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2013: Laying the Groundwork for Copyright Review

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 23, 2014

Terry Hart of the Copyright AllianceIn A Look Back at Copyright Review in 2013, Terry Hart of the Copyright Alliance outlines the groundwork which could provide a basis for a fundamental review of US copyright law. The Copyright Act of 1976 is outdated – the last large amendment to the act was the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. In March of 2013, in a lecture given at Columbia University, Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante issued a call for a comprehensive overhaul of US copyright law. Shortly afterwards, she was invited to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on the topic.

The Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, made copyright review a high priority, and scheduled numerous hearings throughout the year. The first covered an academic project, “The Copyright Principles Project”, which sought to find consensus among a number of legal educators on copyright review.  It was a disappointment for artists that not one creator was invited to testify. Following the theme, “Innovation in America,” the two subsequent hearings covered “The Role of Copyrights” and “The Role of Technology”. Copyright Alliance Executive Director Sandra Aistars testified at the first these hearings, arguing that copyright for creators is about empowerment, choice, and freedom.

A fourth hearing by the committee covered the “Role of Voluntary Agreements in the US Intellectual Property System” — private initiatives to address piracy and counterfeiting (but unfortunately not the role of search engines in facilitating piracy). At their final hearing on copyright issues, the committee addressed “The Rise of Innovative Business Models: Content Delivery Methods in the Digital Age.” This last hearing, according to the Alliance, “saw perhaps the most substantive discussion of copyright doctrine so far.”

Other government agencies were also very active in the copyright review arena. The Department of Commerce released “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation on the Digital Economy”, a paper produced jointly by both US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Telelcommunications and Information Administration which gave a substantive review of copyright law. The paper was three years in the making, and addressed the question of whether current copyright law is addressing the needs of creators in light of rapid technological advances in computing and networking. In October, the USPTO asked for input from stakeholders on key issues identified in the paper, such as statutory damages for secondary infringement and individual filesharers, and improving the notice and takedown system.

The Copyright Office also released two reports on copyright issues. The first recommended the establishment of a small claims court within the office. (The Guild testified before the Copyright Office on the small claims issue and is quoted in the report.) The second report recommended the establishment of a resale royalty on original works of fine art, as is currently done in 70+ countries worldwide. 2014 promises to continue to be an active year in copyright review; the Judiciary Committee has already scheduled three hearings on the topic in January.

Portrait of Terry Hart used with his permission.

Is that a Cell Phone in Your Leotard? — How Superheroes Use Social Media

Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 30, 2013

Batman Tweets, © Ed ShemsEd Shems, the illustrator behind EdNedFred (and former Boston Guild President), has answered a question for today: How would superheroes use social media? Shems’ answer spans the world of social media, from picture sharing to status updates. For example, in the superhero universe, Batman pauses during a particularly satisfying bust to take a selfie, Superman is outed as Clark Kent when his cell phone responds to a text from Lois, and Spiderman (poor Spidey!) doesn’t have many Facebook Likes.

The series started as a doodle in Shems’ sketchbook, and took on a life of its own. Shems is selling prints of his series on Etsy. We hope there’s more to come — after all, surely Wonderwoman is on Google+.

Too Close for Comfort: the Pitfalls of Designing your Own Identity

Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 27, 2013

Jord Riekwel, the proprietor of the design firm Larkef in the Netherlands, has written a thought-provoking article on the pitfalls of designing your own logo. Although he is a logo designer by trade, Jord discovered that he was at an impasse in designing his own identity. His own designs were lackluster, and he felt he needed another pair of eyes. So he hired “lettering artist” Sergey Shapiro, who created the warm, flowing Larkef logo.

Jord cautions creatives to not assume they can do it all, but to recognize they are not “polymaths”. After failed attempts at his own website design, and afer producing sloppy, trite copy, he hired a website developer and a professional copywriter to take on those two tasks. His take-away:  “Invest money in good design. Hire a proper logo designer, web designer, copywriter, or photographer. You won’t regret it.”

Below: Larkef logo sketches by designer Sergey Shapiro.

Larkef logo sketches by designer Sergey Shapiro.

Doodle Alley: Sustain Your Creativity

Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 26, 2013

Illustrator Stephen McCranie has published a wonderfully illustrated treatise on nourishing your creativity. Brick by Brick, appearing on McCranie's blog Doodle Alley, is a cartoon of advice on developing habits and practices to sustain a creative life. The publication was borne of McCranie’s desire to catalog what he had learned during his first couple years as an illustrator. He soon realized that what he was writing “… wasn’t a book about how to create, it was a book about how to be a creator.” Rather than cover the nuts and bolts of being an illustrator – practical advice on getting published, for example – Brick by Brick seeks to give artists the emotional tools they need to thrive in a difficult career.

Some of the advice is heart-warming and postive. In “Be Friends with Failure,” McCranie cautions artists against becoming harsh self critics, and encourages them to embrace failure as part of the learning process. Other advice is extremely wise: in “You Are Not Your Art,” McCranie warns the artist against deciding “…your life is your art,” cautioning that result could be “You treat the master of your craft like gods…but you could care less about people who aren’t as skilled as you.”

McCranie is working on a print edition of the book. His successful Kickstarter campaign raised over $39,000 – $30,000 more than his stated goal. The book will be a 200-page, full color comic about sustainable creativity, and will feature the cartoons on Doodle Alley. The printed publication will include three additional essays that don’t appear online: “Name it to Wield it,” “Divide and Conquer,” and “Work to Work.”

Artwork courtesy of the artist. © Stephen McCranie


Be Friends with Failure, © Stephen McCranie

The Digital Hearth: Yule Log 2.0

Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 24, 2013

Yule Log 2.0 logoThe Yule Log, that broadcast of an endless loop of a crackling fire that first played on WPIX-TV in New York City in the 1960s, has become a beloved holiday cliché.  After having been cancelled for a number of years, the parent company of WPIX, Tribune Broadcasting brought back  the broadcast, and numerous knock-offs have been spawned. The most creative is Yule Log 2.0, a collection of short films and animations submitted by both up-and-coming and well-known artists. The collection is curated by animator and illustrator Daniel Savage, a 2012 ADC Young Gun, who has created work for Comedy Central and Google. The Yule Log 2.0 website was created by Wondersauce, a New York based web design studio.

Yule Log 2.0 showcases a lovely range of illustration styles. Both Frank Chimero and Leta Sobierajski created whimsical flames from wiggling fingers. Josh Parker’s stick-figure embers are reminiscent of early cartoons, and Michael Fuchs, Daniel Leyva, and Bianca Meier illustrated a hapless marshmallow who sits too close to the fire. Visitors to the website can either view each video in sequence, or, in true Yule Log spirit, set one animation to play over (and over and over and over).

Yule Log 2.0 offerings include submissions by (clockwise from top left) Michael Fuchs, Daniel Leyva and Bianca Meier; Yussef Cole; Greg Gunn; Matthias Hoegg; Josh Parker; and Frank Chimero. Screenshot courtesy of Yule Log 2.0.

Yule Log 2.0 screenshot

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