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Copyrighting puppets

Discussion in 'Puppet News' started by puppetron, Nov 19, 2007.

  1. spcglider

    spcglider Member

    Part of the problem is educating your clientele. You have to realize that most of them have an image of puppets in their heads that basically equates any puppet (no matter how complex, well-built, or strikingly designed) as the same as the puppets they hired or their kid's birthday party. The medium of television causes some of this. The Muppets come into their homes on a daily basis for free. Which devalues the craft somewhat. But they aren't really understanding the true nature of the business.

    Most folks look at puppets like just a hunk of fabric with eyes. Stuff they do in Brownies or Girl Scouts.

    But making a quality puppet is akin to tailoring a fine suit. It takes skill, knowledge, and talent to do it properly. Many people can fake it, but they aren't actually tailoring, are they? And it's up to us to help them understand this and to understand why a quality product is ALWAYS preferrable to a shoddy one... and why that costs what it costs.

    We have all been done a disservice by TARGET's ad campaign, "Expect more, Pay less."

  2. bezalel

    bezalel New Member

    I second that.

    And Gordon, you are dead on with the "Expect More, Pay Less" mentality. Billions of dollars are spent to advertise that very thought, or should we call it propoganda. It's that prevailing attitude that makes it hard for any small business, and for the other reasons you mentioned, especially for puppet builders.

    It's also the same thought that keeps the large monopolistic companies in business.

    I've had people say to me, upon hearing Project Puppet's base price for custom work, "What! I can go to the store and buy a puppet for $20!" And I say, then go to the store and buy a puppet for $20.

    I think part of the issue for new puppet builders is that puppet building jobs don't come around too often. When one does, it's exciting...you already start to think how you would build the characters...how they will move...etc., so price is sacrificed for opportunity. Don't be afraid to turn down a job and don't stop building for yourself (and showcasing your work). Constantly consider the long term, looking past the potential job that is right in front of you. A business that loses money on every job it takes, will not be in business for long. So if you want to keep building puppets, even on the side, price your services accordingly, with the long term in view.
  3. ravagefrackle

    ravagefrackle New Member

    Trueer words are raley spoken

    Thats what i tell them as well, and then they discover the error of thier ways, and end up spending even more to replace what they bought,lol
    Ah Karma

    I turn away jobs all the time,thier is no use in burning your creativity out for jobs that will not even pay for the proper time and materials needed.
  4. ravagefrackle

    ravagefrackle New Member

    Educating the client is something we all have to do, and rarley does it really help, but stick to your guns.


    Just ask how much they spent on Sunglasses, or a Brief case, or thier Laptop, or thier Suits, they buy stuff thats top quality and that lasts

    That and walmarts Blue light specials
  5. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Active Member

    it just seems applicable. Have you guys seen buyhandmade.org?

    I'm really chewing on this a lot. It's easy to tell myself "well it takes me X number of hours to physically make the puppet, & I'd like $x/hour so the amount I need is X plus cost of supplies." It seems there is well more than that that I need to consider.
  6. spcglider

    spcglider Member

  7. bezalel

    bezalel New Member

    It's not only about the time and materials. You are an artist! It's your years of experience. Your knowledge of materials and resources. Your artistic sensibility. Your style that you've developed over the years. Your craftsmanship...and the list can go on.

    All of those things are involved and add value to the finished piece, in this case the finished puppet. And to be honest, you'll probably never get paid what all those things combined are worth, even after your dead. :) In my opinion, those things are priceless. But you can recognize all those things and what is actually involved in everything you produce and that should give you a better grasp on the real value of your work. The next thing is to charge accordingly (within reason).;)
  8. ravagefrackle

    ravagefrackle New Member

    My last thought on the matter

    Selling handy crafts is one thing,

    Selling A one of a kind piece of art work is somthing else entierley,

    craftspeople (AND YES THEY ARE ARTIST AS WELL) have generally come up with aproduct that is easy to reproduce, amd manufacture, they sell them ata price that reflects the cost effectivness of thier business,

    Puppets while a craft , are really a diiferent animal,

    soem can be very simple.and would sell well at craft and trade shows,

    but when u get to puppets for film, theatre and TV its a different animal entierley ,

    i do not mean to detarct from the work of Crafters in any way, what they do is an art to be sure, but ist is one tempered with eye on the business side of things, as well as the mass production side .
  9. Luke

