In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

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In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby diamonddeath » Wed Oct 28, 2015 3:11 pm

This is something that I've been curious about for a while, and no, this has nothing to do with the Pendering. What I'm curious about is how tributes and homages to other copyrighted material work in terms of legality. Way back before Archie had any rights/license to work on a Mega Man comic, Mega Man appeared as a statue on the cover of Sonic the Hedgehog #98 and as a spray painting on the opening page of Sonic Super Special #10. Flashforward years later to one of the more recent issues, Sonic the Hedgehog #268. Evan Stanley has claimed that originally she drew Bean and Bark wearing the outfits of Dragon Ball's Goku and Piccolo, but that had to be scrapped due to legal issues that could potentially arise. So, where does the line get drawn for tributes and homages? Why was drawing a character in the past okay but drawing the clothing of a character(s) in the present not okay? Does it have something to do with legal issues at the time, or perhaps Archie just decided to be more careful with copyright issues after the recent events with Penders? I'm really curious about this.
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby DoNotDelete » Wed Oct 28, 2015 3:56 pm

Not meaning to be impolite/disrespectful to anybody, but I take it the editor of the comics back then was a bit free and loose with stuff like that - and the artists/writers took a lot of liberties that a more on-the-ball editor would have picked up on. I even think I noticed Spaziante drawing/inserting a fan character of himself on some of the covers - and sometimes even in interior page art. I don't know if that was sanctioned or if Spaz was just playing the then-editor for a loop - seeing what he could get away with.

Copyright law is a tricky old dog - basically the person who created/owns the image has the right to reproduce and sell it as much as they like - but if that image makes use of intellectual properties (such as franchise characters) the situation becomes a lot more questionable/dubious. As I take it, T-shirts that feature official Mega Man artwork need to honour a licence fee, but Mega Man T-shirts that feature unofficial/fan Mega Man artwork don't need to honour a licence fee (but don't quote me on that).

Comics/stories are different - if they reference a lot of official lore then they're playing off a companies' intellectual property and need to be licensed or risk incurring a lawsuit - comics, cartoons and fan comics which make fleeting references to what is accepted as popular culture seem to be acceptable in terms of the law. I personally wouldn't try to sell anything that makes use of other people's intellectual properties - I've put a lot of time and effort into creating original characters so I have full ownership of some comic series I'm working on, but I know of a few people who make fan comics that use franchise characters that have published/sold their work without seeking any license. Personally, it seems too big a risk to take for me. Even making T-shirts that parody franchise characters seems risky to me.

A lot of the time these people plead 'parody' as a creative defense for being able to sell their work, but that defense doesn't always hold up under scrutiny (because a lot of the time people using that defense don't really know what a parody is, and what they are claiming to be a parody is anything but).

For example, I don't know if Evan would ever try to publish her fan Silver comics - but they make reference to so much of Sonic's world (Silver, Shadow, Metal Sonic) that I think she would be taking a huge gamble if she did - SEGA would have the legal right to force her to 'cease and desist' if nothing else. I guess asking for people to support her fan comics via Patreon is the safest/most legal way to get some payback for all her time and effort (which I have the utmost respect for).

Correct me if I'm wrong. I mean - I have sought legal counsel on this myself - but the UK is a bit tighter on copyright law than other places (I really don't think the 'parody' defense would ever hold water here - not unless the thing being defended was a TRUE parody).
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby The KKM » Wed Oct 28, 2015 4:00 pm

It's still illegal, as is using and/or selling MEga Man t-shirts even if the artwork is fanmade. Companies just know best than to chase after all the small fry.
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby Mobotropolis » Wed Oct 28, 2015 5:31 pm

If you do not have the copyright owner's explicit permission it is illegal.

The scratch is that it's up to the copyright holder to enforce their copyright.

As for the conflict ... let's remember that the book had very loose standards back in the day that affected practically every aspect. Quality Control was practically null. It shouldn't really surprise anyone that tightening the standards of quality on writing and art also leads to dotting our i's when it comes to making sure that everything in the book is fit to print. These days it isn't just copyright stuff that's being sent back to the artist.

