Creator Spotlight with Artist, Author, & Doctor Grisell Vargas

Post publish date: June 6, 2024

This week we’d like to introduce Artist, Author, & award-winning physician, Grisell Vargas. Grisell is the author of three pain management books and has been published in over 60 medical articles. After reading her spotlight blog, be sure to follow her on Instagram.

What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

Since my childhood, creation has been part of my life. When I was a child, I made up stories for my siblings and created decorations. I also painted and made posters to decorate our bedrooms.

Creation has always been part of my life. Creating is giving life to something that does not exist from an idea and expressing it in different materials and means of communicating such as writing and the transmission of knowledge.

What I enjoy most about the creative process is trying to give shape to my ideas and finding a way to transform that idea and creative energy into something tangible. The second thing is to give color to my created forms and transmit joy in each brushstroke to the eye of the observer. In each brushstroke and each combination of colors I leave a dash of emotion and a part of myself. It is a little piece of me that goes into creation and is what makes it unique and unrepeatable. Each work is a reflection of that journey, that personal path, it is like a window to a little piece of my inner world as a creative artist.

Can you talk through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?

I could say that my professional and artistic life are marked by creativity.       

In addition to being an artist, I am a doctor who works in pain management. I have a professional life that I practice with passion and in which I have expressed my creative spirit through clinical research. I have written several books, and I have created innovative methods in medical pedagogy. On the other hand, the artistic part has always grown in parallel to my very active medical life. Unfortunately, I have not yet made money from my art.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?

That artists only need to know how to create art. In fact, we need to about marketing too, and I am not yet sure of how to sell my works.

When did you first become aware of copyright, and why?

The first time I learned about copyright was in 2010, after creating all the teaching materials needed for a therapeutic education program for patients suffering from chronic pain. After doing so, a person tried to take possession of the material and it was at that moment that I had to investigate and create the copyright protections for the therapeutic education program.

Before this happened, I was also robbed many times in presentation creations and in photos used at conferences, making me realize that it’s essential to protect my works through copyright.

Have you experienced copyright infringement and, if so, how has it affected you personally and financially?

Feeling that someone takes possession of an intellectual work produces a lot of anger and what I do is defend my creation with strength and enthusiasm. It is very hard, but I am a person who always looks for the positive in every experience and I firmly believe that fighting for something builds an internal strength that helps the process of healing the wound of intellectual theft.

Financially speaking, I didn’t lose money, but I did lose time and time is priceless.

What do you do when you encounter someone stealing something you’ve invested your intellect, time, and money into?

I feel a lot of emotions. Firstly, I feel very angry with myself for not having seen this coming and secondly, I demonstrate that the intellectual theft occurred by presenting concrete facts such as my copyright registrations. I am a fighter and I have learned to fight for what is important.

What is the best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?

I think it is important to be well informed, and secondly not to let yourself be overcome by the negative emotions that feeling stolen from can generate; thirdly, I establish a plan on how to prove that the work is copyrighted; and, fourthly, I fight to prove that the creation is my work.

What is your biggest copyright-related challenge?

Being well informed, knowing how to act and who to turn to, to prevent the theft of intellectual property and how to deal with it when it happens.


If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!

Creator Spotlight with Stop-Motion Animator Blake Derksen

Post publish date: May 30, 2024

This week we’d like to introduce you to stop-motion animator, Blake Derksen. Some of his more well-known projects include Robot Chicken (2001), Fall Out Boy: Love from the Other Side (2023), and Crossing Swords (2020). After reading his spotlight blog, be sure to check out his work on both his website and on Vimeo. You can also follow him on Instagram.

What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

I’ve always enjoyed drawing and making things. Growing up, my uncle always used to fold origami flapping birds for me every time I’d visit his office. Eventually, I asked if he’d teach me how to make one. Fascinated with the process and possibilities I checked out books about origami and learned more models. This snowballed and soon I was folding complex pieces and learning how to develop my own models.

So when my dad taught me the basics of how to edit videos in iMovie, it didn’t take long before my best friend and I were making movies together every weekend. After seeing these, my uncle asked if I’d ever tried stop motion? I didn’t quite know what that was, but I had an inclination as to what it meant. My best friend and I were immediately hooked. We had been bitten by the animation bug and there was no going back.

My favorite part of the process is the fulfillment of taking something I’ve sculpted or built and making it come to life through the magic of animation. It’s fun to take something inanimate and bring it to life to tell stories.

Can you talk through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?

It takes a lot of time to do anything in stop motion as it is very interdisciplinary. You have to take time to flush out your concept and idea, storyboard it, and edit it before you even start building the puppets. Once you’re sure you’re headed in the right direction, you can start building your sets and puppets.

The miniatures built for stop motion have to be very sturdy so that they don’t jitter or move as you’re animating, and the puppets have to be made out of a variety of different materials depending on what you want them to be capable of. There’s usually some time spent researching and developing fabrication techniques that are unique to each production as simple motions and facts of life we take for granted never come for free in animation.

Once everything is built, it gets lit and dressed to camera, and then you can start animating. Pushing the puppet from one frame at a time, a single shot can take anywhere from a couple hours to multiple days depending on its complexity. On average I’m able to animate 8-10 seconds a day, but again that really depends on how complex the shot is.

I do some personal animation work for fun. That stuff I usually post on social media to share with friends, family, and colleagues. Most of the animation I’ve made has been done in the studio setting under contract work.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?

