The Value of Copyrights

Copyrighting isn’t as easy anymore. Thanks to Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, all copyrights must be registered with the US Government, or else no rights will be acknowledged in the eyes of the court. What brought about this issue? How are we to manage without registry anymore? And why is this a good thing for us Artists?

Since the first copyright of the Statute of Anne of 1710, we’ve all been worried about how strict countries have been about restricting our creative liberties. No one can just draw their own Mickey Mouse without a lawsuit from Disney, nor can anyone feel free to use Sherlock Holmes without permission from New York Socialite, Andrea Plunket. The classics are dead to many of us, thanks to this limitation, and we hardly have the chance to share these great works of art without a nay-sayer getting in the way of our fun!

But, it’s all for the greater good too. William Hogarth made the first copyright for Artists. It’s not a memorable copyright, as it’s been a public domain collection for centuries, but a landmark worth recognizing, nevertheless. In the 1720, the Statute of Anne made William Hogarth rich, thanks to his strategy of making copies of his artworks, through printing press. His limited collections of each artwork allowed a low class school teacher, rank above the middle class within ten years of his lifetime. His money allowed him to buy a manor of his own, and servants to boot. But his fame didn’t come without a price, as many forgers came about to reprint his artworks, and selling them for less than half of what they were originally sold. This diminished their value, and nearly led William Hogarth to bankruptcy. Hence, his fight to create the copyright became nominal for us all.

Today, not only do we have the Sonny Bono/Disney Act of extending a copyright to ninety-five years past the time of the author’s death to wait upon, but we also have copyrights reinstated through buyouts from generations of character ownership. Due to this, we grumble at the idea of kicking a dead horse. “Let it go already!”, we say. “We just want to enjoy it.” But…do we?

During the 1900’s, a highly scandalous novel, called, Le Fleurs du Mal, became public domain. People read it, shared it, and relished in its obscure homosexual and almost violent dominatrix philosophy and story. It’s writhed with promiscuous acts of bondage, and celebrates the lustful perversion of Marquis De Sade wrote about. It would be an ideal book to recreate, re-imagine, and re-told today – due to the vigor of the liberal politics involving our generation today. There are classes to concentrate on Gay History in schools, and even Lesbian romances released online-everywhere. So, why are we not reading this, and talking about this, or even creating fanfics for this?

Answer: no profit, no support.

Most of what we know is due to the fact that someone got paid to publish our fandom. And in order to continue its luster, it requires someone to make money off of the story or artwork, so that quality may be preserved. Otherwise, we’ll all see more Mona Lisa’s losing its three dimensional design to a cracked aged canvas, awaiting for another theif to invite the press for more humiliation.

With Disney, buying out all these films and novels, and artworks – we may have a chance to keep the integrity of these masterpieces alive. Yes, we may enjoy Masters of Margarita silently, as a small society of surreal readers. But can you imagine it becoming a movie or theme park? Think of how many new copies publishers would make of it? One can only dream to purchase a freshly pressed hardback with new illustrations, dust jackets, and reviews! You’d have talking cat toys everywhere, and a living room filled with parafanalia of your favorite scenes. And the jokes wouldn’t be just funny for some, but for everyone. We’d all be laughing, sighing, and smiling at the pages as we flip them together.

It happened with Annie Hall, and it happened with Minecraft. You know how this feels, I’m sure. But there’s always a new generation that only knows what they were introduced to, and many of them don’t even know about Adam and Lilith, but just Adam and Eve.

So, hail to public domain! We can enjoy them for free, and without care. Let’s make art and write songs, and build fandoms about them, until we die. But lo, beware if they go into obscurity, and lose their fans, their followers, and their friends. Who will continue its legacy then? Their children?

Their worth is in repetition, and reach. You lose either in the process, and its fame will diminish like a pillar of sand.

Cherish the copyright. It serves us more than you’d think. It allows the soul to brighten, and remind those that have forgotten it, to realize its value.

How Do Self-Publishers Grow?

As writers, you can’t wait to get your work out there. You’ve done your hours, creating mindmaps on restaurant napkins, purchasing legal pads from the local dollar shop over last minute inspirations, and have added so many other chapters after your umpteenth edit. Now, all you need is to make money to continue your dream career, right?