A pretty infamous example was a page of Yardley's that was redone because Sonic was emoting too much over the loss of his family in a new-Timeline. I also sort-of remember Evan having to redraw some pages because her Rotor was off model. There's probably more stuff that goes on behind the scenes that we never get to see as far as revisions and corrections go.

That level of detail in the work wasn't something that people seemed to care about in the 90s and early 2000s.
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby linebyline » Wed Oct 28, 2015 5:53 pm

Mobotropolis wrote:If you do not have the copyright owner's explicit permission it is illegal.

They'd like for you to think that, but it's not entirely true. There is Fair Use.

Now, Fair Use (especially the "parody" excuse) is not quite as broad a lot of people think it is. It's not enough to (a) not mean any harm and (b) slap the word "parody" on it somewhere. Actual parody is considered a textbook example of Fair Use, but to be a parody, you have to

Fair Use is actually an affirmative defense. Speaking very loosely, this means that Fair Use isn't so much not infringing, as it's infringing but that's okay. It's basically the same kind of thing as self-defense. One consequence of this is you can never be completely sure your use is Fair Use unless/until you get sued. Another is that it's decided on a case-by-case basis.

Four factors are considered when a court is determining whether a use is Fair Use: The nature of the original, the character/purpose of the derivative work, the amount of the original used in the derivative, and the impact of the derivative on the market for the original.

Just off the top of my head, when it comes to cameos: I'd say that the amount used and impact on the market are firmly in the comic's favor. An appearance in the background of a panel is not a very big portion of an entire comic series/video game/whatever, and nobody's going to not buy the next Mega Man game (if such a thing exists) just because they saw a statue of the title character on the cover of a Sonic comic. Heck, if anything, it's a free ad. On the other hand, the characters who tend to get cameos are often mascots; their appearance in various media/merchandise is an important part of what they're made for. (By the way, Trademark Fair Use is a whole 'nother ball of wieners, and I know basically nothing about it so I'm glossing over it here.) And a cameo appearance in the comic isn't really that important to the comic itself; the characters are basically being used for decorations, so I'm not sure a court would think this is the kind of use that justifies an exception to the copyright holder's exclusive rights.

Could go either way, but I suspect that in many cases, the uses are so minimal that the court wouldn't even get to a full-fledged Fair Use analysis. Quoting a really tiny fragment of a work is generally OK. (I think this is a separate concept from Fair Use, if memory serves.)

A couple notes: I'm talking about U.S. law, here, and I am not a lawyer. I'm just a guy who's read some stuff and listened to a lot of This Week in Law.

Read more at the Wikipedia article on Fair Use and the United States Copyright Office site.

In Archie's case, though, not only are they on edge after the Penderfuffle, but they also got burned back in '04 or so when some STC cameos were given speaking lines. This was a Stan Lee-style cameo, not an actual use of the characters from other continuities in the stories (on the order of Breezie), but apparently it was enough to be legally questionable.

My understanding is that feathers got ruffled because, in true "fans of this Sonic continuity, nbut not that one" fashion, some STC fans reported back to the copyright owners that the characters were being used, without mentioning that they were in fact just glorified cameos. So the STC creators thought Archie was ripping them off, and I'm not clear on where it went from there, but when the dust settled, Archie had a new policy about references to stuff they didn't have explicit permission to use. Bear in mind I'm not sure how much of this tattletale story is true, how much is rumor, and how much I'm mis-remembering. All I know for sure is Archie got in trouble over it.
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby Mobotropolis » Wed Oct 28, 2015 7:12 pm

They'd like for you to think that, but it's not entirely true.

I know about Fair Use but didn't add that into the equation for exactly the reasons you stated.

What constitutes as Fair Use is so vague that it cannot be depended on to protect you in a legal situation.

From Archie's perspective, it could very well just be a matter of why would they put themselves in a potentially messy/expensive legal situation when they can take preventive measures to avoid it?
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby The KKM » Wed Oct 28, 2015 8:19 pm

linebyline wrote:some STC fans reported back to the copyright owners that the characters were being used, without mentioning that they were in fact just glorified cameos.


