Printing Copyrighted Material

  • This may be a sticky subject, but I'm curious if anyone has had a similar problem or any insight into why printing places won't print copyrighted work, even for single prints intended for home use purposes only.

    I was looking to get some images of Bill Watterson's work printed from his book "Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue" that I own. I have/had no intention of reselling the prints. I only wanted them for my room to reference and be inspired by. (I was going to do this with other artists that I look up to, to create that 9 square grid to compare my art to).

    I have a scanner, but no printer. I scanned the images in at hi resolution and saved them as jpgs. When I went to FedEx to get them printed, the guy asked me if it was my work. I said no. He said he can't print them because it's copyrighted work and Fedex guidelines prohibit any reproduction of copyrighted works. Fair enough, it is FedEx's guidelines. I realize this isn't the employees fault. He went on to say that this is for protection for peoples work that belongs to them and that FedEx can't make money off that work. I brought up the point that how would they know if someone stole my work off the internet came in to print it, passing it off as their own? He said, well we wouldn't. I then pointed out that I could of lied and said that it was my artwork and he clearly wouldn't have known because he didn't recognize Calvin and Hobbes. Then he said I'd need to get permission from the original owner or owner of the copyright, which is probably near impossible because Watterson is known to be a recluse and is very very protective of his characters.

    Here's my thing, I'm paying for the paper, for a one time print, for at home use. I'm not reselling it and FedEx isn't selling it as an artwork or even for the price of a reprinted artwork. I realize they have no way of knowing if the print is actually intended for at home use, but in that case, why not limit the print to one print per image?

    Not only that, but none of the scans that I took had a copyright symbol on it, grant it, the book has a copyrighted mark in the back. Under the copyright it says, All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of reprints in the context of reviews. I'm not sure how "in the case of reprints in the contexts of reviews" is to be taken, but I take that as, using the artwork as a form of study?

    Sorry this is long and kind of a rant. I just find myself frustrated. I don't own a printer so I'm just not sure what the norm is for printing things like this.

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    You need to know about a concept called "reprographic reproduction" and the agencies that manage this for authors and artists: Reproduction Rights Organizations (RRO).

    This is similar to ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers) in the music industry. You're probably more familiar with ASCAP. Basically, when you walk into a store and there is music playing in the background the store pays a tiny amount to ASCAP each time a song plays.

    Same thing happens when you go to library, government building, a Kinkos (most of them anyway) or a school/university and use a photocopier, or make a copy of a file or create any kind of reproduction of copyrighted work. That library, or office or school pays tiny amounts to a RRO for each of the reproductions made on their (in this case) photocopier.

    Thing is, with both ASCAP and RRO's participation by individual businesses is "opt in". It doesn't happen automatically. So you may have simply gone to a FedEx that doesn't have an arrangement with an RRO. And if they knowingly (in copyright terms it would be considered "willfully") make copyright infringements they are potentially liable for huge fines (up to $150,000 per infringement) by the copyright owners. BTW, same is true for ASCAP. If they find out that a business is playing copyrighted songs the business will get a polite but firm letter outlining how to use IP in a way that actually supports the creators.

    So just try a different place. If you get the same push back, impress the hell out of them by asking about their RRO license.

  • @sarahmaeliz You might encounter the same issue with Office Depot/Max and CVS. They are all very copyright conscious and will refuse to print any licensed characters like Mickey Mouse, superheroes, transformers, well-known cartoon characters, etc... fear of litigation is real. I also should say I live not far from Orlando, the house of the mouse, so it's especially strict around here.

  • Pro SVS OG

    @davidhohn I´ve read or heard somewhere that if you register your published work with RRO you actually get money from them - something like a “reproduction compensation” that is extracted from the money they get from copyshops, etc. that have an agreement with them.
    Is that true?

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @smceccarelli Yes. What you are referring to is called "reprographic royalties". All the micro payments made to various RRO's are collected and then distributed back to the authors and artists, or in some cases to organizations that have proven they are acting on behalf of of their author or artist members. RRO's exist in all countries who have signed on to the Berne Convention. I know illustrators in Canada and Great Britain who receive a check in early January for works they've registered throughout their career.

    Unfortunately in the United States individual illustrators are not considered "authors" of their own work and therefore do not receive the funds collected. Instead those funds go to organizations like SCBWI, the Graphic Artist Guild, Authors Coalition of America among others.

    Here's a great article about this subject:

  • Pro SVS OG

    @davidhohn I don't live in the US 😉
    I'll try to get some information about reprographic rights in my corner of the world (Northern Europe). Thank you!

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @smceccarelli I thought I remembered you were somewhere in Europe! Lucky you! Definitely look into the RRO's! Honestly, I've considered moving to Canada simply to be able to collect my reprographic royalties.

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