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    Last Friday and Saturday I went to the 2D or not 2D animation festival. It was awesome. I got to meet amazing people like Barry Cook and Dean Yeagle and Michel Gange. Of course, my DigiPen professor Tony White was there, seeing as he was hosting the festival in the first place.

    After getting an exclusive first look on Gange’s upcoming game and getting a bunch of stuff signed by him, and watching some fantastic shorts like Chicken Cowboy, and listening to an orchestra at close range (they took up half the big room the final mingle was in) I went back to my car and found a car window and my backpack missing. Whoops.

    Let that be a lesson to everyone: Don’t leave tempting unknowns sitting around where someone may see it. Save yourself some trouble. Now I gotta buy a new backpack, a new sketchbook, and some new charcoal. I feel kinda sorry for the guy who stole it… he risked the law for… well, nothing.

    So I got home, and my good friend tek_hed who’d lent me a Wacom tablet for the past many years, finally needed it back. So I was now tabletless.

    Feeling sorry for myself, and a bit stupid for getting my backpack stolen, I went and ordered a new toy. A 12″ Cintiq. Seeing as it was only $400 more than the $600 for a new tablet, I figured I might as well splurge. Man, this stuff is expensive. It should get here in a week or two.

    But wait, that’s not all!

    I got an email from Rick Simmons, CEO of Virtrium LLC about a press release he was making about my Seawolf dragons..

    I think I’m getting ahead of myself, as I haven’t mentioned the dragons here yet. The dragons link above should explain a bit about them. They’re an avatar available for Second Life that use a bug (that hadn’t been exploited previously) to increase the size of your avatar. I don’t have any size references images or even videos handy, so I’m just going to give a link to an image of the vendor location. The top of the smallest dragon’s head is about as tall as a normal person. If you have Second Life, you can visit the location inworld by clicking this SLurl.

    Oh, and Left 4 Dead came out. Valve’s latest masterpiece, and more proof that finding awesome people and buying them into the company is a very smart idea.

  • Truth and Cheating

    TRUTH! It’s a wonderful thing. Everyone should have some truth in their lives. I’m writing this in the hopes that I can help a few people know what to look for and how to categorize it. Things made a lot more sense to me after thinking about it this way. But as I’m going to point out… my truth may not be your truth.

    Truth comes in three levels.

    1. Personal Truth. A personal truth is something that is truthful for you and only you. For example, I can get pretty bad heartburn if I eat the wrong things. True for me, but some people have been fortunate enough to never have heartburn.

    2. Social Truth. A social truth is a rule, law, or consequence put into place by a social structure, usually to assist with keeping things orderly and manageable. Traffic laws keep people safe on the roads. If you didn’t stay on the correct side of the road or stay under (or at least near) the speed limit, then dangerous things might result, for you or someone else.

    3. Universal Truth. Universal truth is something that’s true for everyone. And not just for people, for anything, anywhere. Light travels at a certain speed. Sound travels at another. Gravity works off a certain mathematical formula. And etc.

    Now let me dig a little deeper on these, and illustrate some common communication problems these help clear up.

    Elevating a truth offends people. This is just a general rule, of course. But if you take a personal truth, and apply it socially or universally, you’re essentially imposing a rule on someone else that they may not believe in.

    A common example of this is churches. Churches, like it or not, can only be empirically proven as social truths. Personally, I believe that the truths my church teachers are all the way up at universal truth. But if I present it that way to someone who doesn’t agree, I can easily offend them. By leaving it at the personal or social level, a discussion can actually happen.

    And when I talk about social levels, I mean limited social levels. If you’re dealing with national social beliefs and speaking as an American to a Briton, and the Briton insists that cars must drive on the left side of the road, then ur doin it rong. You’ve crossed the social truth boundaries and they no longer apply. Same goes with religious discussions. Social truths should only be applied for people that are a member of that society.

    Essentially, the biggest problem I see with religious, political, and other discussions that end up offending and resulting in yelling is that people upgrade their personal or social truths to apply to other people’s personal, social, or even universal truths.

