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Update on The CASE Act: Advocating for a Copyright Small Claims Process

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on April 30, 2018

The Guild joined representatives from our coalition of visual artist associations for Congressional visits in January and in April in support of H.R. 3945, The CASE Act. The visits were part of our ongoing efforts to get copyright small claims legislation passed. Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Tom Marino introduced the bill last October. 

To demonstrate support for the Bill, the associations have urged visual artists to contact their Representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 3945 in order to move the Bill into the House Judiciary Committee for markup and a vote.

If and when the bill passes the House Judiciary Committee, it proceeds to the House floor for discussion and a full vote. If the House votes to pass the bill, it will be referred to the Senate, where it must follow a similar procedure. If the bill passes the Senate, it will be sent to the President for signing into law – unless the Senate bill is significantly different than the House version. 

In that case, the differences in both bills must be reconciled in a conference committee before proceeding and approved by both the House and the Senate. All this must happen before the end of the year, when this term of Congress ends. 

The April lobbying visit coincided with the passage of the Music Modernization Act by the House Judiciary Committee. The Act modernizes music licensing law which predated digital streaming and downloads and will better meet the needs of both songwriters and music providers. 

Advocating for the bill brought together an unprecedented coalition of stakeholders: musicians, songwriters, music publishers, and recording industry interest groups. Two weeks later, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Music Modernizations Act. Individual creators and copyright holders are hoping this is a harbinger for The CASE Act.

Below: Guild Advocacy Liaison Rebecca Blake (second from left) joined (left to right) David Trust of PPA, PPA lobbyiest Cindi Merifield, and Tom Kennedy of ASMP in going over the schedule of Congressional meetings. Photo courtesy of Matthew Rakola, APA member. 

Strategizing on The CASE Act Congressional meetings, photo by Matthew Rakola

A Year with the ADAA, Part 2: Mentoring an ADAA Winner Graphic Artists Guild interview with Theresa

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 19, 2018

Over 2017, Guild member and designer Theresa Whitehill has had an unusual relationship with software giant Adobe: that of both judge and mentor in their student Adobe Design Achievement Awards. A few months after judging the ADAA winners, her experience was extended when she was asked to mentor one of the student finalists. While the time commitment has posed a challenge, it’s one from which Whitehill has derived satisfaction and growth.

Q: Knowing how busy you are, how did you get roped into the free mentorship?

Late last year, a few months after the ADAA awards ceremony, ico-D [International Council of Design, who collaborates with Adobe on the ADAA] contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in mentoring one of the ADAA finalists. I had a gut reaction I’d do it, but I had to really think twice, since so many personal and professional projects have had to be postponed due to my busy schedule. But I was shaken by the election result, and I realized best thing I could do was to pass on my knowledge, even at the cost of burning the candle at both ends.

Theresa Whitehill, ADAA mentor and judge, as photographed by Martin Hoang

Theresa Whitehill, ADAA mentor and judge, as photographed by Martin Hoang​.

Q: How were you paired with photography student Martin Hoang as your mentee?

As it turns out, Martin Hoang had asked for me. That surprised me. Martin’s been through schooling for design, and has gotten a lot of recognition from being an ADAA finalist, whereas I didn’t even graduate from college—I’m a bootstrap kind of learner. I wondered why such an educated designer would ask for me, and ico-D responded that it’s probably because I have a unique perspective.

Q: Did you remember Martin’s work? 

While I was judging, I tended to not look at students’ profiles so as not to be influenced personally. But some student work really stood out, including Martin’s. Ironically, we didn’t award a first place in the photography category in which he had entries, since we felt none of the submissions quite warranted it. 

Martin submitted two projects to ADAA. One was a photo journalism essay about the welding artist who created the Bay Bridge Troll [an 18-inch steel sculpture which was welded to a section of the Bay Bridge repaired after the earthquake of 1989]. The troll didn’t end up being part of the photo essay, and without that strong storyline, the judges felt that although it was well-executed and compelling photojournalism, it lacked the back story to understand the connection. 