One of the biggest misconceptions with stop motion is how time consuming it is. While many people may know that it is generally labor intensive, I don’t think there’s a good understanding of just how intensive it is. This often has a bad knock-on effect on most stop motion productions. There’s a saying in the film business: good, fast, cheap; pick two. I don’t think enough people truly understand that quality animation is going to take a long time. I’ve had people ask me if I could independently animate an entire music video for them for $500. In a best case scenario, where I somehow have a set, puppets, and all the other requisite materials ready to go, I could maybe crank out a minute of animation in a week. The reality is that it takes an army and a lot of time and money, or it is going to take a really long time on a tighter budget. No-one wants a super cheap product that was made quickly, it’s just gonna be bad. I wish more clients understood this better.

When did you first become aware of copyright, and why?

I first became aware of copyright in high school because of my interest in origami. As my origami skills started to mature enough, I was thinking of selling some of the models I was folding. After learning about how copyright worked surrounding origami, I decided I would rather sell my own original models.

Another thing that I learned was the importance of crediting creators, even when you’re just folding a model for fun and sharing it on social media. The origami community is largely very respectful of each other’s rights in my experience. Most people who share pictures of origami models they have folded will credit the creator of the model in their description. I haven’t seen very many other art forms where proper credit is given so regularly.

What is your biggest copyright-related challenge?

My biggest copyright related challenge is protecting my work against generative AI. While big companies have the resources to protect their IPs from being included in training models, not many of us individual artists have the resources to protect our work as easily. And it is a genuine concern to me as there are many CG artists already out there that often try to emulate a stop motion look. At the end of the day it still doesn’t compare to the real thing to me, but I fear that those who care less about why and how something is made will pursue AI generated “stop motion” out of convenience instead of hiring stop motion artists. Hopefully, legal action will help protect our work eventually, but until then, it is nerve wracking knowing that someone else could be profiting off of my work that has been scraped from the web. Ideally, these models will at least be required to give proper attribution and compensation for their sources in the future.


If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!

Turning Books to Movies: Three Copyright Tips for Authors

Post publish date: May 21, 2024

What do “The Notebook,” “It,” “The Bourne Identity,” “Twilight,” “The Pursuit of Happyness,” and “The Color Purple” all have in common? You guessed it—they were all first literary works before being adapted into movies. Many of our favorite blockbuster classics began bound by a spine, printed, published, and placed on bookshelves. For authors who spend countless hours and incalculable amounts of energy expressing themselves through the creation of books, essays, short stories, graphic novels, and other literary works, hoping that one day their work might make it off the bookstore shelves and into movie theaters or onto television screens, it is possible. However, when the dream manifests itself, and these authors are approached with an opportunity to turn their work into a movie or television series, what should they know about copyright when negotiating?

In this blog, we’ll cover three copyright-related tips that authors should keep in mind when adapting or looking to adapt their literary works into works for the big and small screens. But before we get into our three tips, it’s important to know what a transfer of a copyright entails.

Transferring Copyrights: Exclusivity

The Copyright Act grants authors exclusive control over rights in their literary works. A copyright owner of a literary work has several exclusive rights: (1) the right to reproduce the work, (2) the right to distribute the work, (3) the right to create derivative works of the work, (4) the right to publicly perform the work and (5) the right to publicly display the work, as discussed in our Copyright Law for Writers webpage. These rights can be transferred or licensed to others, in whole or in part.

A transfer is the conveyance of one or more rights from the copyright owner to a third party. A license is a type of transfer where the owner grants a third party permission to exercise the owner’s rights under copyright law. In copyright, there are two kinds of licenses, non-exclusive licenses and exclusive licenses.

A non-exclusive copyright license is a license where the owner gives the licensee permission to exercise the rights but retains the right to authorize others to use the rights or to use the right themselves. A copyright owner could license their work to multiple parties.

An exclusive copyright license is a license where one or more rights is transferred by the copyright owner to a third party in manner such that only that third party can exploit that right or rights. The owner does not retain any rights throughout the duration of the exclusive licensing agreement. Under copyright law, an exclusive licensee is also able to sue for copyright infringement of the rights it has exclusivity to.

Authors can decide to retain the entire bundle of rights or transfer some or all rights to others. For instance, a writer can transfer all the rights to their novel, or they can agree to singularly transfer the right to make a derivative work of that novel. For example, when a movie is based on a book it is considered to be a derivative work in copyright law. However, we more commonly refer to such a work as an adaptation. For example, season one of the Netflix series Bridgerton is a derivative work of the book by Julia Quinn, Bridgerton: The Duke & I because the series is based on the book but reworked to a screen to appeal to viewers.

Whether the author transfers all rights to the work or just the right to make a derivative work, the terms must be negotiated and described in an agreement. The agreement must be made in writing signed by the copyright owner or the owner’s authorized agent. So, what should an author keep in mind about copyright law as they negotiate opportunities for adaptations? 

The first tip is that authors will want to register their works with the U.S. Copyright Office. Under copyright law, works are protected the moment they are created as long as they are original and have been fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Though registration is not required for copyright protection, it is beneficial, and may even be required in an agreement when transferring or licensing rights to a third party.

