Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Comic Clippings - 8 August

I have a fairly straightforward attitude to copyright. Having spent most of my working life as a writer I'm for copyright protection. I put copyright notices in my books, I observe the copyright of others and, where necessary, seek out and obtain permission to use material. The War Libraries book is a good case of point: we had to negotiate long and hard to obtain permission to produce the book in the way we wanted, which was to include a lot of images. We had to deal with both IPC and Time-Warner to obtain permission -- lots of e-mails and telephone calls -- and eventually struck a deal that was agreeable to all sides.

What I don't understand is how copyright laws can be changed and applied retrospectively. A lot of features I've written have been produced as work-for-hire but on the understanding that, fifty years after my death they become public domain. I want them to become public domain because I'd like to know that all of the research I've spent days, weeks and sometimes months slaving over is going to be available to future researchers. Whilst I can't afford to give it all away for free -- that's not going to feed me or put a roof over my head -- I'm going to cease having any financial interest in it the day I pop my clogs. It's nice to think that my family will have the possibility of earning a little from my work after my death but, frankly, fifty years is enough. That's two generations.

The law now says the copyright in my work will last until seventy years after my death. But that's not the contract I made. That's not the contract any author made before 1995. That's like having your bank manager come around to tell you that interest rates have risen recently and, as you went overdrawn twenty years ago, they've added some interest to that past debt that I now have to pay. Or the people you bought your house off coming round and saying, well, the house is worth more now so you owe us the difference.

That's not how things work. You sign a contract and that's the contract you live with. And that should be how copyright works. When I wrote The Mushroom Jungle the copyright expired fifty years after my death. That's all the copyright I possessed and that's all the copyright I signed away. Now somebody has retroactively changed my contract with the world. How can that be right?

If I sound grumpy, I'm not. It's just something I was thinking about earlier today. Actually, my mood is decidedly up. We're having some glorious weather -- and some spectacular sunsets -- and it's party season. I have coffee and cigarettes and some music on low in the background. What more could a man want? And the world answered: an internet connection. Ten minutes after writing the above, our network went into meltdown. 22 hours without access to the www makes you realise how much you rely on the web and e-mail!

Here's a few items of news that are fit to print...

* Lew Stringer has an extensive round-up of reaction to the new Dandy Xtreme at his Blimey! blog (6 August) and looks back at Andy Capp, which celebrated his 50th birthday recently (4 August).

* 'In Search of Lost Time'. Jenny Turner looks at the phenomenon for nostalgia books like The Great Big Glorious Book for Girls (The Guardian, 4 August). Reviews of the latter have appeared in the Daily Telegraph (14 July), The Times (22 July) and The Guardian (31 July).

* Rupert Bear is to get a new artist and writer according to this report in The Northern Echo
(7 August). Stuart Trotter, from Ferryhill, County Durham, will write and draw the Rupert Annual from next year. Stuart has drawn other characters such as Postman Pat and Winnie the Pooh during his 30 years as an artist.

* Pre-empting my mention of Fred Chaplain, Rupert author, John Adcock has some nice images from an early Rupert Little Bear Library book drawn by Mary Tourtel (3 August).

* The Steve Yeowell interview by Alex Fitch I mentioned a few days ago is now available as a podcast. Although a Panel Borders interview, the podcast is available via Fitch's I'm Ready For My Podcast blog.

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