Martin’s second project was promotional photography for men’s clothing. He photographed himself leaping mid-air dressed in various incredible men’s fashion ensembles, and photoshopped himself out of the images, so that the clothing appeared to be animated. I was amazed by it, however, some of the judges had seen similar work, so to them it wasn’t as original as it was to me, a good example of how the breadth of experience among the judges was helpful when judging in such a compressed time range. While both projects were beautifully executed, neither had the original conceptual edge that the judges overall felt would warrant a first place prize. Martin was designated a finalist for the Bay Bridge Troll project, so that satisfied me because it was well-deserved.

Q: So what is Martin’s mentorship project?

His idea is to take a tin for holding tea and reimagine it so that it looks like the staff of The Monkey King (Sun Wukong) from the  Buddhist pantheon. The Monkey King is a misunderstood trickster turned demi-god, and the subject of a lot of anime films – sort of like Hercules and his ascension to godhood. At first, I questioned the scale of the tea tin, asking Martin whether such a long staff would be satisfying to him in a shorter proportion. Martin explained to me that the Monkey King’s staff can collapse down to a small size, so the tea tin made sense as part of the story. Martin’s idea is to wrap the tin in leather and create bronze filigrees so that it matches the look and design of the Monkey King’s staff. That means he has had to learn or push his knowledge of a lot of technical and craft skills, such as wrapping and sewing leather, and metal casting, in order to complete the project to his satisfaction, so it’s quite ambitious.

Applying leather to the tea tin.

Hoang wrapping and sewing the leather around the tea tin.

Q: That seems to be a big stretch from photography; does that come into play?

Photography is not his only area of study and experience; he has great design skills and was familiar with metal casting from his education. It’s a great project for a mentorship, because it’s much riskier and out of the box. The concept is wonderful and imaginative, and it’s forcing him to learn new skills. He’ll photograph the final product, and that’s where those skills will come to bear. 

Q: This also falls outside of your area of expertise. What kind of technical advice have you been able to give him?

Like Martin, I understand how to learn a new skill that is required for a job; I’m an on-the-job learner and always have been. You break it down and you find the resources that you need to do the next step; if the software doesn’t do what you need it to do, you find a way to get in through the back door. It’s learning how to learn, which you can apply to almost anything. So I’ve had him explain to me how he plans to approach the several crafts he needs to learn to be successful at this and played devil’s advocate to help him refine his approach. Initially, he planned to do just one bronze casting, and I was able to advise him to use an initial bronze pour at his school as a trial run so that he could troubleshoot any issues and revise in time for the final pour. 

As it turns out, some real technical challenges came up. He found that he couldn’t get the detail he wants for the filigree using the bronze-casting facilities at this school. For that, he needs a goldsmith’s foundry, which will permit him to pour the molten metal while the mold is spinning; this allows much finer, thinner details. He’s now looking for a goldsmith who would be interested in helping him with his project.

Applying wax to the leather.Applying wax to the leather.

Applying wax to the leather to create the molds for the bronze filigree.

Q: What are the terms of the internship?

The internship goes for six months, and we were asked to make a minimum commitment to a one hour-long conversation per month. We also email between sessions. Other than that, there are no expectations on the scope or type of project.

Q: What do you think is the biggest contribution you can make to Martin’s development?

Through the ADAA program, Martin got a job at Adobe. It’s a great opportunity, but it can be a super stressful environment due to the high level of work expected. So I started checking in with him between our monthly sessions. I see stress like an ocean wave — you either get dumped, or you get up on that wave and ride it in to shore. How you deal with stress will determine your longevity in the business—how far you’re able to go, what great projects you get to work on. I want him to learn to not be afraid of stress, but attack it and learn how to ride it. When I check in with him, it’s often with “How’s the surf?” and he might answer, “Surf’s up!”

