part pegged pretty well.

It becomes a frustrating place for intelligent people, and as a general practice, I don't go back there despite having a pretty good idea of how to manipulate the rules if I need to. It's usually easier to find a small print-shop where you'll find one of the owners behind the counter, someone actually making a living that understands how an even simple business relationship works.
From:songmonk
Date:December 13th, 2007 08:55 pm (UTC)

Re: Some perspective

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I didn't get the impression that the employee Paul interacted with was on a power trip. It sounded more like that she wasn't bright enough to understand context, didn't understand the intent or enforcement of copyright laws, and was basically befuddled by all the "training" she had received. She also didn't understand the customer service part of her job, and was basically overwhelmed trying to do the right thing (whatever that means).
From:dabluebery
Date:December 13th, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)

Re: Some perspective

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Yeah, several variations possible. Depending on her intelligence and experience, it may just be ignorance and confusion in the face of a lot of useless training.

Eventually all the employees adopt their own interpretation of both the laws they're supposedly following and the rules they're forced to obey. Some just hand out the form and stuff it in the drawer, or ignore that completely in the absence of a supervisor who will discipline them. This was my general approach. Some take the hard-lined stance and direct someone to a self-serve machine. Some enjoy the power trip, those are the lifers.
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From:deaconblus
Date:December 13th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)

copyright fun

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I had the same experience as your 6. I was printing out multiple copies of my dissertation (the copyright of which I own) and had to go through the reamer just to get this accomplished. I, the author and the owner of the copyright (my name was right next to the copyright mark) was taken to task over this and getting just one hard copy version was an exercise in filling out forms which seemed to suggest that I knew I was probably breaking the law and violating 'fair use.'

It should be clear that the work hadn't been published yet I just made the stupid mistake of including the LaTeX code for the copyright notice since, at the time, I thought it was necessary to get past the thesis review office at the library...

Aargh.
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From:evwhore
Date:December 13th, 2007 08:53 pm (UTC)
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Related Kinko's follies:

Refused to print someone's photos because they looked too professional.

Balked at request to copy a copyrighted script made by the copyright holder.
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From:ronebofh
Date:December 13th, 2007 10:26 pm (UTC)
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Someone remind me why it's Finko's job to enforce copyright.
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From:extempore
Date:December 13th, 2007 11:20 pm (UTC)
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The same reason it's the bank's job to "know your customer".
From:dabluebery
Date:December 14th, 2007 03:23 am (UTC)

Almost not at all

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Based on my experiences in their training, I disagree. Every ounce of effort they'd expend trying to teach copyright rules and fair use to their employees was out of paranoia of liability in an infringement lawsuit. Aside from encouraging employees to call the cops on patrons copying money on the self-serve copiers, that is. I don't think there was any grand big brother complicity, it's just a really stupid company.

(Sidebar: Did you know the color copiers are linked to the Secret Service and that they'll shut down and the FBI will be there within 10 minutes of someone copying or printing money? At least 20% of my coworkers believed this, no exaggeration. 9 years and one Patriot Act later, it might even be true.)
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From:strategery
Date:December 14th, 2007 05:48 am (UTC)

Re: Almost not at all

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At least 20% of my coworkers believed this, no exaggeration.

vindication, baby?
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From:jjharris1978
Date:December 13th, 2007 11:08 pm (UTC)
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Here's a solution: Ivy the Scrivener! Her reading and writing skills probably already surpass the mongoloids with whom you're dealing...
From:samholden
Date:December 14th, 2007 12:34 am (UTC)

single computer?

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Does that notice really mean that I can print out 17 million copies for personal use, but I can't have a digital copy on both my laptop and desktop computers?

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From:extempore
Date:December 14th, 2007 02:31 am (UTC)

Re: single computer?

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Do not question apple, apostate!
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From:walterzuey
Date:December 14th, 2007 06:07 am (UTC)
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Perhaps she felt that you were owed some extra diligence from the Fedex-Kinkos diligence equity bank as they shorted you on your package interaction.
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From:emagnetism
Date:December 14th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC)

This is when I wish the pejorative "hall monitor" was more commonly used

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Seriously, I cannot tell you how many times I have encountered the "tyrant of this microacre of turf." This is like the woman who told me to turn off my iPhone while I was in line turning my test at the DMV. Or any one of the people who created the sexual harassment course I was treated to, on the same premise: If your company reasonably should have known it was going on, your company is liable. I realize that "willful ignorance" is not a defense, but they spend hours telling us to investigate things we hear that aren't complaints, because we can't risk exposure to liability.

So we bring ourselves to the most fascinating psychology of all with your d6 roll, with the d20 modifier - "On roll of 20, be incapable of admitting a mistake, even when you realize you made a mistake," thus giving you that charming parse of "okay, I will make you one copy if you don't already have a copy." That sentence only comes because she realized she didn't need to be so difficult, but to preserve her monarchy, she has, has to not give you what you want, because that would be a capitulation. It is this point, when everyone knows who was right but the point is now customer dissatisfaction in the name of not-admitting-I'm-wrong...ness.

