What makes your character your character?

  • What all goes into owning your own character?

    [a] I am speaking after the creative process!

    Would it be a timestamp photo or print?


    Is it a more technical and legal process?

    [b] during the creative process what if the writer says i want a mixture of characters

    And the illustratior creates it.

    Who owns it?

  • @dafoota from a writer's perspective. If you wrote it first, they are yours. I imagine it would be the same in the visual arts but I am not a lawyer.

  • Wow that's a great question! I have no idea! ( I know this has been an issue in the past with comics. Who created Spider-Man? Stan Lee wrote the character, but Steve Ditko created the iconic look that everyone associates with Spidey. It caused a lot of tension at Marvel over the years and is still interesting to think about). @davidhohn would probably know a lot more about this!!

  • Pro SVS OG

    This is a very interesting question - I am sure @davidhohn has more insight into this. From my understanding, the IP for the text belongs to the writer, the IP for the visuals belongs to the illustrator, or, in either case, to the company that acquired the IP.
    Normally, you cannot claim IP for something that does not have a physical form (like a piece of text or an illustration), and a “character”, as an abstract entity detached from a specific text or illustration, would not be a matter of IP. However, we were told at school that companies like Disney and Marvel claim their character IPs well beyond the specific materials they created. We were shown the documents that cover “The Little Mermaid”, which basically make it impossible for anyone to write a story, song, film or create any illustration that features a mermaid female character who sings, has a fish and a crab for a friend, etc.... It was pretty specific (I forgot all the details but basically it made any plagiarism of the character illegal, even if not similar to the visuals or script of the film). Basically, the recommendation we were given at art school is to NEVER EVER touch anything that Disney, Marvel, LucasFilm, and a handful of other companies created (so much for fun art ;-)).
    What I understood, however, is that only a few IP owners go to this extent of coverage. For common writers and illustrators, the IP does not extend beyond the physical matter they created (text or illustration). When you register IP (I did it only once and is not necessary for documenting IP ownership - that´s a different story) you have to send in the actual “thing” you are claiming IP for.
    The logical conclusion of my - possibly wrong - assumptions, is that you generally cannot claim IP for an idea if it´s not executed in some form or other.
    I would love to have David´s opinion on this.

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    Caveat that I am not an IP attorney. For legally safe answers please consult one.

    I definitely have thoughts about this! But @dafoota initial question covers a lot of ground. Could I ask you to be more specific in your example?

    @chrisaakins has it right in terms of taking an "idea" and putting it in a "fixed and tangible form" (i.e. writing it down, typing on a computer and hitting "save", or doing a drawing or painting)

    Ideas are not copyrightable, only physical manifestations of that idea. (a painting, a typed manuscript, a saved computer document, a video recording, an audio recording)

    @Eli You definitely bring up an interesting topic, but as everything created for Marvel is Work For Hire (WFH) legal ownership of Spiderman's copyright is effectively a non-issue. Marvel owns it, no question. That said, many people do debate the Stan Lee / Steve Ditko origin of the character. There is a concept in intellectual property called "moral rights" and I think that's more what the Spiderman creator debate is about.

    @smceccarelli Your first and last comments are very much in line with my own understanding of copyright protection.
    As you move into the topic of Disney's The Little Mermaid you are right, but you are also now talking about "trademark" rather than "copyright". The distinction between the two can be a little confusing but it's important.

  • @davidhohn In my best ability i think i would have to give an example.

    Right now if I share my personal character with you. I consider it mine because i created it but is that good enough to counter another who tries to claim it? Could they not take my character and say it was theirs? Or because i have a timestamp proof of my created character before my post; that there will be enough to set them straight.

    My question is what all do I need to do to have full ownership of my character? I ignorantly think that physical proof (drawing) is good enough but my definition of physical proof may be different than a court's.

    My second questions falls under working with a writer. If the writer says, "I envision a venom + sabre tooth mix named trickiest of shots (haha)." I turn around and create it. Is it the writer's character or mine?

    I'm just trying to prepare for the future.

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @dafoota If you make a drawing of your character the current law (and I say "current" because there are groups that are actively trying to roll back copyright protections) is that you have automatic copyright protection to that image. The drawing is a "fixed and tangible form" of your concept/idea of that character.

    Now, if you find you need to defend your copyright claim you will need to register your work with the US Copyright office. (I'm assuming you are in the US, but the you'd simply use the copyright office for your respective country) You cannot go to court with out registering with the US Copyright Office. It is better to have registered your work with the US Copyright Office before you discover an infringement (i.e. another takes your character and claims it is theirs). You can register your work within 90 days of discovering an infringement but you are now only able to recover "actual damages" rather than "statutory damages".

    In short, a image that is in a fixed and tangible form + registration with the US Copyright Office = full copyright ownership AND ability to claim "statutory damages" in the event of an infringement (it's that latter that REALLY puts the teeth into copyright protection)

    Can you clarify what you mean by "timestamp proof"?

    2nd question: As I mentioned in a previous post, the copyright for text is separate from the copyright for an image. If you create an image based solely on an authors text then the copyright for that image resides with you.

  • @davidhohn Thank you for your time and wisdom.

    Timestamp proof was just my way of saying i posted my character back in the day. Showing that i had the character first. That is all.

    Thank you so much for your time.

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