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Communication Design

An Open Letter to Political Candidates on Copyright

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 03, 2016

Copyright Alliance logoThe Copyright Alliance has published an open letter to the 2016 political candidates, advocating for a strong copyright system and a safe and secure Internet. The letter asserts that strong copyrights protect free speech by “...preserv[ing] the value and integrity of what one creates,” and that protecting copyright is complementary to Internet freedom. The letter also warns that entities claiming to be pro-creator are funded by online platforms and have worked to block efforts to protect creative content from infringement and piracy.

The letter stresses that stronger copyright protection is a non-partisan issue: “The creative community stands united in support of a copyright system that will continue to make the United States the global leader in the creative arts and the global paradigm for free expression.” Individual creators are encouraged to show their support for the letter by signing a petition on the Copyright Alliance's website.

© Watermark: A Tool to Protect Your Work Under the DMCA

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 29, 2016

Think putting a watermark with your name and copyright symbol detracts from your illustration? You may want to reconsider doing without it. In “CMI and the DMCA,” attorney Leslie Burns explains how including such information, called Copyright Management Information, gives you an additional, powerful tool to protect your copyrights online.

“Copyright Management Information” is defined by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act as “information conveyed in connection with” copies, displays, phonorecords, or performances of a work. The information is broadly defined, and can include the name of the work, the name of the author or copyright holder, identifying numbers or symbols, etc. That means a simple “© 2016 Your Name” inserted into the corner of your illustration or design qualifies as CMI.

As Burns elucidates, including your watermark on your image confers two tools you can use in addressing infringement. First, according to the DMCA, if an infringer removes your © watermark and reposts your image, the infringer has committed one to two violations of the law – each carrying statutory damages of at least $2,500 – whether or not you registered the work. Additionally, the removal of your watermark shows that the infringement was willful. That means if you did register your work, the statutory damages could go up to $150,000. (The minimum stays at $750.) It goes without saying that you should register the copyrights on any work you publish online!

Burns states that the notice needn’t be large – just legible – and recommends that the notice include the copyright symbol ©, the year of publication, and your name. She also points out that including the CMI increases the chance for damages to be awarded  – which would make a lawyer far more inclined to take the case on a contingency basis.

Leslie Burns is a California-based lawyer specializing in copyrights, contracts, and business law. Her background makes her a unique advocate for visual artists – for years, she was the studio and marketing manager for photo illustrator Stephen Webster. Her articles are both entertaining and informative; her article “More Monkey Business” (published on her Burns Auto Parts blog) was one of the most amusing takes on the monkey selfie dispute in 2014.

Below: Burns' copyright notice on her photograph (snapped while in law school) isn't large, but clearly imparts her information. (Used with permission.)

Life as a Law Student, photo © Leslie Burns

HOW Design Live: A Fun Pricing Game, and a Memorable Conference

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 07, 2016

The Guild was invited to participate at HOW Design Live this past May, and decided to contribute a live version of our Pricing Game. For years, the Pricing Game has been one of our most popular webinars. Its advent was as a live event, created by the Boston Chapter of the Guild about 25 years ago, and continued annually by the New York Chapter for many years. (For the uninitiated, during the Game, the audience reviews the specs for actual design projects, and “bids” on what they would charge. Afterwards, the actual estimated and invoiced prices are revealed, and the designer’s pricing techniques are discussed.) While the format works as a webinar, the opportunity to bring it back live, with audience participation, was exciting.

For the HOW Design Live (HDL) Pricing Game, we solicited the work from three Guild members, all designers: Todd LeMieux (who is also our New England rep), Jonnie Bailey, and Peiro Salardi. Each contributed a beautiful piece of design – logo, brochure, and logo plus packaging, respectively – and more importantly, each had followed best practices in pricing and managing the project. The result was that the HDL Pricing Game attendees were treated to examples of beautiful work, as well as valuable insight into how competent professional designers conduct their business. The event was well received, in large part because the audience was so engaged in debating and defending their prices. A highlight was the heated (but polite) debate between “Mr. $500” and “Mr. $35,000”, who contested what the correct price for LeMieux’s logo design should be. (One was an independent designer working out of a small town, and the other worked in-house for a large branding agency – hence the huge pricing disrepency.)

Below: Last minute prep (and hyperventilating) before the presentation on Sunday.

HOW Design Live Pricing Game presentationHOW Design Live room sign

Overall, HOW Design Live was an inspiring conference. Presentations were organized into concurrent morning and afternoon sessions, with morning, noon, and evening keynote addresses. The organizers covered a wide base of topics, from very practical advice (such as our Pricing Game), to diversity, to entrepreneurial advice, to the purely creative and inspirational. The conference drew well-known speakers, such as Stefan Sagmeister, Chip Kidd, and Debbie Millman. Many of the presentations were memorable and unique, such as James Victore urging designers to celebrate their weirdness, Ellen Luna advising to let go of the “shoulds,” and Frederick Ost and Magnus Berg punctuating their gleefully obscene talk with live rock-and-roll.  

The unexpected bonus to HDL was connecting (and reconnecting) with other artist advocates. Highlights were a discussion with attorney Katie Lane on how we can educate better on intellectual property, and the evening spent catching up with art licensor J’net. Those discussions, and the interactions with HDL participants – during coaching sessions, or answering questions after the Pricing Game, or connecting with the local AIGA chapter – made HDL a truly wonderful experience.

Below: With slides like this, no wonder James Victore’s keynote address was wildly popular.

James Victore at HOW Design Live

World Design Summit – Montréal 2017: Call for Speakers

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 20, 2016

The organizers of the World Design Summit – Montréal 2017 have an ambitious vision: to bring together designers across all disciplines with government representatives, industry business leaders, NGOs, and the media to address how design can shape the future. The event will be a 10-day affair taking place in October, and will tackle issues such as environmental sustainability, societal pressures, and political instability. The program is summarized as, “More than a mere celebration of design, the summit will demonstrate the tremendous power of design to create viable solutions to global social, economic, cultural and environmental challenges.”

To that end, the Summit organizers have issued a call for speaker proposals. Practitioners of all design disciplines – architectural, landscape, graphic, communication, experiential, user interface, industrial, interior, etc. – and stakeholders are invited to submit proposals. Interested parties are encouraged to address the major themes of the summit: Design for Participation (participation in the political process and public discourse), Design for Earth (environmental sustainability), Design for Beauty (promoting well being), Design for Sale (commodities created with the greater good in mind), Design for Transformation (responding to environmental and societal changes), and Design for Extremes (supporting sociological, economic, and political migrations). Speaker proposals are due July 29th, and should include a 500-word abstract, 40-word summary, and five key words.

The Summit agenda will include an accredited conference for students, professionals, and stakeholders; a summit of over 50 organizations; a festival taking place in over 30 locations around Montreal, and an exhibit of design-related products and services. The Summit of organizations will seek to produce a joint declaration of intent and proposal for the design community to effect positive change (social, economic, and environmental) through multidisciplinary means.  The Summit founding partners are ico-D (International Council of Design), IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects), and IFHP (International Federation of Housing Planning), with support from the governments of Canada, Quebec, and Montreal.

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

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