BASIC REALITIES OF CREATIVE LIFE:
1. Whatever you’re doing will be largely
incomprehensible to just about everybody.
2. Nothing is straightforward, unless you’re talking to
someone who can get things done.
3. There are more scams and parasites in media
than anywhere else.
4. The artist is generally battered by everything,
simultaneously, usually while doing the most difficult part
of any job, and always at the most inopportune times.
5. Everybody and every second can be a pain in the
So, in the interests of making life a little easier for the
poor bastards trying to achieve something, this page is
devoted to useful resources. THIS REQUIRES A
LITTLE PATIENCE, SO BORROW SOME, IF YOU’VE
RUN OUT. YOU NEED TO GET THESE THINGS
This page still has a long way to go before it's got all the
links and resources it needs. But it's a start, and covers
some basics. Believe me, you do not need, either as an
artist or as a human being, the kind of obscene grief you
can get from industries devoted to nothing but money.
intellectual property rights. Few things in media are
more expensive, too, so it’s worth learning this stuff.
Currently, global copyright is a hybrid of the old paper
technology and some dogged if vague attempts to deal
with the new media. TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED.
Every facet of the issues is turning into case law.
The Free Expression Policy Project, through NYU, is an excellent and
very necessary introduction to the broader perspectives of copyright
laws and freedom of expression. THIS DOES AFFECT YOU, whatever
you do, and whatever you say. The whole theory of freedom of speech
boils down to what you can do, and what people can prevent you from
doing. It's as basic as breathing.
Anything can be copied. There is no such thing as copy-proof,
particularly in music, and on the net. That’s just a physical fact. It is
ludicrously easy. You need to establish clear ownership of your
intellectual property rights. That still doesn’t stop copying, but it does
prevent your stuff from being sold to a large extent, because nobody in
their right minds doing legitimate business will touch infringements. It’s
just too messy.
The Free Expression Policy Project makes a case regarding the
legitimate use of materials for satire and expression, and the legitimate
right to access those materials. It also comments very pithily on the
issues regarding copyright-associated laws which effectively muzzle
expression. These laws are heavily property oriented. They contain the
potential for a series of damaging shots at freedom of speech if they're
used that way, and should be distrusted accordingly by those with
opinions they like to be able to express. The possibilities look quite
for copyright. Their site is thorough, the information useful, particularly
about fundamentals, and their formal processes look pretty meticulous.
This is the way the machine works, and any artist needs to know that.
Regulation, when it works, can do a lot to simplify things that can get
way too complex. US copyright is the subject of a lot of debate, and in
the interests of seeing the problems, this is the status quo.
ANY CONTEXT, ENDORSE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES ON THIS
SITE. IT IS NOT IMPLIED THAT ANY OPINIONS, ADVICE OR
INFORMATION GIVEN ON THIS SITE IS SOURCED FROM, OR
ENDORSED BY, THAT AGENCY.
extent, but anywhere, but remember this is now a very small world, and
it's hard to avoid the ballpark.
Your own national copyright office will probably be able to help to some
extent, but remember this is now a very small world, and it's hard to
avoid the ballpark.
creative people's time and money on pointless exercises.
Writers, in particular, need to be extremely cautious. (This is
from experience.) The basic routine is payment for “services”
related to publishing your work. Legitimate publishers and
agents don’t work like that. They don’t need to do things like
that, and they have nothing to gain.
In one memorable case I saw an Australian firm charging $250
per phone call, for writers to ring up about their own books…
sound like fun?
good website run by writers, outright scams to non-payment
of royalties. There’s a lot of useful, fundamental, specific,
discussion of principles and practices which really ought to
be taught in colleges. Things are messy enough without new
generations of uninformed people getting caught in the
blender. Writer Beware contains a very thorough collection of
links, and if you send them a question, they do respond
promptly. ANYBODY you're dealing with, check with them first,
particularly if you found that person on the net.
wonderful idea which also achieves not only the removal from
your person of a lot of money (you’d only have spent it on
food, anyway) but also the truly worthless production of
things which may never see the inside of a retailer. Note the
contrast between people actually working in real sales, and
this strange blue sky approach to marketing. Suspicion
bordering on paranoia is probably the best place to start
talking about selling your stuff. One of the most undersold,
uninspiring, uninformative sites I've ever seen was a vanity
site. Even a coroner wouldn't have looked at it twice. They
also claimed to be on major internet shopping sites, and I
couldn't find them. New meaning to the word "services", being
"anything we can claim to have done that we can charge you
will find that many paid blogs also require that you sign over
your copyright to the material they publish. Some writers do
more writing than eating, but the fact is that writers tend to
incorporate their own commercial content material, partly
because of writing in their own normal styles in blogs. The
result is that you can be literally writing your own stuff for
someone else, and have a signed contract giving it away. I
don't know if there's any case law, but the prognosis would be
"pretty iffy at best".
