Gassy Man in now at Gamekeys.net

News / 20 November 2020

Hey guys, just thought I’d let you know, if you’re looking for the original Gassy Man demo to play, 

A real nice person from Gamekeys asked if they could list the game and I said sure, why not? 

So, want it on Steam? Check it out on Gamekeys https://gameskeys.net/product/gassy-man/

Check it out!



More Humble Bundle Goodness

General / 19 November 2020

More 

I Have Nothing Left to Fear and I’m Not Okay

Work In Progress / 19 November 2020

I’m a big fan of V for Vendetta. One of my favourite graphic novels and movies. Hey you, shut up back there, I don’t care about the story changes they made in the movie or anything else. Accepting things we like despite differences or imperfections is a discussion for another day. 

Anyway, one of the aspects of the story that I’ve always been fascinated with is the idea of the freedom through loss of fear.

Roughly a decade ago, I had actually put this into practice. I created a policy of throwing myself at every fear that I had, in order to overcome those fears. It worked. At least at the time. I was single with no obligations and enjoyed my life and the increased freedom that facing my fears left me feeling.

Fast forward 10 years, several bad relationships and several anxiety drugs later and I cannot say that I feel the same.

I feel I can actually say that I’m not afraid of anything anymore, but because I can’t feel any worse about myself. When you feel absolutely bottom and really hate yourself, it’s surprisingly hard to remain frightened of anything, at least for any extended length of time.

Like what kind of threat can you make when I already hate myself? What can you do to me that I haven’t done to myself in my head 100 times over? What torture or violence or privilege can you commit or take away when I already feel like I deserve the worst you have to offer?

Before I continue, let me calm anyone getting worried. This is not a cry for help. I am not going to hurt myself. Basically for the same reasons that I can’t murder people. Too much planning. Too messy. I couldn’t live with the anxiety, and I don’t want to hurt people. If I know anything about myself at all any more, it’s that I don’t want to hurt people.

Let me explain a little further. I have depression and anxiety, which I am medicated and get treatment for. 

The last couple of days have been rough.

Through a series of misunderstandings, misassumptions, and misguided actions on my part within my social circle, a personal issue exploded beyond all proportion. The issue was caused by my thoughts and actions and misunderstandings. Everyone is fine thus far which is what is most important.

Thing is, when I already have such a low opinion of myself, there isn’t anywhere to go but inward. I spent most of the day in bed crying over causing the upset of a group of people that I had allowed myself to become close to. And the judgement and misassumptions of those in my social circle.

Some days I can be very productive and some days I cannot. I’ve had to accept that, as it is a fact whether I want to admit it or not.

Since wanting to move forward and get better means acknowledging positive achievements to boost self-esteem, I’ve had to re-define what an achievement is. Some days, an achievement is finishing a piece of art I’m satisfied with, other days, it’s getting out of bed.

Yesterday, it was making it to 1pm before my first sobbing fit for the day. I was able to get myself out of bed and back to work in about an hour and a half. The day before was 5+ hours.

-I didn’t cry until 1pm. (Today was 2:15!)

-I was able to get out of bed and back to work in an hour and a half. (Keeping productive today by writing this from bed.)

Those are the accomplishments that I need to cling to, to get through some days.

It’s impossible not to take life one day at a time, when you micro-analyze every single thought, action and movement. 

I hate the fact that I’ve become an artist stereotype.

Anxiety and depression sucks, the mental health system is a joke, and medication is a guessing game that will fuck up your head if you guess the wrong combination. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get help if you need it or that I would stop my treatment.

I just hope that someone will read this and it will help them. I know how I feel right now, I, wouldn’t wish it on anyone else in the world, and I know that I have enough friends and family who are also struggling too, that someone else will see this and not feel so alone.

That’s about it for now. Here’s some art:


Thanks for reading,

Mike


Something to think about

General / 17 November 2020


Don't Be Limited by What Others Have Done Before

Tutorial / 11 November 2020

One of the lessons that I try to drive home in all of my writing classes, is the will to risk. Risk doing something different. Risk changing the status quo of your writing. You never know what is going to be successful and absorbed into the genre or fandom. 

