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What is Comic Book Law?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

     By Gamal Hennessy

Lawyers are similar to doctors in terms of specialization. While some of us have a general practice, most of us focus on a particular area. These areas of expertise allow for greater focus and better results for our clients. That’s why you wouldn’t let your podiatrist perform brain surgery on you and you wouldn’t trust your criminal case to your real estate lawyer. Unique industries require unique professionals.

            I refer myself as a comic book lawyer, but this isn’t an official area of law. Unlike corporate or constitutional law, you can’t study comic book law in any law school that I know of. It is debatable if there is such a field. This post is my explanation of what comic book law is and why it is important for both creators and the industry. I’ll also offer up the names of three other comic book attorneys who are helping to protect the business and financial elements of this art form.

A Hybrid Legal Specialty

What I refer to as comic book law is a focused form of publishing law that also deals with broader aspects of entertainment law. Comic book law shares similar issues as other types of publishing, including copyright law, contracts, and first amendment issues. Where it differs is in aspects of production before the book is made and associated products after the books are released.

A Cooperative Legal Specialty

Most novels and poems are written by a single individual. Most comics are created by a team of at least two and as many as seven people. Some independent comics are published as the joint effort of a dozen or more professionals (See You Need Two Teams to Publish a Successful Comic). The collaborative nature of comics means that like other cooperative forms of art, contractual relationships between the artists are as important as the agreements between the artists and the distributors. (See All For One: Artist Collaboration Agreements). Whether you’re talking about work for hire contracts, joint ownership agreements or something in between, the ownership of every comic requires a unique type of contract (See What Kind of Contracts Do You Need for Your Comic?). Children’s book publishing also has aspects of collaboration between the illustrator and the author, but the variation of relationships between comic book creators is more varied and complex.

A Commercial Legal Specialty

            Comics are also a unique form of publishing based on the life that the characters and stories enjoy off the page. Crossover media, merchandise and derivative products have been part of the comic book business since their infancy (See Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle). Very few novels or prose works generate substantial collectibles or merchandise, unless it’s a children’s book or the book is licensed to become a film. Comic characters generate merchandise as a natural by-product of publication (See Making Comics Isn’t Really About Making Comics Anymore).

From a business and legal standpoint, this means that comic book law needs to consider the intellectual property implications of both copyright and trademark law (See Image and Story: The Role of Copyright and Trademark in Comics), film, television, and video game licensing (See Comics are Thriving in TV and Movies) as well as business formation for new publishers in the market (See The Benefits of Forming an LLC for Your Independent Comic). In many cases, the business and financial impact of the secondary market is more complex and more lucrative than the book itself.

An Established Legal Specialty

            Comics have been a staple in international entertainment for decades (See In France, Comic Books Are Serious Business), but like comics in America, comic book law isn’t given the same deference as other areas of law.  But this viewpoint ignores the importance of comics as an industry and the ongoing work of a host of legal professionals.

In 2017, comics were a two billion dollar industry not counting movies, merchandise or related products (See Comic Book Sales by Year). There are more than three hundred active comic book publishers in America (See List of Comic Book Publishers) and many of them have comic book lawyers on staff or as outside counsel. Specifically, these three gentlemen have been practicing and/or writing about comic book law for several years.

Comic book law is not as respected or well known as corporate law or criminal law. It is an adaptive and complex field that requires specific expertise and understanding about the industry. Every comic creator and publisher needs to find the right lawyer to protect the rights and revenue for their work. A unique industry requires unique professionals.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

How Do You Register a Copyright for Your Comic?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

If you don’t see your comic as a viable commercial concept or if you think it is viable but for whatever reason you prefer to you are comfortable with the characters and story being used freely by anyone and everyone, then registration might not make sense for you. But if you plan to invest time, money and energy into your idea and you want a better chance to benefit from your investment, the benefits of registration will be helpful to you

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Silence May Not Be Golden for Freelance Comic Creators

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Companies are trying to prevent freelancers who work for them from disclosing what they get paid. This creates an advantage for the publishers , but it is dangerous for freelancers who lack the information to negotiate their deals in a thoughtful manner

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Why am I Qualified to Write a Book about Independent Comics Publishing?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

The Independent Comic Book Publishing book is being built on a foundation that includes 40 years of experience in the industry, extensive research, and a wide range of interviews.

