Jeff is reclaiming his unique digital identity with a sense of clarity.

A few thoughts about illustration… copyright, trademarks, why “Work-for-hire” is EVIL… and Zombies, or actually Golems Really due exist!

While I say I love illustration, and want to get in to the illustration field, I think it only fair to give you a little bit of background about me, and some of my own personal biases and things about illustration… In the wide world of illustration, usually the client always comes first. The artist does work for the client. The artist creates things, but seeks approval from the client at each step of the process. The preliminary concept art is just thought of as something to hand to the client to seek approval. The client and artist then have a disucssion and talk about things, and go to the next step… and the artist continually changes the idea to be in agreement with what the client is wanting since the client has the ultimate say as the artist is seeking payment for the work from the client.

A little bit of a philisophical problem that I have with that sort of thing, at least in my own works, is that I consider each work of art that is created in every stage of creation as a seperate and unique art form… something that is not just a preliminary work for something later, to be discarded like pretty wrapping paper that is torn apart as a Christmas present is opened. The process of creation has multiple stages. Quick little doodles done in a sketchbook are just as valid as a final work of art as something that’s been re-worked three hundred times by an illustrator or designer that is seeking permission from his or her client.

Another huge issue in all of that is the “work-for-hire” issue. Many clients want illustrators and designers that work for them to consider their work as “work-for-hire.” According to the way contract law works, art that is created as “work-for-hire” is artwork that the client will own the copyright to. In other words, if an artist creates work-for-hire artwork, the artist will have to seek permission from the copyright owner to republish the work that he or she created, and the same thing applies to and “derivitive” work… that is work that is dervived from the original… That puts artists that work in “work-for-hire” contracts in a really sticky situation since they can never use the work for hire stuff unless they get permission again, which might actually end up costing them money, etc. The derivitive issue makes the bad situation even worse because most artist tend to build a sort of visual library in their subconscious that forces works they create later in life to resemble works they created earlier… which is something they could possibly get sued for if the earlier work was a work-for-hire form of art.

For this reason, I’m not sure if I could ever “really” be a full time illustrator. However, I do like the idea of illustrating things, and creating narrative structures, so it’s possible that I might be able to get in to this field sort of. One reason I really am attracted to using Public Domain stuff as the basis of illustration is that the original copyright owner no longer has copyright over that stuff, nor does anyone else… so it’s free game for anyone… However, writers that no longer have copyrights on their books are probably long gone, and so other people probably have created derivitive works of those books and artforms over and over throughout the years, so it leaves the ancient stuff as content that will be difficult to gain any economic profits off of in a direct manner… since dead writers won’t pay anything usually… That’s why I got interested in Cafe Press, Lulu.com and other similar types of places in my exploration of all of this stuff. The internet has created a lot of new little niche areas for many of us to investigate if we want to take the time to get in to it. There’s a lot to explore and play around with in the huge playground of tweaking public domain concepts, ideas, and works, and redistrubting them with our own little additions, changes, etc.

Eventually, if I do get in to making book covers and interior illustrations for Public domain books I will build up a lot of variety and introduce new fresh ideas, in hopes that maybe someday a real writer that is alive today might ask me to do some works for their books, magazine articles, blogs, etc. If that does happen, this whole work-for-hire issue will likely come up down the road. I guess I’ll cross those bridges if/when I get to that point. Regardless, if you create artwork, this IS something you should be thinking about somewhat. There’s a lot to copyright and trademark laws. I don’t claim to be a lawyer, but do know that this sort of stuff can be a major hassle if you don’t think about it before you dive in to a contract or situation similar to a contract that is all done with verbal agreements, etc.

Do you really want to give away your right to be creative?!?… Just something to think about.

A similar thing to think about – be sure that you are honoring the Copyrights and Trademarks of other… If you want to create a work of art depicting a soda can or car, are you aware that you could be sued by Ford or Coke, or any other company if the work looks too much like theirs? This is especially true of photographs. Speaking as someone that has had some photos removed from Turbosquid a few years ago because Turbosquid received a Cease and Desist Letter from Ford due to the fact that there was a Ford car somewhere in the forground of a picture I shot once, even though it was not the main focus of the composition, I can say this stuff is a reality you SHOULD think about before and while you are making your artworks. The possibility of having to go to court and pay high lawyer fees and court fees just because you clicked your camera in the wrong place is not a fun situation to be in! Ford is probably one of the biggest companies that chases people down for this sort of thing, but any copyright or trademark owner can do similar at any time because copyright and trademark law DOES apply to “derivitive works.”

