I’ve been digging through my old original comics archives, selecting artwork for upcoming exhibits at the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum and the Betty Boop Festival in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This old gem, while not one of my best, has extra sentimental value. “George the Monster,” who featured in early Nina’s Adventures strips, is my longtime friend Ian Akin. Remarkably, we’ve stayed friends almost 22 years. In fact Ian is visiting me in New York right now! I’d forgotten all about this song he wrote for me when I was fighting some battle or other in my 20’s. Upon rediscovering it, I found it’s just as cheering as I fight some battle or other in my 40’s.
Many years ago, I thought “Mimi & Eunice” would be a great name for a comic strip. Recently I’ve been needing to do some drawing just to keep my head from exploding, so this week I figured, why not Mimi & Eunice?
As far as I can tell, Mimi & Eunice are two middle-aged children/baby psychos/heterosexual lesbians. That’s all I can surmise so far. I didn’t put my name on these comics, but I did tag them with the URL mimiandeunice.com. (Unfortunately that site is a mess right now. Webmaster Ian installed the comicpress theme in wordpress, but it’s squishing the strips horizontally unless I make them really tiny. Also, even though it lets me bulk upload media, it doesn’t let me bulk post.
Other than getting mimiandeunice.com functional and pretty, I need to decide which license to release them under, or whether to use a license at all. So far copyleft, as embodied in the Creative Commons Share Alike license, has served my work very well. But maybe I should go for Public Domain instead?
If I use a license, it’ll be one of the 3 Free licenses Creative Commons offers:
CC-0 (Public Domain)
The advantage of copyleft is it ensures the work stays Free. Any derivatives must be released under the same terms, so no one can lock it up. It prevents abusive exploitation; no one can monopolize it. The drawback is that keeps it from being used in some projects that use more restrictive licenses. As nasty as restrictive licenses are, they’re still very common, and many worthy projects use them. You can still use a copyleft work within a larger copyrighted work as “Fair Use,” but few are willing to take that risk.
CC-BY (attribution) is compatible with both copyleft and copyright projects, which could conceivably allow the works to spread further. But it still relies on the threat of legal force to ensure attribution. As I wrote recently, attribution has limits that the law might not recognize. Also, I’m intrigued by avoiding legal enforcement as much as possible, and relying on social mores and community ethics to ensure attribution. In fact I already do this with Sita Sings the Blues, but if I want to sue someone for plagiarism or improper attribution, I can. Is that threat really necessary?
Sometimes I think CC-0 (Public Domain) is the most spiritually advanced license. No legal claim to attribution. No legal claim to anything. To put a work in the Public Domain is to totally let it go. That is a turn-on.
Unfortunately many useful Public Domain works are snatched right out of the Public Domain via copyrighted “derivative works”. Take the comic above. If you changed the background color on panel 3 from reddish-gray to lime green, you could say you’ve made a new work and copyright the result. I don’t mind modifications like changing colors, in fact I encourage them; but I abhor monopolies, and the thought of someone then locking up the work in this way is troubling. Certainly the source would remain in the Public Domain. But if someone else modified the source in a similar way, being likewise inspired to change the color of panel 3 to lime green, they could be sued by the jackass that copyrighted his lime-green-panel-3’ed version.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is in the Public Domain, and technically you can still build on it. But if your “derivative work” too closely resembles Disney’s, they will sue your ass. The laws don’t recognize parallel evolution, nor do the tiny shriveled minds of the corporate executives who wrote them. Thus, although the exact text of Carroll’s original Alice in Wonderland is PD, it’s no longer “free” to build on thanks to corporate monopolies on derivative works.
Much as I want to let go entirely, I fear that could be socially irresponsible. Which also why using no license at all is not really an option. In our world, everything is copyrighted, whether it displays the © symbol or not, whether it’s registered or not, whether it’s attributed or not. Everything is “owned” by someone. Therefore unless something is very clearly marked as Free, it is assumed to be Owned. No license at all would make it impossible for would-be re-users to determine whether the work is legally safe to use.