Thanks to the world wide whinge, any horror stories will be
there in some form. There can also be contradictory articles
from publishers or agents trying to spin or defuse negative
comments, so use some judgment about what you get. NOTE:
When writing these horror stories, remember that you don’t
have to defame anyone or accuse them of crimes. Don’t give
them any ammunition to use against you. It hurts your own
case. Express your views as an opinion, based on your
experiences. You’re not a court, and some of these scams
aren’t actually illegal, they’re just real, disgusting, nuisances.
WHAT MUSIC INDUSTRY?
If there’s one topic about which I have invented a whole new
language while cursing in several languages, the music
industry is it. One of the milder terms is “slumf**kers”, with all
the implications of ancestral discretion that implies, and
there’s a range in the other languages, too. As you might
have gathered from the site, I’m slightly musical, and if you
ever want to be cured of eating, I could literally do a book on
things that would make you never want to eat again. (I don’t
usually talk about it. It’s ancient history, the scar tissues are
about 1970 miles deep, and it’s best left alone. Let's just say
I'm still extremely pissed off, (and unpaid) decades later.)
1. People do swipe material.
2. There is an ignoble tradition of not paying for anything.
(In fairness, it does depend on who
you’re dealing with, but it’s not a good idea to be guessing
about payment. So don’t.)
3. You need to be incredibly careful, and make sure your
own stuff doesn’t infringe. (It’s time consuming, but worth it.)
4. Costs are incredible, if you do things that way, and
have to depend on other people for production.
the current generation of gizmos. You can now do a lot of
things which took an army of people in the old days. You can
do some competitive costing and keep your own outlays
under control. Even if it’s someone else’s money, nobody in
production is a registered charity, and they charge like it, and
that can affect things rather nastily…. Particularly if you
overrun your contract money. You’re really paying for
someone’s opinion of their own work, most of the time, but
that tends to run into a lot of digits. If you want to depend on
anything, depend on your own judgment about how to get the
things done, and how much they cost.
Thanks to digital technology, any sound byte can now be
analyzed and compared to another. So real copyright
infringement is getting a lot easier to avoid. Eventually, there’
ll probably be a database that can tell you if you’re infringing,
or if someone’s infringing you.
Modern music and recording production have a few pitfalls,
though. Things like sequencers, wave generators, and other
common usage equipment have their own idiosyncrasies,
not least of which is using standard rhythms and patterns.
These can affect times and pitch, and surprise, surprise, you
wind up with something which sounds and looks very much
like someone else’s property.
The electronic sounds aren’t usually copyright unless they’re
custom made patches. That’s really the problem. Original
digital sounds were pretty lousy, ironically a lot worse than
some of the old analog sounds. The issue, then and now, is
that they’re standardized to the point that quite literally
everything is using much the same mixes and balances,
because they’re using pretty much the same equipment. So
the scope for saying that something is a breach of copyright
is therefore a lot greater. Talk about “generic” product. That’
s why, and it’s dangerous.
Slight digression here, but it relates to copyright in a very
insidious way. It’s bad marketing to be mistaken for other
artists, even in theory. If you really want to be anonymous,
sound like everyone else, and you won’t need to join that
There never was a second Beatles, because nobody ever
needed one. (The whole idea dropped dead in about 1964.)
The copies just didn't work. This is another side to the
copyright issue, and it’s a genuine bastard. The greatest
misconception in marketing history is that “Because you
you’ll like this.” It was always wrong. No music lover is likely
to mistake some rehash for one of their favorites. The
industry didn't figure it out, and has stuck to the same basic
sales routines. This is a culture of copying, and it doesn't
take much effort to create problems.