Registration Provides Information to Prospective Licensees

Registration with the Copyright Office creates a public record that includes key facts about authorship and ownership of a work, including information about the work, such as the title, year of creation, and publication date. The public record also includes information about the author, such as the author’s name and address. If a prospective licensee, like an entertainment company, were interested in using an author’s work to create an adaptation, the public record would be a valuable resource for locating the author’s contact information and other information about the work. This means that opportunities for the author could come to them more quickly. If the work is not registered, prospective licensees may not have any idea how to find the author to license the work.  

Additionally, having this information be part of the public record can help producers determine whether they are securing all rights necessary from all parties who may have an ownership claim. For example, if a producer found out that the literary work has derivative elements, that producer might do additional research to secure any additional and necessary rights for the underlying work in order to make their screen adaptation. Similarly, if a work was registered as a joint work, a producer may need to negotiate with more than one person.

Registration is Evidence of Validity

Registration serves as evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the certificate of registration regarding ownership. The author of the registered work would not have to scramble to find proof of ownership to conduct negotiations because a registration certificate can serve as proof. In fact, an interested third party may require one as part of the agreement. Having a registration certificate in hand assists in negotiations because ownership information could be quickly verified.

Tip 2: Specify the Rights Being Transferred

The second tip is that authors should specify and understand what rights are being transferred. A first step for adapting a literary work into a film or television series is usually for a producer to seek an option to purchase the exclusive rights to adapt the work from the copyright owner for a period of time.

An option agreement, or “option,” is an exclusive agreement to start developing a work, such as a novel, into a film or television series. In return for the option to develop, the author or owner of the copyright is compensated. If the producer successfully secures funding and other elements necessary to produce the screen adaptation, the option is further negotiated and becomes an agreement to transfer and exclusively license the rights to the producer or film company. 

A purchase agreement is the final agreement that transforms option agreements into a more long-lasting licensing agreement. Producers and other types of prospective licensees may desire exclusive licenses over non-exclusive licenses because under an exclusive grant only the licensee can use the copyrighted work. The exclusivity gives producers a sense of security in knowing they are the only party allowed to adapt the literary work without pressure from competitors.

Specifying which rights the author intends to grant is crucial at the option stage. Under copyright law, the copyright owner may either transfer ownership of all or some of the rights. To maintain their rights, however, the author should carefully understand and appreciate what rights they are transferring in the agreement as well as the scope of those rights. 

For example, an author may choose to reserve their right to continue merchandising or their right to create future adaptations such as stage rights, and sequels in connection with the literary work. But wholesale transferring all rights leaves the author without the right to control where, how, or in what form their work appears. Ensuring that the terms and conditions of the copyrights transfer are very clear at the onset of the process helps to avoid future issues.

Tip 3: Enlist an Agent or Attorney to Help with Negotiations

Authors should consider enlisting the support of an attorney, literary agent, or film rights agent to negotiate on their behalf. A film rights agent is an agent who specializes in negotiating film terms. Typically, literary agents specialize in book publishing, but some literary agents also serve as film rights agents. Attorneys can help with specific copyright issues and contract negotiations. An attorney, literary agent, or film rights agent will have experience and background knowledge to help authors negotiate terms for film or television adaptations that align with their dream outcomes and future planning. If enlisting the help of an attorney sounds enticing, you can find an attorney using our Find a Copyright Attorney Directory.

Conclusion

Although the Copyright Act allows authors to transfer or license copyrights in whole or in part, authors should be aware of copyright law fundamentals and be prepared when negotiating and contracting their rights. That’s why authors should (1) register their works with the U.S. Copyright Office; (2) specify and understand the rights being transferred in their agreements and; (3) enlist an agent or attorney to help with their negotiations. These three tips related to copyright law will hopefully help authors prepare for when they negotiate film or television adaptations.


To learn more about how copyright law applies to writers, visit our webpage on What Writers Need to Know About Copyright Law. To access additional copyright law materials and resources, join the Copyright Alliance for our free creator membership.

Creator Spotlight with Children’s Book Illustrator Lauren Gallegos

Post publish date: April 18, 2024

This week we’d like to introduce you to children’s book illustrator, Lauren Gallegos. Lauren has illustrated over 30 books ranging from board books to historical fiction. After reading her spotlight blog, we encourage you to also follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and X.

What was the inspiration behind becoming a children’s book author? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

Like most kids, I enjoyed making art, but it wasn’t until the end of high school that I started thinking of art as a possible career path. Before, I had never really thought that being an artist could be something you could make a living at. I went through college with that pursuit, but I didn’t have a clear goal until I took a Children’s Book Illustration class. Once I discovered that world, that was it for me. I knew I wanted to make narrative art and tell visual stories for kids. The books I read as a child were a huge inspiration to me as I got started. And as I grew, I became more familiar with current children’s illustrators that I loved. I love being able to create new and interesting worlds that you can escape into. I can imagine places that don’t exist, and make them real. And there is nothing more powerful than a story that brings someone hope. That is what I want to help bring to children through my art.

Can you talk through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?

