Monday, July 10, 2006

Monday Mornin' Moanings & Mopin'!

Hey, y'all, follow up on yesterday's post (and comments -- read those, too, before you dive into the following, please!):

* Thankfully, Stan at the Alan Moore site and I are working this out, which is always my preference in every case. Stan wrote a very polite response back to me, and removed the complete Comic Book Rebels Alan Moore interview from the site. This morning I replied:

Hello, Stan --

Thanks for writing, and for acting on my request.

I'd welcome an excerpt being run -- let me know what portion (preferably, no more than 1/3-1/2) you'd like to run, and I'll contact Stanley directly.

If you'd be willing to provide links to our respective sites/blogs on that page, too, that would be greatly appreciated.

I await your reply, many thanks --

Stephen Bissette

So, it's going well. I'll keep you all posted.

Bottom line: Heck, Stanley Wiater and I might have plans for some of those Comic Book Rebels interview ourselves. It's our property; you've gotta ask before you appropriate an entire Comic Book Rebels interview for online publication or use.

I went through a similar situation prior to the first publication of Comic Book Rebels (via the late Donald I. Fine, NYC independent book publisher) back in '93. A portion of my Dave Sim interview had been prepared and published (with Dave's knowledge/permission) in David Kraft's Comics Interview magazine the previous year, as Stanley and I were working on the book. This served multiple purposes: I'd been interviewed for, and done other interviews for Comics Interview (e.g., Peter Laird and the Mirage studio artists, etc.), and David K. and Dave S. wanted to pull together a Cerebus issue. Since Dave S. knew I'd be interviewing him for CBR anyhoot, he suggested to David K. I do the interview for Comics Interview, too -- easy pie. This took care of Sim, Kraft and one of our planned key CBR interviews, so everyone was happy.

Unfortunately, the following year, soliciting for the very month Comic Book Rebels was hitting bookstores, David K. announced a reprint edition of my interview with Dave Sim for a Comics Interview Cerebus Special. Now, David K. never had any contracts or written agreements of any sort for anything I did for Comics Interview, and the fact of the matter was the contract Stanley Wiater and I had with Donald I. Fine had certain provisions that made the announced solicitation featuring my Dave Sim interview problematic (I had informed our editor of the interview excerpt appearing the prior year, which was no problem -- but a non-promotional reprint the very month of CBR's release would be an issue). David K. had not contacted me beforehand -- if he had, if only to ask permission, I likely could have arranged for a CBR ad or notice or something to be placed in the CI Cerebus Special, making the reprint at least a promotional opportunity -- and the first I knew of his reprint plans was via the Diamond solicitation.

I immediately contacted David K. by phone, and he -- went ballistic. He made some wild claims (including owning copyright -- quite contrary to our prior discussions, and sans contract, his claims meant zero) and accusations ("Have you no honor??") and was mighty pissed off, but in the end he bitterly complied (and cut off my comp Comics Interview sub, which was the only form of barter/payment I was ever offered in any case).

This is part and parcel of owning copyright to your own work (and in the case of interviews, it is indeed the interviewer who owns the interview; I cannot, for instance, reprint interviews others have conducted with me as the subject on my own site, sans permission; when Rick Veitch and I used 1993 interviews with all the 1963 creators on our respective sites, we requested permission to do so from the writer who'd interviewed us). You have to protect your ownership when you see it being abused or appropriated. Trademarks require even more vigilence: you protect them or you lose them, pure and simple. Back in 1999, my dear friend Jean-Marc Lofficier alerted me to an proposed business venture using SpiderBaby Grafix as their moniker; I've dealt with a number of Taboo uses, too. In all cases, we settled the matter amicably and off the radar. It's never pleasant, making the initial contact and having to press the other party at first, but really, it's part of the job description.

