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An Introduction to The Creatorís Bill of RightsÖ


Al Nickerson:
An Introduction to The Creatorís Bill of RightsÖ

I donít have to tell you how comic book creators have been abused in our history. I donít have to tell you about how certain editors or publishers stole ideas or creations from freelancers. I donít have to tell you about the fight for the return of artwork to those who created the art. I donít have to tell you about the right for creators to receive royalties to their work.

However, I do have to tell you that if you think all these issues were of the past, that things have changed, then youíre dead wrong.

Although things have gotten better for comic book creators, freelancers, artists, and writers, these same people continue to be taken advantage of by others.

Back in 1988, a group of comic book creators got together to see what they can do about protecting the rights of comic book creators. From these series of summits, specifically at Northampton, Massachusetts, The Creatorís Bill of Rights was created.

The participants of the Billís creation included Scott McCloud, Dave Sim, Gerhard, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, Larry Marder, Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Mark Martin, Steve Murphy, Michael Zulli, Eric Talbot, Ken Mitchroney, Michael Dooney, Steve Lavigne, Craig Farley, Jim Lawson and Ryan Brown. Please forgive me if Iíve forgotten to include anyone.

Following are the details to The Creatorís Bill of Rights that I swiped from Scott McCloudís website (thanks, Scott). Also, please note that Scott McCloud points out that: "This version of the Bill is my proposed "final draft" with annotations as it appeared in The Comics Journal. The original Summit version spoke of control of format and distribution rather than approval and included an additional article about labeling which had been a hot topic at the time, but should be adequately covered by format."

For the survival and health of comics, we recognize that no single system of commerce and no single type of agreement between creator and publisher can or should be instituted. However, the rights and dignity of creators everywhere are equally vital.

Our rights, as we perceive them to be and intend to preserve them, are:
1.The right to full ownership of what we fully create.

2.The right to full control over the creative execution of that which we fully own.

3.The right of approval over the reproduction and format of our creative property.

4.The right of approval over the methods by which our creative property is distributed.

5.The right to free movement of ourselves and our creative property to and from publishers.

6.The right to employ legal counsel in any and all business transactions.

7.The right to offer a proposal to more than one publisher at a time.

8.The right to prompt payment of a fair and equitable share of profits derived from all of our creative work.

9.The right to full and accurate accounting of any and all income and disbursements relative to our work.

10.The right to prompt and complete return of our artwork in its original condition.

11.The right to full control over the licensing of our creative property.

12.The right to promote and the right of approval over any and all promotion of ourselves and our creative property.

Over the years, I would start thinking about The Creator's Bill of Rights and how I can, in some way, make people aware of it again. One idea Iíve had been mulling over for some time was to interview the Billís creators, get their insights and recollections of the Bill. I was curious to see what they thought of the Bill today, if it was still valid, and if not, how then could the Bill be tweaked for todayís comic book industry.

I had e-mailed Scott McCloud about The Creator's Bill of Rights on a couple of occasions. I had told Scott that I was interested in writing something about the Bill for Ya Canít Erase InkÖ. Finally, things went into full swing when I asked Dave Sim about the Bill. So, that got Dave thinking, and he suggested we try and write some sort of article about the Bill for Following Cerebus.

In March of 2005, I began interviewing the various participants who were involved in the making of The Creators Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, I was unable to contact or interview all of the participates, while others didnít want to be interviewed.

The Creatorís Bill of Rights is a vital part of our industry, and should remain so. Itís still important to print comics because the reasons it was formed in the first place still remain. The comic book industry still hasnít made the major changes that impede on the rights of creators.

Even though Online Comics creators have ownership and control of their comics, they should remain aware of the Bill and of their inherent rights as creators. This is even more important when Online Comics creators move to put their comics into print. Also, keep in mind, that at some point, Online Comics will become profitable. At this time, I believe that the large comic book publishers will become more interested in Online Comics and their creators. So itís important that these creators are fully aware of their rights so that that the abuses done to creators in the past do not happen to them.
The Creatorís Bill of Rights is such a heavy and detailed topic. All itís points can not be fully covered here. I hope that the Bill will continue to be discussed by comic book creators, especially those who participated in itís creation. Only by continued discussion can the Billís impact be significant in the comics industry.

