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Thread: Comics Cultures

  1. LeeNordling Guest

    Thanks, Ronald, for another brave contribution.

    I'd like to clear up an earlier question/discussion, something that came to mind.

    I'm less concerned about how the rights are distributed right now for Popeye, as much as knowing what the rights were when the property was created...and WHY.

    Remember the second part of the question, folks.

    It's one thing to suggest that a syndicate might own a strip...then that the cartoonist owns the collection of the strip (not something I'm yet going to address), but it's MORE important to explain why you are making the guess that you have.

    Seriously.

    When you learn the reasons, or rationale, it gives you the power to explain your own rationale in any given circumstance, even if it doesn't fit into the zillion sandboxes that currently exist.

    It helps you determine WHY something might be or might not be "fair."

    Want to learn that?

    Good.

    Work for it.

    We're not going further till more of you put some skin in the game like these brave souls, who've earned my eternal respect for being willing to go first.

    As you will for going second, third, fourth, etc.

    But if you don't do the work, if you can't figure out a rationale for what might be true, even if it turns out not to be.... Well, then believing what I say after I say it wouldn't be any different than what you believe now without a reason you've figured out.

    So, let's get to work...because we're barely into this topic, and there's much work ahead.

    --Lee
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 03:09 PM.



  2. Rain Guest

    Hopefully I don't derail Lee's intended flow, as I'm going to touch only on magazines and newspapers, based on my experiences.

    In writing articles for a magazine, not cartoons, they owned the property for two years. If I sought during that period of time to have my work published elsewhere, they had to OK it, take a cut, and get credit in the other publication where it appears.

    Since this was a magazine with other media ties, they were also free to reproduce it on other platforms, such as radio, without paying me any extra.

    But, after the two years had passed, ownership reverted back to me, and it was free game to have the article published wherever I wanted, however I wanted.

    From my conversations with another magazine, it seems their contract is pretty much the same. But perhaps those arrangements are unique rather than the norm -- and don't even pertain to cartoons.

    I also work for a newspaper, and we own the copyright to all original content (not wire copy or syndicated cartoons) that we publish. However, there is one exception -- the works of our local editorial cartoonist.

    In her contract, we are purchasing the rights to first publication, but she retains the copyright. Therefore, the very next day she could have it published in our rival paper with no repercussions; other than her work may not appear in our publication ever again.

    My two cents...or perhaps just one.

    Rain



  3. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by Rain View Post
    Hopefully I don't derail Lee's intended flow, as I'm going to touch only on magazines and newspapers, based on my experiences.

    In writing articles for a magazine, not cartoons, they owned the property for two years. If I sought during that period of time to have my work published elsewhere, they had to OK it, take a cut, and get credit in the other publication where it appears.

    Since this was a magazine with other media ties, they were also free to reproduce it on other platforms, such as radio, without paying me any extra.

    But, after the two years had passed, ownership reverted back to me, and it was free game to have the article published wherever I wanted, however I wanted.

    From my conversations with another magazine, it seems their contract is pretty much the same. But perhaps those arrangements are unique rather than the norm -- and don't even pertain to cartoons.

    I also work for a newspaper, and we own the copyright to all original content (not wire copy or syndicated cartoons) that we publish. However, there is one exception -- the works of our local editorial cartoonist.

    In her contract, we are purchasing the rights to first publication, but she retains the copyright. Therefore, the very next day she could have it published in our rival paper with no repercussions; other than her work may not appear in our publication ever again.

    My two cents...or perhaps just one.

    Rain
    It's an interesting start to addressing the bigger questions, Rain.

    But it's important that you take a stab at the rest of them, based on what you think or know to true, rights-wise.

    Now, I KNOW you know the answer relating to working with a packager, 'cause you and I are doing a bunch o' stuff together.

    I know you know the answer about producing work for education, too, because we did that project together.

    Folks, let me point out something I find ironic:

    I read posts from creators all the time about creator's rights, how work-for-hire sucks for them, how the people doing the work should own the copyright, etc., and most here are reticent to put their pinky toes in the water of offering an opinion.

    I KNOW folks have strong feelings about this topic.

    All I've asked is for you to say what you BELIEVE TO BE or THINK SHOULD BE true about these categories, then explain yourselves.

    Rain, thanks for the thoughts here, and we'll get to my perceptions of your responses later.

