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16 February 2008 @ 02:19 pm
Book Arts & Copyright  
Hi All,

One of our members posted a book based on The Little Prince, which has since been removed. But it raised an issue I think we all might want to know more about. I've just written a long post on it over at my blog. If you're interested, take a look over here.
Little soul, big worlditealaich on February 16th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
I think you're being kind when you say "based." I find it disgusting that the individual in question was selling someone else's artwork as their own.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 16th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
From the reply I got from her, when I pointed out she didn't own the copyright, it seemed clear she didn't have a clue about it. That's no protection legally, but "I found it on the internet, therefore it must be free" is a common (mistaken) response to this. That's why I wrote the post.
Gillian: Loolahmaleficent on February 16th, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC)
I hadn't noticed that the previous poster was actually trying to sell the book. Bad enough that it was a rip off, but to sell it too?? It's book piracy!

I admire your ability to write a reasoned and restrained post about it, especially after the frankly weird response from the poster.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 16th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks, though it only makes me makes me hopping made when my students do it or somebody does it to me. Easy to be reasonable when it doesn't directly affect you. :^)
vectorbvectorb on February 16th, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC)
Not that im a fan of these kind of art projects, but at one point I knew an artist working with various printed media. And I asked her about this kind of thing and she said it is a bit of a fuzzy area, however as long as you make a significant change of the media, %10 change or more, then you were adding to the product and it was ok copyright wise, and when selling it you are not selling the original product, but what you added to it. Or something like that. I dont think its entirely clear cut.

And if the copyright was that solid, then more than half the art I see around town is in serious trouble, so dont be too quick to smack these projects down.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 16th, 2008 08:59 pm (UTC)
I'm not smacking it down out of ignorance, believe me. As a writer, it's my business to know how much of someone else's work I can use without getting sued. Copyright isn't so fuzzy that you can reproduce the whole text and use at least some of the illustrations without paying for it. And ten percent is not a "significant change."

There's a lot of illegitimate pirating going on in every medium, including book arts and I think we need to educate ourselves about what fair use is.
dynamic memeautodidacticphd on February 16th, 2008 11:37 pm (UTC)
the only problem i have with that logic is that the orriginal artist is dead. lingering copyright is something i tend think of as being a bit absurd. i can, to a certain extent, understand it in cases where all of the rights to a work belong to (or were sold to) a company or corporation, as the sale value would be based on the extent of the copyright, so limiting the rights to the lifetime of the creator would lower their sale values, thus limiting what the creator could ask for them.

but there are also a lot of cases of people making all or most of their money off of material that they neither created nor payed for (usually through inheritence). these people make me sick, and i considder them no better than people who pirate work off of living artists.

i also have a problem with large corporate entities that continuously extend their copyrights beyond what i think is reasonable. you shouldn't have to go back to the 19th century to find material that is considdered public.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 17th, 2008 12:22 am (UTC)
I'm not a big fan of extended or indefinitely renewable copyrights, but you can't get around the fact that they fund most publishing houses and allow them to take chances on unknown writers. I don't have a huge issue with heirs making money from those books either, but not indefinitely. The only way they're making money off them is by having them continuously in print, and that benefits the rest of us, too. It's a fairly small number of authors, anyway, in the great scheme of things, and somebody's got to do it. I don't have the wherewithal to publish everything of Virginia Woolf so I hope Harcourt Brace continues to.

But it's not like that's the only option for texts either. I know plenty of contemporary poets or writers who'd LOOOOOVE to have their work in print, any kind of print. Place an ad in any literary magazine and watch your mailbox explode with manuscripts.
dynamic memeautodidacticphd on February 17th, 2008 06:35 am (UTC)
it just seems like a slightly antiquated way to run things. for example: a writer need not be an unknown anymore. set up a site, put up some of your stuff, record your unique hits per day and take some verifiable numbers to the publishing house with your next manuscript. of course, the fact is that almost nobody makes their living as writer of books, and rarely ever have.

it seems like an odd thing to be defending... basically only a small fraction of people have ever made it big. if i remember correctly, it is easier to win the lottery than to strike it rich as an author. so basically we're talking about allowing the handful of people that won the lottery to keep winning it.

