Copyright Law is Changing! Is it Time to Hit the Panic Button?

July 28th, 2015

Copyright law is about to change and creative people all across the U.S. are going into panic mode!

Everyone else could care less. Both reactions are extreme because copyright law as it stands today effects so much of our daily lives that complete enforcement of it would be nothing short of dystopian.

If you care at all, and you should, educating yourself on the current copyright law is important. It can easily be found at http://www.copyright.gov/title17/.

If you want to understand what the fuss is about concerning potential changes then you need to watch this tedious but eye opening podcast video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDoztLDF73I

The most significant part of the Copyright Act of 1976 that most people either do not understand or appreciate is that you possess ownership of copyright the moment you express a thought by affixing it to something tangible. There is no requirement to register a copyright or even attach a notice though both are beneficial. Every single person has copyright ownership of every original scribble, note, photo, video, doodle, craft, song, tune or anything else tangible that they ever created from the moment they created it provided they did not copy it from something else. Copying something without permission would be infringement of another’s copyright.

NOTE: Ideas are not protected by copyright! Only the physical expression of an idea is. Someone can have the same idea for a story or a picture but if how they tell that story or draw that picture is different there can be no conflict.

Instant ownership of copyright makes life a lot easier for creative people because they do not have to pay to register every single thing they create but in a world where now everyone is creative and able to publish their thoughts and pictures tangibly on the internet we are inundated with copyrighted material at every turn and surrounded by copyright holders.

Most people are not aware of the significance or value of copyright and consequently, as we go about our daily lives sharing or copying or quoting all the material we have such easy access to, we have unwittingly become a nation self-entitled of copyright infringers!

John Tehranian outlines in his must read paper Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap”  how easy it is to rack up a huge infringement liability on a daily basis.

“By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges). There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John’s activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, he would be indisputably liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file sharing. Such an outcome flies in the face of our basic sense of justice. Indeed, one must either irrationally conclude that John is a criminal infringer—a veritable grand larcenist—or blithely surmise that copyright law must not mean what it appears to say. Something is clearly amiss. Moreover, the troublesome gap between copyright law and norms has grown only wider in recent years.”

As technology continues to advance it is becoming easier identify when we are being infringed upon or pirated. This is great for people who make their living creating things but what about people who may want to make their living suing people for infringing on their copyrights of photos of the family dog  or that viral cat video we all like to share? Do we really want to live in that kind of police state? Will we stop being creative because we are afraid of being infringed upon? Will we stop sharing  socially for fear of being accused of infringement?

Before 1976, copyrights had to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office similar to registering a patent or a trademark. This helped to identify copyrights that had a perceived value and allowed others to be considered public domain. Registering was definitely less convenient and more costly than the current system but may be not such a bad thing.  Unfortunately, part of the changes to copyright procedure currently being considered is privatizing the registration process. Are creatives about to be corralled into money making scheme for some greedy corporate entity with huge lobby interests in Washington?

In the aforementioned podcast video at about 20:30 in to it, editorial illustrator and copyright champion, Brad Holland, talks about a company called the Copyright Clearance Center who already conveniently owns the website www.copyright.com. He talks in detail about how this company, which has been around since 1978, (the year the Copyright Act of 1976 when into actual effect) collects fees from schools libraries and copy centers for permission to copy images and text to the tune of $300 million a year! This is similar to music collection societies like ASCAP or BMI. Mysteriously, however, creators seem to be kept out of the loop when it comes to distribution of these funds collected by the CCC. Apparently they have all the infrastructure in place to register, manage and police copyrights while making boatloads of money at creator’s expense.

Now let’s look at the elephant in the room – Work For Hire. One of the biggest issues in the Copyright Act of 1976 is that it did not do a great job of defining Work For Hire, a point that was vehemently defended by musicians anticipating their ability to terminate rights granted to record labels after 35 years as defined by the Copyright law. This is a glitch that has big companies scrambling to make deals with creators who may be closing in on that term. It is the main reason Prince was able to settle an agreement with Warner Bros. and the Kirby family was able to settle with Marvel/Disney. It is the main reason why a lot of deals are being struck quietly behind closed doors before the proverbial shit hits the fan.

