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Topic: Copyright Issues
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (May 29, 2008 11:10AM)
I'd like to get opinions here -

As a magician, when I purchased an effect, I bought the rights to perform it. Some came with the rights, others were public domain, but usually the purchase price included rights - even if it inflated the cost.

Now as a ventriloquist, I am seeing something different. Let me clarify my angle, since I perform to earn my living - hence, profit from my use of a figure.

One of the additional revenue streams I was looking at adding was a souvenir DVD to pitch following shows. I figured the taping would produce a new demo, and any souvenir DVD sales would help me cover my expense over time. I'm not a name, so sales would most likely be limited. Not every venue I work is suitable for doing sales.

Some of the figure/puppet makers have given me their okay to include their creations in my project - others have requested a fee for using their "copyrighted design". While I understand they created the prop, it in part becomes my creation because without the voice, personality and script, the puppet just lays there.

Now my question -
How do you feel about paying additional usage fees for using a prop you have purchased? Should figure makers include all performance rights when selling the figure? Or should that be a purchase option?

Perhaps I am looking at this too narrowly - so your input from any angle is appreciated.
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (May 29, 2008 11:38AM)
I'm guessing this is one if not the main reason why Jeff Dunham created a new Sweet Daddy D and Melvin the Super Hero Guy...

His former Sweet Daddy was a Selberg Bully and his former Melvin was a Kristin L figure.

I don't understand why figure/puppet makers need to charge extra for the use of their puppets/figures in DVD productions...it's FREE ADVERTISING :)

Just like his Peanut which was originally a Finley...but now it's a MAT. I can imagine how the fact that Peanut is a MAT has increased the sales of MAT puppets.

Maybe we can hear the side of the figure makers...maybe they can give us the reason why they need to have such an arrangement... I'm quite certain that they have a reason.



Having a design copyrighted is wise to make sure no other makers will make the same design...but the reason for copyright on the use of certain figures for DVD performances escapes me as of the moment... :)
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (May 29, 2008 02:00PM)
My point exactly Wanlu -

As a new puppet seller yourself, I imagine you see the value in an act using your product. I would understand the request for a credit, as it directs more people to you and hopefully creates sales.

Lets see what others think...
Message: Posted by: chris mcbrien (May 29, 2008 04:00PM)
I don't think it is right to charge for using a figure on a DVD. Tom, you're absolutely right..without the vent there's just an unused figure lying there (sounds like youtube amateur hour).
It really is just an excuse for figure makers to make more money. If they were smart, they'd realize that our hard work to get to that point and it's profits belong to us...we did the work, not them. They're lucky we picked that figure in the first place, and they should feel fortunate that all the "copycatters" and those who simply want to get a similar figure out there will be ringing the figure makers to get a piece of what entertained them to have for themselves.
I'm not knocking figure makers, I feel fortunate we have them. At the same time, everything has it's order and place.
I think charging the "royalty" or "fee" is simply an ego issue. If you took it to court I think a judge may see this point:
Why on earth would you produce a figure to be used, be blessed to have vents and amateurs want your figures...make money off of these people..then have the nerve to say "WHOA! That's enough success for YOU! I made that dolly, and I want some more money now that you're rich!" Would it not pollute the good will and customer relationship you'd have with these buyers if they knew that at some point you were going to be a pain in their behind?
It's greed. Simple greed.
When you purchase that puppet, you OWN that puppet. Now, I think that a copyright should protect the artist who made if from copy cats...and at the same time, that protection should only reach as far as that. Period. Those rights should not infringe on the next business tier. Our business. We take their product to another level, and that level is none of their business as far as making additional money.
Picture this. You buy an outfit from a great designer. You wear it on TV to do your stand up act. Do they chase you down at the end of the show and say "hey, you paid $2K for your outfit..but you're making soooooo much money on this gig...can we have some more?"
A DVD is like having a gig on film, or actually is. So does this mean you'd better hold your breath waiting for the people who made your clothes, shoes, cut your hair, worked the theater, sat in the audience, made the theater....it could go on and on..do all these people get a cut? And every time you sell a DVD..or just that one time fee.
I think that puppet/figure makers would have better feelings among customers if they would take this "clause" out of their agreements with buyers. I know I use one in particular that I have to think about this with. Makes me "bitter" when I think about it, to be honest.
If it's not ego or greed, I'd like to hear what it is. I'm all ears.
My one-man humble opinion.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (May 29, 2008 11:07PM)
On 2008-05-29 17:00, chris mcbrien wrote:
(sounds like youtube amateur hour).

That may be my video Chris!

The costuming example was an excellent comparison - what is the difference?
Artists pay royalties to sing and record songs - but they don't pay royalties for using a Les Paul Guitar to play that music. I have trouble seeing the puppet as more than a prop, one I purchased at the asking price of the maker.

Even with the magic tricks I mentioned above, you were buying an outline, routine, effect - beginning, middle and end. Not so with the puppet. What if the puppet changes hands? Would the same usage rights with the original owner carry through if it was never discussed with new buyer?
Message: Posted by: chris mcbrien (May 30, 2008 07:43PM)
On 2008-05-30 00:07, tacrowl wrote:
On 2008-05-29 17:00, chris mcbrien wrote:
(sounds like youtube amateur hour).

That may be my video Chris!

Not likely, Tom!
Well, I look back on my reply to this as "passionate". I'm also an oil painter..and I feel it would be like Picasso becoming famous and all of a sudden the makers of the oil pigments calling him and asking for more money because it's their paint people are looking at. Just another example.
I'm thinking Picasso would hang up the phone on them.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (May 30, 2008 09:07PM)
As a collector of vent DVD's - I see one maker's work pop up numerous times, and that maker wanted a royalty. I'd be extremely surprised if all the acts had actually paid a fee. If the performance copyright was infringed upon, you'd think there would be lawsuits all over the place. The fact is, there would probably be no money actually recovered on any of these acts, so why not just offer the rights?
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 1, 2008 09:04AM)
I would turn this around [b]if[/b] that's what a maker wants to do is charge extra...if I am the performer and the [b]name[/b] that people pay to see, then I would [b]require[/b] the Puppet Maker to put [b]my[/b] name on all future versions of the puppet I am helping to make famous! Not just Mortimer Snerd but Edgar Bergan's Mortimer Snerd. I want a chunk of the future sales of that character too plus the name recognition that generates those sales!

Of course I personally wouldn't (you can relax Wanlu) but if that's the way a maker wants to play the game, lets play for real. When [b]any[/b] Puppet maker first starts out they would [b]kill[/b] to have a DVD made of their creation...and they would [b]kill[/b] to have a name talent with enough chutzpah to create a DVD using their work.

They are selling that puppet to make money with, not just a [b]practice[/b] doll.

[b]True[/b]...they are lending (selling) their wonderful character to aid you into having instant credibility...1/2 of your team is up to par from the get go...and [b]that[/b] is what you are paying for in my estimation.

Greed sucks. It's not ego it's just greed.

Having said that...[b]if[/b] that is a makers policy then it's his/her policy, period, and it should be known at the start that should you 'make it in performing,' you have to kick back. If you know this from the start and you get it anyway, it's your butt. The maker has a right to set any policy he/she feels they deserve IF they are up front about it (or even in the fine print...[b]read[/b] the fine print!!)

But if that's not specified when you buy it...'Get lost' will do fine...oh and by the way...keep your other puppets.
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 1, 2008 09:10AM)
LOL Doug...for the record my PM to you was sent before I read this. :)
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Jun 1, 2008 08:40PM)
That's why I won't buy from certain dealers. I make sure when I buy that the character is mine to use as I want.
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 1, 2008 09:44PM)
I'll be having a TV interview tomorrow and I will use my Axtell orangutan and parrot as well as my Poyner figure and some of our own creations...

I wanted to make sure I won't have any problems with media rights so I emailed Steve Axtell and Kem Poyner and both said okay...for [b]free[/b].

As for DVD's... Kem also said okay but Steve has a policy concerning that and there will be fees if the DVD will be marketed.

With all due respect to Steve, I think that's the main topic of this thread posted by Tom...maybe Steve can share his views with us concerning this topic.

I'm guessing Tim Selberg has the same policy that's why Jeff Dunham needed to make a new Sweet Daddy D...what do you think?

I just want to add that Steve Axtell has been very helpful and the customer service is exceptional...

...as for Media Rights, I'm sure he will post his points of view soon. :)
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 2, 2008 07:59AM)
On 2008-06-01 10:04, Doug Higley wrote:
I would [b]require[/b] the Puppet Maker to put [b]my[/b] name on all future versions of the puppet I am helping to make famous!
Famous may be a strong word for a self produced souvenir DVD Doug. Of course, I'd be happy to be wrong.

The rights issue appears to have been in the fine print, although the fine print was nowhere near the order information and not fully discussed. Please note I am not pointing out any specific maker or makers. I also will not challenge their right to fees - even though I've decided not to pay them. I am curious as to why they feel the additional cost is justified. I could have proceeded by private e-mails, but I thought it was an issue that others should be aware of as we may all be affected at some point.

It pains me I spent hard earned money on a puppet, spent two years developing the character, the manipulation and fine tuning the material to a point that it was tight enough to be taped, and now I'm going to ditch that character and work on a new one. This involves creating new promo materials and changes to my web site. Since I don't have rights to that figure, I'm in no way going to promote it - a hard and expensive lesson learned.

While some of the material will carry over, from 4 shows this past weekend, it will take some time to become as comfortable with the "new guy".

If we are able to create success with their product - wouldn't that drive others to use their wares as well? Of the one character specifically involved, several performers who have seen my live show have said that they were going to get one. I look at this as a compliment, because I know the puppet is good, but it was my work with the puppet they liked - but will not be able to duplicate.

If makers care to post of the forum regarding this, I'd love to hear their thoughts and see things from their angle.
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 2, 2008 08:33AM)
On 2008-06-02 08:59, tacrowl wrote:

... Please note I am not pointing out any specific maker or makers. [/quote]

I have to second that...no specific maker is on the spot under this thread. Several figure makers have that policy, I just stated Ax and Kem Poyner as examples because I had a similar project about making a DVD which will be commercially available and I have corresponded with the makers of the figures I'm planning to use. As for Tim Selberg and Kristin L, I'm just guessing they have a similar policy, otherwise why would Jeff Dunham make new figures for his DVD?

Here we can all agree to disagree...it's a forum right? No harm meant...
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 2, 2008 09:24AM)
A little late to come at this hat in hand or apologetically...it is a clear issue now that it's 'out' and should be addressed. This [b]will[/b] affect puppet sales.

