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Guild joins Amicus Brief in Support of Comic Creators & Artist

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 11, 2014

Seal of the Supreme CourtOn July 22, the Graphic Artists Guild joined the National Writers Union (NWU), the  Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in signing on to an amicus brief on behalf of the heirs of the creators of  “Superman,” Siegel and Shuster, and Jack Kirby, an early Marvel Comics artist. The brief supports the rights of both families to sue DC Comics and its parent company, Warner Brothers, and Marvel, respectively, to recover the original copyrights to the work of Siegel and Shuster, and of Kirby. The families of Siegel and Shuster, and of Kirby, are seeking to have the US Supreme Court hear their appeals of two Circuit Court decisions which rejected their attempts to regain the copyrights.  
 
Siegel and Shuster, the co-creators of the Superman series, originally signed away their rights to the character in 1938. Their heirs unsuccessfully sought to terminate DC Comic's copyrights to the work by issuing statutory notices of termination in 1997 and 2002. In 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court stripped Shuster's heirs of termination rights, a ruling that according to NWU ignores the Supreme Court's opinion in the landmark case NY Times v Tasini (2001), which ruled that termination rights are inalienable. Kirby's heirs sought to terminate Marvel’s copyrights to his artwork, a move which Marvel countered in 2010 by suing the Kirby family for declaratory relief that Kirby's work fell under the work for hire exception to the Copyright Act. The judge hearing the case ruled in favor of Marvel, and the ruling was affirmed by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013.
 
While the Supreme Court has not yet stated that the petition will be reviewed, indications are good. Marvel initially refused to respond to the petition, but was asked by the justices on May 14 to file a response. The petition has been distributed to the justices for conference on September 29. A ruling by the Supreme Court in favor of the heirs to Siegel, Shuster, and Kirby would have wide implications on the interpretation of the copyrights of independent contractors and creators.

 

For clarification on “all rights,” “termination of rights,” and “work for hire,” visit our Contract Glossary.

Guild Member Ed Shems Testifies on Copyrights and First Sale

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 17, 2014

Guild member Ed Shems represented the Graphic Artists Guild, the Copyright Alliance, and concerns of individual artists at a hearing in front of House Judiciary Committee members on June 2. Shems spoke on the impact proposed changes to copyright law regarding the first sale doctrine could have on artists. The proposed changes would expand the doctrine of first sale, permitting licensed digital materials to be resold by the purchaser.

In the past, the doctrine of first sale has had little relevance to artists, who have been able to control the copyrights to their work through licensing agreements. The doctrine permitted the reselling of tangible materials, such as books or CDs, but had no impact on licensed creations. The proposed changes to the first sale doctrine would permit digital materials to be resold as if they were tangible goods. As Shems testified, "There is no such thing as a ‘used book’ in the digital world.... every digital book sold under the first sale doctrine would compete directly with my client's sales – this means my clients will have fewer sales, and fewer resources to devote to illustrate or design their works. As a result I would have fewer clients and we might see a decline in the industry in which I make my living."

Additionally, Shems noted that the proposed changes would make it difficult to police infringement of his artwork: "As a creative professional and small business owner, I am able to choose which clients I will work with. Under an extension of the first sale doctrine, where copies of my work could be digitally sold to others I don't know or work with, that right would be taken away from me." Finally, Shems pointed out that the expansion of the first sale doctrine to cover licensed-based transactions would force creators to raise their fees to cover all rights to their work, rather than negotiate limited rights tailored for each client's needs and budget, and would create a de facto work-for-hire arrangement.

Shems’ full remarks to House Judiciary members can be read here. Shems will also take part in the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) roundtable on First Sale Doctrine on June 25 at Harvard University in Boston. The USPTO has scheduled a series of roundtables and discussions on copyright and intellectual property issues throughout the summer. The full schedule of talks has been posted on our website. The general public can attend the events in person or via webcast.

Below: Ed Shems, Guild Advocacy Chair Lisa Shaftel, and Sandra Aistars from the Copyright Alliance after testifying. Used with permission.

Ed Shems, Guild Advocacy Chair Lisa Shaftel, and Sandra Aistars from the Copyright Alliance.

Happy World Communication Design Day, and Happy Birthday Icograda!

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 28, 2014

Break out the cake. April 27 marked both World Communication Design Day, and Icograda’s 51st birthday. The organization marked the anniversary by soliciting graphics on “What a Designer Does,” and posting them on the event’s Facebook page. The submissions – from around the globe – speak to designers’ ability to create, connect, problem solve, amuse, and envision. For long-time members, perhaps the most moving submission was by former president Robert L. Peters. He incorporated text on a black-and-white photo of Guy Schockaert, the visionary former president and long-time supporter of Icograda who passed away last year. The French text translates to “Competition stimulates, cooperation reinforces, and solidarity unites” – a fitting tribute to the organization’s goals.

Copyright Forums and Roundtables

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 24, 2014

US Department of Commerce logoThe Copyright Alliance notified us that the Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF), a working group within the U.S. Department of Commerce, has scheduled a number of roundtables on copyright issues. In following up on their Green Paper on copyright issues in the digital economy, the IPTF is soliciting input from artists and creators on their concerns.

On May 8, the IPTF is holding a second public meeting in Berkely, California, on online piracy. This meeting will specifically solicit feedback on problems creators face in handling online piracy as a result of the lack of standardization in the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) takedown process. The IPTF will be publicizing the agenda and webcast information for the meeting in early May.

Roundtables on a variety of copyright issues, including remixes, statutory damages, and first sale doctrine have been scheduled:
May 21: Vanderbilt University Law School, Nashville, TN
June 25: Harvard University Law School, Cambridge, MA
July 29: Los Angeles, CA (location to be determined)
July 30: Bancroft Hotel, Berkeley, CA

More information on the roundtables is available on the Department of Commerce's website. Interested participants can register online for in-person or webcast attendance.

Copyright Office Announces New Fee Schedule for Online Registration

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 26, 2014

Copyright Office logoThe Copyright Office has announced a new fee schedule for the online registration of works. Starting May 1st, standard online registrations will be raised from $35 to $55. However, the office is introducing a new streamlined option for single works by single authors, which have not been made for hire. (For a definition of Work for Hire, check our Contract Glossary.) The Single application process will only cost $35.

Upon registering their work, registrants will be asked a series of three questions which will determine whether they should use the Standard or the Single application process. Note that websites may not be registered with the streamlined option. Other categories of work which are excluded are: collective works, unpublished collections, units of publication, group registration options, databases, works by more than one author, and works with more than one owner.

Here’s the full text of the Copyright Office notice:

Copyright Office Announces New Fee Schedule; First Since 2009

The U.S. Copyright Office is announcing a new fee schedule covering registration, recordation, and related services; special services; Licensing Division services; and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) services. These fees will take effect on May 1, 2014. The final rule establishing the new fee schedule was published in the Federal Register today and is available at www.copyright.gov/fedreg/2014/79fr15910.pdf.

This new fee schedule is the product of a multiyear process of studying current Copyright Office fees, evaluating the Office’s budget requirements, and considering public comments. While a number of fees, including the fee for standard registrations, have increased to permit the Office to more fully recoup its expenses, some fees have decreased and others remain the same. The Office has also instituted a separate, lower fee for single-author, single-work registration claims. For more information, go to http://www.copyright.gov/docs/newfees.

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