Calling you creative types to change the law.

I am nearing completion of law school, and I am beginning to look at how I can have a lasting career doing something I love. Right now I am working with one of my professors, who also manages a small record label in areas of copyright, helping the older folks navigate the all online copyright system.

This has gotten me thinking about the web, content on the web, how we all are creators in some capacity; and how few people understand or enjoy copyright registration or protections. Most people grasp that when they put pen to paper, audio on a disc, etc. they had a copyrighted work there that they own. A flaw of my field is that it can take a long time for truth to work its way to justice. And our copyright system is woefully behind the times.

Artists often find people selling printed comics of their web series, or shirts at conventions. Instances of wholesale copying of characters or comics happens often. Creators and copiers have even gotten into nasty lawsuits over this. Sometimes the copiers win. There are the scary agreements that aggregation sites like Facebook or Deviant Art do to lay claim on works people create and are posted.

I have an interest in getting more web creators to register their comics, art, podcasts with the copyright office.

I am gauging interests in this as I start selling myself to firms, or striking off on my own when I am a full grown lawyer. I want more web creators registering their works with the copyright office. And I see many benefits to this.
1. More web creators registering, makes the voice heard and change happen. The government is full of old men and women, with little web savvy. Our copyright system is still stuck in a world of discs and UHF signals.
2. Registration gives creators protection and presumptions that make possible lawsuits simpler, faster, cheaper. So often creators chose giving up over pursuing a lawsuit because the money is not worth it. When works are registered, you can stay out of court and get your return or get the other party to stop cheaply.
3. You an self register copyright, and you may not know something was wrong until months or years later. Having a professional do this means you know it is done properly. I also think international artists and podcasters need help.
4. Copyright does not need to remain the area of big labels and publishers. You do not need a major deal with Image Comics or BMI.
5. I am young enough and dumb enough to think that I can make a change, and get in the ground floor of something wonderful to help the creators whose works I love.

I have details to hammer out, namely price. How do I make it cheap enough to get the most creators on board, while still making sure I can pay the bills.

As a creator who makes various content for a living or a hobby, is this something that might interest you? I am not asking for a customer, I am testing the waters. And do you think your creative friends might also be interested?

You'll have to make it exceedingly easy on content creators, in terms of time, frustration, attention and money. I bet technology can take things a long way there.

As somone who regularly (and with mixed success) has to ask/beg/threaten to get people to stop using my images and articles, I am very interested in this.

First off, I want to thank you for this. It wouldn't have dawned on me to look into this until later on in my process for a couple projects, and knowing this now is a good thing.

I wouldn't know how to price it, though. Especially if the fee is only $35 for e-filing (or $65 for print), the form for a text work isn't much worse than a W-4, and you can do it online. Their site is pretty cool (here). You'd have to have a LOT of customers, or add a huge amount of value to it. A way to raise awareness and educate might be a better idea.

Hard-core copyright law is big business. Maybe go into that for the meat and potatoes, and then have a program for small creators to raise awareness, educate, and help them for a smaller fee is the way to go.

Too busy playing XCOM so I'll be brief. Check out episode four of Remix Everything or watch the whole series. http://www.everythingisaremix.info/w...

Seth wrote:
As somone who regularly (and with mixed success) has to ask/beg/threaten to get people to stop using my images and articles, I am very interested in this.

sucks doesn't. What I've noticed happen is certain blogs/websites will steal the image with no credit and then begins the reposting with attribution to the original thief... not me.

You all seem more positive than when I ran this past Andrew Mayne (WeirdThings.com). He came off as one of the newer crop of copyright is the devil. The word scam was used.

I know that individuals and smaller scale creators can use our existing copyright system to their advantage, rather than their detriment.

Enforcement for those users is a small part of the equation relative to helping people couple sharing along with copyright protections. Creative Commons and GPL are a sad joke. More and more I am seeing it used as free for all, and one or two people will get rich (See Angry Birds, Novell). I do not think licensing is enough for people who want to also share. Worse When you see Amazon publishing, Facebook, Myspace and their content licensing, it reminds me of a mail scam for "Poetry Authors." A copyright registration would be superior to that license, provided you register first.

For tracking and such, I am thinking spiders that operate much like torrent trackers that the film industry use. Most thieves of your photos Seth will not even change file names or extensions.

KingGorilla wrote:
Creative Commons and GPL are a sad joke.

