Creativity And Originality Are Different Things – A Ramble

Well, since I’m still going through more of a retro gaming phase than usual at the moment, I thought that I’d look at another thing that computer and video games from the 1990s can teach us about making art, writing fiction, making webcomics etc… I am, of course, talking about the difference between creativity and originality.

The 1990s has something of a reputation for being one of the most creative decades in the history of computer and video games. Yet, it was probably also one of the least original decades in gaming history.

Because gaming was still something of a “new” medium during the 1990s, the people who made games often had to take heavy influence from other artforms (eg: cinema, television, music etc..) – and this actually resulted in better and more creative games, even if they were less “original” than they might initially seem to be. Likewise, games often took inspiration from other games too – and still managed to be extremely creative.

Why? Because there’s no such thing as a truly “original” creative work. Everything is inspired by something. What really matters is both how many inspirations you have and what you do with them.

Before I go any further, I should probably talk about copyright law and how it relates to creative people. Although I’m not a copyright lawyer (and this shouldn’t be considered legal advice), even some basic research will show you that most copyright laws around the world are explicitly designed to encourage creative people to take inspiration from other stuff. The only thing that they prohibit is lazy and uncreative plagiarism.

In other words, copyright law does not cover concepts or ideas, it only covers the highly-specific way that these things are expressed.

To use a retro gaming-related example, both 1992’s “Alone In The Dark” and 1996’s “Resident Evil” are horror games about people stranded in old, monster-filled mansions. They both include fixed camera angles, deliberately awkward controls, lots of in-game documents, item-based puzzles, a choice of either a male or female protagonist, a third-person perspective etc… In terms of ideas and concepts, both games are very similar…..

This is a screenshot from “Alone In The Dark” (1992), a game set within a monster-filled mansion.

This is a screenshot from the 1997 Director’s Cut version of “Resident Evil” (1996), a game set within a monster-filled mansion.

Yet, these games express these similar ideas and concepts in very different ways.

“Alone In The Dark” is a more ‘traditional’ horror game that is set in the early 20th century and is inspired by old horror literature (H.P.Lovecraft in particular). There is less of an emphasis on weapons/combat and more on puzzle-solving and exploration. The game’s horror relies on slowly creating an ominous atmosphere of dread, with barely any blood or gory detail being shown.

“Resident Evil”, on the other hand, takes influence from more modern horror and thriller movies. It focuses on a highly-trained elite police unit that is stranded near a decrepit old mansion during the summer of 1998. The game’s array of realistic modern weapons have well-researched descriptions in the game’s item menu. There’s slightly more of an emphasis on combat, resource management and grisly blood-spattered horror. Later on, the game even begins to introduce elements from the science fiction genre too.

Because both games can draw on a common set of ideas and concepts, this frees the creators up to focus on expressing these ideas in unique and creative ways. Because the developers can’t make exactly the same game, it means that they have to look for ideas and concepts from other things (that aren’t games). This sort of thing results in a much greater level of creativity, even if the things created aren’t entirely “original”.

So, yes, creativity and originality are two different things.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Creativity As Variation – A Ramble

Even though this is an article about making art and writing fiction, I’m going to have to start by talking about music (again!). As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope will become obvious later.

A day or two before I wrote this article, I ended up going through a slight classical music phase. Although this mostly involved listening to the few classical pieces that I really like (eg: Moonlight Sonata, Pachelbel’s Canon, The William Tell Overture Finale, Danse Macabre etc..), it also made me think about how traditional classical music differs from many other forms of creativity and what this can teach us.

The interesting thing about traditional classical music is that it is all about variation. Since Beethoven or Pachelbel aren’t exactly going to start writing any new material, all of the creativity surrounding traditional classical music is finding new ways to play and arrange these old songs. In essence, traditional classical music literally just consists of cover versions. And, yet, it’s absolutely fascinating.

I think that a lot of this comes from the fact that any performance of a piece of traditional classical music is both familiar and new at the same time. If you’re already familiar with the underlying song, then the emphasis is on how well it is performed and how the musicians interpret the piece. The creativity comes from how a musician makes the song in question sound interesting or distinctive. It is about variation, rather than “originality”.

Interestingly, most other forms of creativity also used to be like this. Few to none of Shakespeare’s plays are truly original stories. Likewise, many traditional European paintings are based on religious or historical stuff that has been painted many, many times before. In the olden days, originality mattered a lot less. Yet, many works from the past are still considered to be masterpieces.

