How Does Copyright Apply To Your Kids' Monster Drawings?

from the it's-the-copyright-monster!-run! dept

Justin Levine has an interesting blog post up about a book I hadn't heard of, called The Monster Engine. The author, Dave Devries, took children's drawings of monsters, and turned them into paintings that use the identical line structure of the kid's drawings (he projects them on the wall and then draws over them). Apparently, Devries' work is quite popular, and people have talked about it on the internet for years:
Seems pretty cool. But Levine is wondering about the copyright issues involved in all of this:
Given the fact that:
  1. There is no doubt that the children's original doodles are protected by copyright for their entire life, plus 70 additional years.

  2. There is no doubt that Devries' paintings of the doodles are 'derivative works' stemming from the original creations of the children.
Do you believe that Devries should be forced to get formal copyright releases from each and every one of the kids in question? Do you think he has done so? If so, should they be able to repudiate their copyright agreement when they turn 18 since many jurisdictions allow minors to repudiate contracts signed before they reach 18? If so, should they be able to take Devries's work out of circulation?

Do you think that the children should all share in the royalties from books, art and showcases that Devries produces for the rest of their lives (and beyond - for 7 decades)? Do you think that is in fact the case of what is going on? If Devries hasn't gotten a copyright release and/or isn't paying royalties, do you feel that he is somehow "exploiting" these kids or "stealing" from them?
These are pretty serious questions -- because under copyright law today, this book is trouble, and that's unfortunate, because it looks like a lovely book. My guess would be that Devries actually had to get permission from the parents, but do parents have the right to sign away the copyright on a child's work? And do those children then have the right to terminate that agreement at a later date? Perhaps people think the likelihood of kids later terminating the agreement is quite low -- and maybe they're right. But what would happen if a kid no longer wanted to be associated with that artwork?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:05am

    Most interesting

    Many children are great artists, How would the law handle a 3-yr-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ?

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:25am

    What about the children? It looks like some of those children are ripping off DC IP with their superman, supergirl, and wonder woman drawings. I suppose they could argue parody, since the drawings are pretty bad, but I don't think 10 year olds are that clever.

    At any rate, if IP was taken to the extreme here, this guy could be in trouble plenty. I don't see why he shouldn't have to license the images the kids sent him.

     

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  3.  
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    Tom Landry (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:26am

    Brilliant stuff

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Christopher (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:28am

    I'm sure they signed a release!

    And then it's okay, since a release allows you to sign away anything, at anytime!

    What?

    All right, seriously? No copyright claim from the children. Likewise, when my son decides to draw copyrighted action figures, no one had better come after him, either. Gloves off, works both ways, a stitch in time saves nine.

    -C

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Fromer Child Star, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:29am

    Re: Most interesting

    The law will handle it the same way it does for parents of child stars. The parents sign away all the rights and collect all the money and blow it on stupid things, leaving the child with nothing by the time their a washed up has been, drug using corpse at 18.

     

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  6.  
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    HisHer, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:29am

    Consent

    Your question regarding whether parents have the "right" to sign away copyrights on behalf of their children seems silly.

    Children under the age of 18 are not legally allowed to enter into any agreement. It is always true that parents/legal guardians are required to give permission/enter into legal contracts on behalf of their children.

    Thus, parents not only have the right, they are the only way to "sign away" copyright information.

     

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  7.  
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    Cohen (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:48am

    Answers, not questions

    Mike

    Start doing investigation and stop just looking at things and asking questions.

Questions are good, but your real job is to investigate, to give us answers to the questions we have.

And yes, you bring up good questions, but this article is way too short on facts.

For all your questions, why not go out and do some research.



    Do you believe that Devries should be forced to get formal copyright releases from each and every one of the kids in question?


    
Actually, it doesn't matter what we believe. It's what laws have stated and courts have ruled. Our opinions are not law. (For which I give thanks.)


    
Do you think he has done so?