The easiest example I can make of this is modern film and fiction depicting vampires or werewolves. What most of us think we know as standard facts about werewolf or vampire mythology was actually created by the movie industry in the last 100 years and were never part of the original myths and legends. Death by sunlight? Made up by movies. Must sleep during the day? Made up by movies. There's actually a much better and great explanation of this concept by Simon Pegg by way of Max Landis, which used to be on youtube that I would have dropped right here, but it seems impossible to find now. If anyone knows what I'm talking about and has a link, send it my way. 

The gist of Pegg's advice video is this: Don't be afraid to create your own rules for fictional characters and don't be constrained by rules created by other writers. Want your vampires to sparkle? Not sure why, but why not? Want your vampires to prefer their hemoglobin mixed with bourbon? sure. Want a werewolf who transforms at the sight of a cat and fears rolled up newspapers? why not? Vampires and werewolves don't exist, so why be held to account by the rules another writer made up 50 years ago? Don't be afraid to make your mark and be different. It may catch on. 

In a similar spirit, I've been thinking about comics lately. 

I got into comics because I wanted to make art and tell stories and the sequential form really resonated with me. I loved comics. Spent my life learning to make them and eventually became a working member of the industry. 

This is a moment where sayings like "Be careful what you wish for" or "Don't ruin your passion by making it a job." come to mind. 

I still love comics and sequential narratives and storytelling, but the industry scene is a hot pile of garbage right now. 

Never in the history of comics, as I've known, have the different segments of the industry and fan base been so at each other's throats. Fans hate the distributors. Distributors hate the retailers. Retailers hate the publishers. Publishers hate the fans, and no comic themed conversation can be had online without it devolving into childish know-it-all-ism and name calling. 

DC Comics literally can't do anything without the entirety of the internet screaming in disgust, whether what they are doing is really that big a deal and even worthy of attention or not. 

I have lost all desire to work in mainstream comics and don't read them any more. I don't think any of those publishers really give a shit about their existing fanbase or making good comics. Pretty sure they don't give a shit about my demographic by the junk being put out. 

It's a hot mess with no security and at the end of the day, it's very uncertain whether you'll be paid for your work from ANY publisher right now.

So why wade into this sewer and try to get everyone to play nice? 

I just want to tell stories. I want to share them with people. I want to make art that makes you think and discuss it intelligently with readers.

I don't need mainstream, or even comic book publishers to do that. I'm fully capable of producing my own comic, but in the uncertain economic times that are 2020, why put out the extra expense and headache? I think I'll be shying away and strictly limiting any print self-publishing that I do from here on out. Digital publishing is way less headache for a small business or individual artist and since there are way more options and possibilities with digital delivery, why not explore them?

At the end of the day I'm happy to take my own ideas and skills and make my own kinetic novel, visual novel, motion comic, video game or any other creative work featuring my own characters on my own terms and share them with supporters on my own website. 

If word-of-mouth can't grow my audience, then I need to go back and look at my work. I prefer my work to speak for itself, so if something I'm doing isn't resonating, I need to go back and review my approach and no amount of money spent on Facebook or Instagram ads will change that. 

Don't get sucked in by those social media platforms or by "mainstream logic" that says you have to slave away for a corporate giant while being underpaid and disrespected. Make your own way and your own mark.

 Make your own rules. Comics are supposed to be fun after all. 

That's my rant for today, and also, here's some art:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

What Can Be Done About Floppy Comics?

Article / 05 November 2020

If you have more than a passing interest in the comics industry, such as myself, you are probably aware of the maelstrom of conflict that the comic industry has been in 2020. Corona hit the comics industry particularly hard, disrupting shipping, publishing and release dates. The temporary shut down of distribution, crippling many businesses. The backlashes against DC Comics for their involvement in creating a new distributor or Diamond for being a monopoly with questionable concern for their clientele. A nerdy shitstorm if you will.

