Here, Joe takes the time to discuss how the course came about, how his background makes him a unique fit for this topic, and why the law is such a crucial subject for those in the comics industry.
Why is it important for comic creators to learn about the law?
Understanding Comic Book Law is important because a creator can spend their entire life honing their creative skills, inventing fantastic worlds, and making up amazing characters. But if they don’t protect themselves, or, at the very least, know when it is time to protect themselves, they can lose it all.
You don’t need to look hard to come up with examples of ownership disputes over comic book creations. At the end of the day, the business of comics is, at its heart, still a business. A lot of creators attempt to ignore this. Even more fail to protect themselves. Unfortunately, ignorance of the law is no excuse, and these creators run the risk of losing their creations, their profits, and, in the area of criminal censorship law, their freedom.
Comic Book Law for Creators will help people understand and minimize these risks.
What will students gain from taking this course?
The Comic Book Law course seeks to provide necessary information in a way that is understandable to the layperson. It does not seek to provide legal advice. Instead, the course is designed to present the legal background to issues every creator will encounter in easy-to-understand language.
Someone recently joked with me that they thought that Comic Book Law is the first course that everyone asks for and the last one anyone would pay for. So, I wanted to discuss the value of taking the class. First, it should be reiterated and understood that the course is not legal advice or a legal clinic. In certain circumstances, creators still need to hire a lawyer to protect themselves and this course will not replace that need.
However, the course will help creators to determine what those circumstances are and, more importantly, what they are not. Moreover, the material will help limit the later costs of counsel by having the creator, not the lawyer, create the initial draft of materials. Given that the average lawyers charge between $100 and $400 per hour (and some charge over a thousand dollars per hour), every bit of time savings is important.
We know this course will be informative – but will it be fun?
It is my hope that this course entertains as it instructs with real world examples from real world cases. And just as every lawsuit has a story, every case has lessons to be learned. The course explores these lessons within the stories.
How did your background lead you to develop this course?
Immeasurable amounts of research went into creating this course. But, it was a labor of love.
As a creator, I attend a lot of shows and do a lot of appearances. It is also no secret that I am a lawyer. I have also found that everyone is looking for free legal advice. As a result, I get frequent questions about legal topics related to comics.
As a practicing lawyer for the federal government, I cannot advise anyone or offer legal advice. But over the years, I have learned that sometimes giving an historical overview to an issue and explaining what things mean will allow people to draw their own conclusions and find the solution. Sadly, I have also discovered there is a lot of misinformation being dispersed.
As a result of these questions and the general misinformation in the industry, I asked numerous comic creators whether they would be interested in a book and a class on the concepts relevant to creators.
The response was overwhelming that not only should I do this, but that I was the one that could because of my unique perspective developed through my litigation background, and my comic book experiences as both a creator and a fan.
What kinds of topics can Comic Book Law course students expect?
I generated the list of subject matters from my conversations with creators. Up until now, there really wasn’t a one-stop source for comic creators to find out about intellectual property, contracts, and censorship. My book, The Law for Comics Creators, and the Comic Book Law class, were created in an effort to fill this void and provide answers to those questions. In short, the course and book are the perfect blend of my two passions and a dream project.
Many thanks to Joe for taking the time to discuss his course!
If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you’ll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!