The webcomics blog about webcomics

Things To Keep Your Eyes On

  • I find the best stuff via the twitterfeed of Katie Lane — lawyer extraordinaire to the creative community and explainer of legal doctrines — and even when she’s not the originator, the stuff she retweets is gold. Case in point, yesterday she was the proximate cause of seeing a tweet by K Matthew Dames that led me to what may be an invaluable resource for the everyday creator: a guide to Fair Use from the Copyright Office of the federal government.

    Specifically, it’s an index of case law and precedent, which may help you to determine if what you’re doing (or what’s being done to you) falls under the purview of Fair Use (yay!) or plain ol’ thieving (boo!). While not offering legal advice, the index:

    is designed to be user-friendly. For each decision, we have provided a brief summary of the facts, the relevant question(s) presented, and the court’s determination as to whether the contested use was fair. You may browse all of the cases, search for cases involving specific subject matter or categories of work, or review cases from specific courts. The Index ordinarily will reflect only the highest court decision issued in a case. It does not include the court opinions themselves. We have provided the full legal citation, however, allowing those who wish to read the actual decisions to access them through free online resources (such as Google Scholar and Justia), commercial databases (such as Westlaw and LEXIS), or the federal courts’ PACER electronic filing system, available at

    In other words, it’s not for settling shit-fights where people are tossing around Wikipedia links as proof of the rightness of their claim; it may help provide a rationale to decide to fight/not fight a particular situation, or to help a lawyer (you have a lawyer, right) that doesn’t specialize in IP issues to get up to speed quickly. In any event, it’s got the potential to be broadly useful and I thought you should see it.

  • Naturally, protecting your rights in your creations against infringement is made much easier when you have rights in the first place. Today’s example of a big IP factory being a complete dick and making me pig-biting mad¹ comes to us from Gerry Conway, longtime vet of the superhero mines, and how DC Comics gets to define characters as spontaneously existing without any creators who might need to get a small residual check. I particularly like the part where if DC decided that:

    … if [Conway] wanted to receive an equity participation contract for a character I created, I had to request one, in writing, for each character, before that character appeared in another media, because DC would refuse to make equity payments retroactively.

    By a rough guesstimate, I probably created over five hundred characters for DC between 1969 and 1985…. Unless I’m willing to commit a large chunk of my life to tracking down each character and filing a separate equity request in anticipation that somehow, some day, one of these characters might end up on a TV show, I risk being cut off from any share in the fruits DC enjoys from the product of my labor.

    Which serves as notice to DC that they have to go to the trouble of writing Conway a letter to declare that he didn’t in fact create the character; they don’t even crank up the bullshit excuse generator unless they’re notified to do so, in writing, in advance. That’s not just evil as hell, it’s lazy, and over amounts that to a behemoth like Warner Bros are trivial:

    Yes, money is involved, but thanks to the way DC and Warners structure their in-house deals, the actual payout for the use of a character on an episode of The Flash or Arrow is ridiculously small. (I receive an average of $47 for each appearance of Felicity Smoak, for example; nothing to sneeze at, of course, but I’m not gonna be buying any mansions with my comic book character profits anytime soon.)

    Did I say trivial? I meant lost in the roundoff errors that result when a WB executive decides to fund his hookers-and-coke expenses under “Craft Services”.

  • Let us end on a happier note. Despite getting priced out of their location by San Francisco’s super-expensive real estate market, the Cartoon Art Museum isn’t spending their last few weeks on Mission Street moping around; they’re out there creating new traditions when less committed people might be starting to pack up the gift shop and send the art off to storage.

    Specifically, they’re launching the inaugural San Francisco Comics Fest, running from this Sunday (3 May, the day after Free Comic Book Day) to the following Saturday (10 May). Events will be taking place throughout the city, including workshops, meetups, talks by prominent comics creators, figure drawing, and a dance party; many of these will be free, and all of them can be found on the calendar page.

    I actually love the timing of all of this — if CAM is about to lose its home, the very best thing it can do is go big and show its hometown how indispensable it is. As a reminder, you can help shorten the downtown that hits at the end of June by donating to the CAM capital campaign and helping to fund their new home.

Spam of the day:

Download Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star Movie.

Jeez man, why would you even send me such a thing? Do I come to your house and take a dump on the middle of the floor?

¹ One of many colorful intensifiers I recall from faithfully reading columnist Ed Anger (“American”) in the Weekly World News back when it was a printed paper. I miss ol’ Ed.

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