    Luke Active Member

    As a TV writer/producer (don't hate me!) while i pretty much agree with what all the knowledgable guys here said about TV producers and making deals in the industry i'd add that while often giving away your puppets (and often the rights) for the very low prices stated here is way, way undervaluing yourself and your time, profit shouldn't really be your main motivation on your way up the ladder of experience. If you get offered a really sweet deal that you think would look great on your resume it's often going to be a bonus to you in the long run to budget it as economically as possible while still making a fair amount of money for yourself, even if you could be making more on some other project with less exposure. I'm not arguing that you should provide puppets for TV on a budget of a few hundred bucks as i do feel thats way low, but in Stacey Rebeccas case the upside is she has that great advert to put on her showreel tape. As a producer, seeing something like that would make me want to hire her way more than if i saw a few photos of puppets from a craftsperson. Obviously once you're experienced and have portfolios and tapes full of work it doesn't matter so much though, and you'd probably have great contacts anyway. As for contacts, while you shouldn't give anyone too cheap a deal in the promise of repeat work (as turnover is pretty high, shows get cancelled before you know it) it's a good idea to build up a good relationship because producers and researchers do keep contacts books and may well come back to you somewhere down the road. I would also really emphasize the legal aspects of rights etc, it's an important area so don't ignore it. At least make a point of knowing who can do what, even if you're at a stage where you feel it's not a big deal to you.
  10. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    It's a good thing to even have contracts with your friends. Never expect folks are going to be on your side when all is said and done. I've been raked across the coals on this before.

    A buddy of mine said think in your mind what you would normally charge for the job, then multiply it by 3 or 4 as that is what the total costs will be, there should be charges for design time, charges for shipping, supplies, and a little extra for expenditures.
  11. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Active Member

    Luke, thank you. Invaluable. A story that kind-of relates... Some friends of mine were travelling to Tronoto to perform at an improv festival. Of course they got stopped at the border & were asked about a work visa. They insisted they weren't working becuse they weren't getting paid & the border officer said, "But you're getting paid in recognition."

    While that's no reason to require a work permit, it does put this into perspective a little.

    Ok I have more questions...(of course I do)
    In the situation where I sold these puppets to the ad agency, *do* the rights go with them? I mean, we discussed them being used for that commercial, but we never had discussed future use. Can they use them in commercials for other companies? TV, etc? When no contract is signed, who retains the rights?

    I know that if the Coyotes fired this ad agency, the Coyotes would not have the rights to run those ads. My husband used to be an ad creative, but that's all I could get out of him.
  12. ravagefrackle

    ravagefrackle New Member

    BUt dont trust them,any further than you can throw them;)
  13. bezalel

    bezalel New Member

    Excellent question. You will find this document helpful in answering the question - http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ09.pdf

    Here's a quote from the publication:

    "Work for hire" or "work made for hire" are legal terms with a specific legal definition. Certain conditions must be met for a work to be considered a "work for hire" under copyright law. If those conditions are not met than the rights by law automatically remain with the creator of the work.

    In your case the second condition - a written agreement between the parties specifying that the work is a work made for hire - was not met, and that is at the very least.
  14. Luke

    Luke Active Member

    Bezazel had an excellent answer. As long as you can prove copyright (that you made them) they would need to come back to you before they could use them again. The reality of it is that they could try to use them again without permission or even realising they need it, and the legal action if you chose to chase them on it might be costly, but i wouldn't worry until anything actually happened. Just make a point of having something in writing next time as these things are far easier to sort out when you do.

    ... and yes RavageFrackle, trust no-one! lol :halo: :o :attitude:
  15. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Active Member

    So I *do* maintain copyright, but need to prove that I made them (which is easily done as I sign & date all of my work.

    I'm not worried about it necessarily. The guys at the agency used to work with my husband at a different agency (which is weird that they found me via other means).

    I should do a google search for contract templates & such.

  16. ChickyBoy37

    ChickyBoy37 Well-Known Member

    Okay I'm Confused......why would you want to send letters to yourself. and why couldn't you make like a "Work Cited" type resource from one of those internet pages like Wikipedia? I'm Sorry if this sounds confusing.
  17. MGov

    MGov New Member

    The idea of the "poor man's copyright", mailing it to yourself by registered mail, is that, when you receive it back, you don't open it so that there is a date stamp from the post office over the flap. It's supposed to prove that it existed in your possession as of that date.

    I'm not sure what you mean by a "'Work Cited' type resource from one of those internet pages like Wikipedia" though I know that Wikipedia has user generated content and therefore wouldn't hold up in court if you had to sue.
  18. ravagefrackle

    ravagefrackle New Member

    not to cause more confusion, but we covered the "Poor Mans Copyright" thing earlier

    and it is a waste of time, it is not something that will stand up in court, if you want a proper copyright then its worth the moeny investing in one,
  19. ChickyBoy37

    ChickyBoy37 Well-Known Member

    Oh....I see. Sounds like alot of work just to Copyright a Puppet.
  20. Luke

    Luke Active Member

    It always pays to protect yourself, especially when doing anything for film or tv. You could be gambling tens of thousands for the sake of a few hundred bucks legal fee's. You never know when something can hit the big time and people only usually learn after a few bad experiences.

    Often legal documents and agreements can be drawn up generically and re-used anyway.

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