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Get Your Comic Book Career Handbook for Free

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

The world of comics is chaotic, complex, and on a certain level, crazy. Few other industries transform fantasies and nightmares into a profitable business. Like many fans, you have probably imagined yourself working in the industry at one time or another. Many of us are insane enough to pursue our passion as a profession.

I’m offering something writing a book to help make your journey a little easier. It’s called Your Four Careers in Comics: A Business and Legal Framework for Professional Comic Creator (which I’m calling YFCC for short). My goal is to explore the various aspects of each position to help you maximize your professional creativity. With luck, this framework, combined with your talent and determination, will lead you to a fulfilling career in the complex world of comics.

YFCC is currently scheduled for release in Summer 2018, but I’m offering the roadmap for that book to everyone who signs up for my comic book industry newsletter The Professional Comics Creator. Sign up now and learn more about the different aspects of the comic book industry and how you can fit into it.

PLEASE NOTE: NEITHER THIS BLOG NOR FOUR CAREERS IN COMICS ARE A A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A LICENSING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

The Benefits of Forming an LLC for Your Independent Comic

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

There are many aspects of being a comics creator that have very little to do with making comics. Taking care of your taxes might be the least pleasant aspect of your business, but there are ways to make the process a little less painful and a little more profitable. Your comic and your business can benefit from creating a corporate structure. The type of company that I normally recommend to my clients is a limited liability company or LLC. As tax time approaches, I’d like to offer a few reasons why an LLC might be right for you.

What is a limited liability company?

Before we get into specifics about LLCs, it makes sense to start at the beginning. A company is a legal entity that can be created by filing certain documents with the state government. There are several types of corporate forms (I’ll talk about the others a little later) but an LLC is a type of company that is attractive to many small businesses including comics.    

What’s so great about having an LLC?

There are four main benefits to creating a company to publish your book, including:

  1. Limited legal exposure: The first benefit of an LLC can be found in the name of the company. If you runs into legal or financial trouble without any corporate form, then whoever is trying to get money from you can go after your house, your car, your bank account and other assets you own to collect what you owe them. If you create an LLC and do all your business through that company, then your liability is limited to the amount of money or assets owned by the company. From a legal standpoint, you are a separate person. This is a gross oversimplification of liability law, but think of an LLC as a shield that can protect you from legal bullets and bombs if you use it the right way.
  2. Deductible Business Expenses: Making comics costs money. Printing, conventions, lawyers all have to be paid for your business to run. One of the benefits of creating an LLC is the ability to deduct the payments you make on behalf of the business (losses) from your taxable income. This creates the situation where some or all of the costs of running your business can be offset. The result can be more money for you to invest in your business. Of course not every expense is deductible and abusing deductions can lead to an audit, but the benefits of the system outweigh the concerns for most creators who start an LLC
  3. Setup and Maintenance Is Less Complicated: Unlike other business entities, filing an LLC is relatively painless. Once your lawyer creates the operating agreement, files the proper documents with the secretary of state and you publicise the LLC according to state rules, you can get an EIN number from the IRS and you’re good to go. Creating an LLC can take less than a week in most circumstances.
  4. Can Be a Single Person Company: Unlike other business entities, an LLC can be just one person. You can have multiple members of your LLC and you can add or remove members according to the terms of your operating agreement, but if you’re an independent artist who wants to own and control every aspect of your business, you can forge ahead on your own.

    Keep in mind, creating an LLC can have a major impact on your personal and business income. Everyone’s financial situation is different and unusual or complex issues should be discussed with an accountant. Once you decide creating an LLC is right for you, I offer free consultations to help you discuss your options. It’s too late for an LLC to help you with your 2016 taxes, but forming a limited liability company now can make next year’s tax season a little better for you.

Have fun.

