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Comic Artist Turned Away at US Border for Carrying Work in Progress

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 24, 2017

On April 20th, Canadian Marvel comic book artist Gisele Lagace posted to her Facebook page that she had been denied entry to the United States when attempting to cross the border to attend Chicago’s C2E2 comic convention. According to her post. she was refused entry by US Customs and Border Patrol because she was planning to complete some commissions while in the US; the unfinished works were in her car. Additionally, she was carrying about $700 worth of comics, which she had intended to sell while at the convention. That put her in violation of US immigration law, which prohibits visitors from working in the US without a proper visa.

Her post generated sympathy among colleagues, and was shared several hundred times. The Hollywood Reporter picked the story, and documented the sympathetic response from fellow comic book creators. They cited Australian comic writer Tom Taylor’s Twitter account, in which he commented that he has pulled out of US conventions since he no longer feels safe or welcome here, and that he knows of many colleagues who feel the same. 

Despite the unease generated by the recent increased vigilance of US border patrols, artists have been turned away in the past for bringing work with them to comic cons. CBR reported in 2012  that Canadian artist Craig Wilson was turned away when work he had hoped to sell in Phoenix Comicon’s Artist Alley was discovered by board guards.  Marvel writer Charles Soule (who also happens to be an immigration attorney) responded to Legace’s situation by cautioning comic artists to consult with an attorney before coming to the US for trade shows.

Artists intending to exhibit at a trade show or comic con in the US can also check the US Customs and Border Protection’s FAQ sheet for tradeshow attendees. 

For Legace, a seasoned pro who has traveled frequently to the US, the ordeal was unexpected: “Was asked if I was the only one doing this as I looked surprised to be refused entry. I said no, many artists from around the world attend these to promote themselves. I don't think they cared.” Her experience was made all the more excruciating by the discovery of two unidentified white pills in her wallet (most likely acetaminophen), which precipitated a body search. She’s decided she’s not reattempting entry into the US until she’s “absolutely certain this won’t happen again.”

Below: The Detroit-Windsor border crossing between the US and Canada.
Photo: public domain.

US Canada border crossing at Detroit-Windsor.

Copyright Office Modernization: Through an Artist’s Lens

Posted by Guest on April 21, 2017

Guest post by Tom Kennedy, Lara Kisielewska, Akili-Casundria Ramsess, Juliette Wolf-Robin, and David Trust.

Most everyone knows the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words." It captures the notion that one image can instantly convey complex ideas and world events, changing how we think individually and as societies. For instance, who could forget the picture of an American sailor kissing a woman in Times Square, which expressed the elation, joy and excitement of the nation as World War II came to an end. And the 1989 image of a lone protestor standing before oncoming tanks in Tiananmen Square still resonates deeply today. In both cases, visual artists--who depend on strong copyright protections to make a living--captured those iconic images. 

Visual artists include illustrators, graphic designers, artists, photographers, visual journalists, videographers, and others who create and license their works for the news media, magazines, advertising, books and other publications, consumer products, digital platforms, multimedia presentations, and broadcast. Typically, they are one-or-two-person businesses and small family enterprises that not only create, but are responsible for running all facets of a small business.

To help facilitate the marketplace for creative works, visual artists have long called for modernizing the US Copyright Office. That's why we strongly support HR 1695, the Register of Copyrights and Selection and Accountability Act, which would make the Register of Copyrights, who leads the USCO, a presidentially appointed, Senate confirmed position. The bill recently passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by the overwhelming bipartisan vote of 27-1.

The Copyright Office, which resides in the Library of Congress, maintains copyright registration and recordation databases upon which creators, licensees, users and consumers depend, but which are sadly outdated. Indeed, despite repeated calls by former Registers for reform, including releasing the most forward looking IT plan in the Office's history, it has been unable to modernize because it lacks the autonomy to do so. The Office's efforts have been frustrated because it resides in the Library of Congress where it competes with many other Library priorities for resources, technology and staff. This arrangement may have worked in the past, but the creative economy now contributes $1.2 trillion to GDP and supports 5.5 million jobs. The Register must be given the autonomy to modernize the Office to suit the specialized needs of the copyright system. And it is appropriate that the office of the Register be elevated to a stature commensurate with the economic sector to which the duties of the Office are so critical.

