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Re: A moral question

 I'm sorry folks, I'm getting as bored with this as you are, and it looks
like there is no way to convince Bill that everyone in business is not
out to get him, but I'm going to give it one last try.

Bill Meyer wrote:

         First, let me say that most end purchasers (your customers) probably
  are under the impression that the hybridizer gets a share of the money they
  pay for the plant.

I seriously doubt that any of my customers have ever given it a thought. 
You live in the world of the AHS, and you really ought to get out more.
Nobody is going to take care of you.  It is up to you to profit from your
efforts if you can.  We may feel sorry for you if you can't figure it
out, but we are not going to send you and every other hybridizer money
for the plants we propagage and sell. 

  To straighten you out a little here, the retailer (what
  you are) is not the one responsible for handling the royalty for the
  originator. This is done by the manufacturer, who includes this in the price
  to their retail customers. Neither retailers or their customers are normally
  involved directly in the royalty-paying transaction.

Why?  I'm a retailer and I'm fixin to got out there as soon as it warms
up a little more and start dividing my rear end off.  I'm certainly not
in the tc lab league, but I produce thousands of plants a year by
dividing plants that I have purchased and then selling them. I do not pay
royalties to anyone. There is no mechanism for me to pay royalties to
anyone.  Why is it that you keep saying that I'm one of the good guys
when I'm doing exactly what you are saying is greedy and dishonest?  I'm
not aware of any plants you have introduced, but be forwarned, if I buy
one of your introductions that is not patented and I don't promise not to
propagate it, I will cut it as soon as it's ready.  That's what we have
been doing for lo all these years, and I hate to tell you, that's what we
will continue doing.  What is the difference, except in scale, when a
person buys a plant and divides it to trade to someone else, thereby
getting two plants for the price of one and making a profit, if they
trade evenly, of 100% on your plant? That person really didn't do much,
just making a substatial profit from your plant.  Is that ok because we
all do it and have been since time started?  If you go to Walmart and
find a sport and run to the checkout counter with it, do you tell the
cashier that it's worth a lot more than they'er charging?  If not, you
are taking advantage of the system and profiting from Walmart's

         Second, most hybridizers, including myself, are not business people.

I think that's obvious to everyone.  You have never run a business, know
nothing about running a business, and yet for years you have been
criticising businesses and telling us how we should operate.  Why don't
you start a little operation there and put your theories to the test. 
With that word of mouth advertising you believe in, you should be able to
pump those plants out in no time.  Why Bill, think of it, you'll be

  Most of us do it as a hobby, and really don't have much knowledge as to how
  much an agreement needs to be nailed down in every particular to make sure
  that we are not cheated. We have made many foolish or incomplete agreements
  that have been mercilessly exploited by real businesspeople who are fully
  familiar with the laws and loopholes. 

I hate to tell you, but a transaction like this is not really that
complicated.  If you can't write an agreement that gives you what you
think you deserve, then stop entering into agreements.  Personally I've
been dealing with many of these people for a long time and I don't know
that I've ever been cheated by any of them.  I don't know why everyone
picks on you.  There are always misunderstandings and errors that will
occur, but I can't call someone a scumbag for that.  If someone does
cheat me, and I feel there is no excuse, and I can't get them to do the
right thing, the first thing I would do it tell them that I will tell my
story and name names.  If they really cheat you what are you afraid of? 
They don't deserve protection.  If you tell your story and the rest of us
think you've been cheated too, I would think that would affect your
cheater's business.  Who else is going to give them a plant if they know
they can't be trusted.  Come on Bill, I need to know.

  We make many foolish assumptions about
  the honesty and morality of the people we are entering agreements with. We
  are easily confused, even though many of us are intelligent members of a
  variety of demanding professions with high levels of education, by the
  remarkable ability of some business people to hit us with various
  "interpretations" of right and wrong.We are sheep being led to the knives,                                               and the fleecing is sure to come with no protecting laws to stop it. We also
  don't like to admit that we are so easily taken advantage of, but that's
  another story.

I'm starting to feel sorry for you.  I'm still not sure what is so hard
about agreeing on what you want or walking away from a deal, but I really
do feel sorry for you.