If Copyright law stands as it is, where creators own copyright from the moment of creation, any freelancer who did not sign a declaration of work for hire and was not actually defined as an employee of the company currently holding the copyright could terminate rights of use of their contribution to the work. Anything published after 1975 is currently fair game for future reversions.

Using comics as an example, say I am a letterer of an independent comic of the 1980’s and I was paid to letter a comic by the author or the publisher but as a freelancer and had no signed agreement  that this was exclusively considered Work for Hire. According to copyright law can’t I consider that I am the “author” of the lettering on that comic and copyright holder from the time I penned it to the paper? If I decide I want to revert my rights by terminating the rights of the current holder, can I? If I can revert my rights, any reprint would require new lettering to replace mine or a new deal would need to be struck with me for a new term. Imagine if the Inker or the colorist did the same. This could prevent a work from being republished and it could create havoc for current publishers holding reprint rights.

Imagine if this happens in film where creators from many disciplines come together as freelancers to create a movie. It may sound far fetched but this is the backbone of this revival of the Orphan Works Copyright Act of 2008. It in theory seeks to make works accessible that are unable to be recopied into digital format by Libraries and Schools because copyright permission cannot be obtained by creators that cannot be located.

The argument is that  our culture is being deprived of accessibility to works because of the inadequacies of the copyright law which intends, in part, to restrict perpetual ownership of works so they can be absorbed by the culture that supported and inspired it. This is the reason that the new law intends to have copyrights registered, to enable identifying creators but I bet it will also redefine the Work for Hire clause to prevent the mass migration of rights from corporations to creators. This is a  classic case of misdirection that speculates  most freelancers will not be aware or willing to pay to register copyrights on every work they did thirty-five years ago under a questionable Work for Hire situation, sweeping one big elephant under the rug.

Copyright law has three significant objectives: Identify the copyright holder,  protect the rights of the copyright holder for the term of their copyright and limit terms of copyrights so works can ultimately be absorbed by the society that cultivated it.

I believe it is fair to say that the current copyright law has some inadequacies, mostly in regard to how staggeringly unenforceable it is at its most basic level. Policing every infringement on a daily basis would be impossible and if it were we would not want to live under those conditions. But for those of us that rely on the value of our works and their copyright for our income, it is time to be attentive to how we may be affected by changes and become involved with how a new law is constructed.

Is it time to hit the panic button? Maybe not, but it is time to get educated about copyright and to ensure that any new copyright law benefits everyone fairly.

© 2015 Gerry Giovinco (just in case)

Monday Weekly Update | CAPTAIN OBESE

July 27th, 2015

New page of
CAPTAIN OBESE
by Don Lomax is now available.

CAPTAIN OBESE Update

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Saturday Weekly Update | Dog Boy

July 25th, 2015

New page of DOG BOY by Steve Lafler now available.

DOG BOY Update

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Read the 3 Part STEVE LAFLER INTERVIEW
posted on The Comics Journal


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Thursday Weekly Update | Bughouse

July 23rd, 2015

New page of BUGHOUSE by Steve Lafler now available.

BUGHOUSE Update

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Read the 3 Part STEVE LAFLER INTERVIEW
posted on The Comics Journal


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I am Offended that You are Offended!

July 21st, 2015

The adage, “the best defense is a good offense” sums up the current climate of political correctness nicely. Special interest groups are defending their agenda so aggressively that at times their offensive assaults are… well… offensive to the point where it seems like everyone is offended by everyone else’s opinion.

The irony is that what has made most special interest groups “special” was their struggle to have their position heard along with their desire to feel included and now that they have established a foothold through social media their goal seems to be as oppressive as those that oppressed them.

This point was recently spelled out by Sonny Bunch in his blog post ‘The Killing Joke’ and Killing the Past’ where he reiterates  a sentiment he has written about before: “the reason non-PC comic book readers can’t stand the feminist set is because they aren’t interested in sharing the space—they’re interested in dominating it wholly. It’s not enough to make Squirrel Girl and Bat Girl and Spider-Gwen. The industry also has to disown its past, to declare it is ashamed of classic stories, to scorn the readers who have kept “The Killing Joke” in print through four separate decades. As Ace of Spades has noted in the context of video games, the social justice set is not really interested in providing alternatives or opening up new markets. Rather, they’re interested in changing what people like. As long as people like “The Killing Joke”—and as long as DC refuses to memory hole it, to airbrush it out of existence like a Stalinist recreating history—these warriors will not have won.”

