Tracers need to watch their asses

9 Mar

by Mike Hansen

The Beat linked to this big-ass thread about Invincible Iron Man artist Salvador Larroca being the latest high-profile talent to be caught swiping.

Salvador Larroca swipe

Part of this is copyright Marvel, part is copyright the photographer, or AP, or somebody. None of this is used with permission. Uh-oh.

Is this stealing, or a fair re-interpretation of another’s work? Well…

After Mike Mayhew, David Mack, and Greg Land (among others) got caught swiping, Marvel updated its contracts to say that the artists assert that their work is wholly original (as a way to cover Marvel’s ass).

The Associated Press definitely does NOT have a sense of humor about this; it’s pursued legal action against news aggregator sites and blogs that quote from its articles.

And ALL comics artists need to be paying attention to what’s happening to Shepard Fairey, who might face JAIL TIME for lying about his source for his Obama “Hope” poster.

Now, I’m of the opinion that the principle of Fair Use needs to be redefined in the strongest possible terms to take back some of the ground that copyright holders have seized. But the Law isn’t on artists’ sides right now. Even though ALL art reflects and borrows from other sources of inspiration, moneyed interests are going to fight tooth and nail to keep every inch of ground they think they own.

I’d hope that the President and his administration would speak out in favor of Fair Use and Creative Commons, considering how the HOPE poster helped Barack Obama get elected, instead of allowing the Feds to put Fairey in jail. You know, show a bit of gratitude? But I really don’t see that happening.

After the recent stink about artists publishing and selling sketchbooks, and the tragic Gary Friedrich/Ghost Rider dust-up, artists need to watch their asses. I don’t care if the current Marvel regime says it’s going to look the other way (sometimes); it’s not worth the chance that an artist could get sued. Marvel’s ass is covered, but the artists are going to be left out to dry.

The thing is, most of these artists don’t NEED to swipe at all. They’re talented storytellers in their own right, who have come to the mistaken assumption that they can keep getting away with stealing as a shortcut. I wish this wasn’t a big deal, but right now it is.

Wake up, guys. Shit’s getting real.

Barack Obama "Hope" poster, original...

Image via Wikipedia. I'm told this image is non-free, but could qualify as fair use.

Hope poster source comparison

The top photo is copyrighted. The bottom one falls under Fair Use (according to Shepard Fairey). The difference to the AP is a Big Deal. THIS IS STUPID (Image via Wikipedia, so my ass is covered. Right?)

One Response to “Tracers need to watch their asses”

  1. Mike Mitchell Online March 11, 2012 at 22:34 #

    Apparently Tony Stark’s lawyers were out to lunch that day. That is really a VERY poor choice of judgement on Salvador’s part. As an artist, I also look for inspiration online, but I would never think of tracing an image pulled off of google. The ONE exception was a recent job where I had to create line art based on Idi Amin for a game book referencing armies in Africa. And even then I was careful to use a stock art source so I knew the image was legal to use. I agree with the image above: Shame on him!

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