A friend pointed out that the State gets into everything. Just because I don’t invoke repressive copy restrictions directly, doesn’t mean they don’t affect my work indirectly. Copyright affects everything, whether it’s copyrighted or not. Art is born free, but is everywhere in chains.
Another friend pointed out that my desire to “let go” is still desire. Choosing CC-o/Public Domain to experience the thrill of “selflessness” may actually be more selfish than choosing strong copyleft.
I want my art to stay free. How to achieve that under our current copyright regime, is quite a dilemma.
Remember this comic strip Stephen Hersh and I did for King Features Syndicate in 2002 – 2003?
Well, we’re releasing ALL of them to EVERYONE under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license!
But this project needs your help. I’ve assembled all the strips I could find and put them in two giant zipped folders (one for B&W dailies, one for color Sundays), which
I uploaded here on archive.org. But someone – anyone – now needs to convert the TIFF files to PNG and upload them one at a time to Wikimedia Commons, where they can be read, shared, and enjoyed by everyone.
Feel free to come up with a better file naming protocol than the examples here.
In order to convert the Sunday color files to PNG, they must first be mode-changed from CMYK to RGB. The Black-and-white files should be converted from bitmap to greyscale before saving as PNG and uploading. We also need descriptions and welcome any other relevant data anyone wants to add.
UPDATE: Holly Duthie has done all the color mode and file conversions! The new PNG files are here:
Now we just need others to download the PNGs from archive.org, and upload them one at a time to wikimedia.org, with any relevant data.
Thank you for sharing!
Why should techies have all the fun? The few publishers to embrace open content focus primarily on technical books. But an increasing number of artists and pop culture creators are seeking alternatives to copy restricting their works. What works for Cory Doctorow’s science fiction can also work for graphic novels, art and coffee table books. Unfortunately, publishers that historically specialize in popular culture – many of which are subsidiaries of the same media conglomerates pushing DRM and extending copyright enforcement – are unwilling to pursue the open-source model. Will existing open-source publishers expand into pop culture to exploit this niche? Will new publishers emerge to serve both pop culture markets and artists?
I’m making a power point (excuse me, keynote) presentation and everything.
It’s time to copyleft ALL of my old Nina’s Adventures comics! But the thought of digging through all those old drawings, re-scanning them, cleaning them up in Photoshop and uploading them to archive.org, is more than I can bear. That’s why I’m looking for (a) smart, trustworthy, dedicated volunteer(s) in New York to do it for me. You will need:
- a high-resolution tabloid-sized flatbed scanner or a quality book scanner
- Photoshop (or similar graphics editor) skillz
- a decent web connection
- an excellent reputation and/or references
You will get:
- my gratitude
- other peoples’ gratitude
- a good story to impress your friends
- college credit if you can arrange it
You’ll be handling 14″ x 11″ rare, original, one-of-a-kind Nina’s Adventures drawings, in various stages of decay. Some are turning yellow; some have faded ink; some have corrections and edits pasted on, the glue of which has ceased to adhere so now bits are falling off; some were drawn on “fade-out blue” graph paper which must be edited out of scans.
Once these puppies are scanned and uploaded, they’ll be free for anyone to copy and use. Publish them anywhere! Make buttons and t-shirts! Make that coffee-table book I’ve always wanted! Make derivative works! As long as you attribute the source to me, and license the derivative works under the same share-alike license, you can do whatever you want. But we have to get these scanned and uploaded first, or the revolution will never come.
“But Nina, how will you make money?” Hopefully by selling originals. The more freely the images circulate, the more valuable the originals will become. To this end, I could use another volunteer to help build a web site cataloging all the original strips, both available and sold. It would be nice to allow owners to add their contact information, and otherwise track the locations of all the originals as they go out into the world. Maybe you could manage online auctions or something. And shipping…boy do I need help with shipping.
Potential volunteers please comment below or send an email to nina underscore paley at yahoo dot com. Thank you!