    
 This question is silly.

Not only are we being asked to judge the law, we are being asked to be mind readers or psychics.

    
If so, should they be able to repudiate their copyright agreement when they turn 18 since many jurisdictions allow minors to repudiate contracts signed before they reach 18?

    

This is a great bit of information that I did not know. It is unclear how it applies in this situation, but it is a good start for a conversation with a lawyer.


    
If so, should they be able to take Devries's work out of circulation? 



    Another good question for the lawyer.

    Do you think that the children should all share in the royalties from books, art and showcases that Devries produces for the rest of their lives (and beyond - for 7 decades)?

    

You ARE going to get that lawyer for the kids. I'm starting to worry about their rights.



    Do you think that is in fact the case of what is going on? 



    Again, you need a lawyer and a psychic.


    
If Devries hasn't gotten a copyright release and/or isn't paying royalties, do you feel that he is somehow "exploiting" these kids or "stealing" from them?


    
OK, perhaps we should skip the lawyer and find the Attorneys General for the states involved. Exploitation of children and theft are very serious issues.


    
These are pretty serious questions

    Good! You agree with me

    . . . because under copyright law today, this book is trouble, and that's unfortunate, because it looks like a lovely book.

    

Oh, you're not interested in stopping the exploitation of children. It seems you're just interested in railing against one or two things you know about copyright law.


    
My guess would be that Devries actually had to get permission from the parents...


    
Guessing doesn't count.

    
... but do parents have the right to sign away the copyright on a child's work?



    What did I tell you about finding case law?



    And do those children then have the right to terminate that agreement at a later date?


    
Well, you told us there was some case law on the subject. Did you ask the lawyer if it applies? Tell us what the lawyer said.


    
Perhaps people think the likelihood of kids later terminating the agreement is quite low -- and maybe they're right. 


    
By people, I think you mean Devries, his lawyer, his publisher, and their lawyer. I'm not a psychic, but I have a feeling those lawyers have thought about any future suits the children might bring.



    But what would happen if a kid no longer wanted to be associated with that artwork? 


    
Are you asking what the courts would do? Or the publisher would do? Or the kid (now adult) would do?

    But if you don't know the answer, why not call Devries or the publisher and ask them what they would do in that case. 

This is what a reporter should do. Investigate, not pontificate

     

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  8.  
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    Technopolitical (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:48am

    Re: Re: Most interesting

    Exactly. child artists need protection, Their parents -- or other adults -- should not have complete control. Some sort of escrow accounting should be put in place , so any $'s remain in limbo till the artist becomes 18 , or even 16 , or even just mature enough to understand according to a legal court judge.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Liam, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:53am

    Re: Re: Most interesting

    Zombie Drug Addicts!?

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:57am

    Re: Consent

    Children under the age of 18 are not legally allowed to enter into any agreement. It is always true that parents/legal guardians are required to give permission/enter into legal contracts on behalf of their children.

    Such agreements expire when the child becomes an adult. In other words, parents cannot enter their children into agreements that are binding for life. Otherwise legal guardians could sell children into virtual slavery: "Gimme a million dollars now, and I'll sign an agreement that this kid will work for you for free for the rest of his life".

    Thus, parents not only have the right, they are the only way to "sign away" copyright information.

    Only until the child becomes an adult. Then the agreement would become void.

     

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  11.  
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    Technopolitical (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:58am

    This is a deep , complicated and important issue

    Child rights are that things that keep political theorists.awake at night, There are no clear " moral" answers. While all children grow at their own unique pace ,, that law must be set in non-subjective modes -- i.e. age. Maybe giving a judge the ability and power to decide when a child artist can take "control" would work. Parents clearly cannot be shut out totally , but the child artists need to be protected. The Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of today would get screwed under curent policy and law.

     

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  12.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 5:05am

    Re: Answers, not questions

    The point of the article is that these questions exist and are valid. The answers don't matter. The simple fact that the question is valid shows a rather large problem with copyright these days.