The Office also has an important policy mission, statutorily acting as Congress' impartial advisor on copyright law and policy. Historically, the Copyright Office has been an invaluable resource to the Congress, providing expert counsel on issues large and small. This is particularly important for individual creators and small businesses, for without this dedicated "think tank," Congress might not hear the plight of our creative members on critical issues such as how to handle copyright infringement claims too small to justify the expense of a federal law suit. The Copyright Office must have the autonomy necessary to continue its vital advisory role to Congress.

Some critics of the legislation have suggested that elevating the Register is an attempt to "give more power to Hollywood"--something we in the visual arts community find puzzling. Without a doubt, the Copyright Office's technological shortcomings affect visual artists far more than movie studios and record labels. For instance, Variety reported that 563 movies were released in 2014 by the entire movie industry, which is a relatively small number of copyrights to register for an entire year. By contrast, a single photographer can take over 500 photos in one shoot, and may create as many as 50,000 individual photographs per year. Further, unlike large entertainment companies, we don't have the luxury of in-house professionals who can dedicate their time to navigating the complexities of the registration process. As a result, many visual artists forego registration, which then makes defending one's rights in court a virtual impossibility. Put another way, the Copyright Office's problems are a de facto regressive tax--the smaller the creator, the more adversely they are impacted.

Congress should swiftly pass HR 1695, thereby taking an important first step towards fixing these problems. By ensuring the Register has the autonomy necessary to begin implementing operational reforms and continuing to provide impartial advice, Congress will help ensure that visual artists and all creators can continue creating works that contribute to our economy and help shape our society in the digital age.


Tom Kennedy is the Executive Director of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). Lara Kisielewska is the President of the Graphic Artists Guild (GAG). Akili-Casundria Ramsess is the Executive Director of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). Juliette Wolf-Robin is the National Executive Director of the American Photographic Artists (APA). And David Trust is the CEO of the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).
 

Contact your Representative and ask them to vote YES on H.R. 1695

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on April 21, 2017

The Graphic Artists Guild is calling upon visual artists and those who support a vibrant creative community to contact their representatives and ask them to support H.R. 1695. The bill seeks to make the Register of Copyrights, currently appointed by the Librarian of Congress, a presidential appointee with a 10-year term with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Guild has long supported giving the Copyright Office greater autonomy and modernizing the Office. The current registration system is cumbersome, outdated and confusing. Modernizing the Copyright Office is key for creators seeking to protect their copyrights and derive an income from their work. This bill is the first step to achieving that goal.

The bill is coming up for consideration in the House the week of April 24th. Please show your support for this bill by contacting your representative as soon as possible. You can do so easily by visiting copyrightdefense.com. The website will permit you to enter inyour zip code to contact your representative by email and telephone, and supplies talking points for you to refer to.

 Copyright Defense take action buttons


Background:

Copyright and creative industries are increasingly important to the US economy, contributing over $1.2 trillion dollars to the US GDP. Despite this, the Copyright Office has languished with outdated technology. It has no autonomy over its budget and staffing, which are determined by the Library of Congress. IT problems at the Library resulted in a system outage that brought down the Copyright Office’s registration system for one week in 2015. A report by the Government Accountability Office listed numerous technological problems at the Office exacerbated by the Library’s IT management weakness. The Library has not pursued the implementation of a comprehensive IT modernization plan for the Copyright Office brought out by the previous Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallente.

Additionally, the Register of Copyrights is unilaterally selected Librarian of Congress, although the missions of the Library and the Office are different and sometimes conflict. The Register of Copyrights is statutorily required to advise Congress on copyright law – a function of increasing importance as copyright law is under review – and yet the Register is appointed solely at the discretion of the Librarian. H.R. 1695 gives Congress the opportunity vet candidates for Register of Copyrights and ensures it will receive the expert advice it needs.

H.R. 1695 has wide bi-partisan support. It was introduced by House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and passed the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 27-1. Support for the bill has been expressed by members of Congress from both parties, and from stakeholders and experts, including former Registers of Copyright Ralph Oman and MaryBeth Peters. The creative community has by and large welcomed the legislation, as indicated by a letter signed by over 40 associations, industry groups, and business leaders (including the Guild). 


