Illustrator Cory Kerr Makes the Case for Using a Contract
Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 11, 2016
“Good clients come from good relationships. Good relationships come from managing and meeting expectations. Expectations start at contracts.” This is how illustrator Cory Kerr begins his podcast, “Contracts and the Apocalypse.” The 11-minute video is directed to illustrators who are new to the business side of illustration, or who are uncomfortable with using contracts.
At the outset, Kerr allays fears that using contracts will scare away good business. In fact, Kerr warns that clients who are unwilling to sign a contract may be trying to evade paying the illustrator. Kerr also addresses the discomfort illustrators have in assigning a value to their work: “Value in exchange for value is how business works. And even if you're an artist or musician or some sort of creative, just because that seems more fun doesn't mean [you’re] not providing value and it doesn't mean it's not a business transaction.” Kerr stresses that exposure – creating work for free in exchange for publicity – is rarely a value-for-value exchange since, as he points out, clients rarely can offer the kind of exposure that would reward the illustrator adequately.
Kerr makes arguments for why illustrators should use contracts, and provides a quick overview of what contracts should establish: price, deliverables, payment schedule, and kill fee. Kerr also gives a huge plug for our Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. (One clarification on Kerr’s presentation: the Handbook includes pricing tables created from pricing information provided by artists nationwide. These do not represent pricing the Guild recommends that artists charge, but rather, provide guidelines on what artists’ peers are charging.) The Handbook includes a full complement of sample contracts for a number of disciplines, and can be purchased either in print or, as a three-volume set, in eBook format.
Kerr has enhanced his podcast with a mesmerizing video of him working on a motorcycle-themed illustration, The Four Horseman. It’s an incongruous but delightful touch that somehow works in engaging the viewers’ attention, while not detracting from Kerr’s soliloquy.
Video © Cory Kerr. Used with permission.
The Power of the © Notice
Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 15, 2016
In June, we reported on attorney Leslie Burns’ article on CMI: copyright management information. Burns advised visual artists to put a visible copyright notice on work they post online, since doing so provides the artists with additional tools to bring to bear, should the work be infringed. In her follow-up article, “Your © is More Than CMI,” Burns goes into greater detail on how to effectively use the copyright notice, and why doing so is such a good practice.
First, Burns explains that the copyright notice must include the copyright symbol, the date of publication, and the copyright owner’s name. (For those confused on what the date of publication is, she goes into a bit of detail.) She then explains that if an infringer uses a work that had a copyright notice removed, the infringer can’t claim “innocent infringement” – even if the infringer got the artwork from another source, and had no idea that a copyright notice had been removed. Burns cites two copyright cases that support this rule: BMG Music v. Gonzalez and Maverick Recording v. Harper.
Infringers who have used works from which the copyright notice of watermark was removed have violated §1202 of the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). Burns calculates that the infringer could be looking at a minimum of $3,250 in damages ($750 for the infringement, and $2,500 for the DMCA violation), and possibly attorney’s fees.
Of course, none of this will apply if the visual artist hasn’t first registered his or her work with the copyright office. Remember, a work must be registered before an artist can sue for copyright infringement.While an artist can register work after detecting that it's been infringed, damages are limited if the work is registered after the infringement occurs. WIth a background in business and marketing management for a photography studio and a design firm, Burns is huge advocate for visual artists. Her website, Burns the Attorney, features a steady stream of articles on legal issues creative types need to be on top of.
AIGA’s “Get Out the Vote” Poster Campaign 2016 Resonates
Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 29, 2016
In every election year since 2004, AIGA has conducted a "Get Out the Vote" poster campaign. The campaign solicits designs from AIGA members for posters urging citizens to vote. The posters are then made available to the public for free download and printing under a Creative Commons license. None of the submissions reference a political party or candidate, and AIGA’s submission guidelines stipulate that the posters must be non-partisan. In a fraught election year characterized by negative campaign messages, the belief in “the power of design to motivate the American public to register and turn out to vote” is heartening.
The submitted posters cover a wide range of messages, styles, and imagery. Several designers equated non-voters with sheep, while others illustrated American theater critic George Jean Nathan’s quote, "Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote." While the designs adhere to AIGA's non-partisan standard, some recurring themes do reference this year’s election campaigns. A number of the designs mention women's suffrage, or the 96th anniversary of women's right to vote — no doubt inspired by the first woman nominee of a major political party. Other posters play off reports of the increase in Americans Googling "move to Canada" after Trump won the Republican nomination. A number of design luminaries, such as Milton Glaser and Debbie Millman, have contributed their own creations.
The “Get Out the Vote” campaign is conducted by AIGA in partnership with the League of Women Voters. The project falls under AIGA's Design for Democracy initiative, which strives to use design tools to make interactions between government and citizens more transparent and trustworthy. AIGA designers are invited to submit designs through November 8, and a curated exhibit of the posters will be presented during AIGA's annual conference this October. Members of the public are encouraged to download, print, and display the posters.
An Open Letter to Political Candidates on Copyright
Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 03, 2016
The 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.)
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