Martin is very used to achieving through hard work, but there is a part of him that needs to be psychologically prepared for failures now and again; they are an inevitable byproduct if you are seeking to achieve. He’s ambitious and wants to be in a position where he’s driving a concept; he still needs experience working with other people. But he’ll get there if he pays attention.

Q: Have you gotten anything for yourself out of this mentorship?

I’ve found my conversations with Martin have fed my own creativity. Explaining my creative process has been really helpful and has helped clarify my thinking. For a while I had dropped a lot of projects that weren’t “billable” simply because I couldn’t justify fitting them in, but found that recently I have said “Yes” to many of these again. I’ve realized that these projects that might be seen as more peripheral were actually feeding my core reason for designing, and, amazingly everything is going very well in spite of this “over-commitment.” I’m more jazzed; I’m have more energy.


Martin Hoang’s ADAA projects

The Bay Bridge Troll (finalist)

Define Yourself: What You Wear Defines Who You Are

Postscript April 2018

While their formal mentorship ended in the spring of 2017, Theresa & Martin continue to stay in touch via LinkedIn. They got a chance to meet in person for the first time in August of 2017 when Theresa went down to San Francisco to judge the Adobe Design Achievement Awards for the second year to find that Martin was the official Adobe photographer for the judging session! 

Martin has continued to work on his project of reimagining a tea cannister as the staff of the Monkey King. He hit a roadblock with the work when the bronze foundry to which he has access couldn’t cast the fine detail that he envisions for the outside filigree that will wrap over the leather-encased tin. With Theresa’s help, he did some research and found that he needs the finer capabilities of a jeweler’s centrifuge caster for the level of detail he wants. Theresa suggested that this article might reach someone who could put Martin in touch with a jeweler interested in helping him finish his project.

So we’re putting the word out through our graphics community for a jeweler with a heart of gold. Know anyone who fits that description? Martin can be reached at hello@martinhoangdesign.com.

All photographs © Martin Hoang. Used with permission.

15th Edition of the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines Published

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 16, 2018

The cover of the Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines

The latest edition of the industry bible, informally known as “PEGs”, was released in early April. In addition to the popular pricing tables and sample contracts, the 15th edition features a greatly reworked chapter on Surface Pattern Design, and an expanded and updated chapter with professional, business, and legal resources. Throughout the book, text has been updated to reflect current trade practices and conditions.

 Illustrator and Guild member Ben Pernini was commissioned to create the colorful cover art. Book designer and Guild member Dawn Mitchell handled the art direction. 

The update of the ebook Primer Series based on the Handbook is currently in production. Look for it this summer!

Take Action for Artists: Let Congress Know You Support the CASE Act

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on March 28, 2018

William Morse Copyright Bullies cartoon

Cartoon © W.P Morse, wpmorse.com

For months we've been reporting on H.R. 3945, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act) of 2017. Its a bill that is way overdue for individual graphic artists, who face significant obstacles when trying to protect their work from infringement. The CASE Act evens the playing field, by creating a small copyright claims tribunal that's simple and affordable. And it's completely optional – graphic artists with large infringements will still be able to take their case to “regular” copyright court.

But to get the CASE Act to move forward, we need every graphic artist to let their Representatives know we support this legislation! 

This Spring, the bill is being considered by the House Judiciary Committee. We need to move this bill forward, so we’re asking everyone who supports fairness in copyright to help us make a splash. Now is the time to contact your Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 3945, and ask them to support the Act. (You can call or email, but we recommend calling – calls to members of Congress make a bigger impact.) You can use our telephone script or email message, or draft your own.

Already contacted your Representative? Contact them again! Let them know you're serious.

There are several ways you can contact Congress. Pick the method that suits you best!

Option 1) You can use the web portal at copyrightdefense.com/action.

You can look up your Representative, and retrieve their telephone number, and be taken to a page to send them an email. Copyrightdefense has a message that was drafted from a photographer's perspective, but you can rewrite that message, or use our supplied message.