Of course, it could be said that the invention of copyright (and the gradually creeping expansion of copyright terms over the years) has had a chilling effect on more contemporary examples of this kind of thing. But, it would probably be more accurate to say that contemporary copyright laws merely insist that creative people include a much greater degree of variation when taking inspiration than they used to.

Although I’m not a copyright lawyer, it’s clear that modern copyright laws still allow artists and writers to be inspired by the same stuff. After all, most copyright laws around the world acknowledge that general things like ideas, themes, colour schemes, poses etc.. can’t be copyrighted. So, yes, copyright still allows you to be inspired by things, provided that you do it in the right way (eg: by looking at the general elements of something else, and then doing something different with them).

However, copyright laws generally state that an artist or writer’s interpretation of an idea must be different from everything else that shares the same inspiration. So, copyright law still technically acknowledges that most forms of creativity are variations on pre-existing things, but it demands a much greater level of variation than used to be standard in the past.

Still, the idea of more traditional variation-based creativity can be incredibly fun to play with. As long as you stick to creative works that are out-of-copyright, then you can create your own variations and interpretations of them without any restrictions. The interesting thing about doing this is that re-creating something familiar means that you have to think a lot more about what you are doing. Since your version will be compared to the original, your decisions about things like style, tone, technique, materials etc.. matter a lot more.

For example, here’s a reduced-size preview of a study I made of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “The Day Dream“:

The full-size painting will be posted here in early April.

As you can see, I ended up making all sorts of subtle changes whilst copying this painting. I altered the composition very slightly, I used a slightly more limited palette, I included more darker areas (to make the colours look bolder by comparison), I used different materials to Rossetti (eg: waterproof ink, watercolour paint and digital tools), I used my usual cartoonish style, I made the background look less detailed and more “wild” etc..

Whilst painting this study, I was very aware of my own “style” and wanted to make the finished painting look both like my own work and like the original Rossetti painting. I wanted the finished painting to look familiar and different at the same time.

And this is what makes variation-based creativity so interesting. The whole idea of “familiar, but different”. The idea of standing on the shoulders of giants. The idea that great works are more than just one thing made by one person, that they are things that are part of the collective imagination. That they are things that are interesting enough that other people want to re-create their own versions of them.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Four Basic Tips For Creative Copying (Of Public Domain Photos)

2016 Artwork creative copying article sketch

If you were reading this site a couple of weeks ago, you might have noticed that I made a short series of digitally-edited paintings based on uncopyrighted/ public domain photos from the 1940s and 1950s.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that not all photos from these decades are uncopyrighted! So, do your research and, if in doubt, err on the side of caution!

Anyway, here are two of my paintings from this series (and the source images for them can be found here and here respectively)

"Vintage Photo Blues" By C. A. Brown

“Vintage Photo Blues” By C. A. Brown

"Vintage Photo Glow" By C. A. Brown

“Vintage Photo Glow” By C. A. Brown

As you may have noticed if you looked at the source images, I’ve made quite a few changes to these pictures in my copies. After all, where would be the fun in just copying these pictures directly?

Although making a perfect replica of an old photo is a great demonstration of artistic skill, there isn’t really a huge amount of creativity involved in it.

So, I thought that I’d give you a few tips about how to make your own creative copies of old things from the public domain.

1) Copy from sight: Although I’ve written about the subject of tracing before, your creative copy will lose a lot of it’s individuality if you just trace the public domain photo or picture that you want to copy. So, be sure to copy the picture from sight alone.

Yes, it can take a bit of practice (and a few mistakes) to learn how to do this well, but the main advantage of copying from sight alone is that your own unique art style will have a chance to appear in the picture. After all, if you’re basically making a new picture from a guide, then your own unique artistic quirks will probably end up in the picture too.

However, if you take the lazy route and just trace a picture, then you’ll just end up with an identical copy which won’t really look very unique.

2) If possible, use black & white photos: One of the advantages of using old black and white photos (check that they’re in the public domain first though) as the source images for your artwork is that you can instantly make your artwork look unique by just adding colour to these pictures.

The advantage of this is that, although the B&W source photo will tell you how light or dark a particular area is, it’s up to you to choose which colours you want to use.

Your colour choices don’t have to be realistic, but having a good understanding of colour theory can come in handy here since you can easily make an old B&W picture look much more dramatic by using a complimentary colour scheme (eg: blue and orange, red and green etc...).

3) Know yourself: I know that this sounds obvious, but you need to have a good understanding of your own aesthetic preferences and sensibilities if you want to make a creative copy of something from the public domain.

