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Guild Attends Icograda General Assembly 25

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 20, 2013

The Guild attended the Icograda General Assembly 25 from November 16-18. Icograda, the International Council of Communication Design, is a global organization representing the interests of design associations and educational institutions. As a Professional Member of Icograda, the Guild and other organizations were invited to present on the challenges facing our members, and on how we hope Icograda can help us achieve our goals. We described the Guild's activities within the United States on copyright and advocacy issues, and iterated our desire for a dialogue on speculative practices with similar organizations from around the world. We also expressed our desire for action with like-minded organizations via an Icograda platform on speculative practices. Following is the text of our presentation to Icograda.


Among the many excellent professional organizations in the United States, the Graphic Artist Guild is unique, in that we are a labor organization of predominantly freelancers. We represent a broad range of creative professionals, from illustrators to designers across several disciplines.

Our primary focus, as expressed in our mission statement, is to promote and protect the social, economic and professional interests of our members, and to improve conditions for all graphic artists at all skill levels. Our union status permits us to be active in advocacy work unhampered by limitations imposed by US law on traditional non-profit and professional organizations. This is a crucial distinction; we engage in lobbying in the US Congress to influence proposed legislation to the benefit of creative professionals. We also work closely with the Copyright Office in providing the perspective of our members. This past year, we testified before the Office on the difficulty of copyright holders’ ability to bring small copyright claims of $30,000 or less to court.

We work closely with other US based organizations, such as the American Society of Media Photographers in addressing copyright, legislative, and legal issues. For example, this summer we joined ASMP in protesting Instagram’s terms of use, which effectively strip copyright protection and permit Instragram to sublicense the images of their participants. Finally, we draft amicus briefs for court cases which will impact copyright law.

We are also members of IFFRO, the Authors Coalition, the Copyright Society of the USA, the Copyright Alliance, and recently became founding members of the International Authors Group. On the member level, we work to educate creative professionals on responsible business practices, copyright and intellectual property issues, and conducting professional relationships.

The challenges we’re facing are a reflection in how the methods of communication and business models for creatives have evolved. There is an overall erosion in the understanding of the value of copyright protection among society as a whole; business models which require creatives to work on speculation for the lowest fees possible are becoming the norm; and we’re seeing an alarming number of creatives who either do not understand or do not implement basic business practices (such copyright protection, responsible pricing, and appropriate licensing terms), undermining the industry as a whole.

Participation in Icograda is crucial for us in achieving our mission in a meaningful way. Although our organizational structure means that we are active within the United States, we need to be adaptive to the changes in the global economy and in how our colleagues across the world conduct their business. This includes engaging in an ongoing dialogue with professional organizations and institutions from other continents. For example, business models which hurt US designers may in fact benefit designers in another part of the world. In responding effectively on behalf of our members, we need to understand how the same practice can have very different impacts. This will educate us in formulating better and more forward-thinking policies for our stakeholders.

What we would like to see the most from our involvement with Icograda is an ongoing dialogue with like-minded organizations through out the two years between General Assemblies. We’re particularly interested in seeing a Speculative Practices committee activated which will provide a forum for collaborative discussion and action.

What we hope to achieve in our participation in Icograda is a balanced approach to protecting the interests and integrity of all our stakeholders, returning to creators the right to control and prosper from their work.

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