Being courteous, polite, and diplomatic in all possible cases is the best policy -- after all, back in 1952 it was Ray Bradbury's polite letter to EC publisher William Gaines about their appropriation of some of his stories for their unauthorized "adaptations" that led to Gaines wisely responding with a check, an apology, and an invite to initiate authorized adaptations. This was the first time a living author had worked with a comics publisher on authorized adaptations of his work, and the rest is history (and common practice in today's industry, right to the graphic novel explosion of today).

Sometimes -- thankfully, quite rarely -- one has to move beyond diplomacy, and may even have to use legal muscle. Thankfully, that's indeed rare.

Marty Langford asked what I'd do if he posted art from my blog/site on his own for promotional and linking purposes -- well, Marty, I'm with Mark Martin (see his comment, replying to your comment) on this one. If you're posting my art from here, with credit (and hopefully copyright notice), and doing so to (a) discuss, (b) promote, (c) acknowledge my work, or some element relevant to the work, or best of all (d) to educate, that's "fair use" in my book, Marty.

You'll note, on this blog and on my site (coming up!), I apply "fair use" legal principles myself. I will be excerpting art, iamges, panels, covers etc. from works under discussion -- whenever possible, I will request permission first (I did discuss, with Lance Weiler, my using this blog to discuss/promote Head Trauma, and he enthusiastically said "sure!"). Sometimes, I post images (this past week, I posted The Mudge Boy images sans permission, but in context of endorsing the film itself and its DVD release, along with Michael Burke's work in general) and/or text sans permission, but (unless I don't know where something came from) with links to the source material and clear acknowledgement of same. If I'm asked to remove content, I do and have.

There are certain materials I will blithely post: public domain material (including old pressbook ads, which are both public domain and "fair use," as those materials were rarely copyright-protected), "fair use" (with acknowledgement of source/owner) of images/components/panels of larger works, etc. But I'm careful and do my best not to rip off anyone. I posted Mark Martin's 50th birthday portrait of yours truly -- with Mark's copyright in place -- but I didn't ask first. You OK with that, Mark? It was a fair assumption you were, so I went ahead, knowing if you had a problem, I'd hear from you.

Recently, a character I own was adapted by a couple of friends to a new graphic image/use -- they kept me notified, and it's a hoot -- and I have asked and recieved permission to use it here (though, as a courtesy, I'm waiting until it appears on their blogs/sites first; it may be my property, due to my character's appearance as its sole subject, but they created this new image, I didn't). This is all friendly, amicable and open use and exchanges, and everyone benefits in the end.

As for posting art from my blog/site: as Mark Martin notes, these jpgs aren't high-res files suitable for reprinting/published use -- you're not stealing my work for print reproduction -- and if you're posting my work with links to my site(s), blogs, and acknowledging it's my work, I'm fine with it. If you're building an entire gallery of my work on your site, sans initiating contact with me, best ask me first. Posting art/images occasionally and/or for specific purposes is fine -- for instance, fans post galleries of sketches, including my own efforts, and that's a familiar and favored form of fan gallery postings -- but extensive use or re-use can prompt a letter such as that I sent to Stan concerning the Alan Moore interview.

However, if you're reprinting (particularly a text piece or entire comic story) in its entirity, as content on your site, sans permission or even the courtesy of contacting me (easily done in this internet era, and hence even more inexcusable than the days of yore), that's a problem.

Note that I've specifically asked Stan if he'd post links accompanying the Moore interview material to co-author Stanley Wiater and my own sites & blogs. This is a form of barter in the online universe, and thus makes what was an inappropriate 'theft' of material into a transaction favorable to the author/artist. In fact, had Stan simply done so (though it's good he at least acknowledged the source and authors of the interview, which many online thieves do not), this would/could have been handled quite differently.

More later, as this is all sorted out!

(And more of a post later today...)

In the meantime, if you can handle flash-animation, check out this honey of a link Ragmop creator Rob Walton just sent me.

It's not "better than Ragmop" (as Rob stated in his subject line to me), but it's pretty funny! Election year Blue-State blues got you down?
  • Go Red!

  • Kudos to Brian Frisk for his cool and savagely funny creation --

    -- OK, more later --


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