    And for the sake of our sanity and a proper reply to your post, organize your thoughts before you type.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 5:09am

    Re: Re: Most interesting

    I'm certain that this happens in 100% of all cases
    Think of the children
    There ought to be a law
    /s

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 5:18am

    Re: Answers, not questions

    tl:dr

    I stopped at:

    "Start doing investigation and stop just looking at things and asking questions"

    What a stupid thing to say

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Sassinak, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 5:35am

    Illegal!!

    Since art imitates life and life is patent-pending and copyrighted, any and all forms of art, or "supposedly" original thought should be outlawed and supressed. If it's not in the "Good Book", don't think it. Get the latest copy of the Newspeak dictionnary, or shut up.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    ondigo, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 5:39am

    automatic copyright?

    There is no doubt that the children's original doodles are protected by copyright...

    Is that statement true? I thought one had to formally register a copyright request and have it approved for a copyright to legally exist.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Dan T., Mar 11th, 2010 @ 5:48am

    Monster IP

    If you call them "monster drawings", Monster Cable will sue you... they own that word!

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 5:51am

    Re: automatic copyright?

    Not any more, I think it is the Bern Convention. To be covered for money beyond damages you have to be regestered, supposidly, but now the act of putting it down is creating a copyright.

    You have a copyright on everything you wrote, even this comment. You can write a paper entitled 'I f*ing hate Copyright' and it would be forcibly covered by copyright until you have been dead 70 years.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 5:54am

    Re: automatic copyright?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright#Obtaining_copyright

    "In all countries that are members of the Berne Convention copyright is automatic, and need not be obtained through official registration with any government office. Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form, for example by securing it in a fixed medium (such as a drawing, sheet music, photograph, a videotape, or a computer file), the copyright holder is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights. However, while registration isn't needed to exercise copyright, in jurisdictions where the laws provide for registration, it serves as prima facie evidence of a valid copyright."

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Ron C, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 6:15am

    Re: Re: Answers, not questions

    Not stupid at all!

    I first came to this site looking for peer input and valid information. Some great information is shared but the majority is gossip and speculation by non-professionals.

    I now come here for entertainment purposes.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Steve, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 6:19am

    Re: Monster IP

    Good one. Haven't read about Monster Cable lately; talk about a great example for kids!!! NOT

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 6:24am

    Re: Answers, not questions

    His "real job" is to start discussion here and bring up issues we might be interested in. He's not a reporter, a monkey or a slave. Christ.

     

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  23.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 6:32am

    Re: Re: automatic copyright?

    "Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form"

    Wow, somebody was sure reading Plato's World of Ideas/Forms when writing the Bern Convention....

     

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  24.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 6:33am

    Re: Answers, not questions

    "But if you don't know the answer, why not call Devries or the publisher and ask them what they would do in that case. 

This is what a reporter should do. Investigate, not pontificate"

    Mike is not a reporter. He has specifically stated that he is not a reporter, or a journalist. By the way, please put some formatting in your post next time, so people can read it easily without trying to work out which parts are quotes.

     

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  25.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 6:35am

    Re:

    Unfortunately, that's a really good point. It's one of the things about the privatization of culture that really gets my goat.

    Although: "I suppose they could argue parody, since the drawings are pretty bad"

    Parody is unrelated to quality.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    metheus, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:06am

    Have questions, email and ask him. His info is at:

    http://www.davedevries.com/

     

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  27.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Most interesting

    > child artists need protection

    Why should artistic children get special legal protections not enjoyed by every other child?

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Any Mouse, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Answers, not questions

    Yes, because the professionals have all the answers, don't they? You think speculation is that different between professionals and non-professionals? Really? How very arrogant.

    PS: This is why we tend to NOT appreciate many 'professionals.'