Lots of people have weighed in with different ideas, theories and blame, aimed at different figures and businesses throughout the industry. Well, since I'm a people too, and I might just have a couple of decades of experience in this industry, I might add my two cents and maybe give an insight into some possible resolutions that may not have been thought of.

First, let's all agree that comics is no longer the core of the business. What were once comic shops are now really pop culture and collectible stores, and have been for a long time. When comics publishers were just that, comic publishers, and not owned by media conglomerates, comics were the core of the business. That's all they did. They did it well and a successful comic book from a major publisher could sell 500,000 copies on the stands. Today, a successful comic book from a major publisher sells 20,000-50,000 copies. 150,000 copies is a run away success. In most cases, discounting advertising revenue, a comic book publisher is lucky if they are clearing $50,000 profit on any issue. I don't think it's any surprise that this has happened gradually, after all the comic publishers that were comic publishers were bought up by media conglomerates. Comic books are no longer the core of the business and haven't been for a long time. The comics are on the verge, possibly already there, of being an advertising expense. 

Objectively, imagine you are the head of a multi-media monopoly that owns the rights to a prominent character. The production of a monthly comic book has stresses, headaches, time invested, unreliability of talent and at the end of it all you might bring in $50,000 for the company at the end of the day. If you are lucky. In contrast, movie and television projects, based on the same character, have a track record of bringing in multiple millions, even billions of dollars, for little to no headache or effort from the rights holder (in this example I assume the movie rights are licensed to a separate studio, in some cases, like Marvel, a different branch of the same company produces the movie but have similar expense and profitability scales). So if your job is to exploit these characters and intellectual properties to make the company profit, what's the better option? A comic that may make $50,000 or a film that takes less effort on your part and brings in $50 million?

The truth of the matter is that the characters and intellectual properties are much more valuable now than the actual comics that they star in. Part of this may be because of the shift in focus, from a dedicated editorial team trying to craft the best stories possible, to a corporate board who see the character as a profitable asset to be exploited. If this troubles you, perhaps you could take solace in the fact that if comics collapse and disappear tomorrow, the characters will live on. With this shift of focus and direction among the major publishers after being bought out, it's no surprise that comics have gotten less attention than more valuable delivery channels and slowly fallen by the wayside. At this point the comics barely generate enough revenue to even be worthy of notice to mega-corporate organizations. The comic book sales are not what made these companies attractive to media companies who bought them. Media companies buy comic book companies because the intellectual property is more profitable when exploited, licensed and merchandised to the hilt. 

The fact is, even merchandising such as toys, posters, costumes, t-shirts etc. is more profitable than producing the monthly comic book. 

Now that all these properties are being closely guarded by corporate giants, their biggest fear is that the weirdoes on the creative team of the comic will produce some kind of crazy story that will get negative press and damage the value of the intellectual property. So, the mega media overlords, like an overgrown fanboy, keep all the characters protectively sealed in mylar, to preserve their value. No major changes, no controversy, no touchy subjects and if we do tempt the fates and teeter on the edge of such things, we undo it in the next storyline as quickly as possible, as it if never happened.

Sounds like a fun creative situation, right?

Added into the mix of this is the recent upheaval at DC Comics and the rumors of an on-again, off-again, cancelled, re-vamped project that allegedly would have seen DC's major heroes stepping aside for a new generation of characters to take over the mantle of their heroic duties.

And of course people lost their minds at the idea that Bruce Wayne might be replaced...and by a black man instead of Robin. Oh the horror. 

The shame of it is, that is what DC is good at. For decades, they were a company known for legacy characters that handed down titles and built a family dynamic and history. I feel fortunate that I grew up in a time when I could follow the adventures of The Flash. Barry Allen was a great character, and then I learned that he wasn't the first Flash, that was Jay Garrick. Then we were introduced to Wally West, Barry Allen's kid nephew who accidentally recreates the lab accident that happened to his uncle, giving him the same powers. We saw Wally grow up, mourn the death of Barry and take over his mantle to become a major hero of his own for a long time and truly step into the role and legacy of the Flash and become the Flash, not Kid Flash pretending to be the Flash. Look at Infinity Inc. A great team book that was entirely based on the idea of family and legacy, tied directly to major DC Properties like the Justice League, Justice Society, etc. 

