Rich is one of my favorite neighborhood weirdos.
Neither here nor there.
stanleyipkiss asked: Hey, I love your stuff, I bought your book, it's great. I was just wondering though: how does copyright affect your work? How are you (or shirt or publishing companies) legally allowed to sell stuff when it uses an actors' likeness? Is it legally considered art and that gets around it? Or do you just publish it with the hope of not getting sued? Not that it's offensive or anything. It's hilarious. Just wondering.
People throw around terms like, “parody law” but there’s really no such thing; there’s no giant list of what a person is and is not allowed to draw And how could there be? Imagine if there were a list of forbidden words. On its face, that would be a violation of our right to free speech. But once you start to violate someone else’s right to speech (their copy right, if you will), that’s where you get into trouble. George Lucas has the right to make Star Wars. Anyone else has the right to say whatever they want about Star Wars. That picture you drew of Darth Maul and are selling prints of at Comic-Con: is it saying something about Star Wars? Does it convey your own clear and unique viewpoint? Is there a new thought in there? Or is it just a copy of someone else’s idea?
Images are never inert. They have meanings and functions, which can change drastically depending on setting and context (heck, the manipulation of images to control their function is the foundation of conceptual art). “Fair use” and “transformative effect” are the court’s way of recognizing and dealing with this very basic fact.
Another example: in our great and free society, Nicolas Cage can do whatever bonkers things he pleases, whether it’s buying a million dollars worth of geodes or starring in “Knowing.” But I retain the right to comment on those bonkers things, via text message or newspaper editorial or Colorform placemat. I can’t, however, put up a billboard that says, “Nicolas Cage loves Gorton’s Fish Sticks. Buy Gorton’s!” because I’d be taking his right to his own speech away from him. Free speech has to go both ways.
Muddying the waters somewhat is trademark law… which sometimes comes down to ‘things that are entirely legal in other contexts may not be allowed in business contexts.’ A good example might be the cover of my book—there’s a reason there’s a bunch of small images instead of one central focus, and that’s to prevent, say, DC Comics saying, “Hey, people bought that book because they thought it was all about Batman, you owe us some money, pal.”
Also, anyone can hand you a Cease & Desist (a non-legally binding, “I might sue you” letter) for any reason. But don’t freak out and choose your battles.
"I do not look like the kind of woman you pick up at a bar. I look like the kind of woman that brings vegan pad thai to the literary potluck that she has also organized."
- I describe myself, from a thing I’m working on