Support for H.R. 1695:

“Creators, Please act now. Tell Congress to Vote “Yes” on H.R. 1695.” American Photographic Artists

“ASMP, along with other organizations, unions, and guilds representing and supporting creators and inventors, express support of H.R. 1695, ‘The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017’...” American Society of Media Photographers

“Making the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate reflects the growing importance of copyright to our economy and culture, and treats the head of the Office like other officials, with oversight over similarly significant industries.” – North American Nature Photography Association

“To help facilitate the marketplace for creative works, visual artists have long called for modernizing the US Copyright Office. That’s why we strongly support HR 1695, the Register of Copyrights and Selection and Accountability Act…” – National Press Photographers Association

“… one can see that the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office are at odds with what they do. Making the Register of Copyright a presidential appointee is the first step in giving the Copyright Office some autonomy to effectively do what they were created for.” Professional Photographers of America

“The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017fills a critical gap that currently exists in the selection process for all future Registers of Copyright. No Member on this Committee, nor in Congress would underestimate the importance of the copyright economy in America. The copyright economy is a key driver of our nation’s exports. Overseeing this sector is the Copyright Office, an entity whose large impact is far bigger than its small footprint.” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chair, House Judiciary Committee

“In the past, the authority of the Copyright Office to conduct rule makings has been challenged in the courts because the Register is not currently Presidentially-appointed. This bipartisan legislation would put to rest, once and for all, that question, and ensures that the Register is accountable to Congress.”joint statement, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Member, House Judiciary Committee

“As a member of Congress with the honor of representing parts of the greater Los Angeles region, I’m intimately aware of the importance of the creative economy to everyday Californians and the country as a whole… That’s why I’ve been a supporter of a strong copyright system—the foundation of a strong creative economy—since I came to Congress. That’s also why Congress must pass H.R. 1695, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act...” Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)

“Stripped to its basics, the choice is stark: Does Congress want modernization and independent copyright advice straight and true from the expert agency, or does it want copyright administration and advice filtered through the lens – and shaped by the perspective – of the head of the national library?” – MaryBeth Peters and Ralph Oman, former Registers of Copyright

Urban Outfitters Loses Appeal of Copyright Infringement Case, to the Tune of $530,000

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 07, 2017

Urban Outfitters lost its appeal of a district court jury decision that found the company guilty of willful infringement, and has been ordered to pay $530,000. A small Los Angeles fabric supplier to the apparel industry, Unicolors, successfully sued Urban Outfitters for copyright infringement in district court. Urban Outfitters appealed the decision, and on April 4, the Ninth Circuit Court upheld the district court’s ruling. The court ruled that Urban Outfitters had willfully infringed of one of Unicolors’ copyrighted fabric designs. The court published the ruling, a step the Kali Hays described in WWD as unusual and indicative of the court’s intention that lower courts look to the ruling for guidance in similar cases.

At issue is a palm frond design which was originally created by Milk Print, LLC. Unicolors bought the intellectual property rights to the pattern, which they then modified slightly for printing on bolts of cloth by changing the size and color palette. The final design was registered with the Copyright Office. (Unicolors is aggressive in protecting its copyrights, having registered thousands of patterns and designs.) In 2010, Urban Outfitters developed a dress which used a textile with a that textile design. Unicolors noticed, and sent the company a cease-and-desist letter, followed by the lawsuit.

During the original trial, Unicolors provided evidence showing that Urban Outfitters maintains a library of thousands of fabric swatches, collected from vintage goods and some purchased from design studios, including Milk Print. The samples are used by Urban’s designers for “inspiration” upon creating new fashions. Unicolors argued that Urban’s failure to check on the copyright status of the swatches used by its designers showed that the company acted with “with reckless disregard for the possibility that the fabric it sampled was protected by copyright, and such conduct is sufficient evidence of willful infringement…”.

For its part, Urban argued that they had no knowledge that they were infringing, and that it’s unreasonable to expect the company to “exhaustively investigate whether any particular fabric design is protected by a copyright registration.” The court dismissed this argument: “Regardless of how difficult it may be to determine whether particular designs have been registered with the Copyright Office, a party may act recklessly by refusing, as a matter of policy, to even investigate or attempt to determine whether particular designs are subject to copyright protections.”

Intellectual property law firm Knobbe Martens covered the case in an article on their legal blog. They caution companies using existing designs: “The best practice would be to use only those works where either the author is known and permission has been received or it is clear that the work is not protected by copyright.”

The court decision can be downloaded from the Fashion Law Institute website.