as for availability, it is easy to imagine a company that offers to make a hardcopy of any publicly available material, so the "they're the only ones putting the stuff out" argument falls a little flat too. we are fast approaching a convergence where mass printing of a single text and mass printing of mixed texts are going to be equally easy, and thus cost effective.

and as the big houses keep buying each other up, we wind up with 90% of the copyrighted texts belonging to four or five entities, which just strikes me a fantastically bad idea.

you say that it isn't the only option, well, that's what i'm saying. the game is changing, its just that the rules can't keep up.
buffenatorbuffenator on February 18th, 2008 05:49 am (UTC)
My husband is an intellectual property lawyer and he says this is not true. This kind of work, when you've changed a work into something else, is called a derivitive work. However, you must stil have the permission of the original artist because you've used their art.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 18th, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
That was the problem, though. There was no permission; just appropriation. No matter what you do with it, you have to get permission.
( ari )wherearethebees on February 16th, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)
Did she use the text in full without citation? I didn't see the post.

However, I'm very interested in the subject as someone who studies appropriation in literature (both critically & artistically). Plagiarism or adoption? Copyright infringement or modification?

You seem to have a very harsh view on the topic (which is not necessarily bad, and - again - I didn't see the post). I'm interested (or frightened!) to know what you think of various appropriations in book form.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 16th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
Yes, she used the text in full and at least some of the illustrations. Citation is not an issue when that's the case. Full reproduction rights must be purchased from the copyright holder. In this case, that's the publishers and not the author, who renewed his copyright after he died.

As for appropriation, there are lots of different kinds. I'm not against fair use at all. I'm not against taking an image, for instance, and using it as part of your own work. But that's not what happened here. The only thing that was changed was the format of the book. The content was, in this case, (and yes, I'm going to be harsh here because that's how it's viewed legally) stolen. Just changing the published format of a book does not constitute fair use. It's copyright infringement.
( ari )wherearethebees on February 16th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
::nod:: As a poet I've recently been doing various treatments and cycles based on works of Shakespeare, but it's always been more than half the point to have the pieces be a radical departure from the original while still clearly pulling in direct lines. Copyright on Shakespeare's a little bit different, though ;)

I end up doing a lot of practice book making work as combinations or treatments of texts, too -- for example, I made a starbook that's a visual treatment of L’Étranger where five "central" scenes were done as collages of DaVinci sketches.

This is a weird argument to come into having not seen the post, though. I'm stunned that someone would put that much time into an accordion book - them bitches take a long-ass time and Le petit prince is not that short.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 16th, 2008 11:03 pm (UTC)
Well, using Shakespeare or DaVinci's images is a little different. Shakespeare's in the public domain and I think some of Davinci's images are too, though some of them may have to be credited to the museums that own them. That's one of the tricky bits even with old art. Lots of time the museums that own them want a fee for using them. It's usually pretty nominal for other artists (I think I had to py $100 to use an image of the Three Muses in a book I did), but for commercial use it can really be whopping.
vectorbvectorb on February 16th, 2008 08:23 pm (UTC)
Yeah check this site out.

Not sure if its fully authoritative, but describes what I think is correct.


So i would say the particular book (and maybe a few others i have seen on here :cough:) would be what I would consider derivative works. Im not sure exactly how all that works though.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 16th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
Derivative works can sometimes be okay, but you have to be careful. That's why I think appropriating book covers is kinda dubious. I'd hate to be the test case for that.
vectorbvectorb on February 16th, 2008 10:48 pm (UTC)
I was thinking just that.
Rebobo Dfloatplane on February 16th, 2008 09:55 pm (UTC)
i just don't see why anyone would take the chance... because if someone really wanted to sue you over copywrite, i'm pretty sure a massive publisher would be able to afford much better lawyers than the average artist.

if you aren't sure on the legalities of copywrite or copying (and yes, i think that what the person did was COPY) don't sell it.

Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 16th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
Students do it all the time in term papers, even in college. The Internet promotes the idea that everyone on it is free, when it isn't. Not that any of this is an excuse, but I see why it happens. I agree this case was a copy, and that ain't legal either.
dynamic memeautodidacticphd on February 16th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
eh, i tend to set student plagiarism apart from copyright law. the whole point of student work is to prove an understanding of the concepts being taught. rampant copying in that case cheapens the credentials that universities and certification organizations provide and becomes a form of misrepresentation of the individual's abilities.

so copyright is about money (theft), and student plagiarism is more like fraud.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 17th, 2008 12:25 am (UTC)
Yeah, I agree that copyright is all about money, but it's the same principle as plagarism and if students don't learn that in college or high school, they'll learn it the hard way, elsewhere. I can't tell you how many times I've seen professional plagarize each other because they don't know any better. Letting students get away with plagarism doesn't just misrepresent or cheapen their credentials, it's a disservice to the students as well.

Theft or fraud, I'm not sure it matters.
GreyyGuygreyyguy on February 17th, 2008 04:20 am (UTC)
I missed the post, but I am curious about it. Did she make a copy of the book herself, or did she take apart a book she had owned, put it together again and put that up for sale? If the first, then yes- that is a violation of copyright. If the second, then she would be in the clear (assuming she was not claiming the content of the book as her own).
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 17th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC)
That's actually a misconception. Just because you own the book doesn't mean you own the copyright. Copy or original, it's still illegal to make a new book out of copyrighted material, whether you call it your own content or not.
GreyyGuygreyyguy on February 17th, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC)
I'm not saying that- I'm saying that you can resell a book that your have purchased. Likewise you can modify a book you have purchased and sell that. You would own the copyright of the derived work.

This same issue of derived works has come up in the literary world. Marion Zimmer Bradley used to allow fan fiction to be written in the worlds she created. And then a fan fic writer sued her because a book she wrote was very similar to a fan fic story. The end result of that was Marion Zimmer Bradley's book was not published, and she revoked permission to write fan fiction based on her works.

So derived works do have a copyright. It can be murky legally and ethically, but then almost anything can when you let lawyers get involved.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 17th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
Sure you can resell a book you've purchased. People do that all the time. But just modifying the book's structure is not a derived work if the content remains the same. It's not at all like the fanfic issue you sited, which was an original story with the Bradley's characters. The plot itself was original. If you have exactly the same text as the published book, and put it in a different format, that's not a derived work, it's another edition.

You're right that derived works do have a copyright, but they're generally negotiated with the original owner (as with George Lucas's extended universe fiction for Star Wars).
GreyyGuygreyyguy on February 18th, 2008 04:43 am (UTC)
In this case, I would say there are two separate copyrights- one on the book's content, and one on the artistic expression in the binding that was created. There is intellectual property that is being used by a second party in their own original creation. Selling a rebound book would be legal as resale of the book is allowed, and a premium could be charged for the added binding.

I believe that even if the fan fic was not negotiated with the original owner, the story still has a copyright. The original owner could not publish the fan fic as their own. Of course the fan fic writer could be sued for violating the IP of the original owner.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 18th, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
Whatever you do, you still have to have permission to use the work. It can't just be "transformed" into a derivative work without negotiating the original copyright. And that was the issue.

That's the tricky part with fanfic, too. You're using someone else's original characters to make a new work without their permission. The story is yours to sell--with your own characters.
GreyyGuygreyyguy on February 18th, 2008 11:19 pm (UTC)
I'm still not convinced. Rare booksellers buy older books and rebind them for resale. Without the extra artistic embellishment of course, but isn't that similar to this?

I know part of the issue is confusion between copyright of text and the right of first sale. Publishers of music and books have done what they can to conflate the two in their fight against used secondhand music and book stores. They have argued that they own the copyright so the used books cannot be sold. The reality of the situation is that people purchased a physical object that can be resold. The publishers can only control how the items are sold initially. They can't control how they are sold after that, which annoys them because they don't paid for second, third, and later sales and they believe these sales eat into their sales.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 18th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC)
Just rebinding the book and selling it the way booksellers do isn't the issue. That's repair and reselling, and there's no representation of the book as a new, original work. The book in this case was being sold as a work of art (a derivative) without negotiating the rights to original content. I know publishers don't like used book sales, but they've learned to live with them. This was actually a piracy issue, though.
S. Rain: artsrain on February 17th, 2008 04:54 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting this! As an artist, this comes up a lot and it is so frustrating.
seoulcat aka seoulsuzyborninjeans on February 17th, 2008 05:07 am (UTC)
Long, sorry
That was a very thought-provoking post.
I'd blame ignorance. I assumed by the bookmaker's reply that she was very young, and although it does not excuse her flippant answer, she probably wasn't aware of what she was doing.
Until I read your post I didn't know that copyright went into public domain 50 years after the author's death, I always assumed it was after the publishing date. I thought that was 'common knowledge' as well, so even the people who think they are well informed may not be.
I did know that 'Le Petit Prince' was protected (a doll company released a Petit Prince doll last year with a huge notice that they had obtained offical copyrights to do so) but it never occurred to me to actually check whether certain organizations and foundations took over copyrights and prevented their 'products' from going into public domain.
Which makes me wonder about Alice in Wonderland, the OZ series, Anne of Green Gables to name a few, which you see practically everywhere.