Either for client work, or personal work, it usually starts with some kind of story, either a finished manuscript, or some other narrative (a poem, a song, etc) any piece of text that sparks my imagination. Creating a children’s book involves everything from character design, environment design, narrative and sequential storytelling to thumbnail sketches, refined sketches, color sketches, and final art. It’s a huge process all crammed into 32 pages. Creating one children’s book can take anywhere between six months to one year. It’s a commitment and an investment, and so many people underestimate how much is involved in the process. Of course, it is most preferred to be hired to create art for a manuscript, in which case, you are paid for all the work you do. But there are certainly times when I am making art that I have not been hired for. To be hired, you have to have a strong, ever-changing portfolio, and not all paid work is something I want in my portfolio. So, I am constantly trying to make new work so that I will continue to get new jobs. It’s all about staying current and relevant in the children’s market, and sometimes that means making something for nothing in the hopes that it will produce interest from a publisher to eventually hire me.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?

I think most people believe that making art for a children’s book takes a couple of weeks at most. They have no idea what amount of effort goes into every single piece of art, and not only that one piece, but an entire book full of art, which can be 16 images or more, And not only that, they all have to work together as one cohesive story. The pieces have to work together, but not all look the same. And you mostly have the same characters on every page, and they have to look consistent throughout the entire book. I think people think of kids’ books as a few fun, cute pictures. But each book is an entire body of work. Things like this take a lot of time.

When did you first become aware of copyright, and why?

I first became aware of copyright and protecting my work in college. This is going to make me sound SO OLD, but social media was still very new then, so we were encouraged to put our work on our own website or blog. At the time, sharing work on the internet was scary and who knows what was being stolen, so my professors taught us how to create our own watermarks to plaster across our work. They looked horrendous, but it felt like the most secure thing you could do at the time, so I did it. There was nothing official about it, but as a budding college-age artist with no money, it felt like enough.

What is the best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?

The illustrator will usually retain the copyright to their illustrations in the Publisher’s contract. But there are still plenty of publishers that only do “Work-for-Hire” contracts, which means the publisher holds the rights to your work. This is a decision an Illustrator has to make. If they are not comfortable, sometimes contracts can be negotiated differently, but that doesn’t always work. There are plenty of perfectly respectable Illustrators who will give up the rights to their work on occasion, usually for a job they aren’t completely tied to or in love with. Sometimes we all just need to work for money, and that’s fine. But there are stories of illustrators who do a Work-for-Hire project and, BAM! Now it’s being picked up to become a movie! Oh wait, but now the artist has zero say in how their work is used, if it’s even used at all. Work-for-Hire doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but if you can negotiate the rights, definitely try to do so! And to protect your work with peace of mind, register them with the U.S. Copyright Office.


If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!

Community Partner Spotlight: National Association of Voice Actors (NAVA)

Post publish date: April 11, 2024

Today, we turn the spotlight over to one of our community partners, the National Association of Voice Actors (NAVA). They are a non-profit organization that seeks to “advocate and promote the advancement of the voice acting industry through action, education, inclusion, and benefits.” After you read their spotlight blog, be sure to follow them on Facebook, X, and Instagram.

What is the history of your organization, and what is its mission?

NAVA was formed in 2022 as a professional association for voice actors with the mission of being a place of advocacy in the voiceover industry. Our pillars are action, inclusion, education and benefits. When you think of “voiceover” images of cartoons and video games might come to mind. But voice actors do so much more than make funny voices on TV. Voice actors are the voices of the phone systems you interact with every day. We voice company training videos, and read medication safety information. We narrate your favorite documentaries and TV shows. We accompany you on long car rides through podcasts and audiobooks. And of course, we bring life to iconic animated characters in TV, film, and video games. Because of generative AI, our jobs, careers, security, and livelihoods are at risk.

NAVA exists not only to protect the voice actors who are currently working, but also to shape the future of our industry, so that there will be work available for generations of voice actors to come.

How do you support members of the creative community, and how can a creator get involved with your organization? 

In 2023, NAVA released a groundbreaking contract addendum/rider which helps protect creatives against the unauthorized use of their voice, likeness, and image for AI training and synthesization. The contract rider is free and available to the public on our website, and has been used successfully hundreds of times. We also launched our #fAIrVoices campaign on social media, which calls for fAIr consent, control, and compensation for creatives anytime artificial intelligence is involved. Professional voice actors can join NAVA by visiting NAVAvoices.org, and all creators can follow us on social media @NAVAvoices.

What inspired your organization to become a Copyright Alliance community partner?

The Copyright Alliance has been leading the way on issues surrounding AI from the very beginning, and NAVA is honored to be a community partner. We are thrilled to stand alongside so many impactful creative organizations, and know that together we can make a big difference not only for artists, but for the world at large. 

How have copyright and related issues affected your organization and its creator base?

Copyright is a complex topic for voice actors, because no one owns the copyright to the sound of their voice. In fact, as work for hire independent contractors creating the voices for characters which are a part of someone else’s IP, we often don’t have a direct claim over the performances we give. Voice actors have seen their voices scraped from video games and put through AI voice generation software to make all kinds of things, but because the video game company owns the intellectual property, it is the responsibility of the video game company to ask for it to be taken down, However, we do have some protections for sound files we create at home. We are looking into technology and legislation which would give all people rights over their own voice, likeness, and image. 

What is one thing you wish creators understood more clearly about copyright?

One interesting and important distinction we are trying to make is the difference between owning a sound file, and owning the rights to the voice print within that sounds file. Even if a sound file is in the public domain (for example in the case of LibriVox, which is a public domain audiobook platform which many AI companies have used to train their foundational models), it doesn’t mean the voice actor has agreed to give up their voice print. Voice print is considered sensitive and protected biometric data in many countries, but is not federally protected in the United States. We feel any time a synthetic version of a human being is created, that human being should give active, explicit consent in order for it to be legal to do so. If you want to use my voice, it should be my choice.