The maker has the right to have this policy. No question.

The buyer has the right to have been made aware of it up front in more than microscopic text. No question there either.

As a buyer...what am I buying?

A Puppet with the [b]intent[/b] of performing with that puppet after I give it it's voice and character development.

What was I sold? A puppet with performance rights? Only [b]live[/b] performance rights?
Media permission is needed? Funds will be due or is it [b]my[/b] character once sold? Are only [b]certain[/b] original puppets covered by this or all puppets by the maker even the generic ones?

This can obviously no longer be assumed. As buyers we must ask I guess. The smart puppet makers will figure it out and be up front.

I would think that a simple [b]credit[/b] as to the source of the puppet would be a perfect solution for both performer and maker. But hat leaves out that other $ factor.

Now having said [b]all that[/b], here is this...

[b]Maybe[/b] the maker is just covering his butt in the face of some unscrupulous souls...and on the side will make you the deal you want because you are his customer and not some unscrupulous soul who will put out a foul crappy DVD and maybe even racist or dangerous or put the puppet makers creativity and product in a bad light...then it begins to make sense [b]why[/b] the maker would want to retain control of sorts. Once it is a recorded record, it is there for all time.

Personal contact will seem to cure that for you if that is the case.

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 2, 2008 10:33AM)
Personal contact was made, permission requested. I honestly expected them to say: Good Luck with it - please include our copyright and contact info in the credits - we'd appreciate it. Some did, some obviously did not.

I opened the proverbial can of worms and will abide by each maker's request. Since I can't justify the payment in my own mind, I'll stop using one maker's puppets and go to other sources. Will it hurt their sales? Slightly but probably not by much. They have lost my future business, which would have amounted to thousands of dollars. There will also be one less vent working with their puppets. I do a lot of shows which amounts to a fair amount of exposure for their product to both public and performers.

I will not say anything negative about them - if people ask, I will explain why I don't use them anymore. I agree the rights information should be up front if they plan on charging for usage, perhaps even in a signed form that would transfer if the puppet was sold. Chances are, they feel that would hurt their business overall.

I hope raising awareness will make other buyers ask the questions you outlined. I do believe it will affect puppet sales to a degree. Anyone who plans to use the figures to create a profit - or even have that in the back of their mind - will probably look for other options.

On your final thought - no mention of the script was made. Suppose the dealer accepted payment for a production that did what you had described. Aren't they then accepting responsibility? Hmmmmm...
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 2, 2008 11:36AM)
Your correct as you have been all along.

It will affect sales overall though because now it is [b]out[/b] where it should be and being discussed as it should be...it needs to be addressed. I know I was not aware of this policy and am glad I now am. Prior to this though...I was getting rid of other puppets anyway and am just going with Wanlu where I can afford to have an Original done...I never liked using the same thing others used anyway...and I am keeping one other puppet I've had for a couple of years that I had specially created to my specs. (I forget who made that one...oops...I better look it up.)

You said:
I agree the rights information should be up front if they plan on charging for usage, perhaps even in a signed form...Chances are, they feel that would hurt their business overall.
You're kidding right?? Being under the table [b]should[/b] hurt their business...as it [b]will[/b] certainly affect yours! Well if any maker wants to enforce such a policy it darn well ought to be in a signed form of some type agreeing to the conditions.

As the creator/maker of original performance art pieces, I don't feel I have any rights [b]after[/b] the sale I can count on. I might ask 'they' don't sell on eBay but that's up to the buyer to do or not do.

Later, Doug
Message: Posted by: axtell (Jun 2, 2008 12:26PM)
Hi guys...I'll be happy to answer any questions on this for Axtell Expressions. We sell puppets with the right to use them live on stage. Our media rights are sold separately to keep the price lower on the basic puppets. It is a standard in the media industry. The alternative is to build that into the price of the puppets, but then it would be unfair for those only using them on stage for live shows....and further the rights cost less for small productions than for national television, or mass DVD. The reason for this is many and some of those legal issues above touch on it.

Our policy for media rights has been in place for several years. It is on every invoice, it is on our shopping cart before the purchases, it is on our website Customer Service page and on our Frequently Asked Questions page. http://www.axtell.com/faq.html

There is no fee for media use publicity DVDs or other free programming, or recordings that are not sold. It has only to do with commercial productions that use our characters. The copyright information is required for any production whether commercial or non-commercial.

Our media fee is a small simple flat rate for the life of the entire production title. It is not a royalty, etc. We figure it out based on a series of questions that you or your producer answer for us. It an easy process that you can count on for media rights. With this in place you are protected from any problems that might occur. It does not give you the right to the character copyrights, so you do not own them, but you have the right to use them on the media. The questions help us see if it's the kind of programming that we would want our characters associated with, and often the questions are helpful to our knowing that.

Of course our puppets and rights may be more than some other puppet companies, and less than some others. This is a professional fee that you should expect when you enter into the world of media. Most all of the media based puppet companies have this in place. We try to keep it small for those of you who are beginning to produce DVDs and TV shows coming from live shows, and the program is regional. Hopefully our characters have a stronger value in your potential media production that far exceeds the small fee we would charge.

Hope that helps from our perspective.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 2, 2008 01:14PM)
On 2008-06-02 12:36, Doug Higley wrote:
You said:
I agree the rights information should be up front if they plan on charging for usage, perhaps even in a signed form...Chances are, they feel that would hurt their business overall.
You're kidding right?? Being under the table [b]should[/b] hurt their business...as it [b]will[/b] certainly affect yours! Well if any maker wants to enforce such a policy it darn well ought to be in a signed form of some type agreeing to the conditions.
No Doug, I wasn't kidding. I doubt the maker was trying to be "under the table." After all, the information was there, I did not see it at the point of purchase. Had I read the entire site (my bad - big site) I would have seen the info, which still doesn't give complete details. Probably more a case of site design than deception.

When I say they feel it would hurt their sales, I meant it. I'm willing to bet most people who buy their puppets use them as a hobbyist. If this comes up at the outset, it may scare off these buyers, who just want a cute puppet. The topic would never apply to them. The makers could request information on how the puppet is going to be used and then issue the appropriate paperwork, but that requires customers to jump through hoops. How would the maker know that the potential client isn't lying to avoid additional fees? Would I have spent additional fees at the outset, not even certain the figure would fit into my plans?

The fee in question was not outrageous, but high enough that it would have impacted my goal - covering the cost of the taping. If someone did not pay the fee, would it even be worth the maker's court costs and time trying to recoup the fee? If not, why not encourage the exposure of your product to create additional sales revenue?

As a new vent at the time of purchase, I had no concept of media right usage fees. The puppet in question WAS a custom alteration of a stock figure that cost me additional dollars. I ended up losing money on the puppet, professional studio photos and thousands of promotional pieces that I have purchased. That is why raising awareness is important. It will help people make informed decisions.

I've seen your work Doug and it is excellent. If I was still doing magic, you'd have my business. I carve when not on stage. When I sell a piece, like you mention, it becomes the customer's property. If they try to duplicate a carving and sell it - I'd have issue. I am not duplicating anyone's product, I want to duplicate my live performance and sell it on DVD - the key word being [b]my[/b].

I know various puppet and figure makers read these boards. I'm still hoping some will join us and explain their thoughts on the issue and how it can be made visible and fair.

On 2008-06-02 13:26, axtell wrote:
Our media rights are sold separately to keep the price lower on the basic puppets. It is a standard in the media industry.

The reason for this is many and some of those legal issues above touch on it.

It has only to do with commercial productions that use our characters.

With this in place you are protected from any problems that might occur. It does not give you the right to the character copyrights, so you do not own them, but you have the right to use them on the media.

Hopefully our characters have a stronger value in your potential media production that far exceeds the small fee we would charge.

Hope that helps from our perspective.
Thanks for the response, but I'm hoping you will clarify a few things.

I'm still not comfortable with or understanding of the multiple-rights concept. Professionals purchase puppets to earn a living - period. By separating rights, makers impact how we can earn our living. At no time when purchasing a puppet with any company do I remember being asked if I wanted media rights. Maybe I was too excited by the idea of adding their creations to my act.

It actually came to light that permission might be required when the topic of Jeff Dunham re-creating Melvin & Sweet Daddy Dee came up. Jeff of course, much different scale - but apparently unwilling to share his success in that manner. I may be wrong, I do not know Jeff, only what I've read, so if you have other info and care to elaborate as to why that is a bad example, please feel free.

If pros didn't present a decent show, we wouldn't work. Professional exposure of your product must help create sales. So if it isn't a quality issue, why the additional media usage fee? Why is it "standard"? Why do you require it? I'm looking for the reason.

Why does a company like yours require it, when other companies do not? If it is standard, why aren't all puppet makers on board with the status quo?

You mention it only applies to commercial ventures. Why? Some earlier have claimed greed. I wouldn't go that far, but it does seem as if "Hey, money is involved...", so what are we overlooking?

We touched on several legal issues - what did we overlook? (Other than non-payment of additional fees?) Doug mentioned someone possibly putting out an unfavorable video product - but the maker or makers in question never questioned my scripting. Suppose, just suppose I was planning on just that and they had granted me rights for a fee? Are they then not liable? (I'm not - but I've never met these people face to face and they do not know me from anywhere but the internet, where we all know people aren't always what they seem.)

You later mention we are protected from any legal problems which might occur. Again, other than non-payment of additional fees, what problems are we overlooking?

Your characters have a very strong appeal - that sells them to us, but our performances are what the audience sees. It is our performance that would sell DVD's to that audience. It seriously doesn't matter what puppet is on our hand if we put our skill into developing the complete character and script.

If I had to, as a business person, decide should I pay additional to use ABC's puppet, - or use XYZ's figure, which will not cost additional for usage, I'm going to go with XYZ. That's a simple business decision.

I'm not disputing anyone's right to charge a media fee - I just don't understand it.
Message: Posted by: Winks (Jun 2, 2008 05:34PM)
You guys all need to talk to a copyright lawyer. First of all, purchase of a product implies a right to reasonable use. In other words, if I purchase a vent, I am entitled to charge a fee when I use it in a show. No royalty need be paid unless an instrument (contract) is signed by both parties prior to purchase. A seller/producer cannot simply add some disclaimer to a website or an order form. Sorry, guys, but that does not work. Second, the law concerning the production of a for profit DVD is hazy. Again, if you purchase a vent and are free to use it on stage, then you have the weight of the law on your side to also use it in a DVD. Third, using a vent in any venue is not a copyright issue. Trademark, yes. Copyright, no. Copyright involves copying or reproducing an instrument (written document, for example) or work of art, etc. Ideas and the like cannot be copyrighted.