For yourself, this can be a good thing, as you could possibly sue others if they create artworks that are in your style or just look too much like your work for your liking… However, what comes around goes around, and the you can find yourself on the receiving end of the same issue if you create works that are too much like other folk’s stuff too… which is something we all need to think about a LOT as everywhere you turn today there’s some namebrand, logo, or copyrighted thing in your face 24/7.

Your computer has a logo on it… oops better not photograph or draw it. You want to take a photo of a street – oops there’s a car on it that was created by an automobile company that has a trademark on that design. You shoot a photo of a gargoyle on a building – oops there’s an architect or sculptor somewhere that owns the copyright to that design. You shoot a picture of the sunset – oops there’s an airplane flying low there that was designed by a company with a trademark on that shape. You take a picture of a wall in your house – oops someone has a tradmark, and probably a copyright on the design of that wallpaper… Where is nature? That is one of the few things people can’t copyright… Nope?!?… someone has done a picture of a deer posing in that posture before! YIKES!

If you take a photo of someone, or create any form of artwork depicting anyone – you have even more issues to deal with since there are privacy laws. That’s why you always see notices in various films, literary works, etc. say any resmblence to real people in the characters depicted is coincidental, etc. It’s also why photographers need to get the permission of anyone they photograph, usually in a written form so that they can prove that the permission was obtained. The little photo of Barrack Obama standing next to the China Wall that was put in Times Square by the coat company is just one of the newest little examples of where these sort of issues can come up and cause major problems for all parties involved…

All of these little issues are amplified by the fact that Zombies, or at least Golems really do exist! As mentioned in How to Argue & Win Every Time: At Home, At Work, In Court, Everywhere, Everyday, corporations and money are both lifeless beings that we give life to… things that are really dead that we give power to.

(*Perhaps the Golem are the invisible corporations and the Zombies are the employees that become “dead” 40 hours a week to serve the golem?*)

Sometimes, actually far more times than we probably want to acknowledge, we actually give our entire lives to these souless, lifeless beings! Corporations are our society’s gods from the ancient world. They don’t really exist but everyone knows that they are there. Everyone talks about them… shares stories about them… We even give them Social Security Numbers and call those Tax Identification Numbers… We give them life through our <a href="Memes“>about them.

Logos and employees are just one sign of their existence, as are all the contracts created in their names… Curators of Universities, CEOs, Company Presidents and others in power in the coporate world, just to name a few, are the priests of this religion that we don’t call a religion, but they are NOT the corporation itself, even if they think they are. They are hired and fired by the invisible zombies or golems that we breathe life into, just like everyone else. The piece of paper that creates a corporation is NOT the corporation itself. The corporations don’t really exist in our world, but we all pretend that they do and continue to bring life to them in our belief in them… continue to pay homage to them every time we think about that brand name we want to pay for, etc…. They are the true gollems that all of us helped bring in to power to submit our entire beings too in some way, shape, or form.

Advertising, and all of the little illustrations that come from it is just one of the many little offerings that are given to these souless, lifeless zombies to help them exist. You can call me a crazy lunatic if you want, but when you really dig deep and think about it, you have got to know that it’s true!

Does this mean I don’t want to be an illustrator. Of course not. I love to illustrate things, tell stories, bring life to the lifeless objects around me.

In a strange way, all people that create art, or anything really – letters that you made when you hit the keyboard on your computer (you do know that each letter and phrase is different from place to place in the world which is why there’s different languages that exist – we all breathe life in to our own perception of reality that the elders in our tribe have taught us IS reality and so we make it become OUR reality too), recipies you put together to eat, All Things that we do really… sort of do the same thing, whether it’s for a corporation or their own needs and wants to create. Art itself is something we breathe life in to, and it sort of takes on a life of it’s own in that process. Maybe all of this is something Jesus was talking about when he said you cannot serve God and Mammon?… but in reality, that’s not really possible is it, at least not if we want to live in this world and exist – Give to Ceaser what belongs to Ceaser…

Anyways, I am a living being, just as you are, and as The Universe’s Creator is. The act of creating things is in some ways the real and ultimate goal and meaning of the universe?… or is it? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, be sure to make your works your own, and unique enough that you don’t get sued for copyright infringment by other humans or the golems that exist in our society.

Just something to think about…

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One response

  1. Cheers for posting this it was essential for a paper I am right now writing for my finals. Thanks

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    June 16, 2010 at 8:49 pm

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