Thursday, February 16, 2012

On Creators, Business, Contracts, and Rights

Today, I probably made more enemies in the creative world for daring to take the side of the big, bad company in a discussion about a recent court-initiated agreement between a comic-book publisher and the attorneys of one of their former creators. Actually, I'm taking the side of the court, the side of what's legal, the side that says selling unlicensed materials is wrong, but that gets lost in all the "big company once more tramples the little guy" rhetoric. I've even been accused of being on the side of the bloodsucking 1%! Anyone who really knows me knows how ridiculous that idea is.

We here in the USA supposedly live in a nation of laws. Creators have rights under the law, but so do companies who hire these creators. What I keep saying is "know your rights!" Know the rights you keep, and the rights you give up, whenever you enter into a contract or employment agreement. Never enter into such contracts and agreements with blinders on.

Creators, know your rights, because most companies hiring you sure as hell know theirs. If you make a deal with the devil, don't whine when you get burned. Do work for hire, don't expect to have many if any rights to that work (depending on the specifics of the contract).

Plenty of other businesses operate under contracts and agreements that contain clauses stating anything created while in the process of working for the company becomes the property of that company. Such things are not in anyway restricted to the writing and art realms.

I keep getting told all the time by writers that writing is just another career, like butcher, plumber, baker, or doctor. However, I suspect that creative-types want it both ways; they want to work in a business that is seen to be just like any other business, but they don't want that business to act like any other business. It's a wonderfully idealistic notion, that the creative fields are somehow different from other businesses, but it's one that doesn't always match reality.

Don't let your idealism cloud your perception of reality. Don't be surprised when a business acts like a business. Don't expect a business to act with the best interests of one of its past employees in mind, especially if that past employee crosses a legal line. These companies will protect their rights, and they can be rather harsh when doing so.

Selling unlicensed material, material that you do not have the legal right to sell is, well, illegal. If the roles were reversed, creatives would be screaming bloody murder! They would want the company held accountable and brought down in flames.

I would be pissed as hell if someone was selling unlicensed copies of my artwork and/or poetry, which is a real possibility in today's electronic age. If I found out such a thing was happening, I would do all in my power to put a legal end to it. Be certain that companies will do the same, and have the legal apparatus in place to do so rather effectively. They are much more effective at this than the little guy.

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