What advice would you give aspiring creators just starting out and unsure of how to protect their work?

For voice actors, the easiest thing to do is read your contracts. Be sure there is nothing in the contract that gives your end client the rights to your voice print. In addition to that, voice actors can add the NAVA AI/Synthetic Voice Contract Rider to every contract they sign to help ensure their end client won’t use their voice to make and train AI.

What are some current debates or issues surrounding copyright law that your organization is paying attention to, and what is your stance on them?

NAVA is meeting with lawmakers at the federal and state level to help shape legislation, and there are a few bills we are in full support of. The NO FAKES Act in the Senate would establish a federal right of publicity. And the NO AI Frauds Act in the House has a similar mission, and specifically references “voice” as a protected category and a property right. 

What are some common misconceptions that creators have about copyright, and how does your organization address them?

Many voice actors assume they own the rights to their voice, image, name, and likeness, and unfortunately at this moment in history, they do not. There are some right of publicity protections in certain states, but we all need to fight for federal protection. Especially for those of us who earn a living from licensing our voice, image, name, and likeness. 


If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!

Community Partner Spotlight: Asian American Arts Alliance (A4) 

Post publish date: March 28, 2024

Today, we turn the spotlight over to one of our community partners, Asian American Arts Alliance (A4). They are a nonprofit “dedicated to strengthening Asian American artists and cultural groups through resource sharing, promotion, and community building.” After you read their spotlight blog, be sure to follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and X.

What is the history of your organization, and what is its mission?

The Asian American Arts Alliance (A4) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring greater representation, equity, and opportunities for Asian American artists and cultural organizations through resource sharing, promotion, and community building. Since 1983, A4 has sought to unify, promote, and represent the artistic and cultural producers of one of New York City’s fastest-growing populations. We are a diverse alliance of artists, organizations, and arts supporters who believe that working together as a pan-ethnic, multidisciplinary community is essential to nurturing the development of artists and arts groups. A4 serves as a thoughtful convener of the Asian American cultural workforce around issues of race, identity, and artmaking and provides a critical voice for this community. We are the only service organization in the country dedicated to the professional development of Asian American artists in all disciplines.

How do you support members of the creative community, and how can a creator get involved with your organization?

Asian American Arts Alliance offers programs that build community and provide resources through peer-learning, collaboration, and professional development, furthering the careers of Asian Americans in the arts and supporting a healthy arts ecosystem. Our programs include networking events, talks, workshops, and fellowships that lower barriers for engagement, embed pathways of access for artists to connect with cultural gatekeepers, advance opportunities for artists and arts administrators of color, and provide tools to develop Asian American leaders in the community.

There are numerous ways to join the A4 family and help us grow opportunities for Asian Americans in the arts. Donations help us provide the programs that build and connect our community. Attending our special events lets you experience and celebrate the rich and diverse talent for which we advocate every day. Volunteering and offering your time and services helps us execute our events and ongoing projects. Sharing your events and ideas allows us to support and amplify the Asian American creative sector.

What inspired your organization to become a Copyright Alliance community partner?

We are excited to partner with Copyright Alliance to broaden our network with experts who can share helpful information with our creative community consisting of artists, arts workers, designers, and more. Our community will also benefit from the complimentary workshops and cross-promotion they offer. 

What is one thing you wish creators understood more clearly about copyright?

Young emerging artists are often reluctant to think too far ahead into the future, but foresight to protect your work through copyright is essential to safeguarding against exploitation and infringement. We encourage all creatives to assume their work will take off and incorporate copyright into your work to protect your future, identity, and profits.

What advice would you give aspiring creators just starting out and unsure of how to protect their work?

Seek information from a professional, such as our colleagues at the Copyright Alliance!

Congrats to the Asian American Arts Alliance on their 40th Anniversary!


If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!

Creator Member Catchup with Composer/Guitarist Patrick Hayes

Post publish date: March 19, 2024

This week, we caught up once again with composer/guitarist Patrick Hayes. We first interviewed Patrick back in 2021, and since then, his career has continued to advance and grow. You can follow him on Instagram @guitarboymusic1.

How has your creative career evolved since we last spoke?

My creative career has evolved in many ways. I am exploring my country roots because this is where my music is derived from. I am from a small town and my mother Frankie taught me basic chords on the guitar. Since then, my musical journey has expanded, especially during the last two years. I recently produced a song on Usher’s new album entitled “Naked.” “Naked” was selected for Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS campaign. I am incredibly proud and excited about this song. The project is a best seller. I produced this song with Kosine and our relationship spans more than a 20 year time period. Phil Cornish as a co producer also added some beautiful keys to this work of art. Ryan Toby penned some exotic lyrics to our song. The horn section is exceptionally melodic. I have known the saxophonist, Micheal Burton since our Mississippi days. Melvin Jones and Wilbert Williams play pivotal roles to completing the horn section. Usher’s vocal performance is stellar.

How has copyright continued to help fuel your growth?

Copyright fuels my legal growth related to my musical profession. The new streaming laws assist in getting artists, producers and song writers fairly compensated for their work. 