Can you elaborate on that? That's quite harsh language, particularly in regard to the GPL, without which much of what we take for granted in regard to the internet and the technologies that power it would either not exist or at least look very different. Neither Creative Commons or the GPL are anti-copyright -- they both use copyright as a tool to facilitate sharing of content without having to explicitly licence it, as long as you're willing to abide by the terms of the Creative Commons or GPL licence. Use of GPL or CC content outside of the licence without an explicit licence from the copyright holder permitting that use is a clear case of copyright infringement, and enjoys the same protection as any other content.

KingGorilla wrote:
For tracking and such, I am thinking spiders that operate much like torrent trackers that the film industry use. Most thieves of your photos Seth will not even change file names or extensions.

PicScout already does this for images, by crawling the web looking for images that match image fingerprints held in its database and then reporting those sites back to users.

It is one of licensing absent registration. Google, Microsoft, Apple to name 3 larger offenders take GPL software, integrated it, profit, and do not release updated code in line with the license. In many instances have orchestrated suits against other users when that GPL code is used in a competing way. Rovio very publicly just took GPL physics and rendering software, no credit. Your chances of enforcing or stopping someone abusing GPL software is about nil.

Creative Commons has a bigger problem. This is in weak cloudy licensing of items that are best covered by copyright. CC surrenders most of your copyrights and you can never get them back. Places are increasingly encouraging CC licensing in lieu of copyright registration.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/201...

http://creativecommons.org/weblog/en...

So much of it is a rose tinted look at web content that I only see serving the likes of Facebook and Google.

Worse, GPL and CC are sloppy they add this level of legal talk, seeming to be professional, but they are not. And how CC fails to serve the public is that it can create seemingly more restrictive means than Copyright. Many smaller news sources turned to CC to eliminate sharing of the news, but it does not work that way.

On a more fundamental problem, I do not honestly think Creative Commons or GPL would hold up as valid contracts. They sweep too wide, apply to literally anyone and everyone. And it is a contract with people you never speak with. GPL is written for the EU, not common law nations. But purports to have international teeth. You need exclusivity to retain those copyrights.

Bottom line is you can get help when people abuse your copyrights. If you rely on creative commons licensing, that is murky water.

I will bring you to Jacobson v Katzer CC labels this as a victory for CC and them. Problem is that the license holder lost on the remanded suit and the case was dismissed.

These licenses are weak.

KingGorilla wrote:
It is one of licensing absent registration. Google, Microsoft, Apple to name 3 larger offenders take GPL software, integrated it, profit, and do not release updated code in line with the license. In many instances have orchestrated suits against other users when that GPL code is used in a competing way.

That is a very bold statement to make. Do you have any evidence to support it? Google and Apple both contribute substantial amounts of software to the open-source community, and all three know well enough to avoid infringing on GPL software -- it would make any of them look horrendously bad, especially Microsoft, which has been vehemently against the GPL for many years.

KingGorilla wrote:
Rovio very publicly just took GPL physics and rendering software, no credit.

Got a link for this one, too? The only mention I can find online about Rovio infringing the GPL is this bit of nonsense from Florian Müller, a renowned anti-Google shill, that makes the ridiculous claim that any software written in C for Android should be deemed a derivative work of the Linux kernel and hence in violation of the GPL.

KingGorilla wrote:
Your chances of enforcing or stopping someone abusing GPL software is about nil.

This is simply not true -- the GPL has been enforced against infringing parties on several occasions. Most of those cases end in settlements, but at least one of the BusyBox suits was decided in court, in favour of the developers. In other words, the GPL is enforceable in US courts.

KingGorilla wrote:
Creative Commons has a bigger problem. This is in weak cloudy licensing of items that are best covered by copyright. CC surrenders most of your copyrights and you can never get them back. Places are increasingly encouraging CC licensing in lieu of copyright registration.

CC does not surrender anything about your copyright: it's built upon copyright, and it relies on copyright law for its existence and its enforcement. All CC does is provide content producers with a simple means to tell the world that they allow free use of their work in certain contexts without requiring an explicit licence. In turn, it gives other content producers a simple means to determine whether or not they can reuse an existing CC work within one of their own works without needing to acquire an explicit licence from the copyright holder.

It does have some unfortunate complexities, such as the ambiguity of the "non-commercial" clause (there's no strict definition of what is or is not considered a commercial use), or cases such as the Virgin case you linked to where a use is allowed by the CC licence but falls foul of another law (privacy laws, in that case), but I don't think they're worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater over.

KingGorilla wrote:
So much of it is a rose tinted look at web content that I only see serving the likes of Facebook and Google.

What about the thousands of startups that have built businesses on the backs of GPL software? What about the thousands of bloggers that use CC images to help illustrate their posts? What about music remix communities, like ccMixter, where users are constantly building off each others' works? If anything, I think CC and the GPL benefit smaller players much more than they help the Facebooks and Googles of the world.