So, any vent producer would be on very shaky legal grounds to try and collect royalties from someone using that vent for the purpose for which it was intended and sold - whether that is on stage or on a DVD.

And, another animal raises its head - what if someone buys the vent second hand. They had no contact with the producer and have no contract whatsoever with them. A whole nother can of worms.

Now, I am not a lawyer, but I have copyrighted several productions and have spoken at length with several lawyers on this matter. Check it out for yourself. Be informed. Simply stating your opinion about something as complicated as copyright and trademark law is a waste of time.
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 2, 2008 09:07PM)
Hey guys...I don't know anything about the topic. What I do know is that both Steve and Tom are good friends of mine...both are friendly and amiable.

Steve's customer service is impecable...the things they do to clients are worth every cent I have spent for their puppets. In fact, I have a TV interview tonight and Steve gave me permission to use their puppets...

As for the topic...I have to say that I really just don't understand these laws.
I'm sure Steve will explain more. I'd like to learn more because I also sell puppets...and hopefully I can learn from this thread.

Hey Winks...what happens if a client gives me a design to make with the agreement that it will be his own design, meaning I can't market it. But another maker makes the same design and sells it?

Thanks :)

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 2, 2008 09:36PM)
On 2008-06-02 18:34, Winks wrote:
You guys all need to talk to a copyright lawyer.
You make very valid points even without being a lawyer, and I had some of those thoughts too - but I don't think the legal avenue is required here. First, with a project like mine, there isn't that much money involved - so I won't spend it.

The maker(s) aren't asking me to drop their figure(s) and change my advertising - I am electing to do that because I disagree with the policy. My feeling, even if not a legal one, is that when I pay for a professional prop, had it customized and paid for those options, that I should be able to use it in a professional setting to earn my living - stage or video. If I can't, why use it or promote the maker's product at all?

I respect Steve and his business. He has an excellent product and excellent customer service. Axtell helped me with a fast turn around on a puppet that needed repair, so I could have it in time for a showcase. It is doubtful I will purchase any more from him because, as he stated above, his company also has this policy. A shame, because I really wanted one of his new animatronic figures.

By raising awareness of the issue and discussing it, we will help other vents. magicians and puppeteers make informed buying decisions. If people know about this issue and feel strongly enough about it, the puppet makers may change their structure to meet the concern. If people don't care or it doesn't apply to them, at least they are informed.

In the case with Wanlu, who is following the thread as both performer and maker, he will have a chance to see how customers feel and create his policies and pricing to reflect their needs.

The key is we can all respect each others view, have an intelligent discussion about it and work things out without courts and lawyers, while hopefully remaining friends.
Message: Posted by: chris mcbrien (Jun 2, 2008 09:51PM)
Thanks to Steve Axtell (one of the few figure makers that are actually clear..at least that I"ve found...about the rights with their characters) for responding! I think Steve is VERY fair in his legal treatments. I understand protecting the character itself. I use a few other characters by other makers that I wish had such simple, outlined policies! Again, I'm grateful for the puppet makers, but as you go down life's road and work your way up the ladder (and as your schedule gets busier) the last thing you need is a blurry definition of what you can do and then surprising you later...THIS was what I worry about. Some kind of HIDDEN thing that you have no idea about until they see you on TV (I've only been on TV a few times as of yet). Then, a "very special" phone call.
Thanks for taking your time, Steve!
Winks...learned a LOT from your post. Very appreciated information.
Steve's stuff makes sense, as does Winks. Hopefully this will save me some trouble in the future!!!
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Jun 2, 2008 10:34PM)
I know that when I bought puppets from Pavlov's I was told - they are yours to use as you like, whereever you like. That's one thing that sold me, so 3 of my main characters are Pavlov's and the 4th was made by another maker who makes and sells puppets to support his church ministry, He told me the same thing.

For me if there is any restriction my use of a puppet, I will simply shop elsewhere.
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Jun 3, 2008 12:09AM)
As a performer (and a part-time figuremaker as well), I also can't understand why makers restrict their clients re the use of the puppets THEY HAVE BOUGHT.

That's why I love old and antique figures. Apart from being unique (or not mass produced), they can be used without restrictions... as their makers are not living anymore.

I've appeared on national television with my 90 year-old Mack figure... and I have no doubt NOBODY will sue me!

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 3, 2008 07:12AM)
On 2008-06-02 23:34, Neale Bacon wrote:
I know that when I bought puppets from Pavlov's I was told - they are yours to use as you like, whereever you like. That's one thing that sold me,

I agree, Pavlovs rock. I wanted to create a T-Shirt for BOR sales using my duck character. I found an artist to do the artwork and I got full rights to use the art any way I want. I contacted Ivan to make sure he would have no problem with it and he said "Go Ahead!". Since the image is of their duck, I would have thought it would be more of an issue than using a character on a video. Not so. Legal problems are easily avoided when you have written permission from the maker.

Pavlovs has an excellent product, excellent customer service and no strings attached.

BTW - You can now sleep with DANGEROUS - only $12.95 per shirt! I expect to have them on my site by the end of June.
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jun 3, 2008 06:39PM)

This thread has been an eye-opener. I had no idea certain figure makers restricted use of their puppets in videos. This will certainly be a factor in my decision on future purchases. I guess I won't spring for a bighead, Selberg, or a hands-off puppet any time soon.

Though I'm a small-time local performer, I don't want to risk developing an act only to find out later that the figure maker wants an extra piece of the procedes.

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 4, 2008 11:40AM)
Oliver, glad you found the info interesting. I will not dispute any makers right that wants to charge a fee - but if we can use a product that does not - I for one will move in that direction. I'm not a name act - but I don't want to risk problems either.
Message: Posted by: Billy Sobe (Jun 4, 2008 03:37PM)
To the vents here:

I'm going to start making vent figures to sell. I have been told that I should copyright my figures. But the only thing I'm worried about is dolls and figurines, stuff like that being made of my creations that is just something I'm not cool with. I wouldn't care if you used my vent figures in photo's, DVDs, etc. But would it be a big deal for you to include my name somewhere on the photos and DVDs?

Would this stop any of you from buying from me?

I'd really appreciate your input.

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 4, 2008 04:16PM)
Billy -
Copyrighting the figure so people can't reproduce and sell them is fine. Allowing the purchaser to use the figure to make a living is important. I've never seen puppet copyrights on promo photos or performer brochures before - maybe I just haven't noticed - but certainly credit should be given on a DVD. I even offered to create a contact screen with web site and address. It is a two way street, we support your business by purchasing and help promote your products through use, if you support us by allowing us to earn a living. I think you'll do fine - and by the way, I've seen pics of your work. You do a great job.

I'd also like to thank another one of my puppet makers - Mike over at Imagination & Dreams. He created my Percival The Pirate. I had e-mailed Mike about using the figure and he took some time getting back to me because he wanted to check with his former partner. He told me, "You bought him, you use him, he's yours!"

In case you haven't seen Percival, (He's on my site) Mike did a wonderful job customizing him for me, making sure he had the eyes, hair, costuming and hat I wanted, he even added a plume. I did change the hook hand, but it was easy because Mike makes his puppets so well. The figure has great character and a lot of dimension - people love him as soon as he comes on stage.

If you are looking for a puppet you can really "use" - I recommend you check out his site at: http://www.santaletter.org/PUPPETS.html

Thanks Mike!
Message: Posted by: Billy Sobe (Jun 4, 2008 05:14PM)
Tacrowl-Thanks for your input and the compliment on my figures, wait to you see my newest one (This one is a dream come true for me)

I know how you all feel about the copyright problems, but I do feel that the figure maker deserves credit for his or her work. I have always felt bad for all the great figure makers who did not get credit for their figures back then. For some reason a lot of people always think that the ventriloquist made their figures.

I don't mind pictures, DVDs, etc., after all that goes with your job. I want to see my figures put to good use and enjoyed by everyone.

Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 4, 2008 06:26PM)
Billy take this with a grain of salt if you will...but I have made sideshow exhibits for [b]many[/b] years. I have [b]never[/b] put my name on one of them or had it known who made them by anyone but the buyer. Over time my way of doing things became well known and many can tell when it's one of mine or not. I have developed a reputation and following far beyond what I ever dreamed of or beyond anyone else doing this sort of stuff. I withheld my name from the exhibits for the sake of the buyer...to have something mysterious. They appreciated that and my ego was never such that it needed more than just the thanks of a buyer who bought one of my pieces. They have been seen and wondered at by many many [b]millions[/b] of people, not a single one of them knowing it was art work by me...and if they did know it would lessen the impact of the piece. Inside myself, I get great pleasure to think that no other artist ever has had so many people [b]pay[/b] an admission price just to peek at [b]one[/b] of their works for a brief glance as they walk by.

If I gave advise it would be to put ego aside...do the best most original work you can...promote [b]yourself[/b], rather than have buyers do it, [b]unless[/b] they volunteer to and you will become famous and well known and your ego whatever it is and if you have one will be satisfied to the hilt.

[b]Serve[/b] your customers and patrons above all. What is credit? What is deserving credit? You deserve to be paid...you deserve appreciation from the buyer...you will most likely get word of mouth. Why turn [b]anybody[/b] off from your wonderful work? Even after you get famous, bend over backwards and that rep will be so much more [b]deserved[/b] because of your talent and skill, rather than credits from a printer. This is a small community...you [b]will[/b] get known. It matters what you are known for.


Looking forward to seeing your work!

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 4, 2008 06:30PM)
I had that discussion today with a manufacturer. I can't imagine telling someone I made something that I didn't. I'm more than happy to direct people to the source. Like I said - it should be a two way street of us helping each other, that includes giving credit where credit is due.

Can't wait to see your latest!
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jun 4, 2008 08:45PM)
Can you imagine a guitar player being told by Gibson that he must pay a media license fee in order to use the Gibson in videos? The figure is the same thing. It's an instrument!

While all the figure artists mentioned or implied are highly skilled, masters of their craft, there are alternatives. Nina Conti's success with her Monk puppet shows it's the performance that sells the act. If vents don't pay the fee, if they shop elsewhere soon there will be no more fee.
Message: Posted by: Billy Sobe (Jun 4, 2008 08:58PM)
Doug- you do sideshow exhibits, that's cool.

Ego has nothing to do with it for me. I didn't intend my posts to sound that way. I can understand how you feel about not putting your name on your work and I respect that. But for me, it is important, I spent all that time sculpting or carving it and that's how I like to finish it off.

