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Compare and Contrast: Artists’ Rights and the Two Princes

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 18, 2016

Sarah Howes knows a thing or two about artists’ rights. As the Director of Legal Affairs at The Copyright Alliance, and a newly minted intellectual property lawyer (who studied under none other than Tad Crawford), she’s been advocating for artists for a while now. So when the musician Prince passed away a couple of months ago, Sarah was inspired to pay homage to him and his support of other artists – and to compare him to his opposite, appropriation artist Richard Prince (RP).

It’s an indication of how controversial Richard Prince’s career has been that he’s been covered so often in the Guild news blog. The first time was when the Guild signed on to an amicus brief in support of the photographer Cariou, whose photographs RP nabbed and plastered with crude drawings. Other articles covered the controversy raised by his “New Portraits” Instagram series – printouts of Instagram posts RP tacked a bit of text onto and sold for tens of thousands. As Howes writes in her article, “his entire career hinges on him redefining ‘the concepts of authorship [and] ownership.’ Which he is of course neither: the author nor the owner of much of his work.

The contrast to Prince the musician couldn’t be more striking. Howe points out that Prince the musician produced hundreds of works, playing up to 27 instruments on one track alone. It’s hard to find that level of skill, let alone discipline, in the work of Richard Prince: “All we really know of him are his infamous face masks and collaging, which tell us little about his actual skill level.” As Howe describes it, while a few of his creations could be deemed art, in that some expression can be found in overpainting and collage, much of his work shows minimal manipulation of others’ work: “After all, to RP finding the artwork is basically the entire creative process, equating it to ‘sort of like beachcombing.’

Howe also relates the myriad other ways Prince the musician gave back: by supporting Minneapolis’ creative community, promoting female musicians, and crediting his success to the legacy of previous generations of recording artists. Perhaps Prince’s most important contribution to artists was the example of his fight to own, and protect, his own copyrights. As Howe concludes, “We can only hope there will be more Princes in future generations, not just a bunch of RP appropriators not worthy for the throne.

Read Sarah Howes’ full article, “Prince Fought for Artists, Richard Prince Steals from Them,” on Medium.

Below: Sarah Howes’ photo of a streetside memorial to Prince in Minneapolis. © Sarah Howes, used with permission.

Sarah Howe's photo of Prince memorial in Minneapolis

Questions about Copyright Registration? Answers from the Copyright Office!

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 10, 2016

Copyright Q&AEarlier this year, the Copyright Alliance solicited questions from creators on the copyright registration process. They’ve launched a Copyright Q&A column to roll out the questions and answers. Even better, the answers have come from the most reliable source you could hope for: Rob Kasunic, Director of Registration Policy and Practices at the Copyright Office. The column covers a decent range of questions, from basic requests on which procedures to follow to expedite a registration, to more targeted questions on public domain images, derivative works, and specific terminology. 

The column is well worth scanning. It not only provides practical advice on the application process, it also corrects some common misunderstandings. For example, more than one question asked whether works registered as a group would be entitled to separate statutory damages. Kausic clarifies that the Copyright Office’s position is that only derivative works and compilations should be limited to one award of statutory damages; works otherwise registered as a group would be entitled to separate awards (a boon for prolific visual artists).
Other Q&As germane to illustrators cover works which incorporate public domain images, how much an image must be altered to be considered a derivative work, and what constitutes a publication date. (Here’s a hint: posting to Facebook does not count as a publication.) To read through the Copyright Q&A, visit the Alliance’s blog.

The Handbook Primer Series: Now in Android Flavor!

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 03, 2016

Want to read our Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines on your tablet, but don’t have an iPad? Now you can – our digital Primer series has just been released for Android. The Primer series repackages our popular Handbook as three volumes, which can be separately purchased. Volume 1, Business Practice Essentials, covers the professional relationships illustrators and graphic designers develop and the ethical standards needed to maintain good working relationships with clients and other professionals. Volume 2, Professional Issues & Legal Rights for Graphic Artists, covers the often confusing issues, such as copyright terms, work-for-hire, sales tax, and work on spec, that both self-employed and staff graphic artists encounter. Volume 3, Trade Customs & Pricing Guidelines, explores customary professional practices and provides sample pricing tables and salaries for various disciplines within the graphic arts industry. 