Gamal


PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A LICENSING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

The Five Major (and one minor) Business Trend in Comics

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

Last year saw significant changes in the comics market. While the general public focused on transmedia events like Batman v. Superman, Civil War and X-men Apocalypse, the underlying business has shifted financially and creatively.Milton Griepp of ICV2 listed these five events as the most important for comics in the last year:

  1. North American Sales Surpassed One Billion Dollars

  2. DC Takes the Top Market Share with the Launch of Rebirth

  3. Hastings Declares Bankruptcy

  4. March Wins a National Book Award

  5. Lion Forge Pushes Its Way Into the Middle Tier

In addition to all these moves, I’ve noticed a growing trend in my small corner of the comics industry. More and more artists are taking the proactive step to lock in collaboration agreements for their independent comics. As more creative teams are turning to crowdfunding and publishing books on their own, they are also making sure to define all the rights and responsibilities in writing before the book is released (See: All for One and One for All: Collaboration Agreements in Comics). This is the best way to go, since an undefined deal is a recipe for disaster and it’s much harder to hammer out a deal after a book is released and tensions are high.

What comic industry trends have you seen in 2016? What are you expecting in 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know before you go back to your masterpiece.

Have fun.

Gamal

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A LICENSING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

How Much Do You Get Paid Per Page?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

 

By Gamal Hennessy, Esq.

When you first start out in comics, there’s a lot of details about the business you need to understand. Everything from how to find work, to what to look for in a contract, to making sure you get paid are all things you have to take care of in addition to making great art. Not only do you have to digest a lot of information, but aspects of the comics industry change from publisher to publisher and from month to month. One of the most important and the most fluid aspects of freelance comics work is how much each publisher pays per page. I’d like to make the process of determining your page rate a little easier by talking about what a page rate is, what the common rates are and how you can keep track of changing rates in the future.

What is a Page Rate?

Different professions get paid according to different measurements. Lawyers get paid by the hour. Sales people get paid based on commissions. Freelance comic book artists (and some creator driven artists) get paid a page rate. The basic idea is for every page you’re hired to work on, you get a set fee. So if you get $100 per page and the book is 32 pages, then you get $3,200.

A page rate is a base number. It doesn’t take into account incentives like royalty pools, recoupment, back end participation or anything else that could muddy the waters. It’s a straight forward transaction; one page for one price. As long as you know what the price is, everything else is based on that.

What Were the Current Page Rates for 2016?

The confusing question is ‘what is the right page rate for you?’ Your page rate can and will vary based on your experience, skill level, established fan base, prior projects and the publisher you’re working with. While several factors are subjective and based on you as an individual, there are some baselines you should keep in mind. Thomas Crowell, author of the excellent book Pocket Lawyer for Comics Creators recently offered this snapshot of the industry at the 2016 New York Comic Con:

  • Writers:                              $25-$220 per page
  • Cover Artist:                      $200-$750 per cover
  • Pencils:                             $100-$250 per page
  • Inks:                                  $75-$200 per page
  • Coloring:                            $35-$150 per page
  • Flatting:                             $8-$20 per page
  • Lettering:                           $10-$50 per page

This list is not a guarantee. You might be offered less than the numbers above. You can always ask for more. This should just serve as a guideline to what you can expect when you deal with a publisher. Other factors will play a role, but this gives you somewhere to start from.

How Can I Keep Track of Page Rates?

As a freelance artist, you’ll get a sense of where the market is in terms of page rates as you spend time in the industry working on different projects. Publishers can alter their rates at will, so it pays to keep in touch with other artists in the field, pay attention to message boards and discussions and talk to your editors and publishers on a regular basis to find out their individual positions. There are also ongoing resources you can use and participate in to make page rates more transparent. The list above was derived from a site called Fair Page Rates that isn't perfect by any means, but it attempts to track rates for various US publishers in a system that is inherently subjective.

Once you understand what a page rate is, how you can figure out your page rate and who pays what, you have a lot of information to help you chart your freelance comics career. If you know how many pages you can do a month, you can calculate your maximum potential income. If you know how much you need per year to work on comics full time, you can figure out what page rate you need and how many books you need to work on to make freelancing a viable job. Then you can spend some time actually practicing your craft and making great comics.

Have fun.

Gamal

Related Articles:

Your Career in Comics: Freelance Artist

Your Career in Comics: Creator Driven Artist

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A LICENSING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.