Option 2) You can use the Add Your Voice portal on the Copyright Alliance website.

You can look up your Representative and send them a message, which you can edit or replace with our own.

Option 3) You can use Facebook’s Townhall feature.

Townhall will list all your local and state representatives, and one click will pull up telephone numbers. From there you can use our telephone script, or draft your own.

Support the CASE Act. And let your Representative they should too!


Sample Email Message:

I am a graphic artist and a small business owner who relies on the protection copyright affords my work. Right now, it’s very difficult for me to enforce my copyrights: the court systems is too expensive, and many lawyers won’t touch small copyright cases. The result is that my work is open to infringement, and I have little recourse to address that.

I’m writing you today to ask you to please support H.R. 3945, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017 (CASE Act). The Act would establish a copyright small claims tribunal that would provide me with an affordable, practical, and voluntary option to the federal courts. It would even the playing field for individual creators like me, and would deter the rampant infringement of our work.

H.R. 3945 is going to be considered by the House Judiciary Committee this April. I’m asking you to please support the H.R. 3945, the CASE Act, by co-sponsoring the bill, and by voting in favor of it. If you have already sponsored the bill, thank you so much for your support. We’re long overdue for a small copyright claims process that serves individual creators and small businesses like me.


Sample Phone Script:

I'm calling today to ask the Representative to support H.R. 3945, the CASE Act. My name is (state name) and I reside at (state address). I am a graphic artist and a small business owner who relies on the protection copyright affords my work. Right now, it’s very difficult for me to enforce my copyrights because the federal court system is too expensive, and many lawyers won’t touch small copyright cases. The result is that my work is open to infringement, and I have little recourse to address that.

H.R. 3945, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017, would establish a copyright small claims tribunal that would provide me with an affordable, practical, and voluntary option to the federal courts. It would even the playing field for individual creators like me, and would deter the rampant infringement of our work.

H.R. 3945 is going to be considered by the House Judiciary Committee this April. I’m asking the Representative to please support the H.R. 3945, the CASE Act, by co-sponsoring the bill, and by voting in favor of it. We’re long overdue for a small copyright claims process that serves individual creators and small businesses like me.

KODAKOne Uses Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrency to Manage Image Rights

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 15, 2018

KodakOne logo

On January 9th,at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Kodak announced the image rights management platform KODAKOne, created in partnership with WENN Digital. The platform will utilize blockchain technology to permit photographers to register, manage, archive, and monetize their images seamlessly from a single platform. Photographers will be able to license their work using the KodakCoin cryptocurrency. The platform will also assist photographers in getting unlicensed users to license the images.

The blockchain technology will create an “encrypted, digital ledger of rights ownership for photographers”. Blockchain creates a “block” of transactional records linked into a “chain” by hash functions, essentially creating a digital fingerprint that follows a file as it travels the Internet. Image transactions and licenses will be stored in a decentralized database. KODAKOne will also provide web crawlers to detect the unauthorized use of images, after which the platform will manage the “post licensing process,” as KODAKOne describes it. Payments for image use will occur immediately in KodakCoin.

Kodak’s announcement generated a great deal of excitement, at least among investors; shares of Eastman Kodak stock more than tripled after the announcement. How effective the platform will be in addressing photographers’ (and visual artists’) IP management needs is still in question. 

As Nancy Wolfe and Kyle Brett wrote on the DMLA blog, previous attempts at creative rights databases – for example, the Global Database Repertoire for music rights – have failed. Additionally, questions remain on how KODAKOne will address infringements. Will infringers be asked to pay for the infringement, and if so, will that amount be a reasonable licensing fee? 

The ICO (Initial Coin Offering) for KodakCoin has been delayed from the original January 31stopening. Because of US regulations, the over 40,000 investors who are interested in joining the token sale must be thoroughly vetted by Kodak. KODAKOne promises that progress is being made on the ICO, and that presale rounds will shortly close. Interested visual artists can subscribe to KODAKOne’s email list to receive news on the platform.

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