The Android version of the Primer Series can be purchased from the Vital Source eTextbook platform. The Primer Series in iOS flavor can also be purchased from the iTunes store. Those who prefer to read in the bathtub and don’t want to risk dropping their electronic devices, can always buy the original Handbook in paperback from Amazon or any local bookstore.

Primer Series vol. 1 Business Practice EssentialsPrimer Series Vol. 2: Professional Issues & Legal RightsPrimer Series vol. 3: Trade Customs & Pricing

Follow us on Instagram, and get a Peek into the Guild

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 28, 2016

We’re now on Instagram! We’re working the platform to give a peek into the advocacy work we do, spread the word about design and illustration best practices, and partner with like-minded organizations. So far we’ve used our feed to participate in ico-D’s Design in Action campaign (leading up to World Design Day) – we snapped photos of unique projects that made our urban environments in Boston, DC, Maryland, and New York more sustainable. We’ll be using the account to provide a visual record of the somewhat dry advocacy work we do. Hopefully photos (like one of the extra-large cup of coffee required to get through several hours of dense copyright testimony) will bring our advocacy work to life. 

We’ve got several other Instagram campaigns in the works, designed to promote our members, showcase illustration at work, and highlight regional activities. We’re concerned about navigating the problems raised by Instagram’s Terms of service (see the note below), so we’d love to hear back on how illustrators use the platform, without risking that their copyrighted work will be compromised. We’d also love to see your Instagram posts, so follow us, and let us see what you’re up to as well. You can follow us at graphic_artists_guild or search for #everyartistcounts.

While Instagram can be a self-promotion asset to artists, the Guild does caution that uploading copyrighted work to the platform poses a risk. In 2013, the Guild joined ASMP and other photographers’ organizations in protesting Instagram’s wide-ranging terms of use, which grant the service broad usage rights to sublicense images and videos uploaded to the platform. Before posting original artwork, the Guild urges designers, illustrators, and photographers to read “The Instagram Papers” and understand the rights they’re giving away when using the platform.

Guild Instagram snapshots

NYC’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act Hopes to Redress Non-Payment

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 26, 2016

Freelance Isn't Free banner imageIn December of last year, New York City Councilman Brad Lander introduced 1017-A, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act. The act has been championed by the Freelancers Union and founder Sara Horowitz, who launched a campaign to support and publicize the bill. An Op-Ed penned by Lander and Horowitz outlined the travails facing New York City freelancers: “more than 70% of gig workers in NYC report having been cheated out of payments, paid many months late, or paid less than they were owed. On average, these workers were stiffed out of $6,000 each year.” Freelancer are deterred from taking legal action by the high cost of lawyer’s fees, and by the financial hardship incurred by late payment. According to the op-ed, companies gamble on the chance that legal action won’t be taken, or offer a smaller payment to a freelancer desperate for funds. 

The bill attempts to address non- and late payment by requiring anyone hiring a freelancer to provide a written contract describing the work to be done and payment terms. It also requires that full payment be made with 30 days of completion of the work, or from the payment due date stipulated on the contract. To address the difficulty freelancers face in affording legal action, penalties could include double damages, attorney’s fees, and civil penalties. 

At a hearing on April 22, council members listened to testimony from over a dozen freelancers, from writers to graphic artists to consultants. Representatives from the Department of Consumer Affairs also attended, and while lauding the bill, expressed concerns that written contracts won’t forestall claims of non-delivery of or sub-standard services. In general, support for the bill seems to be strong. The Freelancers Union can take credit for conducting an effective and creative PR campaign. For example, on March 28, they published a “World’s Longest Invoice” webpage, with a  counter that totals the amount freelancers are submitting as owed. By 4 p.m. that day, the total had reached over $388,000.

The Graphic Artist Guild is a partner of the Freelancers Union, and supports the Freelance Isn’t Free bill.

(Below) In the Freelancers Union video, branding consultant Whitney Meers summarizes her support for the bill: “I support the Freelance Isn’t Free Campaign because nonpayment is theft.”

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