I've been blogging on comics and working in the industry for 20 years, and I can tell you I was one of the people clamoring for more diversity and inclusion in comics. Since then, some small progresses have been made. Some of those steps have been blatant pandering, just looking to get money out of people who are part of an ethnic minority or alternative lifestyle. 

I think we're beyond the point of needing character change and development, I think we MUST have it if publishers intend to keep selling monthly comics. 

Let's face it, these characters have become engrained in the culture and there is no shortage in demand for content, it just needs to be the right content. 

As I said before, the comics are essentially an advertising expense at this point. Figures show that the comics bring viewers to the movies. Conversely, movies do not always being new readers to the comics and the response of movie-goers becoming comic readers is often inconsistent and unpredictable. It's a strange contradiction until you consider that any interest that the average movie-goer has in the comic content will be directed at the stories that inspired the film, which are often the early issues that may have been published 30-80 years ago. 

There's a simple solution. It could work for any major publisher and save tons of money. Stay with me here...stop making the monthly comics.

At least, stop making the pristine, hermetically sealed cryogenically frozen versions of these characters that can't be sullied by negative press in comic book form. Stop making new stories of these old characters. 

Let me elaborate using Batman and DC Comics as an example (I feel like I'm picking on Batman this week):

DC Comics could stop making new Batman monthly comics tomorrow and not lose any money. In fact they might even save some money. As mentioned his value is in licensing. They could literally just stop making new Batman comics and they could start reprinting single issues in chronological order every month, starting with his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 from May 1939, and they would sell. There is a demand for them. People want to read those stories and in spite of some limited re-prints of key issues, most people don't have access to them. DC could spend the next 80 years reprinting individual issues of Batman on a monthly basis and they would sell and they would never have to pay for new art to be produced again. Alternatively they could collect them into trade paperback graphic novel collections that release every 1-3 months for the next 20 years and still not have to pay for new art. On top of that, whichever method they choose, enough time will have passed that they can reprint the series and then start reprinting all over again from the beginning and fill the demands of a whole new generation. 

Literally if we are being objectively honest, the top 3-4 comic publishers (with some minor caveats such as the fact that Image doesn't own their characters) are at the point where they may never have to generate new comic content again, they have enough content in their massive libraries that they can feasibly and realistically run a business that licenses rights to the characters and continues to just reprint the existing content in perpetuity. 

Where is the room for new comics?

I'm glad you asked. If rights holders want to reinvigorate interest in new comics, they need to take the kid gloves off and let their properties out of their mylar bags. Let them take risks. Let them get dirty. If DC or any other company wanted to revitalize the interest in new comics, something needs to happen. something significant. I'm tired of the circles that Batman and Catwoman go through just to have everything go back to status quo in a few months. 

New comics is a great opportunity to tell new stories, with new talent in new ways. Legacies, reimagining's, and handing over the mantle. New comics are the place for stories of Damien Wayne or Luke Fox or any of the many Robins as Batman. These stories would move on and be firmly set in the present or near-future and feature legacies and descendants of prominent characters in a cohesive DC Universe. 50 years from now people could be discussing their favorite Batman alter ego the same way they discuss their favorite Bond actors. 

These comics could also be produced on a monthly basis, but wouldn't have to be, freeing them of the obligation of monthly scheduling. These characters could be featured in mini-series or original graphic novels instead. With hype, marketing departments and the tremendous vault of re-printable content, DC could still produce Batman related content with a new release published every month, just not numbered or presented as a monthly ongoing series. The beauty is that when you are done reprinting 80 years worth of comics, the new material that you produced in parallel can then be added to the end of the reprint content and reprinted all over again.

Reprinting the classics and switching up the new comics would also give creative talent more freedom to experiment with new ideas and interpretations. It would be a great space to also try out wholly new characters that the overlords may not be as protective of. 