This is not just an issue about feminists in the comic book or gaming industry who have every right to want and expect that female characters not be sexually exploited and objectified. This is an issue about LGBT proponents that support gay marriage and Caitlyn Jenner getting a courage award. This is an issue about demanding the banning of the Confederate flag. This is an issue about why Black Lives Matter.  This is an issue about issues and that every single one of us has rights no matter which side of the fence we are on on any single subject. We all have a right to our opinion  and we definitely all have a right to the history that may have established that opinion no matter how politically correct it may or may not be.

The idea that Sonny Bunch refers to, that elements of literary works, popular culture, and history be “memory holed,” is nothing short of bold censorship that should never be tolerated because it prevents us from learning from the mistakes of our past and erodes the foundation of our culture by preventing us from defining how we became the society we are today for better or worse.

The recent story of a father being offended by a toy sold to children of Princess Leah in sex slave garb with a chain around her neck can easily be an acceptable target but it is a depiction of a famous scene from Star Wars one of the most popular film series of all time and an image that most children in the last thirty years have probably been exposed to and most certainly will be by the time the next film in the series is released this Christmas.

The answer is not to ban this toy or to have it removed from the shelves. The answer is for that father and others to use the opportunity to be a parent and explain the significance of the toy and why it is bad to put a woman or any person in this position of bondage and sexual exploitation and to explain to his children why he feels it is inappropriate for them to have it as a toy.

Should it be lost that Leah overcame her imprisonment, defeated her captor and led a rebellion against an evil Empire as a strong female role model?  Would that father have the same reaction to the chains around the ankle of the Statue of Liberty?

When the PC Police prevent us from expressing ourselves as individuals they are as oppressive and fascist as our greatest enemies. Personally,  I want to see sexist comics so I can identify the chauvinists in the crowd at Comic Con. I want to see which neighbor flies the Confederate flag so I know who is inconsiderate of the feelings of African Americans. I want to see people protest gay weddings so I know who is intolerant. I want to see little Jonny draw weapons in his notebook at school so teachers can identify a potentially troubled child or one with a gifted and overactive imagination.

Banning that which offends us drives the offenders into their own dangerously dark and secret closet. It does not change them it makes them bitter and resentful and only guarantees the perpetuation of a cycle of hatred and persecution. It is why we are all surprised when that “nice person who never bothered anybody” goes postal.

This is why The First Amendment of our Constitution is so important, because it guarantees our rights to religion, freedom of speech, peaceable assembly and our ability to petition government. We expect these rights from our government and we should expect these rights from each other!

It is time we all learn to agree to disagree and go on about our ways as they suit each of us and our own like-minded group. Take the time to learn why others may think so differently and we may all understand each other better. Let’s give each other a  little space to be ourselves. I won’t be offended if you’re not.

Gerry Giovinco

Monday Weekly Update | CAPTAIN OBESE

July 20th, 2015

New page of
CAPTAIN OBESE
by Don Lomax is now available.

CAPTAIN OBESE Update

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Thursday Weekly Update | Bughouse

July 16th, 2015

New page of BUGHOUSE by Steve Lafler now available.

BUGHOUSE Update

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Read the 3 Part STEVE LAFLER INTERVIEW
posted on The Comics Journal


NOW AVAILABLE,

Purchase a copy of the EL VOCHO

graphic novel, now on sale

At LULU Here.


Kirby4Heroes 2015 Campaign

July 14th, 2015

On August 28th of this year, Jack Kirby would have celebrated his 98th birthday. Since his passing in 1994, he has been remembered not just as one of the most influential creators in the history of comics but also as a symbol of the injustices of business practices in the comic book industry.

In his memory his youngest grandchild, Jillian Kirby began a campaign titled Kirby4Heroes to help raise money and awareness of the Hero Initiative, an organization intended to help support comic book creators that have fallen on hard times financially or with their health. Since she began the campaign in 2012, tens of thousands of dollars have been raised for the Hero Initiative with support from local comic shops, creators and fans alike.

