"The books in your library are more important than the numbers on your balance sheet."
RIP Bill Drenttel. For those unfamiliar there’s a good tribute to him up now on Design Observer.
Marsilio, an independent publishing company I helped run in New York for much of the 90’s used Bill’s firm for some of our more important work. Among these was a book I edited and—despite what the colophon might say—also translated with the brilliant Eugenio Bolongaro, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well by Pellegrino Artusi.
That book’s wonderful cover, which I clearly recall first seeing in Drenttel Doyle Partner’s studio, is reproduced above.
Ok, so Lena Dunham’s on board. Still, however canny and rumpelstiltskinian she’s been of late can she really make Jughead a thing again?
Don’t get me wrong. Refreshing stale IP can sorta work sometimes. Can’t think of an example right now outside superheroes but it must have worked somewhere else before. Right?
And then there’s this. The NYT quotes Archie CEO Jon Goldwater:
“My marching order [sic], so to speak, is you have a blank canvas,” he said. “I’m going to let Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa, the new chief creative officer at Archie Comic Publications] be the guy to blow the whistle and start the race.”
"An incoherent mix of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, black nationalism, anarchy and ad hominem attacks relying on comic book and horror film characters and images that he has used over and over and over."*
So R.I.P. Amiri Baraka. I’m proud to have been your editor in the middle/late ’90s.
But I’ll claim no credit—and am due none—for his amazing work.
It’s fifteen years on now and I can still vividly recall a pretty grand Manhattan lunch he and I shared, and the odd visit to his home in Newark.
*from Stanley Crouch’s 2002 NY Daily News appraisal of Baraka’s work cited in the NYTimes obit linked above.
Happy Holidays folks! Just a brief check-in to confirm that Kanye West’s “How you gonna be mad on vacation?” line from Bound 2 wasn’t purely rhetorical, at least as far as singer Ricky Spicer is concerned.
Spicer’s sued West in NY state court for unjust enrichment, infringing his publicity rights and infringing his common law copyright in the Ponderosa Twins Plus One’s original Bound from their album 2+2+1=. ”Common law copyright” you say? Yes, since the original album was released in 1971, a year before congress extended federal copyright protection to recorded music.
Weighing-in on the GoldieBlox/Beastie Boys “Girls” copyright fracas.
Some background: There’s this company, GoldieBlox, which makes constructiony kinetic toys and markets them to girls (imagine the old-school “Mousetrap” boardgame in pastel colors and you’ll not be far off). A few weeks back they release a commercial for these toys based on The Beastie Boys’ track “Girls" off the 1986 album, Licensed to Ill. The commercial’s a pretty faithful duplication of the song in most essential respects. Except that now the lyrics—which in the Beastie’s original were a self-consciously arch performance of laddish misogyny—have in GoldieBlox’ new version been turned into a simple and earnest girl-power anthem.
The commercial’s since been taken down, but most of it can still be seen here under some thin commentary (courtesy, funnily enough, of copyright’s fair use provision as it pertains to news reporting).
Earnest it may be but the video’s appealing withal. Its got a diverse gang of winsome girls running around and singing and features an interesting Rube-Goldberg-ish chain reaction meant, obviously, to showcase the toys GoldieBlox makes and markets. Does it infringe the Beastie’s copyright in “Girls”? Yes, it certainly does. Is it excusable as a fair use? Almost just as certainly, No.
The video became extremely popular online, “going viral” in a few days. It’s garnered a lot of support around the web and on social media. It’s cheerleaders also included some otherwise thoughtful and often-trustworthy legal writers (more on which below).
So the Beasties apparently get wind of this. Having not licensed the song (having, in fact, as later has become known, a band-policy not to license ANY of their songs for commercials) they have their rep phone GoldieBlox to ask what’s up…
And we’re off to court!
By their own account, in fear of being themselves sued by the Beasties (presumably in New York, a less convenient forum for the Cali-based company) GoldieBlox file suit for declaratory relief against the Beasties the week before Thanksgiving. They do this hoping for the court to determine that what they’ve done wasn’t copyright infringement but rather a parodic “fair use” of the song, and hence permissible. Whether they earnestly believed this to be likely is in my opinion doubtful.
But I seem to be in the minority here. Serious writers like Ken White at Popehat and such serious outfits as the Electronic Frontier Foundation seemed to believe it would survive analysis under current “fair use” copyright jurisprudence. My theory here is that this support is mainly due to two things: 1) an over-ready acceptance of GoldiBlox’ characterization of the Beastie’s original “Girls” as a straightforwardly misogynist song (an easy mistake if one only encounters the lyrics abstracted from their original context); and 2) a general predisposition—in an era when cultural artifacts and the rights to them are often viewed as in thrall to corporate commerce, locked-down and locked-away in a seemingly endless copyright regime—to favor copyright defendants.
I’ll have more on this (including on the Beastie’s response) in a later post.
I found one day in school a boy of medium size ill-treating a smaller boy. I expostulated, but he replied: ‘The bigs hit me, so I hit the babies; that’s fair.’ In these words he epitomized the history of the human race.
STOP! Not only is this vid from Andy Baio srsly TLDW, it’s also wrong wrong wrong on how copyright’s “fair use” doctrine effects creativity.
More patient minds than mine have carefully addressed his alarmist despairing in a piece posted at the Center for Social Media. It’s seriously worth the time.
Baio should be more careful. Beyond “Kind of Bloop” and now this mess his prior claim to fame—at 25:02 in the video—may get him into even further legal trouble, this time from the trademark attorneys for a certain chain of discount hair salons. [Kidding on this last, obsly.]