All it would really take for any major comics property holder to implement this is the right person who can respect and control the properties while implementing a sensible publishing plan for reprints and new content together, without becoming obsessed with just cranking out new content or balking at reprinting controversial stories that might cause a dip in profits.

I mean, that's my solution anyway, I've read lots online that I don't feel work as well, but I'm all ears if you've got one. 

Meanwhile, here's some art that I did!:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

Fan art and Copyright

Tutorial / 04 November 2020

The issue of copyright as it applies to fan art is convoluted and purposely confusing, to discourage budding artists from creating a situation that could compromise their financial future.

There are a lot of different sides to the issue: artistic freedom, moral philosophies, intellectual property protection rights, and more.

I’m going to use my limited space, time and audience to lay out the details of the legalities of fan art and hopefully dispel some myths.

Please note that this info is for general purposes and you should consult a legal professional in your area for more specifics about how copyright as it applies to fan art may effect you.

Is fan art legal?

Yes. There are those who will argue not, usually based on moral or financial interests. The truth is that, in any major civilized country, there is no law restricting what artists can create as it applies to copyright or intellectual properties. You are allowed to make art of your favorite characters. No question.

If I make fan art of a recognizable property, is the property owner granted copyright?

No. If you live in any civilized nation, laws may vary slightly, but the core of the law is that a citizen owns the copyright of any art that they create, the moment that they create it, regardless of content, unless that work was produced under contract for a client on a work-for-hire basis. This means that unless someone else hired you to produce the art specifically for commercial purposes outlined in a contract, you own the copyright to your artwork. Most countries offer additional protection with official copyright registration available for a fee, which will strengthen your case if you have to take someone to court for stealing your work, but the necessity of this will vary from country to country.

I can make fan art, but I can’t sell it, right?

Wrong. In most modern civilized countries, you are allowed to print and sell a limited number of copies of a recognizable character. The usual allowable threshold is 1000 copies or less. For example, if you create a wicked Superman pin-up, you are perfectly within you legal right to print and sell 700 prints of that art without compensating DC Comics. In most regions, if you want to sell more than 1000 copies you are required to approach the rights holder of the character and request permission, which usually includes negotiating a deal with them before printing that includes a sales percentage going to the owner of the character as a royalty. Keep in mind, it’s best to just keep your print runs less than 1000. If you sell out make a new print or a variation that clearly differentiates it. I keep all my print runs of merch and art under 1000. Remember, if you intend to sell more than 1000, it is always best to contact the character owner first and come to an agreement in writing, otherwise the character owner can ask a court to force you to release your sales records. If the character owner can prove that you sold more than 1000 copies, a court can level fines for damages, legal costs and a percentage of your sales to the character owner.

Keep in mind that big companies will use and abuse this system to their advantage. A great example from recent history was that Marvel had no problem with the original creators of Ghost Rider selling art and prints at conventions. When those creators told Marvel that they thought that they deserved some royalties for the Ghost Rider movies, Marvel instead sued them into oblivion for daring to make a living by selling art of a character that they created. Marvel was totally within their right to do this, as all of their talent must work under work-for-hire agreements, making Marvel the legal owner of Ghost Rider.

What could be changed?

There are a lot of varied opinions about how to improve this system, but I personally feel there needs to be even less restriction and more freedom for the artist. Prior to the modern copyright enactments of the early 1900s, when an artist created a piece that featured a famous person, scene or character, there was no question who owned it. Copyright laid with the artist and unless the piece was commissioned by a patron, the physical art was property of the artist until sold. A business could hire an artist to produce work for specific reprint or publishing, which usually consisted of a split of sales or a verbal agreement with the artist. It was possible to hire an artist on a work-for-hire basis, but this was generally reserved for specific logos and branding for business.

I’d like to see all restrictions lifted on the artist, allowing them to sell as many prints of their art as they want, regardless of content.

The entire subject has been made murky by modern business. Legal teams for big corporate property holders will argue that the visual representation, imagery and shape of their characters is a recognizable aspect of their business branding and is a Trademark in and of itself, and that your work devalues their property based on confusion with their own legitimate Trademarked products. Essentially the argument is that selling prints of your Batman fan art is the equivalent of selling prints or other product featuring the Starbucks logo.