Also it's important for the collectors this way they know they are buying the real deal.

Olivertwist- I thought I was the only one who thought figures are the same as instruments, I'm a Rickenbacker man myself.

Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jun 4, 2008 09:30PM)

I'm strictly acoustic fingerstyle. I play a handmade, Spanish, flamenco guitar.

I agree 100% that figure-makers should be credited for their creations, but everyone in the business can tell who made most of the figures out there. The general public won't have heard of them though.

In addition to considering figures to be instruments, I believe there should be 'standards' for vents to master and perform while learning the craft. A pro should create his/her own original material, but a beginner should have stock routines that are classics, to work with and master while developing his skill. Can you imagine if we demanded that piano players only play original music?
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 5, 2008 12:17AM)
Hey Billy,

I have seen your work...you rock.

I'd like to buy one of your figures... :)


Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 5, 2008 03:58AM)
Billy...total agreement on that. I didn't mean not to have signature pieces or maker Identification...I was simply illustrating that it's not all that important to me in order to be credited so that you require the buyer to jump through hoops that they would rather not jump through. Collectors (numerous) have asked me to 'sign' my stuff but performers have not...I make my pieces for performers to use as tools.

I think we are mostly all on the same page on this and the market place will sort it out.
Message: Posted by: Red Shadow (Jun 5, 2008 06:03AM)
Steve (Axtell) - I have a question.

I purchased the Axtell Drawing board and Chimp from a local magic auction. They are now currently used in my show. I have some great original routines with them, that I devised.
I am planning on producing a DVD to sell to other magicians, showing my routines along with my other puppet routines.
This doubt this DVD will not be released into supermarkets or high streets etc. It's sales will be mainly limited to my own website and eBay.

Since I bought these second hand, I had no knowledge of any media issues. The DVD is not targeted for public domain, just to help other magicians.

Am I allowed to use them in the video?

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 5, 2008 06:39AM)
Ku7uk3 makes an excellent point. He's never had contact with Axtell, having purchased second hand. He's not familiar with the media rights issue - so if he had created his DVD's - he would be open to legal action if the media rights held up in court.

Steve mentioned in his post that media rights heightened the cost of the product and since they didn't apply to everyone he didn't include them in the original purchase price. If he and others did, the rights would pass with the piece and the issue would be resolved.

Unfortunately, if the policy changes now and companies raise prices to compensate for media rights - what about all the people who had purchased product prior to the change? Do they then have to pay a fee to continue using the puppet - at which point you see people dropping puppets - or are they grandfathered in?

When I purchase a figure, if I want that piece, I pay the asking price. If the price is too high, I save enough to get it - or I now go to another source that provides full usage rights and I can afford the work.

I honestly believe the companies that charge this fee as an add on feature hadn't thought this through for the average customer. With video editing and authoring becoming accessible by computer, it is no longer the big budget venture of television and movie companies. The key is, we as their customers, the people who purchase, discuss and help promote their business, are important to their success.

I believe if we continue to raise attention to our concerns they will hear us and consider what we have to say. I personally appreciate Steve Axtell for coming here and stating his company policy. I know he will join us again when time permits. Billy & Wanlu have also voiced their thoughts. I hope that other figure makers will join us.

On 2008-06-02 15:22, tacrowl wrote:
It actually came to light that permission might be required when the topic of Jeff Dunham re-creating Melvin & Sweet Daddy Dee came up. Jeff of course, much different scale - but apparently unwilling to share his success in that manner. I may be wrong, I do not know Jeff, only what I've read, so if you have other info and care to elaborate as to why that is a bad example, please feel free.
Public apology here. I received an e-mail on the above quote. I did not mean to imply that anyone was being greedy or the bad guy in the above statement. I thought, and apparently incorrectly, that either the figure makers had requested a high usage fee, or that legally there was a fear of lawsuit over the use of the characters. I was wrong and after reading the e-mail, I realized exactly how bad that sounded.

So, I apologize to Jeff, Kristin and Tim for getting that completely wrong. Thanks to the person who set me straight. I appreciate you telling me why that was a bad example. I'm truly sorry!
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Jun 5, 2008 08:43AM)
To Billy,

I am not familiar with your work. Can you post a link or examples?
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 5, 2008 12:20PM)
Just had a note from Clinton Detweiler, retired owner of Maher Studios. He said he will post his position on figure usage rights on his blog soon.


In an e-mail from Al Stevens, figure maker, ventriloquist and musician:
(You may post this response into the forum.)

A figuremaker owns the copyright to the figures he or she designs and builds unless a figure is built under the terms of a "work for hire" agreement negotiated before work begins. Copyright reserves to the copyright holder the right to make or license copies.

I question the need for a "media usage fee" as you've described it, however, and would not charge one. A search of copyright law returns no mention of that. Perhaps it is known by another name or is covered by another set of laws. More likely the figuremaker you mention asked for money because you asked about it.

All that notwithstanding, it is in the best interests of ventriloquists to own the copyrights to any custom figures they use. Some day you might become famous and wish to sell replicas of your characters.

Jeff Dunham has first-hand experience with this issue. He redesigned and rebuilt two of his characters so there could be no questions about their copyrights. As I understand it, he did this prior to releasing his first DVD because the lawyers said he should, but I don't know the details. Jeff would be the guy to ask about this.

Copyright law is widely misunderstood and misrepresented by lay people who
engage in discussions about it. People often argue their views of what ought
to be right without fully understanding the law. Don't make a career decision based on what you read in an Internet discussion group. Consult a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property law with experience in issues related to the entertainment industry.

Best regards,
Al Stevens

You guys will get sick of seeing my posts - but I've been getting e-mails from puppet makers who have told me I could post their responses on the forum.

I've takens bits of this one because there was some personal information in there.

From Puppets By Cher:
The copyright is for those who decide to buy one of my puppets, rip them apart, make patterns and they try to duplicate them selling them with their name on them.

So to answer your questions...
Yes, by all means you have my blessings to perform with the big guy, take him on bike ride......................... drive with in the car with the top down.. I don't care... hee hee....

My copyrights are pretty simple and I don't ever ask for royalties like Pierre from Monster puppets does.
that's just not right.
A builder should be honored to have someone look at your creation and find a voice for him.
Cher sells her puppets through ebay to benefit charity. She offers a lifetime repair on pieces you purchase from her as long as you don't abuse them - which is true customer service. I own one of her creations - I call him Sammy and he is always well received by audiences.

If you aren't familiar with her work, please visit her site at:
Puppets & Art Creations

Thanks Cher for your thoughts and making your policy available to us!

(Disclaimer - I am not familiar with Monster Puppets policy quoted by Cher. If Anyone knows them or uses their figures, please invite them to let us know!)
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 5, 2008 06:01PM)
The information that is developing and being discussed should be [b]pinned[/b], so it is for all time.

Thanks Tom.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 5, 2008 08:22PM)
Yet another figure maker weighs in via e-mail. This is from Dan Payes, who made my old man Maurice:
You can use a figure you bought from me to make yourself and the figure as famous as you want. You Can not reproduce the product / character itself. (make duplicates) For example, make figures of the figure itself by making a mold of it etc. But that's pretty obvious! Other than that, print, video, etc. is all ok.... you don't even need to give me credit for it. I'm not a glory hound or anything. :)
You can find Dan's work at:

And this from figure maker Steve Barry:
The rights to use a puppet, in my opinion, are given to the buyer as soon as he pays for the figure. It belongs to him, therefore, he and only he, has the rights to that particular puppet. When the wording gets changed to "anything resembling" then, I would have an issue with that also. I think most of us feel that way. I'll keep checking your thread as I am curious as to what everyone else thinks.
Steve also raised an interesting point regarding sole rights to a figure, pointing out some makers use molds and cast multiple versions of their characters. In that case, they can not provide sole rights to perform a character.

When I started this thread, it was simply in regards to performance rights with a puppet or figure you have purchased. If you are looking for sole use of a character then you would need to contact a maker who does not mold their creations or consider a "work for hire" as mentioned by Al Stevens.

Thanks Steve for being a performer friendly maker! You can find information on Steve's work at his blog:
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 6, 2008 05:44AM)
Dan Payes is about as easy to work with as anybody I ever did business with. Nice Quality Figures at super prices.

To all the 'makers' joining this thread thank you for the input regardless of your 'stand'. There are no wrong answers when individual positions are well thought out and all consequences considered.
Message: Posted by: axtell (Jun 6, 2008 09:18AM)
Awesome discussion. There have been some very good points raised and I am interested in your thoughts. I am thinking all this over and discussing it with my team. Have a great weekend. Ax
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 6, 2008 12:54PM)
Another e-mail comes in - this one from Robert McRay, noted artist and creator of the BigHead line of figures:
I appreciate you asking, but you didn't have to. The only performance limitation with Deeder is the one you place on yourself and your act. I wish you all the success in the world and I appreciate any credit.

I cannot speak for other makers, as I approached it from more of an artistic direction. I was never in the "business" of selling a line of figures, but creating an individual sculpture for a client. As everyone who commissioned one of my mechanical sculpture knows, I did not sell the licensing rights. This means that they cannot reproduce or duplicate the original sculpture in any way, shape or form. This was done to ensure their "one-of-a-kind" status. While I respect the opinions of other artists and makers, I enjoy seeing the success any performer has with one of my sculptures.

Reproduction was, and remains my only concern (out of respect for the other BIGHEAD owners as well). My only request was that if anyone in the BIGHEAD community, sees someone copying a BIGHEAD, that you'll all form a posse and string that person up, heh, heh, heh.

My thoughts are that I wish you all the success in the world with your act. Go get em, get paid what you deserve and enjoy yourself in the whole process.
Although Robert no longer creates the BigHeads - you can see his body of work at:


Now here's an e-mail I received from Kem Poyner:

I would be honored to have one of my figures on your DVD! I can't believe someone would expect compensation for free advertising. You have my permission to use any of my figures however you wish. (except maybe puppet porno)

Kem Poyner
You can find Kem's work at:

If anyone does business with any other figure makers, please ask them their policy and share the information and their website with us.
Message: Posted by: Billy Sobe (Jun 6, 2008 01:15PM)
Yesterday I spent an hour typing a message here, and my Internet connection stopped working.

olivertwist- Cool, I just play rhythm guitar, 50's and 60's rock and roll.
I agree learning vent is just like learning to play an instrument.

Wanlu-Thank you. If all goes well, I'll have my first figures ready to sell around the end of this year, or the beginning of next year.