In other words, have a good understand of what you think looks cool… and know how to paint or draw it.

For example, I absolutely love brightly-coloured lighting (in gloomy locations). If you look at the two pictures earlier in this article, you’ll see that they both contain this.

I was able to include this in my artwork for the simple reason that I’ve been practicing painting realistic lighting for at least a year or so. As such, I was able to completely change the lighting in both pictures into something that I thought looked more interesting.

4) Attribution: Although there’s no rule about this, it’s good practice to acknowledge any public domain source images you use in your artwork.

If you’re copying something that has been made by an artist or a photographer whose name is known, then adding a simple “After [original artist/ photographer]” to one corner of your picture is a good way to do this.

This shows that your picture is a tribute or a re-imagining, rather than a totally original work (since, although it probably – technically – isn’t plagiarism to copy things from the public domain without acknowledgement, it can look a lot like plagiarism).

I erred on the side of caution in my pictures and added quite a lot of acknowledgments though, mainly since many of the public domain pictures I found were from unknown photographers (eg: photos taken by UK/ US Government workers etc…).

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Three Very Basic Tips For Creating Fictional Historical Ephemera (In Comics And Stories)

Disclaimer: This article is NOT totally rad. Although it may be a bit gnarly.

Disclaimer: This article is NOT totally rad. Although it may be a bit gnarly.

A while back, I was randomly surfing the internet when I happened to learn that Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry starred in a “comedic” instructional/ promotional VHS video for Windows 95 back in the 1990s.

Out of curiosity, I looked for it on Youtube and – as well as being a wonderful piece of 1990s computer nostalgia, it’s also hilariously awful. In fact, it’s “so bad that it’s good”. Kind of like this article, I guess.

Anyway, this video from the 1990s made me think about old ephemera. Every decade is filled with wonderful examples of “disposable” culture that are only expected to have a short shelf-life. These “disposable” things give us more of an impression of the culture of a particular time than an entire history book can.

As such, if you’re writing a comic or a story set in the past, then it can be a good idea to include verbal or written references to some of these things.

However, thanks to the bizarre way that our copyright laws are set up, you often won’t actually be able to directly include excerpts from these things in your story or comic. I’m not a lawyer or a copyright expert, but even disposable pieces of culture that are long-since past their sell-by date are still often unfortunately covered by copyright. Seriously, don’t even get me started on how copyright laws urgently need to be reformed.

The rules seem to be a bit more hazy when it comes to -say- brief visual references (eg: a small cartoon drawing of Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry on a TV screen in the background of a comic panel), but the rules also seem to be a lot stricter when it comes to things like quoting song lyrics. However, I’m not a lawyer or a copyright expert – so, do your research.

Often, it’s much easier to just make up your own examples of these ephemeral things. But, how do you do this? Here are a few tips:

1) Research: This goes without saying, but if you’re going to create fictional historical ephemera, then you need to look at plenty of real examples of it first. These days, this is fairly easy to do, since pretty much everything is on the internet (including obscure old promotional videos about Windows 95, of all things).

Take a close look at things from the time – look at the fashions, the speech patterns, the catchphrases, the humour, the pop culture references etc…. Once you have a good knowledge of these things, then you’ll be much more well-prepared to make convincing fictional ephemera.

Likewise, see what new things really fascinated people back then too. For example, computers were still sort of a “new” and “cool” thing for most of the 1990s. Yes, if, like me, you grew up in the 1990s and have been around computers for your entire life – then they probably weren’t that spectacular. But if you were in your twenties or older during the 1990s, then computers were probably still an exciting new thing (unless you owned a ZX Spectrum, a Commodore or a BBC Micro in the 1980s, I guess).

In each decade, people are fascinated by new things. In this decade, it is – unfortunately- tablets, smartphones and social media. But, in past decades, it has included things like hallucinogens, consumer electronics, recorded music, horseless carriages, mauve clothing, the internet, VHS tapes etc…

If you can make something that enthusiastically talks about one of these things, then your fictional historical ephemera will automatically be at least slightly more convincing.

2) Parody: One of the easiest ways to create interesting fictional historical ephemera is to mock and ridicule existing pieces of historical ephemera.

After all, the past often tends to look at least slightly silly in retrospect (as an example, I refer you to pretty much any item of clothing that was fashionable in the 1970s), so it’s absolutely perfect for parody.