Is there anything related to copyright that you want to learn more about? What resources do you use in order to learn more about copyright?

Before I fill out my song percentage sheets (which determine how royalties will be distributed) and before I negotiate my publishing rights/deals, I ensure that all of my work is copyrighted. The Copyright Alliance is imperative for me to have continued success in this industry. 

Where do you draw inspiration from when you create musical work? Is there a specific musician you look up to, and if so, why?

I draw inspiration from nature and watching Animal Planet. Jimi Hendrix is my guitar hero and muse. He had the ability to make any guitar sing, talk, and cry. I visited his grave site near Seattle. I played my guitar while there and the grave actually moved. It almost startled me. I felt his power through my fingers! It was simply mind-blowing. My favorite Hendrix performance was when he played “The Star Spangled Banner” live. That was simply a surreal experience. It was like his guitars were transcending up into space. 

Do you follow a process or ritual before a live performance to get rid of nerves? If so, what is it?

I practice on my signature licks and I meditate. I listen to meditation music on my iPhone. It brings me tranquility and peace. It is indeed an honor to share my gift with the world. Music is universal and it touches numerous lives. 

Have you ever experienced writer’s block? How do you overcome it?

It is normal to experience writer’s block. If that transpires, I take a break from listening to music. I collect my ideas and thoughts. I focus on making something new, fresh, and interesting. Making anything organic and original is a process. I remain authentic and true to myself. 

If you could pass on one piece of advice to other creators, what would it be?

The advice I pass along to others is to be patient. Long lasting success requires time, dedication and hard work. Practice makes perfect. In order to advance, you must become familiar with your craft. Educate yourself on your future career. I attended college and acquired a Master’s degree. During my college years, I was recording and playing gigs. In addition to that, I was an educator. Learn about copyright law and protect your works through copyright, and do not get ripped off. Business is the key to surviving and thriving in the entertainment industry. Beware of people trying to take advantage of your skills and to make a huge profit. Join organizations like the Copyright Alliance, ASCAP, BMI and hire a good entertainment attorney. Knowledge is power. I pass along this information to my young artists, which include: Tylan, Mason, and Juelz. They are the young artists who I am trying to teach, mentor, and mold. We talk about making music and also about life. Taking the short route is the wrong route. Be yourself and you will win in the end. 

Are there any projects you’re currently working on or plan to start soon that you’re excited about? Can you tell us more about them? 

My next upcoming project is with Mississippi’s newest rising star, Kingfish. Both of us are from Mississippi and we are born of the richness of a rare musical culture. I am so thrilled to be collaborating with this future icon. Kingfish is about to blow up. His voice is deeply rooted in the heart of Blues, Rock ‘n Roll, and Country tones. He makes his guitar sing. He is like a little brother to me. We teach each other skills to enhance our craft. We are prepared to blaze the shots with new fire. The future looks brighter and the best is yet to come. I achieved one of my goals while working with one of my favorite artists who is Usher. I did a Mariah Carey remix a while back as well. I continue to reinvent myself on all levels and genres of music. I am presently working with American Idol’s angel, Jordin Sparks. Her demeanor is kind and her talent is pure. I also worked with the legendary Diane Warren on a few projects. Everything I do is extremely inspiring and diverse. I continue to reinvent myself on all levels and genres of music.


If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!

Creator Spotlight with Singer/Songwriter Kélanie

Post publish date: March 14, 2024

​​Kélanie is an Afro-Indigenous multi-artist singer who crafts intimate, sensorial, and healing alternative R&B. Experimenting with a blend of English and Portuguese, she transcends linguistic boundaries to translate feelings into her music. The artistic process is an integral part of her transformative music career journey, where vulnerability and creativity intertwine. Follow Kélanie on Instagram and subscribe to her YouTube channel.

What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

I believe we are all creators at heart, and life calls us to that state of creation, you know? My inspiration comes from nature, observing the cycles of the earth, and connecting to my indigenous roots, which inspires me to express my inner world through music!

What I enjoy most about the creative process is fostering curiosity, living a life of exploration, and having fun with my songwriting. I write in freestyle, so it’s a beautiful exercise of surrendering to the emotions.

Can you talk through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?

I look at my creative process as a cycle that has three main phases. Phase 1 is about observing, absorbing, living, writing, and singing – just flowing through life, gathering “data” if you will. Phase 2 is taking all the written songs, finding connections, understanding the project’s concept, and envisioning it as something tangible – picturing how that album will exist in the real world, ready to be played and experienced, for example. Phase 3 is execution, where I find the resources, produce the songs, register them, and plan for release and marketing strategies. These three phases typically take a little over a year. I have a vlog series on youtube sharing my creative process.

Not everything I produce makes money, but the value it brings is immense. Money isn’t an instant byproduct of making art; it’s a long-term game that requires a lot of investment!

What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?

Definitely the “glamorous” part of being an artist/singer, photoshoots, music videos, shows, etc. Especially an independent multi artist who plans and executes all fronts of the music release cycle. The reality is: it takes a lot of time, work and intention, and it’s not the effortless vibe it might give from the outside.

When did you first become aware of copyright, and why?

I first became aware of copyright in 2020 when I released my first single, “Intuition.” Initially unaware of copyright, music registration, ISRC codes, etc. I started researching and seeking advice from lawyers and specialists after the release.

What do you do when you encounter someone stealing something you’ve invested your intellect, time and money into?