Al Nickerson:
To understand the origins of The Creator's Bill of Rights, here's the creator's themselves explaining some of the events that led to the creation of Dave Sim's Creative Manifesto which, in turn, led to the creation of The Creator's Bill of Rights...

Dave Sim: "The question was basically "Where do a self-publisherís Ďrights to choose how to run his own businessí end and a distributorsí start?""

Steve Bissette: "There was at least a couple preliminary meetings on these issues that were held between a group of us -- myself, Steve Murphy, Michael Zulli, Rick Veitch, Peter Laird -- just before Dave contacted us. We met once in Brattleboro, VT at a local outdoor fast-food place, and at least once in Northampton. These were prompted by the Puma Blues situation [in retaliation for Dave Simís mail-order only release of High Society, Diamond Distribution refused to carry Puma Blues]. After that, as I recall, there were three Dave Sim-sponsored summits in all; for those of us who had been involved in the prior meetings, these were of a piece, though Iím sure that wasnít the case for those outside that immediate New England circle. Dave had his own agenda, which he can articulate just fine. As for the summits Dave organized, there was one that was held at a restaurant in an inn or restaurant around Springfield, Massachusetts. Dave subsequently invited a group up to Toronto for the second summit."

Dave Sim: "At the time of the Toronto Summit and the preliminary meetings in Northampton and with Alan Moore and Frank Miller, it seemed the best way to determine jurisdiction was to follow the progress of a creative work from its creation to the point where it is purchased by the consumer and consider where and when control over the creation changes handsóIF it changes handsóand to draw the lines as sharply as possible as general rules of conduct and then present them to Diamond Comic Distributors as a proposal from our side of the fence to their side of the fence and to solicit feedback from them so we could arrive at some conclusions that would prevent a situation like this from coming up again in the future."

Steve Bissette: "As I said, I believe the first meeting was in Springfield, Massachusetts at a restaurant. It was Dave, a group of the (Teenage Mutant Ninja) Turtle guys, Rick Veitch was there, Steve Murphy and Michael Zulli, the Puma Blues creators. I think that was the core group that met at the restaurant. Then, building on that, Dave organized the summit in Toronto. The was Peter Laird, Kevin Eastman, Steve Murphy, Michael Zulli, myself, and Iím not sure who else was there. There were a number of people who couldnít make it to that trip or who hadnít been invited up. It wasnít a shut-out thing. As I recall, Dave was sponsoring all of this, and was working to keep this core group of activists and potential activists engaged. I know that core group was there. There was the Mirage Studio group, Puma Blues, and myself. That culminated in the final and decisive Northampton, Massachusetts summit."

Rick Veitch: "I believe Scott McCloud wrote a rough draft and brought it with him to the Northampton Creator's Summit. When he brought it up at the first meeting it caught everyone's attention and the group decided to try and see if we could hone it into something complete and substantial. I'm not sure why Scott first drafted it, but the reason I felt it worth defining was that many creators did not know what their rights to their own work were at that time. I knew loads of artists and writers who just assumed if they were being paid the company owned whatever they did. This was especially the situation at the big comic book companies who had a history of assuming everything; often without any paper being passed. Young creators, and there were many in the mid 1980's, needed guidance in these ownership matters."

Scott McCloud: "I wrote the original draft (of The Creator's Bill of Rights). It was mostly in response to the Creative Manifesto which had been put together by the first of those summits. Iím not sure who had penned the original. When I was invited to the Northampton summit, I was given a copy of the Creative Manifesto. Reading it over, I thought it might be more appropriate, since this was a unilateral gesture that we were making, to have it less in the form of a pseudo-contract or statement of principles of the sort that the Creative Manifesto seemed to be striving for and more just a declaration of our intentions as individuals. So, I thought a bill of rights was more appropriate, since thatís the sort of thing you can unilaterally declare. A statement of the way we intended to conduct our business, without any real expectation of how anyone else will behave. I felt at the time that creators had far more power than they gave themselves credit for within the industry."

Steve Bissette: "Scott really realized that (the Creative) ManifestoÖ the Manifesto was a sprawl, ya know? It was well-intentioned, but all over the place."


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