A few years ago, a tc lab owner and I talked about putting one of my
plants in the lab.  His policy was that he would make me as many plants
as I wanted, and after I had taken mine, he would be free to sell the
plant in his catalog.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but
it wasn't what I wanted so I went somewhere else and had the plant tc'd
under an agreement I could live with.  It was not a written agreement and
I have absolutely no fear of being cheated.  I know who I'm dealing with
and we both know exactly what I want.  The plant will be propagated to
the level I requested and then taken out of the lab.  I have no reason to
believe there will be anything done with my plant that is greedy or
dishonest, but if I dealt with someone who cheated me, I would have no
problem with telling everyone about it.

         Third, people who write, take photos, create music, and other such
  endeavors have routine protection under the laws, and hybridizers mostly
  start out foolishly assuming that they do too. It's hard to grasp that there
  really is no protection (other than plant patents, which are geared for
  larger markets only) and that we are at the mercy of the manufacturers. I
  won't say how wonderful it is to be depending on the mercy of
  businesspeople. I don't think it takes a lot of thinking to see how these
  other creative people came to have laws that protect them, but if businesses
  were fair and honest would there be a need for those laws? Are most business
  people fair and honest by nature? Do we really need so many laws to govern
  their conduct, or can we just trust them to do the right thing? If you've
  ever had dealings with insurance companies, I think you know the answer to
  those questions.

So what? You have to live within the system that exists.  Maybe you
should take up photography. 

        Lastly, we are currently in a situation in which there are no laws yet
  on the books which require a plant manufacturing business to offer any
  royalties to the person whose plant they are manufacturing and selling to
  retailers, save for the plant patent laws, which are clearly inadequate. I
  think this will probably change in time, as lawmakers just love making new
  laws, and the conduct of businesses where there are no laws covering what
  they do is usually just not good enough.

Have you tried calling your congressman to see if he cares?  Probably be
a feather in his or her cap to tackle an issue like this.

   I would agree that it is often a
  case of the few spoiling it for the rest, and that many businesses can
  operate honestly without laws to regulate them. There will always be
  dishonest businesses in the game however, and we both know that. As business
  dealings become more public, I think they will improve at all levels.

I think you are very naive

      Now to get to your real point:
  "If I buy your plant, it is mine, and unless it is patented or we have come
  to some kind of agreement, I can do what I want with it."
     This is basically the crux of your argument (Andrew's too), right? The
  point being that there is no legal protection for me, so you can do whatever
  you wish. If I had a photo you wanted to use on your website, or a written
  description you wanted to use, or virtually anything else you had need of
  for your business for that matter, then I would have legal protection. You
  would be required to deal with me under the terms of those laws. If a
  picture, you would need to specify what rights you wanted to buy - just
  paying for it isn't enough.  The responsibilty would lie with you to make a
  clear and fair statement of what you want it for and what rights you want to
  purchase. If you don't think this is true, try it some time with a stock
  photography agency. I saw it tried once and the outcome was a $10,000 fine
  for the business that did it. In essence, the power you would have over my
  property is limited, because the law backs me up.

Very true, and so what?

      The way things are now, of all the things you need to do business, only
  the plants you buy (save for the few patented ones) are available to you
  without any legal restrictions. 

Actually, if I remember my business law, that's not quite true.  If I buy
a bag of fertilizer and divide it into three bags and sell each one under
the name of Bridgewoods Fabulous Plant Food, there is absolutely nothing
to stop me.  I can't manufacture the fertilizer if there is a patent on
it, but once I have bought it, as long as I obey the patent and copyright
laws, I can do what I want with it. I can profit from it and I have no
obligation to the first seller or manufacturer except to obey the rules. 

  They are the only things where you can just
  take whatever liberties you want to take, because the hybridizers have no
  legal rights to their own property. While this is something you gleefully
  celebrate, it is not such a great deal for those on the receiving end.
      So, we're back where we started with this. This discussion has nothing
  to do with what's legal and what isn't. That is written in the law books for
  all to see. Some of the other people reading this may not know, but we in
  this discussion all do. This discussion began with the moral and ethical
  issues at root in the "Moral Question" in the subject line. You are legally
  allowed to take full advantage of the unprotected hybridizers, so there is
  only the question of ethics.

My part in this discussion started when you called nursery folks who
don't play by Bill Meyer's rules greedy and dishonest.  I would still
like you to tell me how I am exempted from your rules.  Until then, I
have to assume that you think what I do is greedy and dishonest.  If
there is something in your system that exempts me, tell me what it is and
maybe I'll suport you.