KingGorilla wrote:
Worse, GPL and CC are sloppy they add this level of legal talk, seeming to be professional, but they are not. And how CC fails to serve the public is that it can create seemingly more restrictive means than Copyright.

Neither CC and GPL is more restrictive than copyright, since they're both start with what copyright provides and then add extra allowed uses. Both licences are entirely non-exclusive, too, so if you own all the rights to a work that you've placed under a CC or GPL licence, you're free to licence it to people under any other licence you like, with any other terms that you like. It's certainly possible, for instance, to release music under a CC licence, but then also licence the music commercially for use in a soundtrack where its use would be incompatible with the CC licence terms.

KingGorilla wrote:
On a more fundamental problem, I do not honestly think Creative Commons or GPL would hold up as valid contracts. They sweep too wide, apply to literally anyone and everyone. And it is a contract with people you never speak with.

They're not contracts, they're licences. At least for the GPL, this Groklaw article explains why it's a licence, and why that makes it enforceable under copyright law (as it has since been shown to be).

KingGorilla wrote:
Bottom line is you can get help when people abuse your copyrights. If you rely on creative commons licensing, that is murky water.

I will bring you to Jacobson v Katzer CC labels this as a victory for CC and them. Problem is that the license holder lost on the remanded suit and the case was dismissed.

These licenses are weak.

You added this after I posted the above, so I'll address it here. The licence in question in that case is not a CC licence at all: it's an open-source software licence called the Artistic License that's unrelated to CC and predates it by many years. Furthermore, that case "determined that the terms of the Artistic License are enforceable copyright conditions".

The merits of the case itself are less interesting than that finding about the Artistic License, but in the end, the two parties settled in 2010. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know what part of the puzzle the case you linked to was, but it doesn't seem like it was the final say on the matter.

We can certainly have a separate discussion but the legal minds I have spoken to in IP fields, the literature on the subject as well as much of the case law are negative on GPL and Creative Commons. Send me a PM if you want to discuss it further. Creative commons is in fact 6 kinds of licenses, some better than others, some that are badly written. GPL was written with a different sort of law in mind, which is why it holds up well in Europe and not the US. And more and more what I am seeing as I read on them are people relying on how professional they look to hold up in the US, and that is not really the case.

The Groklaw case you cite was decided by a default judgment. Westinghouse mounted no defense, and thus the trial was not decided on its merits. At the time Westinghouse was going through a liquidation and was incapable of mounting much of a legal defense.

It helps to get the full story, over what a blog excerpts as a win.

GPL and CC have won significant victories in Germany and Spain, not in the US.

But this does get into something Mr. Mayne was insightful on. Creators turn to these stock licenses largely from a lack of desire or ability to consult an attorney. Solid licenses and terms can be created more tailored to the artist. They can be sweet and pithy, just a bit of header on your main page.

KingGorilla wrote:
We can certainly have a separate discussion but the legal minds I have spoken to in IP fields, the literature on the subject as well as much of the case law are negative on GPL and Creative Commons. Send me a PM if you want to discuss it further.

Honestly, I don't think that would be a productive conversation to have. If others reading this thread will think twice about taking your claims about CC and GPL at face value, then my point has been made.

KingGorilla wrote:
But this does get into something Mr. Mayne was insightful on. Creators turn to these stock licenses largely from a lack of desire or ability to consult an attorney. Solid licenses and terms can be created more tailored to the artist. They can be sweet and pithy, just a bit of header on your main page.

Yes, this is definitely an interesting point of discussion. CC, GPL, and other open-source and open-content licences aren't for everyone, and anyone looking at those licences should be very careful to make sure they understand their terms before applying them to their works. These licences are irrevocable once applied, and in some cases, artists may not even have the right to place their own work under such licences due to other agreements they have in place; for instance, in many jurisdictions, CC terms are incompatible with musicians that use a collecting agency to gather performance royalties. Many artists may well be better served by a more specific licence that's tailored to their needs.

The main benefit that using existing licences brings is a familiarity that helps facilitate the "sharing for the common good" goals of those licences. As an example, I release my music under a CC-BY-SA licence, and because of that I know that if I find some sounds or samples online that I like that are under a CC-BY-SA or CC-BY licence, I can freely incorporate those samples in to my work as long as I acknowledge their source. Likewise, if I'm writing a blog post (my blog is also under a CC-BY-SA licence), and I find a CC-BY or CC-BY-SA image online that helps illustrate that post, then I can incorporate that in to my post. Even better, I can use search tools that are aware of CC licencing (like the search tools on Flickr) to find images that meet my licence requirements.