If there is one thing I would love in life, it is the ability to disarm people's egos at this point - We could get so much more shit done if people could just say "oh, my bad."

Sorry - bitter rant there. I don't have your vision for how this fits into the Orwellian future, but you are far more likely to be right about that than not.
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From:joepro
Date:December 14th, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC)
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Whenever I hear "kinkos", I think of the deceased comedian Mitch Hedberg.

"I like kinkos, because they're open 24 hours. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and run over there, because I just really need to copy something!

Of course, it's all in the delivery, so this does him no justice.
From:matchesmalone
Date:December 15th, 2007 06:50 am (UTC)

I always thought....

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Stuff like this was a 2D20 die roll, but then what do I know? :)
From:naturalborn
Date:December 15th, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC)
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I worked at Kinko's well over a decade ago. At the time, the practice was to have very strict and scary-sounding copyright policies, which it was impressed upon employees were very important, then to completely ignore what individual employees actually did. I heard this was the result of having lost some lawsuit about copying schoolbooks. The result was, predictably, completely erratic behavior based on whatever employees you happened to come across when doing copying.
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From:extempore
Date:December 15th, 2007 09:15 pm (UTC)
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Ah yes, "the kinko's case". Come to think of it I vaguely remember that.

"The Kinko's case" refers to a lawsuit for copyright infringement filed against Kinko's Graphics Corporation in 1989 by eight book publishers. The court held that Kinko's' practice of photocopying, without authorization, multiple-page excerpts (including chapters of books and articles from periodicals) from copyrighted works to create anthologies (coursepacks) and of selling those anthologies to students for a profit violated the publishers' copyrights. The copyrighted works Kinko's infringed included hardback and paperback editions of works, both in print and out-of-print works, and trade, professional, and text books. The copied materials ranged in length from 14 to 110 pages and from 5% to 24% of the works.

The court found that Kinko's had infringed the publishers' copyrights and, in addition to enjoining Kinko's from photocopying works to create anthologies without the permission of the copyright owners, awarded the plaintiffs damages, court costs, and attorneys' fees resulting in Kinko's paying almost $2 million.
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From:johndhi
Date:December 16th, 2007 02:45 am (UTC)
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My guess is that they're high school graduates trying to avoid getting fired so they can make their rent payment, not citizen soldiers, although you can't be too careful these days.
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From:extempore
Date:December 16th, 2007 09:51 am (UTC)
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I am unwilling to disrespect "high school graduates with rent payments" by having the low expectations of them that you imply I ought to.
From:arlo_payne
Date:December 18th, 2007 04:43 am (UTC)

Dealing with the putside

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We reached the point of breaking a few years ago. We found being driven crazy by nazi only in the box employees was way beyond any limit we could handle without some mental effect that lasted more than an hour. Due to the desire of not dealing with that type of person we now have equipment in our home that at best gets used only once a month. We also purchase all things possible online. We go out of our way to keep our USPS and UPS drivers happy. As example we always have cold bottled water ready for them in the summer and they know where it is (I keep it in my shop and make sure whenever I see them I remeind them it si always there and to feel free to serve themselves evne when theya re just in the area. So far it has worked and all packages get left in my shop when I am not home. The kinko copy story hit me square center because Jody ran into a problem last year so we ended up buying our copy machine. Of course we rarely use it but at lesast it removes the chance of needing to go out to make copies when we require a largre number. A few of the kids in the area are allowed to use it so it does go to some good.

Last week as I was waiting for a plane to leave in Vegas I watched all the people walk by. There were the standard movers and shakers (at least in their minds) along with an assortment of all other types. I must say I almost fell to the ground to give thanks I was no longer in the work a day world. But there seems to be one huge problem with being away from all of it. I just don't seem to care about much for more than a day or two. No matter how thrilled I am when I start a project it fades fast (within a week in most cases) and I move on to nothing for a while until the next great idea I will cast aside. )
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From:extempore
Date:December 18th, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC)

Re: Dealing with the putside

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I just don't seem to care about much for more than a day or two.

I was like that when I had too much free time. The harder it is to come, by the more motivated I am when I get some. Unfortunate but I think quite common.
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From:shandrew
Date:December 18th, 2007 07:11 am (UTC)
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People cut in this mold far outnumber those who are not. See the Milgram experiment...the most frightening entry in wikipedia.
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From:extempore
Date:December 18th, 2007 03:25 pm (UTC)
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I've long meant to write about the milgram experiment. A couple years ago I tracked down the video that came out of it - here it is although I'm not sure that's the whole thing. It's a must-watch.