Though this is the argument that entertainment giants will often lean on to win cases against individual artists, who rarely have the money to fight these giant companies in court, I think this argument should be turned on its head, in favour of the artist.

If pointed ears, a cape, cowl, and bat emblem make a piece undeniably recognized as Batman, or if a circle with two smaller circles on top and a pointed nose is undeniably Mickey Mouse, I would say that the character has become engrained in the culture. Any registered Trademarks should be declared void, and the characters should be considered to have entered the public domain. 

This is where corporate lawyers would clamour about unfairness, but the truth is that public systems and institutions are supposed to look out for the interests of the public first and are not obligated to protect the profitability and assets of a private business. Bottom line. Unfortunately, the system in North America has become so corrupted by money and special interests, getting those systems to change their perspective in favour of the public and artists is an uphill battle.

Some online merchandise and art posting websites have gone as far is to ban fan art, a position that I hope to see reverse, not just in my lifetime, but sooner rather than later. Fan art is a part of the culture and it is art. I feel that it should be treated with the same rights and protections given to any piece if art, without any restriction or differentiation.

Well, that’s all for today.

Here’s some art:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

Why the Public Domain is Important

Article / 03 November 2020

Though you may have heard talk of the public domain and possibly even public domain reform, many people aren't sure exactly what the term Public Domain means and what it entails. I'm going to take this opportunity to attempt my own explanation, as accurate to my knowledge as possible. 

Most often, the idea of Public Domain is demonstrated with the idea that when a creative work or artistic production has existed for a given period of time, that it becomes entrenched in the very fabric of cultural identity and considered a "public property" that anyone can use as they wish. Reprint, remix, redesign, revamp, reuse, reboot, reinterpret freely and without any need to pay royalties or licensing fees to someone. 

Some prime examples are this short list of characters that I'm sure most, if not all, of you have heard of:

Dracula

Peter Pan

Frankenstein

Sherlock Holmes

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Alice in Wonderland

Snow White

The Wizard of Oz

and many more. 

The issues facing modern public domain are mostly political. 

Large corporations that own vast libraries of intellectual properties don't want to risk their profit potential by allowing the characters that they currently control to enter the public domain. 

So, these large entertainment conglomerates like Disney, Marvel, Warner Bros., Sony, etc. Hire lobbyist. These lobbyists publicly claim to be fighting for the IMPORIVEMENT of public domain laws and claim to be pushing for changes that will improve the rights of artists and creators, when in reality it is a smoke screen to push through changes that continue to protect the interests of corporate America and keep moving the goal-post as to what criteria have to be met in order for a property to enter the public domain. 

The prime culprit is the public domain calculation that looks like this: Life of artist + 70 years = Entry into public domain. So in this case, as the current law stands, a work cannot enter the public domain until after the creator has been dead for 70 years. In the last hundred years, corporate lobbyists have pushed to extend this term from 50 years and before that, 30, and they will keep pushing to extend that term as long as possible, because entertainment media wants to have full control of an intellectual property without allowing anyone else to use it as long as possible. 

The biggest and most glaringly hypocritical abuser of this is Disney. A company that built it's empire on public domain characters and refuses to allow it's few original creations to enter the public domain. 

The reasons that people accept and go along with this, even get duped into believing that these corporate interests are the same as theirs are two-fold. The first idea is that by creating an original character, you can provide a life of idle luxury to your descendants (This is a rare enough occurrence to be considered delusional). The other is that when a character enters the public domain, it is no longer profitable and its potential value drops. 

Has there been any shortage of successful and profitable movies, shows, games and books based on Dracula, Robin Hood, Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland and more? No. In fact, these projects are technically cheaper to produce because they don't need to pay royalties to the original creators. 

Public domain properties are experiencing more popularity and profitability for major studios than ever before, but they want you to believe that your characters will be worthless if they enter the public domain. 

