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Metro-NY Artists: Pro-Bono Legal Assistance for Copyright Disputes

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on June 27, 2017

Copyright Alliance logoThe Copyright Alliance has partnered with Cravath, Swain, and Moore LLP and  Columbia Law School to provide pro-bono trial services for individuals and small businesses involved in copyright disputes in New York City. Through the initiative, Columbia Law School students working under the supervision of lawyers from the firm provide legal counsel  and learn trial skills as related to copyright law.

Designers and illustrators operating in New York City with a copyright dispute are encouraged to apply for consideration in the program. Applicants will be considered based on criteria published on the Alliance’s website. If you’re interested in applying for the program, visit the website to download the forms. For more information, contact the Alliance”s Copyright Counsel, Terrica Carrington, at tcarrington@copyrightalliance.org. (Please note that applying for the program does not guarantee legal assistance.)

 

Copyright Alliance pro bono trial services

“First Expressed in Nature”: Science Illustrator Pieter Folkens Raises Copyright Concerns

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 24, 2017

Pieter Folkens

Science illustrator Pieter Folkens came to our attention when we put out a call for a visual artist with experience in the entertainment industry. Not only is he a renowned marine mammal artist, Folkens has also created animatronics models used in films such as “Free Willy” and “Star Trek VI: The Voyage Home”. In April, Folkens represented visual artists with the Copyright Alliance at "Beyond the Red Carpet,” an event which showcased the creatives working behind the scenes in the film industry. The Alliance interviewed Folkens for their "Five Questions” interview series with individual creators. 

Five Questions with Science Illustrator Pieter Folkens” covers his early fascination with marine mammals, triggered by the discovery of fossilized shark teeth during a third-grade field trip, and shortly thereafter, excavating a 13.5 million year old sperm whale skull. That experience eventually led to a satisfying career documenting whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other marine life in scientific illustration and sculpture. As Folkens put it, “The creative process is an exercise in discovery. The enjoyment comes in two forms—initially learning new things followed by sharing them with others.”

However, it's the Alliance's probing of Folkens' experience with copyright infringment which is particularly illuminating. Folkens was one of the first science illustrators to focus on marine mammals, and his high-quality illustration has often been copied – his work has been infringed up to a dozen times a year (that he knows of). His method of dealing with the infringement is to send a passive notification, followed by an invoice for the use, and an attorney's letter. This sequence of steps permits Folkens to gauge the infringer's response and anticipate what steps he'll need to take. He strongly advises creators to “learn copyright law,’ recommending that they stay abreast of recent case law. 

It's clear he's followed his own advice in his response to the final question, on what he would change about copyright law. Folkens cites concerns with the merger doctrine and scenes à faire doctrine, two principles most visual artists are unaware of. (Put very simplistically, the merger doctrine states that when an idea and the expression of that idea are so closely tied together that they’re inseparable, then the expression can’t be copyrighted since ideas are not copyrightable. The scenes à faire doctrine states that elements of a creative work may not be copyrightable if the genre of the work dictates them – think of folklore, stock story lines, etc.) Folkens’ concern is that these doctrines are unfairly applied to works of visual arts, citing a comprehensive law review article by attorney Michael D. Murray.

In response to our query, Folkens went into greater detail:
“The issue is developing wrongly in the courts under the notion of “first expressed in nature” that says any depiction of an animal is not protectable because whatever an animal looks like or does was “first expressed in nature” and therefore not a copyrightable idea. (Taken to its extreme, Ansel Adams’ “Moon Over Half Dome” would not be a copyrightable subject because Half Dome is a rock that was first expressed in nature, and same goes for the moon.) It sounds absurd, but it has been a successful defense in several cases in the Ninth Circuit, even when the copying of the original was proven by the plaintiffs. The problem arises from the two step "reductive analysis” employed by the court that essentially removes all elements of expression in the first step (copyrightablity of the subject), keeping the second step (copying of protected elements) out of consideration and away from the trier of fact. I'm taking up that battle in the Ninth Circuit this fall.”

Folkens’ full interview can be read on the Copyright Alliance’s website. Folkens’ will also be presenting our June webinar with attorney Linda Joy Kattwinkel on "Inspiration or Infringement.”

NEA Granted a Reprieve; Arts Advocates Gear Up for the Longer Fight

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 12, 2017

NEA logoArts advocates were appalled when the budget proposed by the Trump transition team called for eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, along with steep cuts to other cultural and social programs. On April 30th, Congressional leaders came to a bipartisan agreement to fund the government through September. The House Appropriations Committee FY 2017 Omnibus Summary lists a full $150 million each to the NEA and to the National Endowment for the Humanities, an increase of $2 million. In an email to the Los Angeles Times, an NEA spokesperson wrote that the funding increase matched a request made by the agency in February 2016.

