Boston Comic Con & the Cartooning Industry: A Conversation with Mark Slater
Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 21, 2017
New England Regional Representative Mark W. Slater took it upon himself to be the face of the Guild at Boston's Comic Con this year. It was a way for him to combine two of his passions: comic books (of course!), and advocating for artists and the arts. Mark’s enthusiasm made a great impression – if the comments posted to our social media feeds are any indication! — so we decided to interview Slater to ask him about his impressions of the experience.
Q: Why did you decide to take a table for the Guild at Boston Comic Con?
I’ve been taking tables in Artist Alley since 2009. It’s an opportunity for me to hobnob with artists I admire and I crave that vibe that I haven't had since the last Con (new and old faces alike). I’ve always set aside a corner for Guild materials. This year I wasn’t as prepared with personal work – I’ve been tied up with taking care of our baby boy — but I felt it was important to have a presence there. So I decided instead to make my table a Guild table. This happened only after having had gone through the appropriate channels, I was given the go-ahead to do this event under the Guild's banner via our Executive Committee.
Q: Why is it important for the Guild to have a presence at Comic Cons?
I’ve been really shocked over the years by the level of infringement that the artists in Artist Alley are engaging in. About a third of the people showing work were showing original artwork, a third were showing work they’d created for major publishers, studios and companies, and the rest were selling knick-knacks — t-shirts and trinkets — with branded characters and artwork copied from other artists on them. Most of those people seem to be unaware or unconcerned that they’re infringing trademarks and copyrights, when in fact what they are doing is blatant infringement.
What I find disheartening is that those individual artists are not being driven to create their own work(s); they’re stuck in fan art. If we could educate those artists who are profiting off of creating knock-offs, there would be a whole new level of originality.
Q: So the Comic Con artists are selling what is essentially fan art. What would you tell them if they asked you what’s wrong with that?
They can make money off of their knock-offs, but Marvel/Disney, DC/Warner Brothers, Image etc. could come by and shut them down at any moment and ask for receipts, reimbursement, and god knows what else. For now those giants of the industry see it as free advertisement. What I find disheartening is that those individual artists are not being driven to create their own work(s); they’re stuck in fan art. If we could educate those artists who are profiting off of creating knock-offs, there would be a whole new level of originality. The earlier we can make art students and young artists aware of what they're doing, the better chance we have of changing the paradigm in the US and the industry as a whole.
Q: Do you create fan art yourself?
When I was a child and teenager, I was a fan of comic books and I copied them — that was what helped lead me on my path to becoming a professional artist. But for me, recycling someone else’s stories and characters now as an adult isn’t as compelling. Keep in mind graphic novels and comics are treated differently in Asia and Europe; they’re not as tied to stock superhero characters, plot lines, and artistic "house styles." They’re also more likely to use other book formats and can at times use the graphic novel format for nonfiction stories. The page count is higher and it gives the reader more substance to digest. It’s an approach I find more interesting and inspiring.
Q: How did people react to the Guild booth?
I ran a raffle for The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines, and it was very well received. Every artist that got the Handbook looked so grateful — one recipient started to read it page-by-page. I think it’s important for the Guild to have a presence at these types of pop culture events. Advocacy for artists is going to pop in a good way — there are fewer and fewer organizations that are actively doing Advocacy work for the arts and I feel the Guild should be right up front doing positive "grassroots campaigning" like this.
Q: How has the Comic Con – and the comics industry — changed over the years?
Boston Comic Con has grown a lot — you see it in how the city reacts, and in the number of attendees. The industry has changed a lot too, as the Web and social media constantly change and mutate the formulas as to how we consume and make content. I’m alarmed at how the next generation expects creative work to be free. But I’m also intrigued by new platforms such as Patreon. It seems possible that public interest is shifting from wanting to purchase licensed artwork to wanting to support artists and have access to the artwork instead. It will be interesting to see where things go
Below: Setting up early – Slater at his booth.