Hopefully, I have gotten my art copyrighted and registered as to take proper measures. It’s really sad if that happens and you can’t really protect yourself because your work wasn’t protected.

What is the best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?

The best piece of advice for creators in my field regarding copyright is to do your homework. Seek information from the right places, portals, and specialists. Register your songs before releasing. While it might be challenging to understand initially, it’s imperative for the longevity of your career!


If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!

Music Royalties 101: Your Music Questions Answered

Post publish date: February 22, 2024

Kicking off the new year, the Copyright Alliance and Music Law Pro co-hosted Music Royalties 101 to help music creators navigate the various revenue streams to ensure proper collection of royalties. Although music lawyers Jesse E. Morris, Esq. and Alexandra Mayo, Esq. did their best to answer as many questions as they could during the panel, time inevitably ran out and there were questions left unanswered. However, worry not! Jesse and Alexandra have tackled a number of unanswered questions below. The questions selected are the most relevant to all attendees, however, they understand that there may still be unanswered questions. If after watching the webinar and reading this blog, you still have questions, feel free to call or email Music Law Pro to get help understanding the ins and outs of the music industry.

DISCLAIMER: Any information contained herein is for informational purposes only and should not be taken for any individual case or situation. Please do not consider this information to be a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney.

Are arrangers entitled to royalties when the arrangement is recorded?

In general, it depends on whether the arranger created a derivative work or not. Oftentimes, an arrangement is just a cover version, in which case it is not a derivative work. In this case, the original writers/publishers would be entitled to royalties from exploitation of a recording that embodies their song. But if it’s derivative, the arranger may be entitled to a share of the derivative work, and then be entitled to publishing monies based on the split of that derivative song. An arranger can also be hired to create a derivative work, but that could be a buyout and they’d have no share. Also, if the arranger performed or produced on the recording, then the arranger may be entitled royalties from uses of the sound recording. 

Is it common for a writer to lose his/her writer’s share of the public performance portion of the composition if the composition is created as a work for hire? Or is that something that is always maintained by the writer?

Typically, per music industry custom, writers keep their writer’s share of public performance monies. This is generally true even when it’s a work made for hire, such as when hired to compose for a film project.

What is the difference between an arrangement that is so different it is a derivative, versus an arrangement where a mechanical license must be given?

Assuming this question touches on the issue of whether an arrangement is a cover, then a person creating the cover could obtain a compulsory mechanical license. Versus, if the arrangement is not a cover, then it’s a derivative and permission would be needed. In general, an individual is allowed to make an arrangement that is considered a cover if it doesn’t “change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work”. 17 U.S.C. §115(a)(2).

What is the difference between a lawyer filing a musician’s copyrights versus the musician filing themselves?

There are many important legal implications to consider when preparing a copyright application. Rather than trying to register alone, a knowledgeable music lawyer can guide you through the application process to ensure your music is best protected.

If you’re an ASCAP or BMI member, how do you get international royalties?

ASCAP and BMI typically have reciprocal agreements with performing rights organizations in foreign territories to collect international performance royalties on your behalf. Alternatively, your publisher may have a sub-publisher to collect directly from foreign territories.

What’s the difference between registering a work & full copyrighting?

Copyright ownership generally exists automatically once an original work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. To enforce your rights in court against infringement in the United States, you need to register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. There are numerous other benefits to registering your works with the Copyright Office as well. In addition to registration with the Copyright Office, there are various organizations to register music with to collect royalties and track uses.

If a songwriter is registered with [The] MLC and PRO[s] and SoundExchange for music that is not copyrighted, how does it affect them and their rights?

As stated above, music that is original and fixed in a tangible medium generally has copyright protection automatically. However, you can’t enforce your rights without a copyright registration. If utilizing music that’s in the public domain or not original, such music is not copyrightable. Thus, you would generally not receive royalties or remuneration.

Do you need permission to record a cover? Or is it a mandatory license? What about an arrangement?

If it is a lawful cover (i.e., it doesn’t “change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work” as mentioned above), then you can obtain a compulsory license in the US for audio distribution rights only. However, permission is needed for any visual/sync uses or any other uses. If an arrangement is a cover, then the license is compulsory. However if it crosses the line and becomes derivative, then a compulsory license is not applicable and you’d need a license.

Who assigns ISRCs, a distributor or a PRO? If five years down the line one joins a PRO, does the ISRC follow the recording?

International Standard Recording Codes (ISRCs) identify a particular recording and are generally assigned by a record label or distributor. PROs assign International Standard Musical Work Codes (ISWCs), which identify a particular musical composition. ISRCs should stay with the same unique recording for its life.

How do royalties break down for a live or recorded song performance on a TV talk show that may also be re-aired at a later date?

There’s an upfront sync fee and backend performance royalties. The upfront fee is generally paid 50% to the publisher (or whomever owns/controls the song) and 50% to the label (or whomever owns/controls the master). Backend performance royalties all go to the publisher (or song owner/admin).

What do most PROs do with royalties collected from blanket licenses collected from restaurants, shops, etc? 

They collect such royalties and pay them out.

Do you need to register with all the major publishing houses (BMI, ASCAP, etc.), or do you just select one that best suits you and publish solely through them?

As a writer, registration is only allowed with one PRO. As a publisher, publishers can join as many as needed to represent whatever PRO its writers are registered with.