Photo: public domain.

Urban Outfitters

Fake Flash Player Targets Apple Users and WP Engine Clients

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 05, 2017

Fake Flash Player updates which mask malware have been around since MySpace was hot; Adobe was warning the public not to download the Flash Player from sources outside their download site back in 2008. But despite the publicity, the malware-installing fake downloads persist. Currently, a fake Flash Player scam is targeting visitors and users of the popular WordPress hosting platform WP Engine by taking advantage a common typo of the company URL.

If a webdesigner or WPEngine client accidentally inserts an hyphen (“wp-engine”) into the URL of their development site on WP Engine, they are immediately taken to a page with a pop-up screen warning them that their Flash Player is outdated. The screen apes legitimate warnings that appear when Flash Player truly is outdated. If the user clicks onto the update button, rather than being taken to the official Adobe Flash Player download page, they’ve initiated the installation of the malware onto their computers. To confuse users who suspect something is amiss, the installer also downloads a genuine version of the Flash installer. 

The irony is that WPEngine is rated one of the most secure web hosts for WordPress websites, and takes great pride in their robust security settings. (WP Engine customers needn't be concerned that the webhost has been compromised. The website is never accessed, since the malware redirects from the incorrect URL pulled up from the typo.)

The particular brand of malware installed is appropriately named scareware. The infected computer is overrun with pop-up ads warning of an infection and prompting the user to install malware masquerading as anti-virus software. Going into the Applications folder and deleting the fake Flash download appears to solve the problem. However, once the computer restarts, the pop-up screens appear again, and the fake Flash installer reappears in the downloads folder. Doing a reinstall of the browser prevents subsequent appearances of the pop-up windows, but the malware will reside in the system until an antivirus program such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is run.

The Intego Mac Security Blog ran a comprehensive article on fake Flash update scareware last year. According to Graham Cluley of Intego, the scareware manipulates the computer users fear of infected computers to trick them into downloading the fake Flash Player. Johannes Ullrich of SANS Institute reported that the scareware installer took advantage of a valid Apple developer certificate. That permitted the malware to bypass recent OS X defenses which permit only programs downloaded from the official App store or identified developers to be downloaded. (Ullrich pulled together an informative video which shows what happened when he downloaded the fake Flash player.)

Downloading the Flash Player from only the official Adobe website is common sense, and websites which ask users to legitimately update their version of Flash will direct users to this page. The fake Flash Player download continues to be used by scammers. This February, Intego reported that a fake Flash Player is being used to install a sloppy new malware, “MadDownloader.” MacDownloader attempts to steal the users keychain information – passwords, usernames, PINs, etc. – by tricking the user into believing adware software needs to be removed from their system. Although the malware was so poorly designed as to pose little risk, chances are the developers will release an updated version. If a user suspects their version of Flash may be updated, they should check the status via their Systems Preferences or, better yet, permit Adobe to automatically update the program.

As for WP Engine customers: just be sure to not include a hyphen in the domain when you're typing in the URL for your development platform. If you forget,and that persistent “Flash Player outdated" screen appears, simply quit out of your browser. If. you haven't downloaded anything, chances are you’re fine. (You can always run your anti-malware software just to be sure.)

If you accidentally type “wp-engine” into your address bar, you’re taken to a deceptively official-looking Flash update screen.. Note the URL is dllmacfiles, not the Adobe Flash download site. The intercept is quite aggressive; a persistent popover window prompts you to install the fake Adobe Flash Player. The fake download screen even includes reassuring verbiage telling you that dllmac is distributing an “install manager.”

fake flash screen

If you click “cancel,” a popover window asks you if you’re sure you want to leave the page. Clicking "Leave Page” averts any problems.

fake flash download are you sure screen

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How to Start your Very Own Communication Design Business!

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Guild Webinars

Webinar Banner image by Rebecca Blake

Looking to keep up with industry trends and techniques?

Taking your creative career to the next level means you need to be up on a myriad of topics. And as good as your art school education may have been, chances are there are gaps in your education. The Guild’s professional monthly webinar series, Webinar Wednesdays, can help take you to the next level.

Members can join the live webinars for FREE - as part of your benefits of membership! Non-members can join the live webinars for $45. 

Visit our webinar archive page, purchase the webinar of your choice for $35 and watch it any time that works for you.

 


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