The job’s simple – sell your books, get reviews, and write some more to become famous – but there’s a trick to the industry: everyone else wants that, and what’s worse is they don’t really want to work for it. So, these people – usually from another country or next door, typically none in between – ignores your copyright page, and resells your work as their own. Of course, plaigiarism is illegal, and people who get caught are punished by law. But, sometimes, people do get away with the most extraordinary things. Because of it, Sherlock Holmes – fictional character written in the Victorian era – is still a copyrighted character, Steamboat Willie – an animated short film from 1928 – won’t be public domain until 2024, and European books and characters are almost untouchable to reuse.

Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg, as of March 2019, made it mandatory to register all copyrights to be admitted in court (read more). Prior to this, non-registered copyrights, so as long as they were in their proper format, were passable for protection. But, of course, society changes, and so do the rules. Needless to say, intellectual property has raised its value to the nines!

Yet, people continue to write, people continue to publish, and people don’t bother with keeping the value of their stories intact. Some people might care, others may just have no reason to worry. Who knows?

For the rest of us, though, the answer is simply to copyright. The perk? Once you’ve enjoyed it’s world Premiere, you can put it out in the market to be bought, and enjoy making money without the worry of infringement anymore. Gone will be the days of court battles and property theft, and greet the new word that has made every author famous on the big screen and supermarkets worldwide: licensing.

Licensing is the business of selling your copyright, trademark, and/or patent to a company for distribution. These distributions could be action figures, cereal brands, clothing, and the list goes on. It’s one of the most profitable businesses in the entertainment industry!

The strategy in the business of licensing though is knowing how the money works. Many of your contracts will deal with this issue: royalty, gross earnings, creative rights, agency fees, etc. This is where Authors make or break it. This is how Authors really grow. If you’re too stuck on being a good writer, and not allow yourself to finish your work, then this prize of negotiating your market value goes out the window.

The most famous case pertaining to bad decisions in contract negotiations is with George Lucas. When he got the deal with Kenner to sign a contract to give the rights to build and sell the Star Wars toy collection, he agreed to a yearly earning of $100,000. Not realizing the worth of his films, he lost the chance at getting a hire percentage from the $2,000,000 gross revenue each film made on their release. Lucas has regretted that deal since (read more). It’s an important lesson to be learned, as he was not the only one that had these types of misfortunes. Hundreds of deals had gone sour due to lack of trust in the value of one’s work, and lack of knowledge in how contracts function.

And trying to summarize it in an article won’t be able to cover even the introduction of that business. People get lawyers, they travel for Agents, and sometimes go to school for it. We encourage you to check our Goodreads reviews for valuable recommendations:

A fine example of people we can all learn from is an Authoress named P. L. Travers, who was famously known for her books series, starring the magical nanny, Mary Poppins. Her book was world renowned, and when Walt Disney sent her the contract to deliberately change everything about her book, she traveled to the U.S. with contract-unsigned, to educate the screenwriters and lyricists about the lifestyle of the Banks family. She helped build the understanding of the British culture in the Edwardian period, and deeply expressed the diction necessary for a believable Governess. As accurate as Disney could’ve made the film to the book, the transition between the two media, and their audience’s difference took precedence. As charming as Saving Mr. Banks was, the movie based on this copyright battle, the reality was much dryer, but just as important to take note: money is flexible, but no matter what, the copyright owner pulls all the strings.

So don’t sign if you’re not happy with the contract, and study the worth of your work before letting someone else damage what you’re owed. Money seems petty, when dealing with principles, but when it deters you from having the life you deserved, then you’ve not only abused your art for its true value, but also yourself for not allowing your value to be respected as an artist, a professional, and, if I dare say, an honorable member of society.

Your work has value. It can raise, depending on your strategy, or disappear if you’re not careful. But, one thing is certain, if you’re not profiting from what should be your business, then someone else is. Best them to the punch, don’t let anyone steal your work, and fight for that value. Your art is worth every bit of your blood and sweat, and it’s about time you show it.