DesignCensus: Respond to AIGA’s Comprehensive Survey of the Design Sector by December 16
Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 30, 2016
Google and AIGA have collaborated on Design Census, a survey to map the educational level, lifestyle, and work habits of designers around the world. International design organizations ico-D, iDSA, and IxDA are supporting partners, as well as SEGD and the National Endowment of the Arts (among others) in the US. The survey is an extension of AIGA’s design survey, and was devised to understand “the complex economic, social, and cultural factors shaping the design practice today.” The survey will be open from December 1-16, and preliminary results will be published shortly afterwards. Designers are encouraged to respond by December 16.
In an attempt to ensure respondents take the survey only once, survey takers must log in with either a Twitter, Google, or AIGA account (all of which are one-way encrypted). The survey responses, though, are entirely anonymous. As a way to encourage engagement with the survey, AIGA is encouraging people to respond to the survey results by creating any content – website, image, poster, animation – which expresses their website, and post it with #designcensus2016.
Illustrator and Lawyer Collaborate on Law & Artist Videos to Inform Graphic Artists
Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 08, 2016
In a bi-coastal collaboration that benefits artists, illustrator Mark Monlux (Seattle) and attorney Daniel Abraham (New York) have been producing Law & Artist, a library of videos on legal issues of interest to illustrators and designers. The videos are short, ranging from three to 12 minutes in length. Notably, they tackle some thornier areas of confusion, or bring to light considerations which are often overlooked. The information is peppered with examples pulled from case law.
For example, in an episode on derivative art, Monlux and Abraham use Shephard Fairey’s copyright infringement in his HOPE image as an object lesson. A two-part series on fair use goes into greater detail on parody and satire, and which is permitted under fair use. (News flash: parody and satire are NOT synonymous.) And an episode on attorneys’ fees delves into how those can be leveraged into any settlement an artist might get in a lawsuit. Monlux and Abraham consistently add to the series, permitting them to delve into the finer details on a number of thornier issues for artists.
Monlux and Abraham are a well-qualified team to advise artists. Mark Monlux is a cartoonist and illustrator, as well as an artist advocate. For many years, he served on the Guild’s national board, and he’s produced articles, videos, and animations educating designers and illustrators on legal issues. Daniel Abraham began his professional life as a professional illustrator before studying law. As a copyright attorney, he primarily represents creators. He publishes the blog Legal Easel, and has run seminars for the Graphic Artists Guild of New York.
Below: Off to a good start! The first installation in Law & Artist cautions visual artists to get the terms of their agreements in writing.
Relief for NYC Visual Artists: Freelance Isn’t Free Act Passes Unanimously
Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 31, 2016
On October 27th, the New York City Council unanimously passed groundbreaking legislation supporting freelancers: the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act.” Introduced by Councilman Brad Lander last December, the act redresses the growing trend of non- or late payment experienced by 71% of New York City freelancers, according to a survey conducted by the Freelancers Union. The bill requires employers to make payment within 30 days after a freelancer renders a bill, and gives freelancers recourse through the Department of Consumer Affairs or through small claims court to enforce their rights.
Below: Councilman Lander’s jubilant tweet:
Thrilled to report: "Freelance Isn't Free Act" to protect independent contractors from wage theft just unanimously passed out of committee! pic.twitter.com/jiKL7fNCp4— Brad Lander (@bradlander) October 26, 2016
Non-payment is a huge issue for freelancers nationwide, as documented by the Freelancers Union. In a nation-wide survey of over 5,000 freelancers conducted by the Union in July of 2015, 71% of respondents reported that they’ve had difficulty collecting payment over the course of their careers, and 50% of respondents said they’d encountered that within the previous year. Of those reporting difficulty in collecting payment, 34% were never paid. The survey results indicated that annually freelancers lose about $6,000 from nonpayment, and experience late payment on an average amount of $5,743. That’s a steep financial burden for most freelancers.
The act redresses non- and late payment of New York City freelancers by several means:
• Clients (not freelancers) are required to issue a contract for any freelance work that will total $800 or more over a 3-month period;
• Payment must be made within 30 days after serviced or rendered, or within an agreed-upon date;
• Clients cannot press freelancers to accept a lower fee in exchange for timely payment;
• Freelancers can file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs, or bring a court action against deadbeat clients;
• If the court rules in the freelancer’s favor, the client may have to pay legal fees and fines up to double the owed amount; and
• Repeat violators may be fined by the city up to $25,000.