      Glen's original proposition was essentially a way to make public the
  arrangement between a manufacturer and the hybridizer, by adding a tag
  stating in effect that the hybridizer approves the selling of the plant.

If I understand Glen's proposal, it is a means to gather the protections
of a patent without going through the patent process.  By the way, the
fact that some people have paid $5,000 for a patent does not mean it has
to cost that much.  I've never cared enough to do it, but I think it can
be done for a lot less.  How would your system work for those of us who
sell thousands of plants that are not propagated by tissue culture?  If I
buy a plant with one of those little tags in it, am I prohibited from
propagating it without your permission?  Sounds like a patent to me. 
Either live with the current system or have it changed.  Your chance of
doing the later is zero.

   I don't think the manufacturers would go
  for it, but it would be nice if they did.

Ithink that's an understatement.  The "manufacturers " expect you to fend
for yourself.

   I guess I'm just too cynical to
  think that businesses would be agreeable to an ethical approach that they
  weren't forced into by law. As you say, it is currently up to the hybridizer
  to try to put a deal together with one of the honest manufacturers, and they
  are on their own in the business jungle. Fair is after all just a weather

What is so terrible about expecting you to take care of yourself?  There
are ways to do it, there are plenty of honest people in this business,
and everyone is not out to get you.  I'll be glad to give you a list if
you don't know who they are. 

Who is cheating you?  I personally have never seen one of your hybrids
offered for sale. What exactly are we talking about?  The only expamples
I've seen in your many posts are about people who were dishonest,
insurance companies, and Martha.  If you deal with dishonest people you
will probably get cheated, not just in your hosta world, but anywhere in
your life. It's just up to you to avoid them.  You keep saying that there
are plenty of honest nursery people, why don't you ask one for their

I suspect that the real problem is that you can't find anyone to give you
as much as you think your plant is worth.  There is practically an
unlimited supply of new plants for us to choose from.  If you put
restrictions on your's, it has to be significantly more valuable to a
seller than all the stuff that's already out there.  Or do we put these
restrictions on older plants so we have to start paying Mildred and Paul
and all the other hybridizers we've been cheating for years.  I don't see
any reason why you should get something and they shouldn't, unless you're
just worried about yourself.  We're not talking about ex post facto laws
here, we're talking morals.  If we agree that you deserve a buck, doesn't
everyone else.  Good grief, I think Bill just put me into Chapter 11.

And lastly,
Oh Lord, no more Chickeries, I'm so tired.


                                                   .......Bill Meyer

    Bill Meyer wrote:
      Hi Narda,
             I don't think I implied that all nursery people were crooks.
    My Dear Bill,
    It seems to me that that's exactly what you are saying.
    Do you even read what you write? In your reply to me you tried to prove
    your point with examples of people who cheated others by not living up to
    agreements.  Thieves and people who break contracts, even oral contracts,
    are not moral people and I have never defended such people, and such
    people cannot be defended, and such people were not the topic of your
    original argument.
    If I understand your original argument as a whole (which I never claim to
    do), it is that it is unfair for a nurseryman to propagate a plant
    without paying the hybridizer a royalty, even though there is no
    obligation to do so and there is no mechanism to do so, and throughout
    the history of plant propagation there has never been any thought that it
    was a necessary part of doing business. If that's not what you are
    saying, just what is your point?  This has nothing to do with thieves and
    liers, and the fact that thieves and liers cannot be defended does not
    prove your theory.
    Let me quote you to yourself:
    "If you have a nursery and you take from the hybridizers and do not give