    Now the title includes “cheating.” This is my favorite part.

    Truth seems to have two parts to it. Action and consequence, and limitations. Social truths tend to be punishment based, so they’re more action and consequence. Personal truths have action and consequence, but they’re also heavily limitation based. There are things people simply cannot do, such as fly, or run faster than a few miles per hour.

    But let’s talk about limitations. For example, I cannot lift five tons. It’s too friggin’ heavy. But, if I apply all sorts of mechanical lever and pulley knowledge (or just get a big tractor) then I can do it no problem.

    Cheating in life means bypassing limitations defined by truth. The Belgariad has a fun recurring theme, where a master sorcerer gets offended when people say things are impossible. I’m much the same way.

    I’m currently working on a project in Second Life. It defies truths, or limitations, set in place when the program was created. I’ve shown it to some friends that are familiar with Second Life. They look at it, and they watch it work, and then when I’m done demonstrating it I ask them a simple question, “is what just happened possible?” Having just watched the demonstration, currently looking at it with their own eyes, they invariably answer “No.” A truth was established, and it was cheated. It’s a wonderful and exciting feeling to do so.

    I’ll (hopefully) give more info on that project within a week.

  • Copyright Explained

    I was studying copyright law for the past few weeks, and decided I should share what I’ve learned.

    What Does Copyright Protect
    Copyright law protects anything physical. It does not protect ideas, processes, techniques, or any of that. The actual text of an idea can be copyrighted once it’s written down, but the other stuff requires a patent, or an actual work based on the idea. (In other words, keep your ideas to yourself and maybe some close friends until you can make a copyrighted finished product out of the idea.)

    There are six (well, five we probably care about) things that copyright considers separate rights. When talking about “giving permission,” it could be one, all, or even limited or partial access to any rule.

    1) Right to create copies
    2) Right to distribute copies (give, rent, sell, lend, etc)
    3) Right to publicly display copies
    4) Right to preform the work (like a play or projection)
    5) Right to create derivatives of the work.
    6) Right to broadcast the work (radio)

    If you give someone access to the first right, they can make a million copies — but they couldn’t give them to anyone. They could hang them up in their house, but not a public place like a workplace.

    Rule number four (I made up the numbering, mind you) would be permission to use one of your pictures in a speech and projecting it on a screen for part of the presentation. It may also apply for a large physical print of it in that case, or that could be number 3. The easiest way to deal with it is to simply give them the right to use it in the case that they need it, not try and word it by the law.

    Number five is what I was missing when originally trying to understand character copyright. Let’s put it like this. Say you build a character out of marshmallows and take a picture of him. Since the original is quickly eaten afterwards, all you have is a series of photos of him. What if someone takes those photos, recreates the guy, and takes more pictures? They’re not the original pictures you copyrighted, so it’s ok, right?

    Rule number five says no. It’s based on the original, so it’s covered under the original copyright. You technically own the copyright on these new works someone else created. There is no law as to “how different” something has to be not to be a derivative work, but I’ve heard everything from 10% to 60%.

    When you’re selling your artwork, make sure you also give them a notice of what you’re selling. Rob Kmiec of DigiPen said that he’s seen people turn things in to an Art Director, get paid $200 for it, and a few years later see that same piece sitting in an art gallery with a $2000 tag on it. And since they “sold” it, it’s not theirs anymore so they have no rights. Make sure people know, through a written and signed-by-them contact, what rights you’re giving them when you sell them sometime.

    How Do I Copyright Something
    As of March 1st, 1989, copyright happens auto-magically. As soon as your work is created (art drawn, film developed, or digital picture taken, etc) it is copyrighted to you. If you want to defend your copyright in court, you’ll need to officially copyright it first, which costs you $45 or so. I think it’s $10 cheaper if you do it online. But there’s really no need to do that unless someone infringes and you need to take them to court.