Doug-Yep all of artists have our ways of making our creations. I'm still learning the business end of it. Hopefully I get everything sorted out.

Neil-If you go on the puppets and props site you will see 2 of my figures. But those are re-sculpted Fred heads. The ones I'll be selling will be cast from my original sculpts.
Did I show you my old man figure at vent haven?

Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 6, 2008 01:36PM)
Kem Poyner's "Tina" is awesome! (I like his other work as well. Beauifully finished.) How in heck can a male come up with a voice to match that babe! :) (Wel...this male anyway.) Although the more I look at it the more I can 'hear' a Fran Dresser type voice as a counterpoint gag.

AX...you are at the top of the food chain in readilly available 'Characters'
...thanks for the thoughtful replies. It will pay off. :)

Clinton's response is online at Newsy Vents. It is definitive.
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 6, 2008 02:03PM)
Wow... this thread is making news all over the vent world :)

I have a good feeling this will make history :)

Thanks Tom and to everyone who repsonded to Tom's topic.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 6, 2008 02:55PM)
On 2008-06-06 15:03, Wanlu wrote:
Wow... this thread is making news all over the vent world :)
Not just the vent world Wanlu - apparently word has been carried beyond this forum. I'm getting e-mails from clowns, magicians, puppeteers and puppet makers I've never met.
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Jun 6, 2008 04:36PM)
I use many Axtell puppets, and have a huge amount of respect for Steve Axtell. Which is why, when I recently featured in a documentary, I informed Steve that some of his puppets may appear in the film. I then let Steve and the producer of the documentary thrash out the relevant fees that would be payable. I was slightly disappointed that the producers of the documentary informed me that due to the cost of the rights to show the puppets, they would only be showing one of my puppets in the film. This meant that my main sidekick "Squawk the Parrot" (Axtell's Pedro Parrot) never appeared. In fact, the only puppet that did appear was the neurotic rat, for all of about 15 seconds. The producers were clearly less than impressed that they had to pay a fee to show me working with Axtell puppets, and from my point of view, I felt that Steve had done himself a disservice; here was an opportunity for several of his characters to appear (albeit momentarily) on the BBC. But because of his policy of charging performing rights for TV coverage of his puppets, they were simply axed (pardon the pun) from the show.
It would have been nice if Squawk could have appeared in the documentary, especially as my favourite routine involves Squawk the Parrot and the Drawing Board.
But I don't really care one way or the other: if I were to have the chance, say, to appear regularly on TV, I would simply have someone else make me another puppet with no such restrictions, rather than use a puppet which costs every time it's used on TV. Although Axtell puppets are awesome, it is, of course, the performer who instills life and personality into the creature. My routines would work equally well with other puppets, but it's my choice to use Axtell's puppets.
So I do see this kind of policy as rather negative and fail to see how a few hundred bucks' fee can compare with media exposure, which is surely great for any manufacturer?
Just my 2c...
Message: Posted by: Lou Hilario (Jun 6, 2008 06:42PM)
I started selling my string and cable masks to magicians more than 10 years ago. I feel this is part of my contribution to the entertainment industry. I am proud to say that my masks are now being used worldwide.

I believe when it is sold, the owner has every right to use it as he / she wants to. I have never ever thought of this media rights issue. As a matter of fact, I am very excited to see my masks being used by amateurs, professionals and top entertainers in TV, movie, print and at the web. Credits would be nice but not a necessity for me.

I also believe that what I am selling is only a “tool”. It is up to the user on what he creates / builds with it.

Lou Hilario
“Sharing God’s Love through Laughter”
Message: Posted by: Red Shadow (Jun 6, 2008 06:59PM)
I will also point out that I've released a couple of books and DVDs, featuring some original ring tricks and I give full permission for anybody to use them. I would be honored to see my tricks being used by someone else, especially on TV.

I have never even thought about media rights, nor knew they existed until reading this thread. Now I'm concerned over my next project which was going to be based on puppets.
The other big puppet maker - Folkmanis. Do they have the same media policy?

If I bought any other puppet from the shop, how are you expected to find out about the rights issue?

Message: Posted by: The Great Smartini (Jun 6, 2008 07:41PM)
I have the Axtell Remote Controlled Drawing Board and will soon be acquiring an Axtell Magic Chimp. For me, all of this discussion is centred around our right to use these puppets as we see fit and Steve's rights to maintain some control over the characters that he produces. I've read through this thread and I can see both sides of the issue. As such, I believe that Steve is one of the most respected and highly regarded producers of puppets/magic props in the industry and I would go along with his decision. If he says yes then everyone is happy. However, if he says no then I would think that a phone call or email to him regarding one's intended usage would likely be a conversation/issue that would be easily resolved.

Jeff Christensen (M. Ed.)
aka The Great Smartini - Magical Educator
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jun 6, 2008 07:52PM)
I hope Ax will come around on this. I love his figures but I will seek alternatives rather than be burdened with fees that I don't believe are justified. I've often come close to springing for the hands-off vent Toucan, but there is no way I'll sink that much money into a prop with strings attached (pun intended)(no offense to marionetters, Wanlu).

Can you imagine Izod asking Tiger Woods to pay a media fee to wear their shirt on TV!
Sponsors PAY artists to use their products in the media.
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jun 6, 2008 07:53PM)
Shoot. Maybe I better get Vern out of my avatar.
Message: Posted by: mthat (Jun 7, 2008 03:42AM)
I've read the previous posts with interest, have some comments, and hope some of the previous writers will respond and clarify their position. I've been a magician, puppeteer, clown, and comedy performer, but am presently a lawyer and working on a practical legal book for performers. So your thoughts, comments and suggestions will be appreciated. I'm not licensed in all fifty states, so any response will be in a general and educational nature. More soon.


1. Tom C you mentioned in this topics first post that you were creating a dvd of your act to sell. I assume you are also including music on the DVD which also have various mechanical fees and licenses. Are you objecting to paying all fees fees (including music), objecting to any fee by the creator of the puppet, or just objecting to a fee which would make distributing the dvd cost-prohibitive?

2. Tom nicely advocates that the dummy is just a prop like a Les Paul Guitar. Please clarify. I can substitute almost any well made guitar for another, and though the sound/tone may ne a little different, the performance by the musician will still be similar. Not so for professional puppets/dummies. For the sake of argument, vent dummies have a "character" which provides a starting personality (ex. . Changing a dummy for another can in most instances change the mood of the show, and require changes in the script, voice or performance. Not all characters are the same (ex. Ron Lucas' "dragon" and Disney "Figment" versus other generic dragons.) or would get the same response.

3. "Free Advertising" When I first started performing fourty years ago, I like many others was approached by people wanting me to do a show (for free advertising), and that the resulting exposure would bring in more clients (which rarely did). Exposure by pros can bring rewards, which is why Nike and other pay Tiger Woods for exposure. Similar exposure by amatuers can likewise hurt your business, which is why many amatuers have to pay to have products seen on their multimedia productions. That is why some companies just refuse to allow their products/property to be used in small productions. (Try licensing any Disney property for your local DVD). You can see many items not allowed to be shown on primetime tv in the blurred products/tshirts/etc. of many smaller tv productions.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 7, 2008 08:32AM)
Thanks for joining us - I will be happy to provide answers from my point of view.

1. - On music, I would be using royalty free tracks purchased from Music Bakery and other sources. (In fact, the videographer has a library of tracks to choose from and he has the rights to use them on his projects.) There is no "usage" fee involved because you get the license when you buy the tracks.

I have no objection to the fee charged by the puppet maker, I've stated it is their right to do so. I believe it should have been included in the original purchase price. (Similar to the musical tracks - if they can do it, why not the figure maker?) I mentioned in an earlier post - when I bought the puppet, I paid the asking price. Had I not been able to afford it, I would have saved, or moved on to another company that provides the rights. Every other maker I deal with has now granted rights without charging additional fees.

Before you ask on the videographer - he too is being paid on a contract basis. Once the DVD is produced - he will not receive compensation for any sales or usage. His credits will be on the show.

2. I have to disagree with this point. Why will the performance of the musician be similar - but not the puppeteer? The puppet creates a visual - but the characters you mention would be nothing without the script, character, (created by performer) voice or performance. Imagine walking into a museum - having never seen Scorch (Ron Lucas' dragon), or Kermit the Frog. They are sitting in a case - you'd look at them and then move on to something more interesting.

Now watch those characters in the skilled hands of their talent. They are suddenly engaging, endearing and you want to watch them while you have a chance. It is NOT the figure - it is the talent. If it WERE the figure, anyone would have the same success with those characters!

If I change the puppet - how does the character and mood change? It is still me - my voice, my reflections, my timing and pacing of the routine. It is still me "playing and singing the song". The look of the puppet may be different but the audience doesn't know the puppet before I introduce it - they have no idea of what it will be like.

When I mentioned script change in an earlier post, it was subtle differences. One character was an animal, the other is a human figure. Obviously some jokes are changed but that is creativity. I write in "chunks". In a show, if I need to add a bit - some jokes I wrote for one puppet can be easily adapted to another. The puppet does not dictate the routine - the talent decides what the puppet will become.

3. You've got a great point on the "Free Advertising". However what about Youtube. There are some horrendous vent videos by people on Youtube. Most are playing and just giving it a try - no skill, looks bad. Is a company going to spend untold amounts of money to try and stop people from using their figures there? Would it be financially feasible? There is no money involved so I doubt it - but that is bad free exposure. Even Disney has characters lampooned there and they don't do it.

So perhaps you set up a deal with the site. Now, none of your work appears there. There are some great videos using puppets that performers watch when they are thinking of buying. As an example: I used Steve Axtell's dragon for his video contest. I had several people e-mail telling me they decided to go with the "smoke" feature after seeing that video. Did that translate to sales - I don't know, but I hope so for Steve. Removing all exposure to product there may have lost that potential sale/add-on feature.

If an act produces a video or DVD to try and market - and they are no good - exposure is extremely limited. They can do as much damage on stage offering free shows. The maker(s) in question did not even ask about script. If you are using the damage control reasoning - wouldn't they demand that? Just asking.