If an artist instead licences their work under their own, custom licence, and I want to re-use their work, then assuming I ever even find it (since it won't appear in CC search engines), things are much more complicated:

* I could try to make sense of their licence as a non-lawyer, and hope that I come to the right conclusions about whether I can or can't re-use their work
* I could hire a lawyer to interpret the licence for me, at significant cost to myself
* I could write to the artist and ask for explicit permission, and hope that they take the time to respond
* or, the most likely outcome: I could simply disregard the artist's work and move on

Let's be clear here: CC licences are about establishing a means by which artists can freely share their own work, and re-use the shared work of others, within certain clear boundaries. If you're not interested in that, then CC licences are not for you.

SO I have been working with my employer on some details here.

I am just wondering if anyone, momgamer, Seth might happen to be a member of an artistic union/guild?

Not anymore. Was a SAG member like 15 years ago for a brief bit. I think my boss is (he does indie films as well as our Daily Planet job). Is that what you're talking about?

I'm a (lapsed) member of AIGA and the Graphic Artists Guild. Debating the merits of re-upping.

Do you have a question? I'm about to run out to a meeting with him and I can ask him if you want.

momgamer wrote:
Not anymore. Was a SAG member like 15 years ago for a brief bit. I think my boss is (he does indie films as well as our Daily Planet job). Is that what you're talking about?

Yes, SAG, Author's Guild, etc. Part of my inspiration being that independent, smaller scale artists do not fall within the purview of these organizations.

To be a member of the author's guild you need to be published by a major publisher, or published in a widely circulated paper/magazine, etc.

You get into circular problems there. In many ways to succeed in a creative field, you need to be a mamber of the guild or union. But in order to become a member of the union you need a degree of success in the field to be accepted. You need Penguin to publish the book, or you need to work for USA Today already, in other words.

Also, as a tread lightly area...I am not anxious to get sued by a trade organization, guild, union. I also do not need to be duplicitive in this. Again with the AG, the services they provide all tie back to work with major book publishers or news agencies.

KingGorilla wrote:
momgamer wrote:
Not anymore. Was a SAG member like 15 years ago for a brief bit. I think my boss is (he does indie films as well as our Daily Planet job). Is that what you're talking about?

Yes, SAG, Author's Guild, etc. Part of my inspiration being that independent, smaller scale artists do not fall within the purview of these organizations.

To be a member of the author's guild you need to be published by a major publisher, or published in a widely circulated paper/magazine, etc.

You get into circular problems there. In many ways to succeed in a creative field, you need to be a mamber of the guild or union. But in order to become a member of the union you need a degree of success in the field to be accepted. You need Penguin to publish the book, or you need to work for USA Today already, in other words.

Also, as a tread lightly area...I am not anxious to get sued by a trade organization, guild, union. I also do not need to be duplicitive in this. Again with the AG, the services they provide all tie back to work with major book publishers or news agencies.

I asked my boss, and he told me he has broken with both SAG and the Director's Guild, and he really can't talk about it.

This seems relevant to this thread: Interviews: Ask Free Software Legal Giant Eben Moglen

Edwin wrote:
This seems relevant to this thread: Interviews: Ask Free Software Legal Giant Eben Moglen

There are going to be treatises on why MS won their defense in the US, but lost in the EU. And I suspect Apple will fall to a similar fate. But it will all make for good reading material.

I'm in the IGDA's writers SIG, for what that's worth.

Well it would also be nice to know of your satisfaction with these bodies with regard to my goals.

By and large what I am aiming for is filling in the gap between larger publisher or manager and doing everything on your own. When I look at the structure of the Author's Guild, for example, I see that gap widening as fewer printed news sources are out there, also book publishers are really scaling back. I also do not think that the common case of paying dues with a crap deal working to a better one is a good system to maintain.

Do you get access to legal advice regarding copyrights, patents, trademarks?
How do they fit in if your work is stolen, pirated, converted, etc?
Not so much the IGDA, but how do the other artistic guilds handle online content? How is their knowledge? Do they understand the value?
Do you feel that you get your money's worth out of the dues paid?

The video of Eben Moglen interview has been posted here.

So I have completed my music registration manual. I am actually throwing around the idea of crafting a guide or book for all of the most popular registrations, or even all registrations. Folks can PM me for details. But I am looking to get some feedback on what I have thus far. Just some ideas on what you might pay for an individual guide, or an entire bound book. What you might think of a video guide (hi def video is still pricey).

I would ask people to PM me with an e-mail address.