    Though I am fuzzy on how the officially filed copyright date may effect a court case. Like if someone files a copyright they broke from you, then you file one afterwards. In such a case for art, the judge would want to see the preliminary sketches and early work leading up to the final piece in order to tell who made the original.

    Before March 1st, 1989, the rules are all wonky. So I won’t even be covering them.

    Copyright protects your work for your lifetime, plus 70 years.

    A copyright notice, which is no longer needed to create a copyright but is still useful, should contain the following pieces to be an “official” copyright notice:

    1) The word “Copyright” appearing as a C in a circle, “Copyright” or “Copr.”
    2) The year
    3) Your name, a common nickname, or a recognizable initials.

    These are all valid copyright notices:

    Copyright 2007 Creighton Medsker
    Copr. 2007 Stickman
    (c) 2007 CM

    Since a notice isn’t required anymore, it’s not so important. But it’s good to be educated, and good to date things.

    How Do I Defend My Copyright
    So what happens when someone infringes on your copyright? There’s a simple, two step process involved.

    1) Threaten to take them to court if they don’t stop, perhaps demanding some amount of compensation if appropriate.
    2) Take them to court and sue them for up to $30,000 per infringement, or even $150,000 per infringement if it’s proven to be a willful violation. (I’ve been told lawyers don’t care to deal with it unless it’s worth at least $50,000)

    Did you see that? No police involved. No FBI. The problem is between the copyright holder and the infringer, and the court acts as an intermediary to uphold the law. There are exceptions, like when a big company can’t find someone they know is infringing and want to hunt him down, and so the FBI comes in to keep them happy. Or something. I don’t know the official relationship.

    When Is It OK to Use Someone Else’s Copyright
    Now let’s talk about this misunderstood “Fair Use” thing. “Fair Use” is a legal term. They might as well have called it “Lemon Pie” for all the word has meaning related to the common English term.

    The Fair Use rule does not mean it’s ok to break copyrights. It sounds like a list of exceptions, but it’s intentionally vague. Copyright is handled on a case-by-case basis. The Fair Use list is actually defenses that you can use in court to justify why you broke someone’s copyright. And if your reason is good enough (compared to the other guy’s reason why you shouldn’t have) then you can get away with it.

    The list of Fair Use are: “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research…” Odd… I could have sworn “parody” was on that list. Well, whatever. Parody is defensible in court. Just remember that parody is using a copyright to make fun of the copyright. Using the copyright to make fun of something else is called a satire and tends not to hold up in court. Parodies hold up even when people are making money off them.

    That is, if you draw Sonic the Hedgehog in a tutu, that’s a parody. If you draw Sonic the Hedgehog getting ripped off by a GameStop employee, you’ve crossed the line. (Unless Sega owns GameStop and I wasn’t aware of it.)

    Originally, just about any educational purpose was acceptable, but these days not even education is safe.

    When determining if something is “Fair Use,” the court will look at the following four factors:

    1) The purpose of using the copyright, including non-profit educational or commercial use.
    2) The nature of the copyrighted work.
    3) The amount (AND substantiality) used of the copyrighted work.
    4) The market effect on the copyrighted work

    For example on substantiality in number three, if you quoted 300 words from a 500 page book, but those 300 words were the “heart and soul” of the book, you could lose the case.

    Is Fanart Legal
    As I finish up here, I’d like to point out that “fanart,” which is very common, is copyright infringement. There are a few reasons why no company does anything about it.

    1) It would be stupid of a company to take their biggest fans to court.
    2) Fanart artists are usually quite poor. The company would lose more money by suing them than it would potentially make.
    3) The case may not actually hold up in court, because of Fair Use factor four, above. It can be argued that fanart (some of it, at least), actually encourages people to like and buy the product.

    In other words, if you break a company’s copyright, and you’re above the “average Joe” radar (rich and/or famous), you could find yourself in hot water.

    For more information, you can check out these links:

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask on the forum. I’m no lawyer, but copyright is one of the many things I need to be familiar with, and if I don’t know the answer to a question, I’d like to look I up.