    I will offer ONE tip/clue/hint/piece of insight that folks might apply toward answering this question: where did the IP (intellectual property) determination begin, and what was the relationship that the "creator" had with the publisher/distributor?

    Follow-up hint to consider: if that was the relationship that "creators" had with publishers/distributors when the "ownership" determination began, is that the relationship the "creators" have with the publishers/distributors now?

    Follow-up to the follow-up: If the relationships between the "creators" and the publishers/distributors have changed, has the "ownership" situation shifted with that change?

    For example, (though there are many more than one I could offer from different comics categories), IF IF IF a newspaper owned comic strips their cartoonists did for them in 1900, why would they think they owned it? And has the relationship with the cartoonist changed by the year 2000? And if it has changed, how, if at all, has the typical contractual deal shifted?

    I don't care if you don't know what the relationship was that R. F. Outcault (The Yellow Kid) or Rudolph Dirks (The Katzenjammer Kids/Captain and the Kids) had with Pulitzer and Hearst, and that them being hired back and forth changed the shape of comic strip ownership and history.

    What's important is that you express your views and your reasons for them.

    I don't expect them to be grounded in history; I do expect them to be grounded in modern sensibilities of what's perceived as "fair."

    And then we'll discuss the multi-pronged aspects of the concept of "fair," and help you come to a determination based on something beyond the insulated indie comics creator viewpoint.

    So, for those who still have trepidations about where this is going and what kind of traps I might be trying to set, that's it: to uncover your entrenched beliefs and offer some variables that will prepare you for life as a professional.

    Now, let's see some pinky toes in that pool.

    --Lee, who's going to continue pulling teeth, till we reveal all the roots
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 08:09 PM.



  4. Rain Guest

    Book of collected magazine cartoons for trade book publisher.

    No real idea, as I've never given this previous thought. But I seriously doubt a magazine is going to allow a creator to flat-out own collected reproductions of strips they originally published. So...shared?

    Comic strips for syndication.
    Creator?

    Book of collected comic strips for trade book publisher.
    Creator, or possibly shared with the syndicate? I think the syndicate could make an argument for shared; citing they helped the creator develop their fanbase across the country, without which a collected works would not be viable in the market.

    Comic books for Marvel and/or DC titles.
    The comic book company.

    Independent comic book companies with existing titles.
    I'd like this to always be the creator, but assume (yep, know what that does) some independents want ownership. Perhaps this is a case-by-case basis, depending on your name recognition and relationship with the company?

    Licensed comic for direct market publisher.
    Whoever owns the license.

    Your original comic for the direct market.
    Aren't the vast majority of comics published by the big companies owned by those companies, not the creators? Others commenting here are more knowledgeable than me, but I simply can't count this as being "my" straightforward ownership -- even (or perhaps especially) if I come to DC with the undisputed best thing since Watchmen.

    Licensed graphic novel for trade book publisher.
    Whoever owns the license.

    Graphic Novels packaged by third parties for trade book publishing.
    This is going to depend on who generated the IP. If that is the publisher, than the third party contracted to complete the project will NOT have ownership. But if the IP generator is the third party, who then take it to a publisher, wouldn't they have ownership?

    Original graphic novel for trade book publisher.
    Again, I tend to believe this is case-by-case, and contingent on what is important to the creator. If "owning" the property is the creator's utmost concern, the onus is on them to negotiate that in the contract. Nothing, especially ownership of an IP, is a given. On the reverse, getting your name on shelves across the country -- and some nice royalties -- may trump ownership for other creators.

    Original graphic nonfiction for educational book market.
    Similar to my answer on third parties in the trade, it's dependent on who originally crafts the IP. Did the publisher come up with the idea, and contract you to do the work? Or did a creative staff take the educational IP to the publisher? Either way, I believe the person/people that "came up with" the IP should get ownership.



  5. LeeNordling Guest

    Thanks, Rain.

    I suppose your rationale for some carry over to the rationale for others, where you didn't express one.

    If folks simply think Rain and previous thoughts have given answers you believe or think should be true, then copying them down and pasting them in should be a snap.

    "I agree" doesn't count.

    --Lee



  6. LeeNordling Guest

    Let me try these questions another way.