Not only that, although the rules vary from country to country, most copyright laws tend to make exemptions for parodies. This is why, for example, people can make funny videos like this 1990s re-imagining of “24” or this hilarious series of fake 1980s/90s-style instructional videos for modern websites.

So, if you can’t think of any good original ideas for historical ephemera for your comic or story, then don’t be afraid to parody actual historical things. But, although this can add a lot of subtle humour to your story or comic, it can also make it seem less “realistic”. So, don’t go overboard with this.

3) Change a few things: Another easy and quick way to come up with convincing fictional historical ephemera as background details for your story or comic is to just take an existing piece of historical ephemera and change enough details about it that it can be considered an original work.

Again, I am not a lawyer here – but it’s important to remember that copyright only covers how something is expressed (and not the underlying idea behind it) and trademarks only often cover specific brand names.

This means that, say, if part of your story or comic involves someone playing a 1990s computer game with a very recognisable “action hero” protagonist, then you could change his hair colour, give him a different outfit and change his name to something like Luke Proton or something like that.

If this is just going to be a small part of your story or comic, then you probably won’t have to change too much – but, if it’s a much larger part of your story or comic, then you’re probably going to have to change a lot more.

Doing this has the advantage of making your fictional historical ephemera seem more “realistic”, whilst also providing something of a knowing “in joke” for people who remember the original thing.

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Sorry for such a basic and badly-written article, but I hope that it was useful πŸ™‚

You Can’t Copyright A Feeling – My Thoughts On The “Blurred Lines” Verdict

2015 Artwork  A feeling can't be copyrighted article sketch

Although this is an article about creativity, copyright and inspiration in general, I’m going to start by talking about *ugh* popular music and the music industry for a while.

Back in March, I read an opinion article by Bob Stanley about a court case in America, where the estate of Marvin Gaye successfully sued Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for copyright infringement. The case focused on the similarities between “Blurred Lines” by Thicke and Williams and “Got To Give It Up” by Gaye.

Although more detailed information about the case itself can be found in this Rolling Stone article, Bob Stanely’s opinion piece about the case contained a rather chilling explanation of the possible impact of the ruling: “Williams and Robin Thicke haven’t been accused of sampling, stealing lyrics or melodies here, just the β€œfeel” of Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give It Up.

The rest of Bob Stanely’s opinion piece goes on to explain what virtually every creative person already knows – that is, that there is no such thing as a truly “original” work.

In other words, if someone is bleating about how musicians, writers, artists, film-makers etc.. should “just be original“, then there’s a very good chance that they’ve never actually created anything. In other words, they are probably talking out of another orifice than their mouth.

This is because it is literally impossible to create something without being (knowingly or unknowingly) inspired by something else. This is because we are all immersed in the cultures surrounding all of us. It’s all that we know and it is bound to have at least a small influence on what we create.

Even the oldest creative works known to humanity (eg: cave paintings) weren’t entirely original. After all, how could our prehistoric ancestors paint imagined scenes of hunters and animals, unless they’d actually seen hunters and animals in real life?

So, although it’s pretty obvious that I agree with what Bob Stanley says in his article about the case, I thought that I’d also give you my own thoughts on this court case and it’s implications too.

The court’s idea that copying the “feeling” of something is an illegal act of copyright infringement is both fundamentally wrong and also extremely anti-creative. In fact, it could probably kill off creativity as we know it. Well, for famous musicians anyway….

From my understanding (I’m not a lawyer though), copyright laws exist in order to protect the expression of a particular idea, rather than the idea itself.

What this means is that whilst things like specific song lyrics, specific character designs etc… can be copyrighted, the underlying ideas behind these things (including the “feel” of something) cannot be copyrighted.

To use a famous example, Superman is a copyrighted character. If you made and sold a comic about a man from the planet Krypton called Clark Kent who had superhuman strength and fought villains whilst wearing a hilariously silly blue and red spandex outfit with a giant “S” on the chest, you’d be breaking copyright.

However, if you created a totally different character who also had superhuman strength (eg: the basic idea behind the character of Superman) – then you wouldn’t be breaking copyright. In fact, the whole superhero genre relies on this fact.

The reason why copyright laws around the world often make this distinction is because giving someone the copyright to an idea would severely stunt the development of humanity and culture as a whole (eg: imagine if someone had copyrighted the idea of democracy, of clothing, of rhyming poetry, of comic books etc.. I’m sure you get the idea).

No, what copyright law does is to ensure that people do new and different things with the same ideas.

