Saturday, October 5, 2013

Licensing VS Love

Lots of fans have incredible artistic streaks, which naturally manifest into some kind of tribute.  A tangible object shares their vision with other fans.  A bracelet, necklace, bumper sticker, tshirt, oil painting, book or event bring us all together.  But where is the line that divides "tribute" from "licensing issue"?

The huge fear of the Licensing Monster rearing its ugly head is legitimate because it seems to strike arbitrarily and without notice.  And I think it STOPS fans from pursuing their ideas and HARMS the relationship they have with "The Monkees" brand/band/people/fans.   People who do this out of love do NOT plan to get rich, but to do channel all their Monkee energy.

Ironically, every fan arrives to the party FULLY aware of Raybert and Don Kirshner.  We all own various images of The Boys: on lunchboxes, in plastic, and in various magazines.  They didn't get any/enough royalties from the music and less from the merchandising royalties. And they get NOTHING from the sales of the memorabilia. With the standard $30 autographs and photos at the convention, they are working at making up the difference.

So what is a loyal fan to do?

The Monkees Convention 2014 was just announced for next March.  So maybe now would be a great time to iron out licensing issues.  At the convention last year, there were several tables selling Original Art (granted, I paint landscapes on the backs of mousetraps).  Some involved sketches of The Boys done on t-shirts or buttons, etc.  The vendors' contract included the phrase  "we suggest that Monkees & 60's merchandise (including British Invasion) dominate (or appear to dominate) your table space.  The only exception to this rule is obvious: absolutely no bootlegs or unauthorized merchandise" Do you have to get authorization for all your merchandise?  How do you even begin to do that?  And why would the lawyers even care about that sketch of Mike you did and put on a button that you are selling for $2?

There is a woman who had created a book about Micky, self-published it online, and later was contacted by Micky's lawyers who demanded it be taken down.  I don't know where this issue is right now, but she has made it public on FB, so I feel comfortable sharing this much.  She had also contacted Henry Diltz to use photos, but his people came back with a huge number for licensing which precludes her from using any of his photos.  I was told later that it was an issue of her using MD's name, rather than any issue involving pictures.  So are we allowed to use "Micky"?  Or "George Michael Dolenz"?  Can she use his name as a "search term" on something like Amazon?

And why is M----- D------ going after her in the first place?

There was a HUGE case involving Shepard Fairey and his portrait of Obama.  In the Monkeeworld, it is not likely that there will be a huge internet meme crossing over into the realm of profitability.  I would love if the rules be made public; what the official "Monkee Lawyers" would go after and why.

What about artists who do pictures of pictures?  Or karaoke?  Or . . .

ESPECIALLY in the internet age, the traditional policy might evolve.  What if a major concession includes the idea of linking back to the "copyright owner's" website?  Aren't we all on the same side?


Ongoing questions I'd like you (readers) to chime in on.  Either in the comments below or in person.  It seems like a conversation we should all have publicly.  (Maybe get the lawyers up onstage and answer questions directly)

1) In what context are fans allowed to use the names of The Boys or "The Monkees" or song titles or song lyrics?

2)Is there any kind of blanket agreement/declaration that would allow fans to creatively express their love without calling upon the wrath of The Monster?  A standard percentage?  Contacting someone in particular?  What if you don't expect to make more than $100 in profits, or none at all??

3) What are the basic guidelines that any fan should consider when creating any tribute?

4) How much info needs to be made public, especially in terms of transparency?  Contact info for lawyers? How much of a percentage goes to the charity? (Does the consumer need to know?)

5)What issues have you heard of?  Have you ever bought anything that you felt guilty about?

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