I just got back from the C2E2 comic-con in Chicago. Lots of fun, and very busy. It’s a great show that is much more comic-centric than the Wizard World shows.
As usual at these sorts of event, there were many exhibitors in Artist’s Alley on the main floor with gigantic walls of “prints” of copyrighted characters the artists do not have the right to draw or sell. I use the term “print” loosely as the majority of them are inkjet prints from their home computer or copies run off on heavier paper at Staples, not professionally produced art prints or limited in number. I’ve written about this phenomenon before, so I won’t rehash it all here. Suffice it to say many people cannot understand why companies like DC, Marvel, Disney and others that hold the copyrights to these characters continue to allow these print mongers to keep cashing in on their characters and properties.
This article from The Comics Beat suggests that there might be a change in the air regarding the blatant copyright infringement at these shows. In brief, the folks organizing this weekend’s Wondercon convention in Los Angeles sent this letter out to all exhibitors:
WonderCon takes the issue of copyright infringement very seriously. Exhibitors who violate copyright law run the risk of arrest and prosecution. Each year representatives from MPAA, RIAA, and law enforcement agencies are present at WonderCon to enforce copyright licenses and arrest violators.
We expect that, as in years past, there will be copyright holders and law enforcement at WonderCon looking for bootleg items and they will not be shy about enforcement. WonderCon does not knowingly allow the sale of unlicensed merchandise. We will cooperate completely with all law enforcement agencies. If you are unsure whether or not material you have is unlicensed, or otherwise illegal, we suggest that you do not bring those items with you to WonderCon. It is better to err on the safe side.
If you have any questions or require clarification on the contract, or policies of WonderCon and Comic-Con International in general, please feel free to contact us at (619) xxx-xxxx and ask for the Exhibits department.
The MPAA is the “Motion Picture Association of America” and the RIAA is the “Recording Industry Association of America”. Given those specific organizations this may indicate that the focus will be more on illegal copies of films and music than the fan art print vendors. However as far as I know this is a first regarding a major comic-con taking a stand in writing against copyright infringement of any kind. Can this be a first step in a crackdown on the copyright infringing print mongers? It will be interesting to monitor reports during Wondercon to see if anyone gets confronted for selling unlicensed merchandise.
As most of you know, I have a couple of limited edition prints I sell at conventions and online. Parody being one of the exceptions to copyright, I feel I am firmly in the legal right to sell these prints. Lawyers for various movie studios or comic book companies may disagree, and it might be I will have to decide one day whether to stop doing these spoof prints or go to court to prove my case. Time will tell.
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