Graphic Artists Guild Signs on to Copyright Alliance Letter to NAFTA Negotiator Ambassador Lighthize
Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 18, 2017
The Graphic Artists Guild has signed on to a letter penned by the Copyright Alliance and directed to US Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer. Ambassador Lighthizer is currently negotiating NAFTA on behalf of the United States. The Copyright Alliance letter requests that the negotiations modernize the copyright provisions of the agreement, specifically strong copyright protection and enforcement, effective enforcement provisions, appropriate limitations and exceptions to those provisions, and incentives for service providers to cooperate with copyright owners in addressing online infringement. The letter stresses that small- and medium-sized businesses and individual creators (such as graphic artists) are undermined by copyright infringement even as we are “on the forefront for making creative works available on a global scale.”
The full text of the letter is included below.
August 16, 2017
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer,
The undersigned groups represent the interests of a diverse group of small and medium businesses (SMEs) and individual creators in the creative fields. What unites us is a reliance on meaningful and effective copyright laws. Together, the core copyright industries contribute over $1.2 trillion to U.S. GDP, employ 5.5 million workers, and contribute a positive trade balance—and SMEs and individual creators make up a significant part of these industries.
The internet’s global reach has made copyright protections and enforcement increasingly important to free trade agreements. The small and medium businesses we represent are often on the forefront of exploring new models for making creative works available on a global scale. Widespread copyright infringement and unduly broad limitations to copyright protection distort overseas markets and undermine the ability of our members to successfully and fairly engage in commerce.
The effort to renegotiate NAFTA provides an opportunity to modernize the copyright provisions of the agreement for the digital age and establish a template for future agreements. We urge you to look beyond the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and to seek the highest standard of protection for businesses and creators that rely on strong copyright to compete successfully overseas.
Specific priorities for small and medium enterprises, as well as individual creators, include the following:
• Strong and meaningful copyright protection and enforcement. The agreement should recognize the full scope of copyright rights, including making available, and remedies such as injunctive relief and statutory damages.
• Effective enforcement provisions. Trade agreements are critical to fostering legitimate online marketplaces. A modernized NAFTA should respond to the challenges facing creators by including provisions to ensure effective enforcement and requiring legal protections for technological protection measures and rights management information.
• Appropriate limitations and exceptions. NAFTA should reinforce the “three step” test for limitations and exceptions that has been the international standard for decades. The three-step test strikes the appropriate balance in copyright, and any language mandating broader exceptions and limitations only serves as a vehicle to introduce uncertainty into copyright law, distort markets and weaken the rights of the small and medium businesses and creators we represent. For that reason, we strongly urge USTR to not include “balance” language similar to what appeared in the TPP or any reference to vague, open-ended limitations.
• Incentives for service providers to cooperate with copyright owners in addressing online infringement. Few SMEs have the means to devote resources to policing online infringement, and we therefore rely on service providers taking reasonable steps to minimize piracy that occurs on their platforms. To promote incentives for service providers to cooperate with copyright owners to address online infringement, the copyright provisions in NAFTA should establish appropriate standards for intermediary liability as well as appropriate safe harbor protections for intermediaries. We urge negotiators to provide for safe harbor protections in broader terms than how they’ve appeared in recent trade agreements. Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office are currently reviewing U.S. copyright law, and we want to make sure lawmakers have the flexibility to address shortcomings in domestic safe harbor provisions.
We thank you for your consideration of our priorities and look forward to working with you further as negotiations progress.
American Association of Independent Music
American Photographic Artists
American Society of Journalists and Authors
American Society of Media Photographers
Artists Rights Society
Association of Independent Music Publishers
Church Music Publishers’ Association – Action Fund
Digital Media Licensing Association
Graphic Artists Guild
Nashville Songwriters Association International
National Press Photographers Association
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Songwriters Guild of America
Songwriters of North America
Textbook & Academic Authors Association
Western Writers of America
Photographer Impoverished by Copyright Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Monkeys
Posted by Rebecca Blake on July 25, 2017
Two years ago, we reported on the copyright issues raised by the monkey selfie. While visiting Indonesia, UK wildlife photographer David Slater spent several days accustoming a group of crested black macaques to his presence, encouraging them to approach a camera he had preset to snap an in-focus photo. The resulting monkey selfies were an Internet hit, and Slater licensed the images through his agent, Caters News Agency. Slater quickly discovered that the images had been published in Wikimedia’s “free media repository.” Attempts by Slater to have the images removed were dismissed by Wikimedia, who took the position that since the images were not physically taken by Slater, he could not claim copyright ownership.