It means that if someone finds something really cool that they like, then they can’t just lazily copy it and claim it as their own work. Instead, they have to take a look at what made that thing so cool and find a way to create something even cooler, using the same ideas.

This is why the court’s opinion that the “feel” of something can be copyrighted is so disturbing. As soon as a basic idea such as this ends up in private hands, then it means that no-one else can do anything with it (unless they are very rich). A whole area of human and cultural development has been shut away from almost everyone, and left to wither away and die.

Not only that, improving upon the ideas of others and finding new ways to express things that are part of our world (and the cultures within it) is a central part of creativity. So, in theory at least, this verdict could outlaw all forms of creative work.

So, should you be worried?

Probably not. The music industry has a reputation for both extreme financial greed and a near-fanatical obsession with copyright.

In other words, they’re a bunch of greedy, arrogant, micro-controlling bankers (well, something that sounds like “bankers” anyway). Most other creative industries (with the possible exception of the American film industry) thankfully aren’t quite as bad as the music industry in this respect.

There’s also the old saying that “where there’s a hit, there’s a writ“. In other words, if someone is rich and/or famous enough, then everyone will try to take some of their money (using whatever legal pretext they can).

So, if you aren’t a musician, you aren’t rich and you aren’t famous, then you probably don’t have to be worried about anything. Even so, this court ruling sets a very dangerous and disturbing precedent – which I hope will be reversed on appeal.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Two Very Basic Tips For Making An E-Book Cover (With Examples)

2015 Artwork Simple ebook cover art article sketch

So, you’ve written something that you want to release as an e-book, but you’re not sure what to do when it comes to making the cover image.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you don’t have the time and/or money to hire a professional graphic designer (since you should always do this if you can, because you’ll end up with a much better cover).

I’m also going to assume that you have little to no artistic experience too.

However, you will need some extremely basic graphics editing knowledge. In other words, you will need to know how to do some very basic things in MS Paint – such as changing the background and text colour in a text box and copying other images.

(If you don’t know how to change the background colour of a text box in MS Paint – just create a text box, then right-click on one of the colours in the palette and the background will automatically change. To change the text colour itself, just left-click on one of the colours in the palette.)

Although the two very basic tips I’m going to give you won’t make an outstanding e-book cover, they’ll at least let you make a moderately good one that won’t automatically put people off of looking at your book.

1) Keep It Simple: This sounds obvious but, if in doubt, always err on the side of simplicity when designing your cover.

Not only is it easier to make good-looking simple cover art, but it’ll also look a lot more professional than badly-made, but ambitiously complex, cover art.

The most basic way to make a simple cover image is to just use large white text against a plain black background. Yes, this won’t stand out from the crowd, but it will still look clean and professional. Like this:

White text against a black background. (The font used in this example was one called "Riky Vampdator")

White text against a black background. (The font used in this example was one called “Riky Vampdator”)

Just be careful about which fonts you use in your cover, since some commonly-used fonts require you to pay royalties to the designers if you use them commercially (I’m not a lawyer, so do your own research here).

So, it’s probably a good idea to search the internet for fonts that are free for commercial use.

I found a lot of them fairly quickly when searching online. However, I should warn you that at least a few of them seem to be based on fonts that are used in copyrighted movie posters (and therefore may not actually be truly free for commercial use and/or might land you in legal trouble if you use them for your cover). So, be careful and always do some research about your fonts, so that you don’t make something like this:

Yes, the idea that this font is "free for commercial use" might sound like an offer you can't refuse, but....

Yes, the idea that this font is “free for commercial use” might sound like an offer you can’t refuse, but….

Most importantly, when choosing a free commercial font, be sure to go for a font that is still legible when viewed at a distance.

Although your actual cover image might be fairly large, you’ve got to remember that most people will probably only see a small thumbnail image of it on whatever e-book site you’re using to sell your book. As such, your font should still be readable at a fraction of it’s original size.

2) Public Domain Artwork: If you want to make your cover look a bit more artistic, then one of the best ways to do this without having to splash out on lots of stock images and/or royalty payments is to use artwork that is already in the public domain.

In other words, use old art whose copyright has expired (eg: in most countries, this usually means that the original artist died more than seventy years ago).

There is absolutely loads of this artwork on the internet and a good place to start looking for it would probably be Wikimedia Commons.

Wikimedia Commons is absolutely crammed with old public domain paintings, etchings etc.. that anyone can use in any way (even commercially).