I'm curious as well. Unless it's corporate level where huge sales are involved, the internet really complicated things for the individual artists/writers/etc. Can you sue internationally? What if the person in question resides in a country without specific copyright laws? Or what if the laws are different? Or what can be done if a big company violates copyright of a "little" artist?
You'd think with all these questions people would just do their own original work but then another lengthy discussion can be made about 'what is original' so I'll let it drop.

Thanks again for the post.
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on February 17th, 2008 02:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Long, sorry
You're right, the Internet does complicate things, since people seem to think anything found there is free for the taking. Yes, youc an sue internationally, but you have to be sure of the laws (and there are copyright laws just about everywhere books are published, even China, which pirates a lot of Western lit. But that depends on international agreements, too.) The only thing stopping little artist's from suing corporations is generally money, and that can be got around by bad publicity.

The best way to check if a book or text is still copyrighted is to go to copyright.com and search for it. If you've got a text you're fond of, snap it up quick before Barnes & Noble renews the copyright.
sugardr0p: [random] Peaceful Bridgesugardr0p on February 17th, 2008 06:07 pm (UTC)
I saw the post you mentioned and my first thought wasn't of copyright laws, I simply thought it would have been a much nicer project had she not taken every single element from the book and used it in her own, basically republishing the original as you said in your post. I'm new to bookmaking and I admit that I never gave copyrights much thought, but her comment to you was sort of rude. If I had been in her place I would have removed my post and thanked you for letting me know.

Also, I'm curious about something. Lately I've seen a lot of people using bookcovers from children's books as covers for their journals, but using plain paper, their own art, etc. for the fill. Are they considered derivative works or a violation of copyright?
buffenatorbuffenator on February 18th, 2008 06:20 am (UTC)
If they have permission from the publisher or the original artist, no violation. If they at least cite the artist, maybe on the inside of the cover, probably no violation.

I use post cards as cover art on a lot of my journals, especially Amy Brown fairies. Now, since I've purchased the post cards, I've paid the licence fee attributed to them, and on the inside of the back cover I have a little placard saying "Cover Art copyright Amy Brown" and the link to her web site. The placard goes right under my mark. I have different ones for different artists I use. It lets the world know I'm not claiming the art as mine, just the book.
minouetteminouette on February 18th, 2008 06:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the information and the fascinating discussion. There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there about copyright and intellectual property. I knew that copyright in Canada extended for 50 years after the author's death, but had not considered that the holders of the copyright could and would renew it. We tend to be less litigious than our neighbours to the south (as well as having looser copyright laws). That said, I would never dream of reproducing a work of literature in its entirety and selling it. Copyright issues can be subtle and complex and require a lawyer to sort out, but copying a book in its entirety is pretty blatant (though I did not see the post in question). When I have seen book artists do so, they have usually selected something like Shakespeare's plays, which are safely in the public domain.

Also, Etsy has a copyright policy and a vested interest in preventing such errors in judgment amongst its sellers. It explicitly states that sellers are bound by their local laws and that it prohibits products which "infringe upon any third party's copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret or other proprietary or intellectual property rights or rights of publicity or privacy;"
(Anonymous) on September 22nd, 2008 07:26 pm (UTC)
well done
omg.. good work, guy
Writestuff: Maelstromwritestufflee on September 22nd, 2008 07:40 pm (UTC)
Re: well done
Actually, it's girl, but thanks anyway! :^)