I had to skip my appearance at Wizard World Minneapolis thanks to a last second job with an impossible deadline (that I still managed to meet), so I missed the fireworks there when artist Aldrin “Buzz” Aw confronted “fan art” artist Tim Lundmark (who goes by the name “The Random Artist”) who was selling prints that were obvious rip-off versions of other artist’s work. Nothing new there, you see that kind of thing so often at these shows. The difference here was that Buzz really went off in a profanity-laden way on Lundmark, and Lundmark ended up packing up and leaving. That was on his own, as far as I can tell… Wizard World did not kick him out.
Bleeding Cool reported recently that the Dallas Comic Show has revised its exhibitor guidelines with language that specifically allows them to kick out anyone “just selling unlicensed fan art prints”. As far as I know that’s the first hardliner stance taken in writing by a comic con organizer against print mongers and their overt copyright infringing industry.
Guys like Lundmark and his ilk are the worst of the worst. They are usually fringe comics artists at best (having little or no real credits in the comics world), which is of course no crime. The crime is they are selling sometimes hundreds of different unlicensed prints (usually run off a color copier or an inkjet printer) of copyrighted characters AND they aren’t even doing their own versions of these characters. They steal the work of other artists and digitally manipulate them or redraw them, then claim their are their own work. That is as bad as it gets, IMO.
Some may say the folks in Dallas are taking this a little too far. It should be up to the copyright owners to crack down on this sort of thing. Maybe. Personally I don’t mind the artists who table at comic cons and really create something unique via their own art and try and sell it, even if they use copyrighted characters to do it. I’ve seen some very creative stuff done that way. Yes, they are probably technically infringing on copyright, but if they are doing it in a highly original way, it becomes it’s own original art. With that sort of approach an argument can be made that it is sufficiently “transformative” to be considered fair use and a new piece of art. Just doing even your own straight comic-book versions of copyrighted characters, and certainly copying the work of others, is not “transformative” and is blatant copyright infringement. That should stop.
I think comic cons should start splitting Artists Alley up into two distinct sections, the “Pros” and the “Fan Art”. If you have sufficient credits in comics to be considered a pro, then you belong in “Pro Alley” with the other actual comics artists. That way the Todd Nanucks, J Scott Campbells and other real pros can table together and attendees can know where to find them and get real, big time commissions, originals, and other stuff. The “Fan Art” folks who do their own, original creative works but don’t really work in the industry can sell their prints/commissions of Baby Deadpool, cat versions of Doctor Who and whatever else they do in their own area. Those selling rip-off versions of Neal Adams and Jim Lee should be shown the door. I hate setting up next to people selling quilts with the Avengers on them or Dalek keychain fobs… I’d rather be by other working comics artists.
I think this issue is beginning to gain steam and we may see more cons trying things like the Dallas Comic Show is trying.
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