For the act to be written into law, it must be signed by Mayor Bill DiBlasio. However, indications are that will happen, and support for the bill is widespread, as evinced by the unanimous vote. NYC Public Advocate Letitia James is a vocal supporter of the bill, which she and 32 City Council members co-sponsored. The Gothamist also reported that in an email communication, City Hall spokesperson Rosemary Boeglin indicated support for “laws that protect all New York City workers.”
In addition to conducting the payment survey, the Freelancers Union ran an extensive campaign to publicize and promote the act. Union founder Sara Horowitz co-wrote an op-ed on the issue with Brad Lander, the Union marshaled freelancers to rally at City Hall, and Union members testified before the city council. The Freelancers Union also ran an online petition supporting the act, published freelancer payment horror stories, and posted “The World’s Longest Invoice,” a running tally of the amount owed to freelancers.
Now that the act is practically a reality, the Union isn’t done. They’d like to take the initiative national, encouraging freelancers to propose similar legislation in their municipalities. They’ve kept up their petition to “Bring the Freelance Isn’t Free Act to your city.” So far almost 10,000 freelancers have signed it. The Graphic Artists Guild was proud to back the Freelance Isn’t Free act in New York City. We hope to have the opportunity to do so elsewhere.
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.
National Design Policies: Why They Matter
Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 06, 2016
For the past year, I've headed a workgroup with ico-D (the International Council of Design) on national design policies. The choice of a Graphic Artists Guild board member to head the workgroup seemed odd; the United States, despite a recent effort, has never had (and probably never will have) a national design policy. So why would a USA-based visual artists’ association care whether national design policies are implemented in other countries?
A national design policy is a systemic and strategic government plan to support its design sector, develop design resources, and utilize those resources to achieve various ends. A design policy can attempt to develop a national brand, increase the global economic competitiveness of a country’s exports, raise design education standards, encourage small and medium-sized businesses to invest in design, leverage design thinking to find sustainable solutions to public sector problems, etc. Countries at different levels of economic development have invested in national design policies – South Korea, India, Finland, and Singapore, among others, have national design policies in place, and policies are currently being developed in Malaysia, Indonesia, Iceland, and Australia.
In the United States, design anthropologist Dori Tunstall attempted to jump-start a national design policy initiative in 2008. A two-day conference of representatives from design associations, educational accreditation bodies, and government agencies resulted in a 10 national design proposals, which were presented to the incoming Obama administration and Congress. Despite a second conference and calls to designers to press their Congressional representatives to support the initiative, no national design policy resulted from the effort.
The reasons are myriad, but tellingly, designers considered the initiative with trepidation. Remarks submitted by designers on the project indicated that many thought a policy would consist of government telling them what to do, a reflection of the US’s culture of public mistrust of a strong central government. (Tunstall doesn’t consider the initiative a failure, since many of the proposals were adopted in part by government agencies, such as NEA’s comprehensive survey of the contribution of the arts, including design, to the US economy. The initiative also deepened ties between agencies and the design sector.)
So, if a national design policy is highly unlikely to ever be adopted in the United States, why should US designers care about national design policies? While design policies do support national designers, making them more competitive internationally, design policies also promote best practices. These include establishing professional design standards, providing resources to educate designers on non-design skills (such as running a business or communicating with clients), and promoting the protection of intellectual property.
The result is a population of designers who are less likely to infringe copyrights or respond to work on speculation projects. Additionally, by promoting best practices, a government discourages ethically questionable business practices, such as design crowdsourcing campaigns. This is particularly important in emerging economies, where the recognition of design as a profession is relatively new, and intellectual property rights are not often generally understood or recognized. The ripple effect of educating a nation’s generation of designers and business owners reaches beyond borders, and benefits all designers (and visual artists, in general).
Below: The SEE Platform (Sharing Experience Europe) tracked design policies globally from 2012-2015, and published an interactive map showing countries which either adopted a national design policy, or were working a design policy initiative.
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