Americans for the ArtsWhile the news is a welcome reprieve, arts advocates are not breathing easy – the administration has proposed defunding the NEA entirely in 2018Americans for the Arts has orchestrated a comprehensive campaign: they've been conducting an online petition through their Action Center, their Arts Mobilization Center publishes updates on federal funding for the arts, and they’ve conducted a print ad campaign, “The Arts Put America to Work,” which highlights the 4.8 million Americans employed in the arts.

That last statistic that is supported by data. In April, the NEA released the results of a study conducted with the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The study showed that total arts and cultural industries in the United States employ 4,802,813 individuals at a compensation of $355 billion. Of that amount, core arts and cultural industries (“originators of ideas and content associated with the creation of arts and culture”) employ 950,997, at a compensation of $68 billion. The study results are posted online with an interactive map which permits viewers to see the economic contribution of the arts state-by-state.

Below: Clicking onto each state on the interactive map on the NASAA website pulls up data for that state.

NEA BEA map

The Guild Supports S.1010, “The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act”

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on May 05, 2017

The Graphic Artists Guild applauds the introduction of “The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act” into the Senate as S.1010 on May 2nd. In a show of bipartisan support, the bill was introduced by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Diane Feinstein (D-CA), former chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and former Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The Guild supported the House version of the bill, H.R.1695, which passed the House on April 16 by 378-48.

S.1010 seeks to make the the Register of Copyrights a Presidential appointee for a 10-year term, with certain requirements: 

• The appointee must be selected from a list of candidates selected by the Speaker of the House, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the majority and minority leaders of the House and the Senate, and the Librarian of Congress.

• The appointee must be a U.S. citizen with professional experience in copyright law.

• The appointee must be capable of identifying and supervising a chief information officer responsible for managing modern information technology systems. 

Under current copyright law, the Register is appointed by the Librarian of Congress. The sudden removal of the previous Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, last October cast a spotlight on the need for greater autonomy of the Copyright Office. Along with a coalition of visual artist associations, the Guild has advocated for that, including making the Register of Copyrights a Presidential appointee. Doing so is also a vital step towards proceeding with modernization of the Copyright Office, which is vital to the concerns of graphic artists.

Comic Artist Turned Away at US Border for Carrying Work in Progress

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 24, 2017

On April 20th, Canadian Marvel comic book artist Gisele Lagace posted to her Facebook page that she had been denied entry to the United States when attempting to cross the border to attend Chicago’s C2E2 comic convention. According to her post. she was refused entry by US Customs and Border Patrol because she was planning to complete some commissions while in the US; the unfinished works were in her car. Additionally, she was carrying about $700 worth of comics, which she had intended to sell while at the convention. That put her in violation of US immigration law, which prohibits visitors from working in the US without a proper visa.

Her post generated sympathy among colleagues, and was shared several hundred times. The Hollywood Reporter picked the story, and documented the sympathetic response from fellow comic book creators. They cited Australian comic writer Tom Taylor’s Twitter account, in which he commented that he has pulled out of US conventions since he no longer feels safe or welcome here, and that he knows of many colleagues who feel the same. 

Despite the unease generated by the recent increased vigilance of US border patrols, artists have been turned away in the past for bringing work with them to comic cons. CBR reported in 2012  that Canadian artist Craig Wilson was turned away when work he had hoped to sell in Phoenix Comicon’s Artist Alley was discovered by board guards.  Marvel writer Charles Soule (who also happens to be an immigration attorney) responded to Legace’s situation by cautioning comic artists to consult with an attorney before coming to the US for trade shows.

Artists intending to exhibit at a trade show or comic con in the US can also check the US Customs and Border Protection’s FAQ sheet for tradeshow attendees. 

For Legace, a seasoned pro who has traveled frequently to the US, the ordeal was unexpected: “Was asked if I was the only one doing this as I looked surprised to be refused entry. I said no, many artists from around the world attend these to promote themselves. I don't think they cared.” Her experience was made all the more excruciating by the discovery of two unidentified white pills in her wallet (most likely acetaminophen), which precipitated a body search. She’s decided she’s not reattempting entry into the US until she’s “absolutely certain this won’t happen again.”

Below: The Detroit-Windsor border crossing between the US and Canada.
Photo: public domain.

US Canada border crossing at Detroit-Windsor.

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Guild Webinars

Webinar Banner image by Rebecca Blake

Looking to keep up with industry trends and techniques?

Taking your creative career to the next level means you need to be up on a myriad of topics. And as good as your art school education may have been, chances are there are gaps in your education. The Guild’s professional monthly webinar series, Webinar Wednesdays, can help take you to the next level.

Members can join the live webinars for FREE - as part of your benefits of membership! Non-members can join the live webinars for $45. 

Visit our webinar archive page, purchase the webinar of your choice for $35 and watch it any time that works for you.

 


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