And, with a little bit of editing in a program like MS Paint, you can make a fairly professional-looking book cover with these images – like in this example:

The image in this example  is "Messaline (entre deux figurantes)" By Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec

The image in this example is “Messaline (entre deux figurantes)” By Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec

However, unless you find a fairly obscure old painting, this will make your book cover look slightly generic. But, as a way of finding quick and free cover art, it’s probably one of your best options.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Copyright and Realism In Stories and Art

2015  Artwork Copyright and realism sketch

Before I begin, I should probably make the usual disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer and that nothing in this article should be seen as legal advice of any kind. Plus, of course, every country has it’s own slightly different copyright rules and/or traditions too.

That said, let’s talk about copyright and how it can affect the level of realism we can include in our stories and works of art.

The fact is that we are surrounded by copyrighted material most of the time. It’s in the posters on the walls, the music that we listen to, the television that we watch, the comics we read, the pictures on the T-shirts that we wear, the advertisements that plague our internet, the catchphrases from movies that we all use etc….

So, creating any kind of “realistic” depiction of the modern world in fiction is fraught with difficulty for both artists and writers – given how much of our real world and surrounding culture is “protected” (in the sense of a mob boss demanding ‘protection money’) by copyright .

Most legal traditions recognise this fact and either have explicit “fair use” exemptions or vague informal traditions that allow the use of small amounts of copyrighted content etc… in fiction, even if it’s sold commercially.

Likewise, most countries also allow you to make parodies of copyrighted things (non-commercial fan art/fan fiction is something of a grey area in practice, but seems to be generally tolerated by most copyright owners) – although the definition of what is and isn’t a “legal” parody can vary from country to country.

However, the limits of what is and isn’t “fair use” can sometimes be vague and this can have a chilling effect on some writers and artists. And, since the limits of what is and isn’t “fair use” can be vaguely-worded enough that they have to be decided though court cases rather than just by looking at a simple set of clear guidelines, it’s understandable why some artists and writers might shy away from depicting the world in a truly realistic way.

Generally speaking, most national copyright laws allow people to reference other cultural works – the best example of this I’ve read about (I can’t remember on which site exactly though) is that you can draw a generic book in the background of your picture and write “Harry Potter” on the cover. But, the limits of what is and isn’t an acceptable reference can vary slightly from country to country.

Likewise, you can mention in your novel or short story that your character is listening to a certain band, watching a particular movie etc…. In fact, in most countries, you generally have a huge amount of leeway when it comes to purely written descriptions of copyrighted things. However, one weird exception to this (at least in the UK) is song lyrics.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I was genuinely shocked when I went to a seminar at university given by someone who ran a small publishing company who pointed out that, even for quoting a few lines of a completely obscure song in a fictional work, they had to pay several hundred pounds in extortion money royalties to the record company before they could publish it.

Whilst quoting small amounts of song lyrics in reviews/in a non-fiction critical context is perfectly fine under UK law, the rules about quoting them in fiction seem to be weirdly strict. But, then again, these are just the laws of one country and the laws in your own country might be different.

So, yes, representing the world realistically in fiction and art is fraught with difficulties due to the plethora of stupid copyright laws that exist around the world.

So, what do you do?

Well, there are a few options – you can do your research and try to make sure that you stick to the vague “fair use” limits of any relevant copyright laws and hope that you don’t end up getting sued by anyone. Which you probably won’t and, even if you do, then you’ll have a good defence.

On the other hand (and I don’t recommend doing this – except possibly for non-commercial fan art/fan fiction or for parodies, if this is allowed/tolerated where you live), you can ignore copyright completely and just enjoy the creative freedom that all artists and writers should enjoy and have enjoyed in centuries past – albeit at some level of risk. And, in the age of the internet, this is what many creative people instinctively do and at least a certain amount of this seems to be either tolerated or at least not noticed.

Or, like I do most of the time in my art (except when I’m making non-commercial fan art and/or parodies), you can just err on the side of caution and make your work as generic as possible. You can come up with fake products, movies, songs etc.. for your story/comic/painting that only allude to real things and you can just hope that they at least look vaguely realistic.

But, this requires a lot more time and thought and it also lowers the level of realism that you can include in your work. Which, amongst other reasons, is why I don’t really tend to produce that much in the way of “realistic” artwork.

In summary, our copyright laws around the world are in urgent need of reform and it would do artists and writers a huge favour if every country had much clearer, more lenient and more logical “fair use” guidelines.

After all, if the world that we all live in is filled with copyrighted things, then we should have the right to represent this accurately without fear.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