    You've been offered work or somebody bought the feature you created (or developed from another source) at whatever the going rate is for each of these industries:

    Magazine cartoons.
    Book of collected magazine cartoons for trade book publisher.
    Comic strips for syndication.
    Book of collected comic strips for trade book publisher.
    Comic books for Marvel and/or DC titles.
    Independent comic book companies with existing titles.
    Licensed comic for direct market publisher.
    Your original comic for the direct market.
    Licensed graphic novel for trade book publisher.
    Graphic Novels packaged by third parties for trade book publishing.
    Original graphic novel for trade book publisher.
    Original graphic nonfiction for educational book market.

    And the rights situation is: THEY OWN IT, even if you may or may not get royalties or a split of the profits.

    Is this fair? If so or not, why?

    --Lee



  7. Rain Guest

    Fair: urgh, in any of the above situations, probably not.

    As stipulated by your question, I created it. It's mine, MINE! It's not fair that they T-totally own it, and do with it as they please for profit, when I did all the heavy lifting!

    However (and I think this merits being mentioned) what's "fair" varies from person to person, and I can't let "unfair" treatment be a deal breaker. Hell, most people can't let "unfair" get their panties in a wad during everyday life, either.

    If I feel I'm treated unfairly, well, I'll probably go ahead and eat that S**T sandwich, and sign on for the project. I'm not Gaiman, a proven commodity who can take the project elsewhere for guaranteed publication.

    "Fair" in a deal -- or on the full-time job, or marriage, or sports -- would be nice, wonderful, perfect: As things should be!

    Will I bank on it? Personally, no.

    Like my momma always said, "Life ain't fair, so get over it."

    Rain



  8. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by Rain View Post
    Fair: urgh, in any of the above situations, probably not.

    As stipulated by your question, I created it. It's mine, MINE! It's not fair that they T-totally own it, and do with it as they please for profit, when I did all the heavy lifting!

    However (and I think this merits being mentioned) what's "fair" varies from person to person, and I can't let "unfair" treatment be a deal breaker. Hell, most people can't let "unfair" get their panties in a wad during everyday life, either.

    If I feel I'm treated unfairly, well, I'll probably go ahead and eat that S**T sandwich, and sign on for the project. I'm not Gaiman, a proven commodity who can take the project elsewhere for guaranteed publication.

    "Fair" in a deal -- or on the full-time job, or marriage, or sports -- would be nice, wonderful, perfect: As things should be!

    Will I bank on it? Personally, no.

    Like my momma always said, "Life ain't fair, so get over it."

    Rain
    Ah, the entry point into a discussion.

    So, is it fair for a publisher or packager or Marvel or DC to create a property, then have the writer and artist come in and own it?

    Check back to see I stipulated, "offered work or somebody bought the feature you created (or developed from another source)", and in only one of these variables did I write "created."

    So, still think fair is the writer and/or artist should own it all?

    If your answer changes, WHERE is the point at which ownership shifts from one to the other?

    Nice to finally get to this part of the discussion.

    Thanks, Rain.

    --Lee



  9. Cary Guest

    I’ll jump back in here for a bit, because as you say Lee, I do have some fairly strong opinions about creator rights, both then and now. To answer this question:

    “You've been offered work or somebody bought the feature you created (or developed from another source) at whatever the going rate is for each of these industries:

    And the rights situation is: THEY OWN IT, even if you may or may not get royalties or a split of the profits.

    Is this fair? If so or not, why?”


    Fair. I roll that word over and over in my head and want to spit it out on the sidewalk it tastes so bad sometimes. I have days where I think there IS no fair. Other days I consider it wholly eye of the beholder. And then some days the sun shines on this dog’s ass as well, and fair becomes a welcome addition to my day. So knowing all that, I’d say the term “fair” is largely based on the angle you’re looking at it from.

    By way of example...

    I have a friend who’s very talented and prolific as a creator. He’s literally bursting with ideas, and good ones at that. So good in fact that he’s gotten green lights at several of the larger indy companies for projects he’s cold pitched them. Good, right?

    But at the same time he’s also signed contracts that make me want to puke. He’s giving away upwards of 70% of his ownership in these properties based solely on the fact that he’s getting his name out there and obtaining exposure.

    As a friend I’ve talked with him at length about this, because it worries me. As a creator I’ve tried to stay out of it because it makes me sick. But as he’s gone through all this it did force me to evaluate my own views on what I would do were our situations reversed.