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Justin, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:01am

    Creative

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Justin, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:04am

    Creative Commons to the rescue

    This seems easy to work around. Let the child retain a CC license to the original work. All derived works need a note crediting the author and direction to the original work.

    This should be looked at as a way to esteem children. These kids had their work chosen for a Devrie tribute. If properly credited, then the problem goes away. My .02

     

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  31.  
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    Technopolitical (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Most interesting

    "Why should artistic children get special legal protections not enjoyed by every other child?" No really my point , but interesting notheless. Is is not uncommon , for example , for grandparents to set up trust funds that bypass parents. The $$ is there when the grandchild becomes , 16, 21 , or even 30( -- as an aunt of mine did.) Clearly our "Mozart" can't be given "control" of millions of $$ when still 5 -yrs -old. But why should the parents get rich? Tough issue, that needs a wise solution, and as we see from this thread , there is no easy clear-cut answer.

     

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  32.  
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    romeosidvicious (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:34am

    Re: Creative Commons to the rescue

    But what if the child doesn't want their work used in the book?

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 9:01am

    The book also includes the child's drawing and an interview with and pictures of the child talking about the painting. It's not like he just asked kindergarten teachers he knew for samples...

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 9:10am

    Re: Re: Most interesting

    Miss Lohan!

    I didn't know you frequented this site, nice to see you here!

    ^_^

     

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  35.  
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    Technopolitical (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 9:12am

    California Child Actor's Bill,

    " the California Child Actor's Bill, sometimes known as the Coogan Bill or the Coogan Act. This requires that the child's employer set aside 15% of the child's earnings in a trust, and codifies such issues as schooling, work hours and time-off. " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Coogan

     

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  36.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 11:10am

    Re: Answers, not questions

    Start doing investigation and stop just looking at things and asking questions.

Questions are good, but your real job is to investigate, to give us answers to the questions we have.



    I have discussed this before. This is a *discussion* site. I am not a reporter or a journalist. I post stuff that I find interesting, because I think it will make for an interesting discussion.

    I'm sorry if you don't like the nature of the site, but no, it is not "my real job" to answer the questions. I post what I find interesting as a *start* of a discussion. If I had all the answers, what fun would that be?

     

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  37.  
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    Technopolitical (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Answers, not questions

    Brovo, Mike !! It is your writings , and "seeding" of discussions that make TechDirt one of the best reads on the web. While I have beeb a daily reader for years , I rarely take time to comment on threads,, but this thread here , and your "food for thought" opening post , was one disscussion i could I could not pass up today. ( Plus I amworking at home today nursing a cold bug, so what the hey ,,,,)

     

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  38.  
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    Eric Samson (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Most interesting

    Simple: There is no money to be made in the music business nowadays, according, since everyone's stealing everything from everybody. Don't you read the press releases?

    So, he wouldn't be making any money, anyways.

    Right?

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Zwiastuny, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 8:57am

    picture

    Copyrights is a big problem nowadays. It's only the big idea to get a free music, movies, pictures. American big brands gets copyrights for theirs movies, pictures, trademarks for 70 years or even 90. Check this Zwiastuny - i have a site with movie trailers, i use youtube embed links, but i think it's not acceptem by law, i try to protect myself and my site by youtube, that trailers isn't mine.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    zain rashid, Dec 14th, 2010 @ 6:13am

    stealer

    a very bad man who jacked kids little

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    zain rashid, Dec 14th, 2010 @ 6:14am

    stealer

    a very bad man who jacked kids little

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Kirk, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 7:49pm

    This could actually be relevant

    Hey I`m still under 16 and draw (write) half-descent stuff. I`d be pissed if my parents somehow sold 'my' work for 'their' benefit (not that it's any good). If a person makes it they themselves should have full control of what happens to it. And I don't mean re-colored pictures of sonic the f*cking hedgehog, complete originality only, no cheep knock-offs (minus store brand cereal). Any complaints? Please take 'that' up with my best friend, Mister kitchen knife.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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