    a fair share for what is either their find or their invention, then the


    quickly spreads that you're a greedy dishonest seller to be avoided at all
    What does that mean?  I assumed that you thought that a hybridizer should
    be compensated for any of his plants that are propagated and sold, even
    when there is no legal obligation to do so.  If this is not what you are
    claiming, then there is no argument.  If you are saying that people who
    agree to pay you for your plant and then don't are scum, I agree
    totally.  The problem with your lament is that it's up to you to get
    compensated.  I have no obligation to you unless we have an agreement of
    some kind.  If I buy your plant, it is mine, and unless it is patented or
    we have come to some kind of agreement, I can do what I want with it.
    There is no mention in your statement about agreements, patents,
    contracts, or whatever being disregarded, so I could only assume that you
    were saying that anyone who obtains your plant and profits from it is a
    greedy, dishonest seller unless they find some way to send you some
    money.  I admit I had to put myself in that group, along with every other
    hosta grower that I know.  The only ones I could exclude would be those
    who sell only thier own hybrids, or found some way to pay every
    hybridizer for every plant propagated.  This last group has a population
    of zero.  I guess I would also have to throw in daylily growers, growers
    of non-patented roses, growers of .... oh, you get the picture.  Now, if
    not all nursery owners are greedy and dishonest, name me a nursery that
    doesn't fall within your definition.
    Anyone who ever sold a Herb Benedict introduction, or one of Mildred's,
    or the Lachman's, or Paul Aden's would obviously fall into that class
    also, because in all the years that all of us have been propagating
    hostas, none of us has ever paid a hybridizer anything unless there was
    an agreement to do so.  And to be fair to nursery people, since you and
    everybody else knew this was the case, are the people who grew these
    plants knowing of the sad state of affairs less guilty?  Did you ever
    send Herb his quarter?  How could you, in good consiense, grow that plant
    when you knew Herb had been cheated by some greedy dishonest seller that
    you knowingly dealt with in order to get his plant?  Shame! Is there no
    moral obligation for educated consumers?  Apparently not until they
    become hybridizers and can't figure out how to make a buck from it.  So
    instead of taking it upon yourself to profit from your plant under the
    system that has always been there, you want to change the rules. If your
    plant is good enough, and you work at it, you can profit from it if you
    make the effort.  Why don't you start a little business of your own and
    put some of these theories about how honest businessmen should work to
    the test.
    In fact, the examples in your reply to me show that there is already a
    solution to your problem, you apparently just don't want to use it.  If
    you can't do it yourself, you have someone else do it for you, under an
    agreement.  We all know there are dishonest people amongst us, as there
    are everywhere.  But you know that I'm not dishonest, Ran's not
    dishonest, Tony's not dishonest, there are any number of people you can
    work with who are not dishonest. I've been in this business 25 years and
    I can't recall ever making an agreement with another grower who cheated
    me.  If you enter into an agreement with someone who doesn't do what they
    say they will, I'd say you got cheated, but that doesn't mean you can
    snap your fingers and change the whole system just because you might deal
    with the wrong person. This is a business, not a hobby, and businesses
    work by rules.  And as hard-hearted as it seems, they don't just give
    money to people because they feel sorry for them.  That's charity. I
    sympathize with people who are cheated or who get nothing for their
    efforts, but to put it bluntly, that's their own fault.  Either they
    dealt with the wrong person or they didn't make an effort to work within
    the system. There is a way for you to be compensated for your efforts,
    and if you don't want to take advantage of it then keep your prize hosta
    in your garden.  You can make up all the new rules you want, it won't
    change anything.
    As always,
      Some of
      them are, but that's true in most walks of life. There is an unusual
      situation for ornamental hybridizers in that they have no reasonably
      available protection for their work.
      Because they have no legal protection other than the too-expensive plant
      patent, they frequently receive little or nothing from the people who
      propagate and sell their plants. It is a shame of the industry just how
      little of the money that has been made actually went to the people who
      created the
             With most things that you buy, a percentage goes to the person


      made it, wrote it, invented it, designed it, etc. With hostas and other
      plants, the originator usually sees virtually nothing in return on their
      plant. The situation is improving somewhat from a truly embarassing


      but there is still no legal protection. I think the more public business
      gets the more honest it will get. If you went to Gardenwatch.com, you'll


      some real nasty businesses to deal with, but most were rated a positive
      experience. Even all of Chick's seven customers went there to give
      him a positive rating. :-)
        In a message dated 3/15/2004 10:36:18 AM Eastern Standard Time,

  njhosta@hotmail.com       writes:

        Last I heard he was in jail, and the people he cheated were
        still trying to get back the plants he owed them.
        Bill, I heard that hostas wasn't the only thing that he grew.  And he
        money to feed a bad habit he had acquired!  One thing leads to another


        became dishonest.
        The notion that because one person is dishonest does not make the


        crooks.  I am sure that you know that.
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