Friday, September 02, 2005

Volunteer to help Cornell search for the IBWO -- and sign away all of your rights!

So, Cornell is seeking volunteers now to search for the IBWO. Check out the waiver they want birders to sign. In my view, the most egregious provision of this "volunteer agreement" is that Cornell is asking you to sign over your intellectual property rights if you take a photo of the bird! This means that if you volunteer and are lucky enough to take "the" photo of the bird, Cornell can put that photo on t-shirts and coffee mugs and thongs, and you'll get nothing!!!

I have no problem with Cornell requiring that searchers keep the location of any sightings confidential, but why would they need to keep photos or field notes or sound recordings confidential? (If you read it carefully, I think that in paragraph 6 they also ask you to sign over your first-born to Cornell.) I personally would never even consider signing such a release, and I would strongly advise any "volunteer" searcher to consult with their own personal attorney before signing such a draconian "agreement." You have been warned.

Volunteer Agreement

Ivory-billed Woodpecker SearchDecember 5, 2005- April 23, 2006

I, __________ (name), agree to the following terms and conditions governing my participation as a Volunteer in the Ivory Billed Woodpecker Search Project (hereinafter “Search Project”) in the Cache River and White River National Wildlife Refuges:

1. I agree that as a Cornell University Volunteer, my participation in the Search Project is without pay or other compensation. Any data, drawings, field notes, audio or visual recordings (including, without limitation, photographs and motion picture video) that I may generate or assist in creating during my participation in the Search Project will be the sole property of Cornell University, and I hereby assign any and all rights that I might assert in the same (including copyright) to Cornell University. I may not distribute, copy, release or disclose any such data, drawings, notes or recordings personally or through any form of media to any third party without the prior written consent of an authorized representative of Cornell University. In addition, I agree to keep confidential any information I learn as a direct result of my participation in the Search Project that is identified by Cornell as sensitive information, including (without limitation) information on the location of Ivory-Billed Woodpecker roosting or nesting sites.

2. I understand that Cornell University may, in its sole discretion, terminate my participation in the Search Project without prior notice. I understand that I am not a University employee and that I do not have a formal work appointment for any services I may render as a participant in the Search Project. Notwithstanding the above, I agree to abide by all applicable University policies during my participation in the Search Project.

3. I understand that as a University Volunteer, Cornell does not provide me with accident or medical insurance and is therefore not responsible for any accident or medical expenses incurred by me. Further, I understand that I am neither covered by Worker’s Compensation nor entitled to employee benefits as a result of my participation in the Search Project.

4. Cornell University agrees to provide me with third party liability insurance to protect me from any third-party claims filed against me related to my good faith performance of any activities described in the attached Cornell University Description of Volunteer Duties. In exchange, I, on behalf of myself, my heirs and my representatives, do hereby release, indemnify, and hold harmless Cornell University or any of its officers, agents, or employees from any and all liability, damages, or claims of any nature arising out of or related to my volunteer activities.

5. I understand the terms and conditions of this agreement and I am signing this agreement of my own free will. Further, by signing this agreement I attest to the fact that I am eighteen years of age or older.

6. This agreement will be valid from [date] to [date]. The insurance and indemnity provision in paragraph 4 will survive the termination of this Agreement. This agreement may only be modified in writing with the consent of both Cornell University and the above-named Volunteer.

This agreement shall be construed by the laws of the State of New York, without regard to conflicts of laws principles.

Signature of Volunteer: Date: Home Address of Volunteer: Telephone: Emergency Contact:


P.S. OK, this is BINAC is a great law-school hypothetical: If the federal goverment closes access to a particular piece of federal land, without *any* public input or comment, and grants access to that land to one or two favored groups, to the exclusion of all others, and that favored group makes money off of their activities in that area...for example, in selling photos taken on that land...has any federal law or regulation been violated? Interesting, eh?


Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...


Some people just don't get it.

This is exactly the type of attitude that gave birth to this blog. I cannot fathom why some people who call themselves birders continually think the worst of their fellow birders.

Let's see, someone volunteers two weeks of their time, probably takes two weeks off from their job, pays for their own transportation to Brinkley, sits motionless in a blind or boat for 8-10 hours per day -- fighting the skeeters, snakes, and everything else -- in a swamp, all for a one-in-a-million chance to snap a photo of "the bird,", and that person is GREEDY? That is the dumbest thing I've heard since this blog started.

And, um, yes, I do want Cornell to find more IBWOs, but can you please explain to me how asking volunteer searchers to hand over their copyright rights will result in *more* IBWOs being seen? That's just ludicrous. In fact, all of the restrictions that are being put on birders, including the copyright waiver, may acutally discourage some people from searching, which will *decrease* the number of IBWO sightings.

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...

Hey, don't worry about it, Randi, we haven't been disappointed by any of your comments! In fact, a number of people are looking forward to your next comment; we can only hope that it will be as entertaining as your past remarks!!!!

But I am glad you that clarified at least one of the statements in your original comment. Of course, if the "greedy birders" you describe wouldn't be willing to put up with all of the hassle...well, then, they would never even sign up to volunteer, so the waiver would have no point. So to claim that the waiver would discourage greedy people who would never volunteer in the first place is nonsensical. (And I'm pretty sure Cornell isn't seeking people that wouldn't fall into the "category" of bider I describe, anyway.

But hey, you should never let logic get in the way of a good argument. (I just made that one up myself!!!!! I rock harder than Jack Johnson!!!!!)

P.S. I'm pretty sure the people selling the IBWO thongs are not birders.

Anonymous said...

I'm still trying to figure out what Cornell has against Academicians. In paragraph 2, the applicant must attest that that he/she is not a University employee. :-)
Jill A

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...


Randi has done it again, another great comment -- even better than we had hoped!

This is a Hall of Fame post (Hall of Shame?) because it is the first comment on this blog to actually refer to birders as criminals, thereby supporting our belief that some people really do think that birding is a crime!!!!

And no, I am not going to explain why Cornell worded the "voulnteer agreement" the way they did. Why the hell would I? I'm not defending that document. In fact, I think the "volunteer agreement" is pointless and just plain STUPID. Has that not been made clear already?

What a clever ploy...when you have run out of coherent arguments in support of your position, demand that the person you are arguing with must explain your own position. Brilliant, I say, bloody brilliant!

P.S. Jill, the term "University" with a capital "U" is probably meant to refer to Cornell itself; you can't be a volunteer if you are already employed by Cornell, if they have current Cornell employees sign that document it might cause some problems.

Anonymous said...

yes, I KNOW the document implied "CORNELL University" -I was poking fun at them (hence the "smiley") because lawyers can be so LITERAL (your response a case in point?) and anal with their legalese. So I was reading that sentence in a concrete, literal and anal sort of way.
Cool IA Photo of the MaFr, BTW. Thanks,

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...

"So I was reading that sentence in a concrete, literal and anal sort of way."

That musta hurt.

P.S. That was a nice photo.