As for product exposure - just as many logos or product names are blanked out because the producer refuses to pay an overpriced fee to a company. I guess I could have talked to myself through a fuzzy dot for 10 minutes - but I didn't think of it until now. :)

If you have any other questions for me, please ask. I'm stating my opinions - they are only opinions and I'm happy to change my mind if I get a good reason. And I will defend any maker's right to the fee - but I don't have to give them my business.
Message: Posted by: axtell (Jun 7, 2008 01:57PM)
Good stuff. Let me be clear that we absolutely value the exposure of Axtell characters that you provide in your media. Our customers are everything to us. That relationship is clearly what we have focused on for our 25 years in business. Even the small time beginner brings joy to my heart when we see their first attempts with our characters...heck that's what the whole Axtell Puppet Video Challenge is all about. We proudly show ALL of the videos on our website. We bring in top names to be judges and to give advise and guidance. We did not charge a media rights fee for those, only copyright notice. We never have charged a fee for any video or media that is non-commercial. Your promo videos are not an issue.

At this time AXTELL EXCLUSIVE CUSTOM puppets are sold with full rights, including media and reproduction rights. In fact, if you buy a custom puppet and it becomes famous YOU can license out the character for royalties from your licensees. I don't think you will be freely giving those rights away to anyone that wants them. You will probably ask for a % of every product sold with it's face on it as you should. It may seem like light years away for you but it might not be. Terry Fator came into this very quickly and will be doing this very thing with the Axtell puppets we are building for him. They already have licensing deals in place with manufacturers.

AxTrax routines are produced as royalty free for use in your stage performances as printed on each script. If you want permission to use reproduce them on media please contact us.

The issue I am considering is the charging of a media rights fee for the use of our 60 plus stock puppet characters (on which we maintain VA copyrights)... for use on commercial media. Having a policy in place has several purposes, which clarifies our ownership of the character copyrights (VA) to the producer of the program so they don't unknowingly assume they can reproduce the character as toys or products, and to try to limit the use of our puppets in obscene or illegal programming that we would not want our characters to be associated with, etc.

Anyway...thank you for your thoughts on this issue. We remain involved and interested. I have received lots of private email on the subject, including other puppet makers who have not yet posted here. I would encourage everyone to add to the conversation...and perhaps we can arrive at a consensus which could be come an industry standard.

We are not the only media related puppet company who sell stock characters, or charges a fee for media use.

(by the way, our entire server host is down....so if I don't reply to an email, it's because I didn't receive it. All of our websites are down right now). You can always PM me here. Hopefully they will be back up soon.

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 7, 2008 03:21PM)
On 2008-06-07 14:57, axtell wrote:
The issue I am considering is the charging of a media rights fee for the use of our 60 plus stock puppet characters (on which we maintain VA copyrights)... for use on commercial media. Having a policy in place has several purposes, which clarifies our ownership of the character copyrights (VA) to the producer of the program so they don't unknowingly assume they can reproduce the character as toys or products, and to try to limit the use of our puppets in obscene or illegal programming that we would not want our characters to be associated with, etc.

Steve -
Thanks for joining us again. I realize you are busy with projects, and we appreciate your time.

No one wants to take advantage of your copyright - a copyright credit should definitely be given - and it is that copyright that would legally stop anyone from trying to copy or reproduce your characters as toys or products. I'd be just as willing to defend those rights along with you - and report anyone who tried.

What I and some of the others would like to see happen is that media rights fee waived - or at least included in the stock figure price. Not just for your puppets - but for all professional puppet figures purchased to use for performance. Charge us the fee if you must - but make it easy - do not nickle and dime the acts each time they have an opportunity to promote themselves or their career.

In Potty's case, due to fees the producers limited the not only exposure of your puppets, but may have cut into his screen time as well. Your policy may have hindered, rather than helped promote his success. Exactly the opposite of what your company has always been about - the success of its clients.

You mention the puppet makers that haven't posted here. I have asked and been able to post the public content of e-mails of people I have been in touch with. Can you invite them to post? Or ask them if you can share their thoughts? The more eyes we see this through, the more informed we become.

Again, thanks for your post.
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 7, 2008 03:30PM)
Whatever the outcome Steve and individual minds are made up, I would like to commend you for approaching a challenging and potentially sticky situation with the utmost class and intelligent responses.

In fact this whole community can be proud so far. One need just venture into a few of the other areas of the Café to see what it might have become...:)

Vents helping Vents. Warm fuzzies abound. :)
Message: Posted by: Acecardician (Jun 7, 2008 04:05PM)
Wow. This is all new to me.
My friend bought a "Vern" from a Magic/costume shop, I think in the 1990's.
Then he gave it to me. I used it until it wore out.
This was back in the 1990's. I got my first computer in 2001. So I had no knowledge and no way of knowing of video copyrights.
How was I to know all this unless I got famous?
I have since bought about $1000.00+ of Axtell puppets and magic, mostly through other magic dealers. I just got a Big Baby from a member here at the Café! I like peforming with the Axtell products.

I have 3 like new Maher puppets. I just read the "retired Maher" site. I'm glad he thinks like this, and I will probably go back to using those.

I did have a friend who sews make me an original cloth stuffed type puppet to my specs. About 10 years ago. As I could not find one like this anywhere. So I always have that option.

I remember getting a Cookie Monster Puppet about 30 years ago. From a retail department store! It did not go over big. Many kids said: "I have one of those!"
So I got rid of it!
But my skill level was not that good back then anyway!
So it's not always the puppet, but the performer!

I have had great success with the "Pedro" I purchased a few years ago.
But I do so many shows, he is getting pretty ragged looking. So I retired him and got out a 'baby vern' I bought 10 years ago and never used. I guess I will retire him and go back to my Maher puppets.

I'm a nobody, and all this talk scares me into not wanting to use a puppet that has a liscense on it.

Puppet makers:
Just think of me as a potential future customer. I have to replace puppets every few years because of the amount of shows I do. And I will be doing this the rest of my life. If I have to worry about being seen on a video with a certain puppet, the chances are I will not buy it.

And I am in so many places, I am always getting videoed. It does not bother me. It seems everyone has a hand held video recorder. I have no idea what people do with those videos. I know most are for home use. But who knows? I am not one of those famous guys with a no video clause in his contract. I like video!
And I want the option to do Media if it comes to me!

I feel if I paid the purchase price for a tool, it is mine to use creatively as I please.

I was one of the magicians(that happens to use puppets!) that corresponded with Tom, and I told him I would pipe in with my two bits! Just things from my life! Hope this helps!

Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jun 7, 2008 08:03PM)
I don't have a serious problem with Axtell's policy on stock figures. Clearly Steve owns the rights to those images. My real objection is to find out about it long after having bought the figures. On the other hand, as much as I love Vern, I'd rather not use figures that the audience sees other performers using. I may have to try my hand at figure making (for my own use not for selling). I have a background in art and sculpture and have done a fair amount of mold making. I guess it's time.
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jun 7, 2008 10:08PM)
My latex skunk and Vern are listed in the vent buy/sell thread. If interested I'm open to offers.
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 8, 2008 01:35AM)
This is beginning to resemble the tiny snowball rolling down the ski slope. Do you allreally want it to pick up speed and catch you on the way down?

Since Ax seems to be a focus here, might it not be proper to give him a few days of thought and weighing all the aspects before you toss your cookies back into the blender? Remember all the effort you all put into your shows and the good feelings you had about the Axtell puppets and what they brought to the table FOR YOU to be able to move ahead with a professional appearance from the get go. Take into consideration all the effort, passion and blood sweat and tears put in by AX for the benefit of the industry (and YOU). DUES were paid big time and sure there are upstarts and wanna bees (some very talanted) popping up all over the place...but shouldn't the Ax be given the benefit of the doubt and a time to consider all the ramifications before jumping ship? Hasn't he and his team earned that much? Your call of course but wow...yes this is a serious and important discussion to be sure...these are very touchy issues but it's beginning to see like there is a hint of 'knee jerking' going on...I don't blame anyone for that but I do caution to maybe slow down a bit and let the person who should have earned our respect weigh the pros and cons before running amok. It's what negotiations are all about after all. If all the Axtell name is just another comodoty to use and toss then something is realy missing here.

Read my other posts, you know where I stand but I also have a boat load of respect for Ax and what he has accomplished for all of us and that deserves a bit of allowance on our part to do other than threaten his business and position in the industry.

Just my opinion...but I know many of you, infact I introduce Oliver every time he steps on a stage (and others too) so I have a personal torment going on here...I'm on your side but also I completely resist the idea that Ax hasn't EARNED every bit of leeway we can offer.

Sorry for the speech...but time for reflection and thinking rather than acting...me thinks.

Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 8, 2008 08:00AM)
I agree with Doug :)

I think we should not do anything we might regret in the future. I don't know what to do without my Axtell family despite the fact that I have my own puppets...you know what I mean.

The issue on Media Rights is important specially for us vents /magicians who are planning to make a DVD or something like that...and I'm sure Ax will address the problem in a way that is acceptable to all of us.

I'm also suggesting that issues concerning Media Rights be addressed on a one on one basis...case to case.

Tom respects Ax and I'm sure all of us do...so let us consider that respect when we post comments and specially before we do drastic steps.

Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 8, 2008 09:23AM)
Oh by the way...I post comments both as a puppet buyer and seller.

I agree with most puppet makers that when a puppet has been bought, it's the new owner's right to use it any possible way he can...

...copyright must be against people who might copy your designs and sell it as his.

As a seller, it will be an honor for my puppet team to see our works being used in Vent DVD's :) As a buyer, it will be so cool not to pay extra for the use of the puppets I own in my DVD projects.

That's basically how I feel...

I respect both Tom and Ax...and the rest of us participating in this thread. So far it does remain as an intelligent discussion and I hope we all keep it that way :)

I'd like to use this hot topic to promote the puppets I'm selling but that would sound unfair. So I won't ask you to visit our temporary website at http://kadoopsypuppets.multiply.com/

Thanks :)

Message: Posted by: axtell (Jun 8, 2008 09:53AM)
Thanks guys.... Please don't forget that we at Axtell Expressions give a lot more value to our tens of thousands of customers than just puppet characters....

For over 10 years we have maintained, paid for and continue to fund the International Performer's Directory. This is something that we offer free for all puppeteers & magicians... http://www.axtell.com/performers.html This is a way for you to promote your entertainment business to event coordinators, party planners, booking agents, and those wanting to hire a performer. Are you listed?

Free Learning Center Resources....http://www.axtell.com/learn.html
Vent Lesson....Manipulation tips... and much more.

Free Marketing resources... http://www.axtell.com/marketing.html
Idea to help make your business grow....

We have over hired staff to keep production time short... I will hire more if needed. We are not very profitable....it's a very expensive business, and I've risked it all many times by refinancing our house several times to stay afloat.