Being fair, considering it was
1) Right after StC was cancelled (IIRC)
2) Right after the time skip where a ton of new content was being introduced
3) Actual named cameos

I don't think that not saying they were just cameos is as malicious as you're implying, considering based on all this at the time, for all people knew, they WEREN'T just glorified cameos.
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby Penguin God » Thu Oct 29, 2015 12:17 am

It was two years after Fleetway had been outright cancelled, and four years since the last original story.
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby MetalSkulkBane » Thu Oct 29, 2015 4:36 am

I never got those legal details.

I still don't know how Sega could use "Sega does what Nintendon't" line in their commercials.
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby Mavrickindigo » Thu Oct 29, 2015 9:54 am

Basically, I think that if someone can sneak something under an editor, it can get through. People make little jokes and references to things all the time, and most of the time copyright people don't care. The Rugrats once had a Dalek toy in a toy store, for example, but I don't think BBC sued Nickelodeon over it.

As for Spaz, it wasn't a fan character he inserted, it was a SEGA character. THat stopped around the same time SEGA told archie to stop inserting all non-sonic Sega things in their comics. I think Capcom also told the art department not to have Frank West in the crowd of reporters in Mega Man 1? I know for a fact that Rosalyn Krantz and Gill D Stern were going to be named Jill Alomar and... Chris Kennedy? (Leon Redfield?) but Capcom said "no"

So, maybe the companies cracking down on their own properties helped curtail the desire to insert easter eggs for other things in there?
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby LBD_Nytetrayn » Thu Oct 29, 2015 1:38 pm

MetalSkulkBane wrote:I never got those legal details.

I still don't know how Sega could use "Sega does what Nintendon't" line in their commercials.


If I recall correctly, it was "Genesis Does What Nintendon't," comparing their 16-bit console to the 8-bit NES.

I don't know why they couldn't use the line, so long as there's truth to it, which is why those ads were generally comparisons.

--LBD "Nytetrayn"
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby Mavrickindigo » Thu Oct 29, 2015 1:55 pm

Well, as long as we're on the subject of legality of things. They could say that in commercials, but the game Alien Storm has a sign in the background that simply says "Genesis Does", completely omitting the "Nintendon't" portion, which, of course, is the most memorable part of the campaign.
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby The KKM » Thu Oct 29, 2015 1:57 pm

LBD_Nytetrayn wrote:
MetalSkulkBane wrote:I never got those legal details.

I still don't know how Sega could use "Sega does what Nintendon't" line in their commercials.


If I recall correctly, it was "Genesis Does What Nintendon't," comparing their 16-bit console to the 8-bit NES.

I don't know why they couldn't use the line, so long as there's truth to it, which is why those ads were generally comparisons.

--LBD "Nytetrayn"


Might be a question of different laws in different places- I'm assuming Poland is like Portugal in that ads can't use other brands even for comparisons (unless they pay for it, of course, but who's gonna sell their rights to be slammed). So that campaign over here would necessarily be "Mega Drive does what the competition't" or something like that.

Which is why instead we got complete dementia that looks like Tetsuo Body Hammer repositioned for child-d-ren-dr-dTO BE THIS GOOD TAKES ASGEEGSA
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby DoNotDelete » Thu Oct 29, 2015 2:35 pm

Mavrickindigo wrote:As for Spaz, it wasn't a fan character he inserted, it was a SEGA character. THat stopped around the same time SEGA told archie to stop inserting all non-sonic Sega things in their comics.

Out of interest what character was that exactly? Because I didn't recognise it from anywhere.

Mavrickindigo wrote:I think Capcom also told the art department not to have Frank West in the crowd of reporters in Mega Man 1? I know for a fact that Rosalyn Krantz and Gill D Stern were going to be named Jill Alomar and... Chris Kennedy? (Leon Redfield?) but Capcom said "no"

I know that Hitoshi Ariga put a lot of Capcom cameos into his MM stuff - Charlie Nash from SF was a news reporter occasionally (before he became a Frankenstein's monster wannabe), and characters from other Mega man games would sometimes show up in crowds and stuff. It may more have been on Archie's side that they wanted to do everything safely/above board, but Capcom have every right to refuse characters being used in cameo.
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Re: In Regards to the Legality of Tributes

Postby The KKM » Thu Oct 29, 2015 3:03 pm

Not sure what you're talking, but it's likely Astal- Spaz kept inserting him everywhere.
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