On top of that, the machinations of corporate legal teams are not above filing trademark claims on public domain characters, just to tie up the character in legal knots and allow their corporate clients to control it and milk profits a little bit longer. These and other dishonest deeds keep some characters tied up that should already be in the public domain such as:

Winnie the Pooh

Batman

Superman

Bugs Bunny

Mickey Mouse

The Human Torch

The Lone Ranger

Zorro

The Phantom

and many more. 

The hypocrisy of these studios that build castles on public domain characters and use that money to keep their own characters out of the public domain is glaring. 

In all honesty, I don't believe any corporate entity should be able to buy intellectual property or use work-for-hire contracts. They should have to license the property from an original creator, a person, who gets royalties. I elaborate on this a bit more in my blog about copyright.

As a creator, I don't think I need 70 years of protection after I die. I don't have children (because I wouldn't sentence another soul to living in this purgatory), but if I did, I would expect that kid to do a little work to support themselves. Even if they capitalized on my name to get attention for their own creative work. We've been seduced into this idea that we can create a character that will keep our decedents living in luxury for generations, which is so unfathomably rare as to be delusional. In most cases, if a property is worth anything it is purchased and then controlled and kept out of the public domain by entertainment companies

For me personally, I think an idea or project that is unsuccessful is perfect for the public domain. Why not let someone else see if they can do something with the idea and build on it?

I for one am looking forward to taking part in Public Domain day, celebrated on January 1st. On this day people celebrate the properties whose 70 year protection has expired and enter the public domain and artists all over the world choose to donate works and characters into the public domain for others to use. 

I also made some art:


Thanks for reading,

Mike


My Thoughts on Modern Copyright Law

Work In Progress / 02 November 2020

Time for me to share some extreme opinions from a different perspective again. 

By that I mean that I believe that Copyright law in first world countries has become an unruly beast that needs to be killed for the good of the villagers. 

We've really all been duped that the changes that have been made to copyright law over the last 50-100 years is all good and strengthens protection for those who create original ideas. That is a complete scam. The groups lobbying for changes and extensions in copyright law are funded by huge corporations that want to keep a hold in their massive libraries of intellectual property which have been purchased, or stolen from the original creators. Disney for example. 

Copyright lobbyists are looking out for the interests of multinational companies that want to horde intellectual properties like a medieval dragon with gold, not the individual artist and creator. 

If you take a reasonably objective stance, it's fairly easy to see that the manipulation and gaming of the system has gotten out of hand and the changes and extensions being made do nothing, except let large companies keep some of the most classic properties legally tied up in disputes and out of the public domain. 

Currently, and consider this paraphrasing, Copyright protection covers the life of the artist plus 70 years. 

So, if you create a character, you can protect your copyright for your lifetime and your descendants/beneficiaries can continue to profit from your creation for 70 years after your death, after that property enters the public domain and essentially becomes a community property of society for anyone to use as they see fit. 

The complication comes in when large corporations steal, claim, purchase or employ for hire to acquire intellectual properties. Corporate law is an ugly fucking hideous beast, as discussed in my previous blog about corporate law. 

When a corporation is now considered a person with rights (look it up), then when is the person that is the corporation considered dead? Do they have to go bankrupt? Does that count? What if they restructure? What if they liquidate and sell property rights to another large corporation? Does the 70 year count start over again? And what if the company is stable and never goes out of business? If they are considered a person, then are their intellectual properties protected forever while other properties created by actual people are not?

Despite how you feel about it, the hypocrisy of entertainment giants such as Disney, who built an empire on public domain properties and refuse to let the few original properties created by their founder enter the public domain, is glaring. 

I'm all for protecting copyright for idea originators and creators who actually do the work, but it's become fairly blatant that the laws as they exist favor those gold hording dragons of the corporate world. 

The first thing that needs to change, in my opinion, is that a corporate business entity should not be able to hold intellectual property in perpetuity. Ideally, I'd love to see the Copyright law changed so that an original creator can not relinquish or sell away the full rights of any intellectual property they create. The only exception should be if they want to relinquish Copyright early and donate the property to the public domain. Now, you can currently donate any original creation to the public domain, but the best properties in the world are already being tied up and held hostage by large entertainment companies. What I'd like to see is a drastic change or abolishment of the work-for-hire agreement that requires artists and creators to relinquish ownership and copyrights to the client. I'd like to see some sort of reform where corporate business entities are not considered people or authors and that they always have to license properties from the original creator, with rights reversing back to the creator when the agreement expires.