Then there is R&D. We invest heavily in the areas of new products for you. We spent over $20,000 developing the Remote Control Board.... I won't even tell you what we are spending as a team on the Hands-Free. It's insane. But...we are here to create new products that you can use in your shows and in your work. Hopefully it will be profitable, but who knows? The ideas are endless for me....I have over 200 written down yet to do....and then many submissions come in every day from customers all over the world. We have no shortage of new things to excite the entertainment world with....

Any of you that are long time customers will know that we support you all the way. This is not a part time venture for us. It's MUCH more than media rights to us. We have encouraged, provide resources, idea, and connections over the years for many of you. We often refer customer to other puppet makers as well. We have done so for over many different puppet companies in the last few years alone. We can't make everything we get asked about...so when a job comes along that we cannot do for one reason or another.... I refer people all the time to MAT Puppets or Conrad, or Selberg, or Pavlov or Handemonium, etc.

So thank you for your kind words and thoughts....and a little time to figure this out would be appreciated. Ax
Message: Posted by: mthat (Jun 8, 2008 09:55AM)
Thanks for the reply Tom. I will be posting a lengthier reply to the other sections, but wanted to reply to the LesPaul/Dummy analogy first. While I agree with you that the performer is adding a substantial amount of value to the act with the voice, character and stage presence, I do not believe that dummies are just another prop, and although you protest, I don't think you do either. If I substitute one magic wand for another, it doesn't change the act (ignoring special wands). If I substitute one guitar for a similar one, the fingerings, chords etc. stay the same. It's different for puppets that start with a certain look or have a special character (for example vent dummies or special puppets), substituting them with another dummy/puppet may and probably would require changes in the act. I can understand a beginning performer not understanding this, but most professional stage professionals (comedians, actors, magicians, etc.) will understand what I mean. After you've spent time, energy and money perfecting an act, you try not to change it.
When I went to your website, I was impressed with the professional layout. It suggests you have considerable experience, and are not just a beginner. The layout suggests that your actions are not in line with what you have argued. In your argument you mentioned that "it was you, your voice, your timing, your pacing.." and that it was your "talent" and "not the figure". However in your web page layouts, all I see are pictures showcasing the different puppets you use, along with a brief character sketch (excepting the photo of you with the "Big Mouth " prop). If you really believe that the puppets are incidental, why are you putting all your advertising showcasing the puppets, rather than having video segments showcasing your voice, talent, and performance, or is this discussion solely to rally the crowd and try to put pressure on certain people?
There are real issues involved here that will affect the entire performance industry for a long time, and that is why I am writing this. Its easy to call for the guillitine, until its your head on the chopping block. This is a small community, and I hope that those involved will not make personal attacks, but look at the issues, and take time to discuss them objectively so that whatever decisions are reached, that they will be as amicable to everyone as possible. In my next post, I will try and layout some of the issues as I see them for discussion.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 8, 2008 10:35AM)
On 2008-06-08 10:23, Wanlu wrote:
I'd like to use this hot topic to promote the puppets I'm selling but that would sound unfair. So I won't ask you to visit our temporary website at http://kadoopsypuppets.multiply.com/

LOL - Cute Wanlu, real cute!

I started this thread and have not done anything with any of my figures yet. I have not taken anything off of my web site or advertising. I have taken a puppet out of my show, to work with figures I know I'm using on the DVD, but I haven't gotten rid of it. I'm waiting to see how this plays out.

Oliver PM'd me to say he was selling his figures. I asked what would happen if Axtell changed the policy - might he want to keep them? He gave me a very good answer and I'm sure he will share it here. Each person has to make up their own mind - but please don't jump off the Axtell ship yet.

Steve and his company provide quality figures with loads of visual appeal. He delivers top notch customer service. They are innovators in the field. Its a great company and they deal with major media as well as "little guys" like me. Steve and company do need time to sort through the legal and financial complications of making any changes to their policy. Its not as simple as saying - okay.

Thanks Doug for pointing that out - and Wanlu for echoing the comments. I feel I am most to blame here. I've been trying to raise awareness of this issue and invite others to share their opinions. If we get great input from a wide range of performers and puppet/figure makers - as Steve said - we may actually be able to create a new industry standard. A pretty powerful thought.

Because the rights issue wasn't widely known - some have contacted me that are extremely upset - and a few are worried about legal situations. That tends to cause an emotional response. Lets continue to get views - and not rush to judge anyone on this matter.
Message: Posted by: mthat (Jun 8, 2008 10:44AM)
The topic of this discussion was "Copyright" but what this topic is really referring to are properly called "Intellectual Property Rights" Intellectual Property rights include statutory rights like copyright, trademark and patents, and contractual rights like mechanical, sync, and licensing fees/royalties. A single product may utilize one or more of these rights. The rights, benefits, and liabilities vary according to different countries, jurisdictions, and treaties. While the multi-layered jurisdiction is difficult enough, the laws being applied are sixty years behind the times, and struggling to catch up. As many know, the advance of technology now allows instant publication and production by almost anyone. Many of the royalties, fees, and costs are not new. Major recording studios and film studios had lawyers on staff to handle the various permissions, consents, contracts, licenses, fee etc. that were required for a production. The royalty free music previously mentioned by Tom, was a response for radio and television stations so they would have musical bumpers that did not require additional permissions or fees. Now many companies have new opportunities (such as user generated media, and distribution rights) that require manufacturers, producers and creators to develop policies and procedures for. Its like finding oil on your land, and trying to find out how to market the additional revenue. Larger manufacturers/producers face different challenges than smaller producers.
Now that anyone can produce a DVD or You-tube, complaints about legal requirements and fees are growing in all arenas. Parents of students who cannot get a copy of a high school musical production, jugglers who can't use certain musin in their acts, etc. Those leading the industry are the first to hear about it because of their national/international stature. They are also the first to "defend" what seems to be as some have alleged "nickel and diming" people. Sometimes the issues are withing the control of the company, sometimes they aren't. For example, under U.S. trademark law, a trademark holder is Required to defend his/her trademark, or it can be lost. That is why many companies (ex. Disney) aggressively fight to maintain control of their IP.
These are tough economic times and companies need to be prudent to survive. Not that long ago, there was a company in England called "Pelham Puppets" which produced a high quality line of marionettes and puppets, and were distributed in the very best toy and stores. Economic pressures caused the company to close and for many years one could only find cheap "toy" quality puppets. While a mom&pop creator may be able to waive fees without any significant impact, those same fees may be all that keeps a larger company afloat. The negative impact of one character appearing in an illegal act on you-tube affects differs. For a individual creator, only one person suffers. For a larger company, that same act affects everyone who had purchased the same character. A smaller company can treat customers differently. Larger companies need to be fair to a larger more diverse group. While a Las Vegas performer may be able to afford certain fees for their DVD"s, that same rate may not be affordable for someone wanting to distribute a dvd of their act. Flat rates are easy to compute, but tend to hinder the small occasional performer and short changes the company. Percentage fees are easier for a small performer, but are expensive and paperwork intensive. As an industry, puppeteers and magicians need not only individual creators, but also the larger studios. I'm not trying to advocate for any one side, but hoping to clarify some of the issues facing both sides. While the final proposals may not be amicable to everyone (after all no one likes to pay for anything they don't have to), they should be fair both to the performer and to the manufacturer(whether big or small).
More later.
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 8, 2008 11:07AM)
With all due respect...may we know who Glenn is please :)

I know a Glenn who is a figure maker...so I'm guessing Glenn might be posting as a seller which I don't think anyone would mind as long as the comments of the buyers are also noted.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 8, 2008 12:20PM)
On 2008-06-08 10:55, mthat wrote:
While I agree with you that the performer is adding a substantial amount of value to the act with the voice, character and stage presence, I do not believe that dummies are just another prop, and although you protest, I don't think you do either. If I substitute one magic wand for another, it doesn't change the act (ignoring special wands). If I substitute one guitar for a similar one, the fingerings, chords etc. stay the same. It's different for puppets that start with a certain look or have a special character (for example vent dummies or special puppets), substituting them with another dummy/puppet may and probably would require changes in the act.

mthat -
You've got two posts now. You started off asking questions as a lawyer and now come back doubting I believe my own responses. I have no idea who you are, but it doesn't sound by that post as though you are writing a book on law for performers. I don't know if you are trying to fan flames, but realize this, I am serious in my answers and I won't play any games with you. I want this to stay civilized.

Hope this clarifies your new line of "questioning".

I don't believe I ever said (or meant) all figures were the same. Certainly hard figures operate differently from soft puppets. Still, do you honestly believe one maker creates a say - "dumb" looking puppet and another does not? There is your special look. Using my dragon as the example - he has offset eyes - a very cute look - and I gave him a "dufus"/red neck character. Not too bright, but very loveable. I switched him out for my Bighead Deeder - which I had not finalized a character for yet. Deeder is a dufus/redneck looking figure - problem solved.

Is there a difference. Sure - one is a hard figure human, the other a soft figure animal. Still - the scripting and routine requires only minor changes. Did you know they can have the same voice? The same vocal inflections? I haven't worked with Deeder as much - so I have to work on getting comfortable with him - but I had to do the same thing with the soft puppet when I started using it. Oh - and the other difference - one requires a media fee - the other came with media rights.

I can understand a beginning performer not understanding this, but most professional stage professionals (comedians, actors, magicians, etc.) will understand what I mean. After you've spent time, energy and money perfecting an act, you try not to change it.

Professional stage professionals. Wow - that sounds professional. :) I've been a pro magician since 1984. I earn a living performing. In case you want to start a whole discussion on that, please save it for another thread.

I switched to vent a couple of years ago and now earning a living at that. As a magician - I had signature routines I loved to do - and I also continued to create new routines in favor of others. When I switched to vent - I dropped all that. My first shows were horrible even with my years of stage experience. I learned, wrote script, adapted and I'm having a blast with vent. THAT is a change of act. Any act can get stagnate if they don't adapt and change. Comedians do change their act - look at Dunham's specials - look at comedians like Robin Williams or Jerry Seinfeld when he returned to stand up. Musicians create new music even as they continue to play their classic hits. Sorry, but that is a pretty poor argument.

When I went to your website, I was impressed with the professional layout. It suggests you have considerable experience, and are not just a beginner. The layout suggests that your actions are not in line with what you have argued. In your argument you mentioned that "it was you, your voice, your timing, your pacing.." and that it was your "talent" and "not the figure". However in your web page layouts, all I see are pictures showcasing the different puppets you use, along with a brief character sketch (excepting the photo of you with the "Big Mouth " prop). If you really believe that the puppets are incidental, why are you putting all your advertising showcasing the puppets, rather than having video segments showcasing your voice, talent, and performance,

Why do I promote/show my puppets pictures and provide a bio on them? They are a part of the show. Why does any vent have a picture with his or her figures? Part of the show. Why do you see pictures of country stars with their guitars? Part of the show. I am a prop act - BUT I can use any prop. Sherrie Lewis used a sock.

