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FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE



    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
    butt.  

    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
    RIGHT.
    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.




    Couldn't resist writing this one:





Copyright

    There is nothing more important, or more irritating, than
    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
    nasty.

    The US Copyright Office is one of the main drivers of global practices
    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.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: THE US COPYRIGHT OFFICE DOES NOT, IN
    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.

    Your own national copyright office will probably be able to help to some
    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.  
    Writing - Publishing Scams

    For some reason, there are plenty of people prepared to waste
    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?

    This, you do not, and never will, need. Writer Beware  is a
    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.

    VANITY PUBLISHING/SELF PUBLISHING is another
    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
    for".

    BLOGS are yet another way of avoiding peace of mind. 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".

    SEARCH whoever you’re thinking of sending material.
    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.)

    However-

    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.

    There’s a word. Depend. Musicians can be truly thankful for
    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.

    MUSICAL IDENTITY CRISIS, ANYONE?

    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
    monastery.  

    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
    liked that,
    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
    that unimaginative.

    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.
    Basic rules for use of any type of creative materials.


    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
    idea.)

    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
    more sense.

    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.

    So-

    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.    

    RESOURCES
    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.

    GRAPHICS

    Paint.NET- Very good basic free graphics software. Can
    do pretty much anything, and very efficient when you're
    doing a lot of frames.

    GIMP- A bit more complex and harder to use, but does
    the job.

    Blender- Arguably the original 3D software, if you're
    looking to wallow in the immensities of 3D, this is a great
    place to do it.

    Writing

    Writers Weekly Warnings page- Stay in touch with
    what's going down before it drags you down with it.
    Useful page.  

    Science Fiction Writers of America/Writer Beware-  I've
    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.