A simple change like this would put power and prosperity back into the hands of artists and creators.

Corporations aren't hurting, and they are not being hard-done-by They are also playing a lot of games that are dishonest and keep ideas out of the public domain. One such trick is to register a Trademark on a character that should no longer be protected. DC Comics is a great example of this. The Captain Marvel/Shazam character, originally published by Fawcett Comics, should have been in the public domain and technically is, but thanks to corporate legal machinations, is next to impossible to use. As long as there is no direct conflict with a previous registered Trademark, anyone can register one. It takes someone with deep pockets that wants to challenge it to have the trademark declared invalid, and there aren't many people out there with the budget to fight Warner Bros. and AT&T, DC's parent company. So they might not technically have copyright, but thanks to trademarks on the name and logo of SHAZAM! and a legal agreement with Marvel Comics to share the Captain Marvel name, if you do get away with using the character in your own book, the name of the character cannot appear on the cover. Batman and Superman are not far off from being in the same situation. 

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that protection for life plus 70 years is excessive. Previously the limit was 50 years and I feel that is excessive too. I think anything longer than 30 years is unreasonable. The whole excuse for the formula is life + X years is based on the idea of providing benefit for your loved ones and descendants with your original idea. It's a great thought, but if you are going to build a fortune on your own ideas to secure the future of your loved ones, you should do it while you are alive and leave it in your will. It's great to set your kids up with something that helps them be financially secure, but they should also have to work too. This delusional idea that is promoted by fiction that someone should be able to create one character and that all their subsequent generations should then be able to live a life of idle luxury is ridiculous. 

To be honest, I'd be fine if there was no protection after death. If you have a kid that wants to live easy by profiting off of your reputation, they should do it by following in your footsteps and create their own professional quality work and capitalize on the family name to get a foot in the door, not just live off the fat of your creations.

Why is the protection term for life? Lobbyists will tell you that it is to protect the rights and profitability for individual creators, which is a load of crap. They are protecting the interests of Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, and so on. I'd be fine of the total protection lasted 30-50 years. To be quite honest, if you have a million dollar idea, you should be able to make whatever money you are going to make on it in that time period. If you don't, you didn't try hard enough or the idea wasn't worth a million bucks. 

If I create a property that has any potential and I haven't done anything with it in 30-50 years, I'm more than happy to release it to public domain and let other people try to make something with it. I'd love to see how other creators interpret my ideas, as long as they are public domain. In fact, I am more than happy to release some of my properties into public domain and intend to take part in public domain day, January 1st, every year by donating something to public domain. 

Let's be real. The establishment wants you to be afraid of someone else profiting from your idea, so they hype it up, hire copyright lobbyists to change laws and convince the public that it's good for them, and you feel nice and protected while you clutch your idea to your chest only to discover that you'd spent decades smothering them and they will never reach the heights they could have if you let them go. 

Honestly, if I create something and it doesn't seem to be profitable within a few years, why not release it to the public domain and see if someone else can build on it or do better. And if so, kudos to them! As long as I'm credited as the creator. that's really all I need or deserve. 

In fact, there is nothing stopping anyone from using an existing public domain character or creating a character, releasing it to public domain, and still creating the best work you can with the idea and profiting from it. 

Interestingly, there is a benchmark where a brand can become so well known and synonymous with a product that a Trademark can be declared void and the brand name considered part of the public lexicon. Example of those that have been or close to have been becoming public terms are thing like, Kleenex, Vaseline and Javex. I feel the same should be done for characters that have become part of human culture and lexicon such as Superman and Batman. 

I sincerely hope that this reaches enough like-minded people that we can all work together and push for change that protects people, not profits.

Also, here's some art I made!:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

Just something to think about...

Tutorial / 01 November 2020