The Hero Initiative is close to Jillian’s heart as it is with the rest of the Kirby family because, though Jack Kirby led a reasonably comfortable life, he spent his later years frustrated that he could not enjoy in the prosperity of his creations. He never lived to see his work become the foundation for a multi-billion dollar corporation but he would have been proud that his family stood their ground and challenged Marvel until they reached a historic settlement in September of last year.

The Kirby’s know what it is like to live and struggle in the shadow of success that is generated by characters that comic creators bring to life. Now that  they have reached a very satisfactory agreement that twill assuredly insure their family’s well being into the foreseeable future, it is heartwarming to see that they have not forgotten Jack’s legacy in regards to what it means for other creators who have been so much less fortunate.

Applaud Jillian and her family by lending your continued support. The following is a letter she released to comic shops and anyone who has helped in the past to insure the success of her campaign:

“Dear Comic Book Retailer,

Thank you so much again in advance for your anticipated commitment to participate in my 2015 Kirby4Heroes campaign. The campaign’s success would not have been possible without the support of comic book retailers like you. Last year, your support and enthusiasm helped the Kirby4Heroes campaign raise almost $15,000 for the Hero Initiative. This year my goal is to raise at least $20,000!

August 28th is the 98th birthday of my grandfather, comic book artist Jack Kirby, and the Kirby4Heroes campaign continues to honor his legacy to the comic book industry.

Can I depend on your support again this year with a donation of at least 10% of your sales on August 28th?

All funds raised, of course, go directly to the Hero Initiative.

Last year, comic book retailers had a wealth of creative ideas to raise money for the Hero Initiative. These included August 28th in-store Jack Kirby birthday parties, and having guest artists in the store creating pieces to be auctioned. Some retailers sold raffle tickets for certain items, with the proceeds going to Hero Initiative.

Retailers promoted my Kirby4Heroes campaign by embedding my 2014 YouTube video and other promotional materials on their Facebook pages, websites and newsletters.

In addition, artist Phil Hester created 97 different pieces of Kirby-themed art to auction off for my grandfather’s birthday, raising over $3000! An event spearheaded by Ron Marz and Paul Harding in New York raised over $2000 for the Hero Initiative! Known artists drawing in comic book storefront windows, special events at cartoon museums, and the annual Wake Up And Draw event, where artists draw birthday tributes to my grandfather on August 28th to be auctioned on eBay, also occurred in 2014.I plan on continuing all of these wonderful events for 2015, and hope even more fantastic ideas come to fruition!

If you have any other ideas how your store can participate on August 28th for my grandfather’s birthday, please let me know! Feel free to be as creative and out-of-the-box as possible (PG-13 and under, please!).

To help you promote this event, I will follow up with an email including an attached Kirby4Heroes flyer, collection jar label, and poster. Make sure to check out my Facebook page (like it!), Twitter account (follow it!), and website for additional updates about the campaign! Here are the links:

www.facebook.com/kirby4heroes

www.twitter.com/Kirby4Heroes

www.kirby4heroes.com

I am grateful for your support, and look forward to working with you again this year. Please email me to confirm your participation, and please let me know if you have any questions. If you wish me to call you instead,

please let me know. I would be happy to do this! Thanks again for your support.”

Please forward it to your local comic shop if they are not already a participant. Put on your thinking cap and empower the campaign with creative ways to generate revenue to support the Hero Initiative but most of all remember to celebrate the life of Jack Kirby on August 28th in a way that makes a heroic difference as a thank you for all the heroes he has given us including his granddaughter, Jillian.

Monday Weekly Update | CAPTAIN OBESE

July 13th, 2015

New page of
CAPTAIN OBESE
by Don Lomax is now available.

CAPTAIN OBESE Update

Click here to read this comic NOW!

Saturday Weekly Update | Dog Boy

July 11th, 2015

New page of DOG BOY by Steve Lafler now available.

DOG BOY Update

Click Here to read this comic NOW!

Read the 3 Part STEVE LAFLER INTERVIEW
posted on The Comics Journal


NOW AVAILABLE,

Purchase a copy of the EL VOCHO

graphic novel, now on sale

At LULU Here.



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