February 12, 2008 Crash and Burn?

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Written by: Phil Derner Jr.
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At airport perimeters, online message boards and social gatherings everywhere over the weekend, aviation enthusiasts were talking about the new Terms of Use posted on Demand Media, the new owners of the site, closed business Friday with these new rules for the photos in their database, which are to “grant an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, modify, transmit, distribute, publicly perform and display,” the photos, and also let everyone know that, though “it is our general policy to include your name alongside your Content, we are not obligated to do so.”

I’ve always said “For whatever you don’t explain, people will be left to assume the negative.” However, there is no misunderstanding, no misinterpretation, and no confusing the verbiage of the new Terms of Use. It flat out gives the ability to do whatever the please with the work of thousands of shooters, many of whom have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours generating their passion-filled photographs.

The response was more than the typical few threatening to pull their shots. I never seen such a backlash like this before. It was a full call to arms of photographers, threatening to pull literally, and perhaps beyond a hundred thousand shots. Thankfully, and obviously, Demand Media’s Paulo Emanuele, DM’s General Manager, pulled the new TOU while they “rework” it, only after several days of outrage.

I have always been a supporter of I’ve given them the due credit for taking charge of the hobby after the unleashing of the internet. I’ve also backed the site during mini-rebellions after long-winded rejection complaints, server downtime, and of course, the transfer of ownership from Johan Lundgren to Demand Media. I tried always to remain positive; to instill a little bit of hope that a photo rejection is not the end of the world, that server trouble can be expected following a site-move, and that the future of our hobby would be bright in light of a changing of the guard. I tried to help show people the view of the administrator, and what it’s like to run a community in our hobby.

However, I have to say that this time around, I’ve become a little concerned, and then some. I believe them when they say that it wasn’t their intention to really steal the rights of the pictures from anyone. I certainly do not question that. Though the words themselves will be changed and something much more appropriate and protective for the tens of thousands of photographers will probably be placed on the site, I’m troubled because of several things that we learned and that occurred over the past few days.

The first major problem was that the screeners and other crew had no idea that this was happening. It truly frightens me that this was as much of a shock to them as it was to the rest of the world. Volunteers or not, they are a huge part of the operation of the site and they need to be aware of what’s going on so to represent the site to the masses. It’s disrespectful to them and their efforts.

The biggest slap in the face was their explanation was that their legal department had spent weeks preparing it and upon completion, just wanted to get it out there to get some feedback. This is insulting to us all, because this “new” TOU is almost a straight copy-and-paste from other sites in their network. Someone in “legal” had better explain why it took a month to hit “Ctrl + C”.

In addition, if they merely wanted feedback, then they could have easily made a post on a message board saying “Hey guys….let me know what you think,” instead of “Here it is…it’s effective March 8th.” Are we really supposed to buy that?

I am a very forgiving person. Perhaps a fault of mine is that I give people the benefit of the doubt too much and that I give too many second chances. Just like when posted some aviation t-shirt ideas, one of them being NYCAviation’s “Ride a widebody without being teased” phrase. Upon notifying them that this was our idea, it was explained to me that they merely read it off the message board, didn’t realize it was from our site, and they had no intention of producing the shirts. All the while, the previous sentence on the message board said that it had come from our site. How convenient. I looked past that and continued to offer support on my site, and on theirs.

One of the things that are starting to tire me are the attempts by Demand Media’s staff to convince us all that they are enthusiasts just like you and I. At the end of his first reply, Paulo explained that he’d have replied sooner, but he was at the Confederate Air Force Museum with Dad. I’m not doubting his explanation, and I think that’s very sweet and special, but when you’re replying to all of us who are concerned that our creative works are about to be yanked from a site we’ve supported for years, we don’t care what you were doing…we just want the problem addressed. And it wasn’t truly addressed with that post. It was a “Sorry, we’ll get back to you Monday”.

I can understand them for wanting to relate to the members, though. They are a previously unknown company run by previously unknown people who took over a large but tightly-knit community with the sole intention of creating a profit. We aren’t going to just wander blindly towards anyone, and they know that we need to approve of and accept them as a “leader” in the hobby.

Demand Media is a business. Are we supposed to get angry because someone wants to make money off of our hobby? Of course not. NYCAviation is a business. But, any money we bring in goes right back into the site. It wasn’t my plan to create a profit when I started this 5 years ago, and I pay for much out of my pocket…on an airline salary.

But do I expect and plan to make money in the future? Yes, I do. In fact, I have every intention of making enough from NYCAviation and its upcoming projects so that I can support myself comfortably. I plan on doing this full time and living off of it. Why? So that I can spend even more time on the site, for the hobby. My goal is, was and always will be to contribute to the betterment of the hobby of aviation enthusiasm, regardless of how much money I am, or am not, making.

No matter how much Demand Media employees like airplanes, they need to prove themselves, because we aren’t buying it. is not the owner of aviation enthusiasm, but they play a major role for so many who practice their passion through their domain. Those people need to be taken care of, and as long as profitability is the first thing on their mind….the hobbyists are going to lose every single time. Show us that you’re looking out for us, and that our hobby is more than just a run-down home that they want to turn for profit. Though he never showed his face, we must ask ourselves…WWJD; What would Johan do?

Our hobby exists for our enjoyment, not for us to be jerked around. Make your voice heard. Make your opinion and your feelings known by what you type after the “www.”

DISCUSS this editorial in the NYCAviation Forum.

About the Author

Phil Derner Jr.
Phil Derner founded NYCAviation in 2003. A lifetime aviation enthusiast that grew up across the water from La Guardia Airport, Phil has aviation experience as a Loadmaster, Operations Controller and Flight Dispatcher. He owns and operates NYCAviation and performs duties as an aviation expert through writing, consulting, public speaking and media appearances. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter.



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  • Global PlaneSearch

    Hi Phil – The team at is interested to hear an update about this? Whatever happened? is obviously still up and running – did the TOS get revised to something more acceptable?