Are the rates for sync quoted – the same then for master use?

Ultimately before a sync license is confirmed, everyone typically agrees on price and other basic terms. Then the upfront fee is usually split 50/50 between the publisher (or whomever owns/controls the song) and label (or whomever owns/controls the master).

How do we get a content ID account?

YouTube has certain threshold requirements for your own account. YouTube Help can provide more guidance as to YouTube’s specific requirements for Content ID, or you could work with a vendor.

On YouTube, if there’s a static album cover instead of moving images, does the revenue go to “sync”?

In general, it’s not sync because it’s audio-streaming with album artwork, but it is money coming from YouTube. Typically the revenue is considered audio-only, but depends on the contract.

Music Royalties 101 Webinar Recording


If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!

Community Partner Spotlight: The Ella Project

Post publish date: February 15, 2024

Today, we turn the spotlight over to one of our community partners, The Ella Project. They are dedicated to providing “pro bono legal assistance, arts business services, and advocacy to our cultural communityin the New Orleans and Louisiana area. After you read their spotlight blog, be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

What is the history of your organization, and what is its mission?

Launched in 2004 with the mission that “We believe in the importance of the culture of New Orleans and Louisiana, and we empower the creators of their culture in a way that is just, equitable, and serves the artists, patrons and our diverse community.” The Ella Project provides direct pro bono legal assistance to moderate income artists, musicians, and grassroots nonprofits in Louisiana, presents regular workshops on arts law and arts business topics, provides assistance to moderate income inventors via its Louisiana Invents Patent Pro Bono Program, and advocates for forward-thinking policy changes and the development of a local, state and national government that supports and values the creators of our culture.

From its offices in the French Quarter, The Ella Project serves 250 or more pro bono legal clients a year in matters of copyright, trademark, patent, contract negotiation, licensing, and for and nonprofit incorporation. Legal services are primarily delivered by The Ella Project’s Co-Founder, Ashlye Keaton, who is assisted by her team of Tulane Law School volunteers. This partnership with Tulane Law School, where Ashlye also teaches, helps The Ella Project provide high quality pro bono legal assistance and ensure the artists and organizations of Louisiana have access to justice.

How do you support members of the creative community, and how can a creator get involved with your organization? 

Artists throughout Louisiana are encouraged to reach out to The Ella Project for assistance with any specific legal issue germane to their arts career. We love working with artists in the early stages of their career to make sure they are properly protected. Artists simply looking for greater knowledge and understanding of arts business can attend of our free workshops and webinars or schedule a consultation with a veteran of their industry via our Tete a Tete consulting program.

What inspired your organization to become a Copyright Alliance Community Partner?

Supporting copyright and the ability of creators to share their creations with the world in a manner of their choosing is a core value of The Ella Project. Having a community partner that shares this vision and can bring that message to Washington DC and beyond is essential to not only fulfilling our mission, but also in supporting a more creative, engaging, America.

How have copyright and related issues affected your organization and its creator base?

The ways that copyright law manifests itself in the context of the creative industries is at the core of our work with artists and arts businesses.  While the Copyright Act hasn’t changed much over the course of several decades, what has changed a lot is the way the arts, music and entertainment sectors have used the law to adapt to constantly evolving innovation and technology, which has impacted the ways consumers access content, in addition to the ways artists share in revenue streams.  There is no longer a single model for the ways that artists can maximize earning potential from their creative content and businesses. We are working hard to ensure that we are able to help our clients keep up with the ever-changing business models against laws that haven’t always been updated in a way that reinforced the overarching policy of the Copyright Act – to provide artists an incentive to create.  We see this as a challenge, but also as an opportunity, to identify ways that artists can use these tools to develop best practices in transitioning from the creative process to a creative business with transactions and models that promote fairness, equity, and a thriving quality of life.

What is one thing you wish creators understood more clearly about copyright?

We wish creators understood that the application of legal principles in connection with copyright is constantly changing in the bigger picture context of warp-speed innovation and the creative sector’s response to new technology. That while it is okay to be confused, but it is important to engage in ongoing education and to reach out to service providers like The Ella Project for ongoing, professional counsel.

What advice would you give aspiring creators just starting out and unsure of how to protect their work?

Identify the resources available to you for learning more about your rights, and if you have access to a volunteer lawyer who is well-versed, take advantage of that resource. Beyond that, start cultivating a team of people with different skill sets and experiences in rights management. Preparedness is critical to ensuring your rights are protected.

What are some current debates or issues surrounding copyright law that your organization is paying attention to, and what is your stance on them?

A major debate is whether it is any longer worth registering your copyright, especially given the constantly rising fees, changes in the registration protocols, and given that registration is not absolutely necessary. For a musician releasing a single every week or every month, especially where there is more than one songwriter and/or more than one recording artist involved in making the music, the cost of registering copyrights has become infeasible, and it makes way more sense to spend that money on marketing.  As attorneys, we always suggest that registering copyrights is a good idea.  As advocates, we have a harder time making that case.

What are some common misconceptions that creators have about copyright, and how does your organization address them?

There are still a lot of misconceptions about copyright.  We’re seeing a lot less around the old “poor man’s copyright” myth. A common misconception is that copyright doesn’t exist until registration.  More complex misconceptions have to do with identification of rightsholders, administration of creative content, and distribution of revenue.


If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!

>