Monday, November 9, 2015


Mark Evanier, who co-writes Sergio Aragonés' successful and long-running comic series Groo, shares an interesting anecdote about the origin of the book. [Emphasis added]
Today, there are these things called "creator-owned comics," meaning that the writer and/or artist own(s) the comic, not the publisher. In the early-to-mid-seventies, as Señor Aragonés was doodling out his ideas for Sergio-created comics, there was no major American comic book publisher who was willing to publish a creator-owned comic. In fact, some even told you it legally could not be done.

I'm not kidding about this. There were writers and artists who created comics and had — or felt they had — no avenue but to hand All Rights over to the company in exchange for no credit, no ownership, no royalties. They got work doing the comic, if that much. Some tried to dicker — and they didn't even want full ownership…just, say, 20%. And they were told, "No, we will never in a zillion years make a deal like that." Sergio showed Groo to one publisher and was told, "Great…but we legally have to own it. You, as an individual, cannot legally own a copyright. It's invalid unless it's in the name of a company like ours."

Sergio knew that was wholly untrue. I wonder how many other writers and artists who heard that speech didn't.
Both Joseph and I have been over this a number of times, but for those just tuning in, intellectual property laws basically amount to government-granted monopolies. These monopolies can be enormously beneficial both to creators and to society as a whole, but there's also a huge potential for abuse, particularly on the part of those buying the work of the creators.

You often have actual or near monopsony conditions. Add to that large asymmetries in information, power, size, liquidity and legal resources. Strengthening and extending copyrights and patents is often presented as something that is uniformly good for those who actually come up with the artist works and technical innovations being protected, but if those creators are not adequately protected, stronger IP laws can simply provide more incentive to screw them over.

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