Thursday, February 18, 2010

Episode 53-Copyright 101 with Linda Kattwinkel ! MacWorld with Mercuralis!

Hoooo Boy! We have an awesome episode for you this week and we hope you learn a lot, folks. 

This week copyright and intellectual property lawyer, Linda Kattwinkel, joins the Ninjas to discuss copyright law.

Linda works for noted law office Owen, Wickersham & Erickson, P.C. out of San Francisco, California and they work with some of the most important artists and properties in America to provide legal advice and representation.
You can learn more about Owen, Wickersham & Erickson, P.C. at their law firm's website at
We would like to thank Linda for giving so generously of her time to answer our questions.
Understanding of copyright law is an important part of any artist's career and Linda stepped forward to empower our listeners with solid information.
Thank you, Linda!

You may learn more about copyright and intellectual property law through an excellent series of articles that Linda has written in her "Legalities" column published at the law firm's website.

More can be learned about U.S. copyright law at
You can learn a bit more about the Berne Convention through Wikipedia  ( how accurate it's Wikipedia...).

Patrick McEvoy returns to the mountain from his journey to Mac World with an interview he shared with the very talented Melissa Findley ( aka Mercuralis).
To learn more about Melissa's work, head over to her blog site at:
Thank you, Patrick, for being our "man on the street".

Hope you enjoy it, folks!


Jan said...

Very informative! I didn't know about the US registration thingie! O_O that's just odd.

Also, cashew?! Good choice, Patrick!

The blunt instrument used by moderators is usually called a "banhammer" btw. ;P

Gordon Napier said...

Indeed very informative. Thanks to all.

CGriffin said...

Really great show! And it was cool to hear Mel too. Well done, Ninjas!

Steve Argyle said...

Awesome interview! Thanks!

Behold my barrage of follow-ups!

"Fan art." Paid, or for fun: Infringement in both cases, right? As the work may be original, but the characters portrayed are copyrighted.

But is there a line of fair-use somewhere in there? Most of us started out by submitting portfolios jammed full of craptastic Wolverine vs. Darth Vader drawings. And sites like Deviantart are 95% fan-art.

I imagine pros should just plain steer clear. I know I've turned down plenty of private commissions because the request was for copyrighted characters. Is there ever a non-satirical scenario where it's ok?

(I've actually tried to purchase licensing for creating artwork based on some of the big franchises. Even the ones I work for just sort of shrugged.)

And a contracts question:

Publishers all have "boiler-plate" contracts, and some of them can get downright draconian. Most artists are simply super-excited to be working, and barely read the contract, let alone understand that in some cases, they themselves are no longer allowed to use or display the work in any context.

Is there a "boiler-plate" contract outline that artists can purchase, perhaps from your firm, Linda, which an artist can use for various scenarios?

Lastly, I've had a number of this ghastly beast: "Surprise! We rewrote your contract!" Now, I realize that in many contracts, there is written provision for modification after signing, but what is the scope of what can be changed? I've had contracts rewritten to remove my rights to display the work and sell prints. I've had contracts that were rewritten from temporary license, to work-for-hire. I know that at least some of this isn't legal, but I'll be buggered if I know which parts, and what my rights are in this sort of situation.

I've got more, but I'll stop now. Thanks so much for your time!


Drew Baker said...

"Fan art" and likenesses -- both of public figures and normal folks in public -- were things I'd hoped to ask about. Sadly, I forgot to write my questions down. And Michael woke up. Sorry.

Patrick said...

I can add something that's totally NOT legal, but I've heard several times from comic-industry pros. That is that SO many top artists at the comics companies do fan drawings at conventions and the like, and it's a major source of income for many, that they do tend to turn a blind eye to that. They wouldn't want to antagonize any of their important talent so they just pretend it's not happening.

Again - this is NOT legal advice nor is it an official policy by anyone. It just seems like the current reality of the situation. (Of course, doing anything other than a one-off original piece would be a WHOLE other thing).

Damian said...

So if there is an issue with a tattoo on someone you can literally ask for your Pound of Flesh!

I'm starting to wonder if I should have had permission from Brian Froud, Rick Veitch and Mark Silvestri for my tattoos!