Marketing methods combined with same-production
methods can affect copyright. I know of at least one band that
split because they were arguing more about technology than
music. So who’s playing the music? Given this hideous
generic garbage, it might as well be a machine. That also
means more of the same, literally. The danger is that
"generic" to this degree also means sounding virtually
identical. Copyright? Don't bet on it. You can, however, bet
that someone will be prepared to at least try to remove your
rights from you.
Frankly, I find a lot of current music is playing far too safe. So
much so it’s just not worth listening to.
I’ve heard most of the “innovations” before, too, and I have
some trouble believing that just because something’s written
in a Flat key it’s avant-garde. Slop Pop is just that. Think of
all the potentially great female singers doing remakes of
“Ooo-ooooohhhhh” and you see what a total waste this crap
is. Puberty isn’t supposed to be that dull, and definitely not
There is a reason for all this non-innovation, though, and it’s
largely in the how the culture of the market affects the
audience. One of the reasons that lack of identity is
becoming such an issue in music is that the audiences don’t
really get a word in, except when buying. The other end of the
ritual, which generally doesn’t attach any significance to what
it’s selling other than the sales figures, doesn’t get it. Never
has, by the way.
Fortunately/miraculously, the market has also now
succeeded, somehow, in totally losing track of an entire
generation of younger listeners. They actually can’t find them,
and even if they do, don’t know what they’re doing. This is a
huge credit to the current youth market, that they’ve escaped
this Gerbil Employment Agency called global media. The
very first generation to finally get rid of the bastards. It’s a real
triumph for the human race.
If there was ever a green light to musicians to try something
worth doing, this would be it. This is also the cue to be
yourself as a musician. OK, maybe you’re not Mozart. Neither
was Beethoven, Purcell, Handel, Chopin, Elgar… What a
musician really contributes to music is identity and character.
For the sake of whatever God you know, please do that.
Don’t assume that just because someone says something’s
“public domain” that it is.
Also don’t drive home on the freeway blindfolded.
Some things are public domain, some aren’t.
You don’t have to guess about this. Copyright in mass media has
a lineage which can be traced pretty reliably. Say you’re looking
for an old TV series. The probability is that even if the original
distributor and/or rights owner has offloaded the material, or
merged, or gone bankrupt, or whatever, somebody did own the
copyrights, and those interests did have to be formally made over
to someone, if they still exist.
(Sometimes they aren’t, and that makes things a lot stickier. They
may, for example, be part of an estate, or some third party’s asset.
You might search for everything but probate or liquidation while
looking for where the rights went. Professional help is a good
Sometimes there's no owner, but the rights should still exist, and
should have been assigned. In this situation you can also get a
real grey area where the rights are in limbo. The rights, unless
assigned, are still potentially owned by someone, and the
reasonable assumption is that the person entitled has a claim to
those rights. The fact is that anything published has an inherent
copyright, and you should know that.
In this case, for “copyright”, read also “property” and it makes a lot
Rights, including subsidiary rights, are assets, literally,
commodities. They do usually have a value, and they tend to show
up on the books and in valuations of media companies to prove
that accountancy isn’t all boring, or some mindless pursuit of
accuracy and verifiable financial statements.
The deadly side of this situation is that in this state the rights aren’t
visible to the public or the industry, if there's no current product,
like an out of print book. This particularly applies to older material,
which is commonly considered “public domain”, and frequently
isn't. So in all innocence, you can take a nice walk in the minefield
to discover that someone thinks you can pay for their retirement.
Check everything. Get professional advice, if necessary, but
don't go for a walk in the minefield. Contact the last definite
owner of the rights, if at all possible. You may even be able to
acquire the rights.
The idea is that you establish a legitimate claim to your use of the
material. “Public domain” can mean much the same thing as “back
of a truck” at the wrong times, like in court hearings. It’s about as
good a defence, too.
Bear with this- I'll put together a pretty
respectable collection of links, given
time. These are the things I know work
properly. There's a lot of crap out there.
Paint.NET- Very good basic free graphics software. Can
do pretty much anything, and very efficient when you're
doing a lot of frames.
looking to wallow in the immensities of 3D, this is a great
place to do it.
Writers Weekly Warnings page- Stay in touch with
what's going down before it drags you down with it.
spoken to these people. They're very insightful, and
they're pro writers themselves. Service is good and
questions actually get answered. I plug these guys
regularly because they're that good. As you can see, the
list of things to check out is also pretty thorough.