Thursday, February 28, 2013

Respecting Copyright

Here’s more evidence why the Internet can’t have nice things.

And by “can’t have” and “nice things,” I don’t mean to side with those using Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes comic strip characters without his permission, whether the resultant art is good, bad, or mediocre.
Techdirt is all aflame over Universal Uclick/Andrews and McMeel’s polite copyright infringement notice sent to an artist who was taking the Calvin and Hobbes characters from the famed comic strip and putting them in “real photos.” (Example at the TechDirt site.)
What makes Techdirt’s arugment so laughable is that they compare the takedown of the Calvin and Hobbes artwork with the production of the “Garfield Minus Garfield” comic strips, in which Garfield creator Jim Davis embraced that concept of the strip and urged his publishers to cooperate with the creator – effectively giving the creator of the strip permission to move forward with the project. There is no such cooperative urge on the side of Watterson and his publishers.

Creators of derivative works – ranging from Garfield Minus Garfield to the parody songs of Weird Al Yankovic – have varying bits of copyright law they can run to for protection – but I admire the approaches of the Garfield Minus Garfield creator and of Yankovic, who always seeks permission from the artists to be parodied before he proceeds. He could clearly proceed without permission, but does not do so out of respect for those he parodies. 

Seeking forgiveness rather than permission might make for a good saying, but it hardly works when you get copyright takedown notices. 

To his credit, the creator of the Calvin and Hobbes art mashups is now going about things the right way, per his blog.

This is a real concern for creative types. I myself need to pursue the use of songs and song lyrics in two books I have written before I proceed much further with getting them published, whether through an agent or on my own. I don’t have the money it would likely take to get a license to use the works if such a license is required, and will have to re-tool my approach – but I won’t move forward knowing I could violate copyright law. Because I wouldn’t want someone to turn around and do the same to me for something I’d created.

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