If the story ended there, Slater would have only experienced a loss in potential licensing revenue – in August 2014, Slater estimated to BBC News that he lost up to 10,000 £ (about $16,800 at that time) in income once the photos appeared on Wikimedia. Some of that income he may have been able to recoup through Wildlife Personalities, a book he self-published through Blurb. However, in 2015 PETA sued Slater on behalf of one of the macaques. The lawsuit claims that Slater and Blurb violated the monkey’s copyright when the selfie was included in his book, and proceeds from the selfies should benefit the monkeys. The Guardian reports that the mounting legal fees have bankrupted the photographer.
PETA’s lawsuit seems to be a stretch. In 2016, a court ruled against PETA on the grounds that an animal cannot be a copyright owner. (In the third edition of its Compendium, the Copyright Office flatly cites “a photograph taken by a monkey” as an example of a work the Office will not register.) PETA appealed that decision to the ninth circuit court, which is hearing the case this summer. As reported in the Guardian, the legal arguments heard in court approached the absurd; the judges questioned what financial benefits would apply to the monkeys, and how the copyright would be passed to their heirs.
The lawsuit has also raised concerns among some animal rights advocates. In 2015 when PETA first brought the lawsuit, the Daily Mail quoted Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor and supporter of animal rights, as saying “it trivializes the terrible problems of needless animal slaughter and avoidable animal exploitation worldwide for lawyers to focus so much energy and ingenuity on whether monkeys own the copyright in selfies taken under these contrived circumstances.” As a self-avowed animal advocate, PETA’s lawsuit was particularly galling to Slater. However, he takes comfort in the fact that the attention to the lawsuit has generated greater awareness of the plight of the macaques and their island habitat.
RIght: David Slater’s book, Wildlife Personalities, features one of the monkey selfies prominently.
Guild Joins Coalition of Visual Artists for Congressional Visits
Posted by Advocacy Liaison on July 24, 2017
On July 20th, the Guild joined members of the Coalition of Visual Artists for productive meetings with Congressional staff on key copyright issues. The meeting is part of the Guild’s ongoing advocacy efforts on copyright reform on behalf of graphic artists. In December 2016, a years-long effort by the House Judiciary Committee on copyright reform culminated in a proposal by Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers. The Coalition issued a response in support of key features of the proposal, specifically greater autonomy for the Copyright Office, modernization of the Office’s IT infrastructure, and the creation of a copyright small claims tribunal. The recent visit sought to provide Congressional staff with a unified voice on behalf of visual artists on these issues.
Guild Advocacy Liaison Rebecca Blake joined staff and legal counsel from American Photographic Artists (APA), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), and Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA). The Coalition’s response to the policy proposal on copyright reform can be read here.
Illustrator and Member Cindy Salans Rosenheim Joins ADAA Judging Panel
Posted by Rebecca Blake on July 14, 2017
Guild member Cindy Salans Rosenheim was asked to join the judging panel for the prestigious Adobe Design Achievements Awards, the international student awards co-produced with ico-D. As an illustrator working primarily in watercolor and pen-and-ink, Rosenheim brings unique traditional skills to the panel of judges. Her work encompasses illustration for fashion and food, loose journalistic on-site sketches, more tightly-rendered editorial and children’s book illustration, and even hand lettering, maps, and calligraphy. Rosenheim joined Guild member Theresa Whitehill of Colored Horse Studios, who is participating on the panel for a second year. (We covered Theresa’s experience on the panel last month.)
A native of San Francisco, Rosenheim has spent most of her career working and raising a family in the Bay Area. She attended college at Tufts University, earning a BA in Art History and French. Upon graduation, she moved to the Midwest, spending two years as a staff artist with Hallmark Cards before moving to Chicago to work in a number of illustration studios. Her side client list reflects her breadth of experience, and includes companies (McKesson, Bain & Co. Inc;), major brands (Charles Schwab, American Girls Brands, Hasbro, Warner Brothers), periodicals (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Harvard Magazine – Harvard University, Natural Health Magazine), and publishing houses (Random House, Macmillan Publishing, Ten Speed Press), among others. You can view her work on her website.
Below: Viana’s Italian garden. © Cindy Salans Rosenheim. Used with permission.
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