    What lengths would I go to get that exposure, to get my “foot in the door”? It’s a tough question. I know a lot of guys that have no limits. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do. But that’s not me.

    I have very specific goals, but I also have lines I refuse to cross to get there. Call me fatally principled, destined to fail, whatever, but for me personally the ends definitely do not justify the means and I’m not willing to sacrifice the very intellectual properties I hold dear on the chance they’ll make me a name and get me noticed. If I have to do that, the notice isn’t worth it. I’d rather succeed or fail on hard work and diligence at my art than by parting out everything I’ve created until I own little or nothing of any of it.

    To actually answer the question at long last, I think it’s fair that the creator owns what they’ve created.

    I think it’s fair that they reap financial benefits from those creations.

    If they sign away the rights to those properties, I think it may still not be fair, if they’ve somehow been held hostage to gain their agreements on a contact taking their rights.

    If at the end of the day a creator feels it’s somehow better for them to give away their IP in trade for some perceived exposure, money, or fame…then as hard as it is for me to say, I have a hard time feeling sorry for them.

    I feel as a creator it’s your one duty above all to know your rights, and hold true to them. if you choose otherwise, then you really can’t complain about what’s fair and what’s not.

    In the case of someone working on a company owned property, they know the score going in, it's work for hire, and they own nothing, nor should they. Simply because I tell a Spider-man story shouldn't mean I own part of Spider-man the character/property.

    Ownership should rest with the creator.



  10. WilliamStormeSmith Guest

    "So, is it fair for a publisher or packager or Marvel or DC to create a property, then have the writer and artist come in and own it?"

    I've often wondered this same thing, and I may be taking the wrong point from this thread. But all's FAIR in love and war. And the artist or writer is usually all about the love and not enough about the war. The sandbox metaphor never gets old, because in every sandbox there is an ideal place to build a castle. It is in the center where the most sand is available, or to put it into a business context the high profile publishers where the money's at.

    If Marvel or DC had the intelligence or leadership of truly forward thinking companies they would consider this prospect. Imagine luring Alan Moore or Stephen King to a project with the proposal of them owning a "Deadman" or a "House of Mystery". Let's get the guys who build the best sand castles in the middle of the sandbox.

    However the pressures of the kitchen are far different than the pressures that are on the restaurant floor, the difficulties of management are different than the difficulties of the managed, and the wants of the creator differ from the wants of the corporation. Thus we get CARY's attitude, which there is nothing wrong with in my opinion, other than I feel he is failing to walk a mile in his enemies shoes.

    It doesn't play to my benefit that a guy who negotiates contracts for a living is a better negotiator than me. But it doesn't make me afraid to negotiate with him. Because I'm always in control of my situation as a CREATOR, i'm the idea machine, an independent corporation of ONE. I can always GO 4 NO. Tell them what you want and worst case scenario they say "NO" followed by a few four letter words. I doubt FAIR will be one of them. Most writers aren't even good enough to get to the table, so until you get there you don't know what you'll do or how you'll react. It's like parachuting, you don't really know if you'll jump till you are at 20,000 feet.

    GO 4 NO. Beg for it unless someone is offering you something worth more than money for example MENTORSHIP or WISDOM, which reminds me to thank Lee Nordling and ProjectFanboy for this column. The corporation wants to be treated fairly as well. They are taking the financial risk and possible harm to their reputation with every failure. Hey people lose jobs in these many sandboxes and can't feed their families for taking the wrong chance on creative properties all the time.

    CARY's point of view is not defeatist, it just leans more on the need for extraordinary talent. I on the other hand. I like to sell and don't care if I'm talented. I only care about people reading my ideas and then seeing how they measure up in the marketplace, but then again that's my politics. David McCullough has more stories in his head than he can write in his lifetime. I feel the same. Money is easy, i know I can make money. But can i make something MEMORABLE. That is what I want to know.

    So I believe ownership should rest with whoever negotiated for it. FAIR is always negotiable depending on what it's worth to the negotiators. That doesn't mean someone ten years down the line may not see it differently than the day they signed the deal. Jeff Smith and Dave Sim have done alright for themselves going Cary's route. It is just not for me.
    Last edited by WilliamStormeSmith; Friday, February 12, 2010 at 02:17 AM.



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