I do include video of my "talent" on the site. Having me stand there and doing vent without a figure would work - but it isn't my act. It may become that - but it isn't now. I want clients to see what they can expect to see in the show - simple marketing - not bait and switch.

Did you read the quotes? Not a single one said the puppet was the star of the show. Funny how they all mentioned me though. How are the quotes not in line with my line of thought? Don't pull a single example without taking the whole site into consideration. I get jobs based on my presentation of the act - and yes, the presentation "I create" of the figures in my advertising.

or is this discussion solely to rally the crowd and try to put pressure on certain people?

That reads like a personal attack toward me. I'm not a vicious or petty person and carry no grudge against anyone or company. At the very least the statement tries to reframe and change this issue.

I am not trying to rally anyone into putting pressure on anyone. I spoke out against that above. I started this to get opinions - was it the norm? I had never heard of media rights - I'm not a "media person" - yet this affected me. I wanted to know - did others realize they may be affected? Most didn't know. Now I simply want call attention to the performer's rights or lack thereof to use a purchased figure. They can then make up their own minds.

I never mentioned anyone by name - and it wasn't until makers mentioned their policy in favor of fees that I said anything directly. Even then it wasn't negative, but simply to ask them to expand on their answer.

If people seem to be jumping - it is because they did not realize the issue existed and they are personally involved and upset. I will say it again - we can express opinions but should not do anything rash. If figure and puppet makers want to charge for media usage - they have that right. If customers want to purchase or not purchase from them - they have that right.

Personally all I'd like to see is the issue discussed so people know about it.

There are real issues involved here that will affect the entire performance industry for a long time, and that is why I am writing this. Its easy to call for the guillitine, until its your head on the chopping block. This is a small community, and I hope that those involved will not make personal attacks, but look at the issues, and take time to discuss them objectively so that whatever decisions are reached, that they will be as amicable to everyone as possible. In my next post, I will try and layout some of the issues as I see them for discussion.

No one is trying to cut off anyone's head here. So far, I've seen a fairly civilized discussion. (At least until I read your post and I'm hoping it wasn't intended that way.) If anyone believes I have attacked them (personally) unfairly, please send me the quote - give me your opinion and I will clarify my meaning or - if completely wrong - I will apologize. I'm not above doing that - see my apology post earlier in the thread.

I do agree with you on one thing - it is an important issue that will impact the performing community.
Message: Posted by: mthat (Jun 8, 2008 12:21PM)
Wanlu, My apologies. I included a brief intro in my first post, and thought it would be readily available, but I'll restate it. I am neither a seller nor a figure maker, but an attorney (cue boos and hisses), and my practice includes intellectual property law. I am presently in the process of writing a practical law book for smaller stage performers (cue cheers) such as magicians, puppeteers, theaters, comedians, jugglers etc., so this topic piqued my interest. Growing up in Florida I was graced to meet many retired vaudeville artists, magicians, and vents. My background includes performing magic, clowns, puppetry, comedy, theater and music in a variety of settings. My experience includes work in radio, television and production companies as a videographer, editor, director, producer, and production manager. With the media revolution, my background and experiences led me to want to write a practical "how to" book for performers facing IP and other legal issues. When I saw this topic and the legal confusion, I wanted to help clarify the legal issues so everyone could be treated fairly and the issues discussed objectively. It is important to remember that not everyone on this forum is from the same country and that laws can and do vary. While the application of the laws may differ, the issues are substantially the same. So I am not giving a legal opinion, but trying to educate and clarify what the legal positions of the parties are.
As a performer I want to know what I can and can't do, and to have an idea of what it might cost to do some things such as use a certain piece of music or a certain copyrighted article in my production. Then I can decide whether I want to use it, to change it, or whether the project is feasible at all.
As a owner of property having intellectual property tights, they want to maintain control over the use, value, and licensing rights so that the company can stay in business, the company complies with all governmental regulations, and is fair to its customers and investors.
Both parties require a clear and easy to understand policy to meet the above goals. Its worth remembering that even is a policy if fair and reasonable, not everyone will be happy with it.

Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 8, 2008 12:25PM)
Thanks Glenn :)
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 8, 2008 12:41PM)
Glenn -
Your "Intellectual Property Rights" makes a lot of sense. Just the kind of discussion I was looking for. I now have a better understanding of the issue, although I still have questions.

Would you please elaborate on this -
The negative impact of one character appearing in an illegal act on you-tube affects differs. For a individual creator, only one person suffers. For a larger company, that same act affects everyone who had purchased the same character. A smaller company can treat customers differently. Larger companies need to be fair to a larger more diverse group.

How would the larger company defend their product if they never requested seeing the script - or reviewing the video before it is released? If the fee was charged and permission given - and the user of the product does damage the reputation of the puppet - wouldn't the other customers then have legal recourse against the company based on the fact it granted rights?

Message: Posted by: mthat (Jun 8, 2008 12:50PM)

I apologize if you felt the previous post sounded like a personal attack. It was not meant to be. As I mentioned your website is nicely done, conveys your professionalism, but appeared to me inconsistent with your previous argument. I'll change subjects next and talk about media fees after I get some sleep.
Also my apologies for any typos or spelling errors. I'm also working on two other projects and trying to work this in, so not much time for error checking. I'm new to this forum, and just found the edit button.

Glenn Martell
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jun 8, 2008 12:59PM)
This is to clarify my position and why I'm selling Vern and the skunk. I'm not selling them to protest the media rights. I don't like the restriction but it doesn't impact me at all as I'm not planning to do any videos or TV appearances. This discussion got me thinking about originality and the effect on my image of using figures that are used by most other ventriloquists. At this time I want to move towards unique or at least uncommon figures.

I love Steve's work. He's a great artist and I agree that he owns the rights to the images he's created. I'm sure he'll work out the details of how to protect his rights while permitting performers to use his characters profitably to do their work. Clearly it would be a violation of Steve's right to his images if someone were to use the image of Vern to sell products, or if I sold Vern T-shirts. So there's a line that needs to be defined and I'll leave that to the lawyers.
Message: Posted by: Acecardician (Jun 8, 2008 02:07PM)
Hello all:

I am not a vent. I'm a magician that has a puppet that does a magic trick. The trick is the focus, and a puppet greatly enhances my routine. I started with a dog puppet I got at a convention with no paperwork, so I guess he is a mutt! Unable to replace him, I got some feathered friends to take his place. Any puppet could actually do the job. But the feathered guys are readily available and are really really fun to work with. ( I now have lots and lots of puppets!)

I don't plan on doing media. I just want to take the opportunity to do it if it comes my way.

What confuses me, is that one of the guys who supplies my major source of props, has no notice of copyright. Here is his ad for Puppets: http://www.hanklee.org/xcart/product.php?productid=3135&cat=0&page=1

So when he purchases the product from the maker, does he take up the liability?
If I used it in media, would he be responsible since I did not know?

I usually discard instructions after getting a prop that I already know what I'm going to do with.

Then if rights were on the instructions, and I did read them, I would not know until after purchasing.

Since reading this thread. I did go to the site in question. It did take me a few minutes to find the copyright. When I was looking for it.

Copyrights are something I never thought about as a consumer. When I go to a puppet site(or any magic site for that matter), I am usually like a kid in a toy store. I click right to where I want to go. Right to the merchandise. Time seems to get shorter as I get older. So I don't waist time reading anything except the product info that is posted by the product, price and postage, things like that. And I have seen a few magic effects from other dealers that say "TV rights included" or "TV rights reserved" which helped me make the decision. And never bothered me at all.

What I'm trying to say in all this: I think a lot of us never knew a policy existed on puppets. So one line should be in all the advertising, even ads by other dealers commissioned to sell the products, either saying "media rights included" or "media rights not included".
This line should be in every description by every single item for sale everywhere.
I think this would end all confusion.

ACE ;)
Message: Posted by: Acecardician (Jun 8, 2008 04:32PM)
Hi again.

This topic has really been helpful to me.
It's been making me think. I think the above routine I mentioned is worth putting on DVD for sale. I met David Kaye at a convention years ago. He asked me for something to print in his column at the time. I never got around to it. But this is what I would have given him. If I do release it to him, I thought it would be easier to send a performance on DVD for him to write up. Also anyone interested could purchase a DVD to see the routine. It is about 30 years in the making. Many, many bits of business are developed into the routine, a lot of it from things kids say. When they say something funny, I remember it. And provoke new kids to say these things in the next show for the laughs. The only way you can learn this is by doing it thousands of times. Or watching me do it.

Although my routine was developed with a generic Dalmatian dog puppet, it can be used with almost any puppet. I recently added 'Pedro' and the arm illusion and that works well. At Easter I use a Rabbit puppet. For safety shows I used McGruff. I wrote Steve a few years ago about a Reindeer puppet for Christmas.
And I am planning on getting more birds, as this does work equally well with them all year long. And they are goofy, fun, and colorful. And I like to collect stuff I can use in the future.

BUT: It is the magic content and the routine that I would be selling. No vent. is in my routine(although it could be added).
I will mainly be bringing magicians over to puppets. Any maybe make future puppeteers.

It seems that whatever puppet I use, would bring more sales to that puppet maker.
I could put where to get the puppet on the DVD.
A magician just beginning with puppets would probably want to use the one I used in the demo performance. Especially after seeing my routine.
But my DVD could also include several different puppets doing the magic trick, to show how each one works well in its own way.
Maybe someone could donate 10 or 20 different puppets to me?(lol) Or lend them for filming. I could demo the effect with each one. And make future sales for the puppet maker.

Now my market would be so small, I would probably loose money if made a DVD. The puppet maker would probably make more from new sales of puppets.
So I eagerly await what is going to happen. As this could change the outcome of this future project I may do.

Then I could always just put the routine on youtube for free!
Anything wrong with that?

ACE ;)
Message: Posted by: mthat (Jun 8, 2008 07:40PM)
Thanks for the puppet liability scenario, Tom. As much as I'd like to bite that apple, your hypothetical would be very fact specific, and I'll wait for a rich client to answer that question (I see lots of billable hours in it.).
Its a common misconception that intent, whether its to make money, or is too small to matter are relevant. Under civil copyright law, you have permission or you don't. If you don't have permission, and you aren't included on one of the statutory exclusions, you have violated the owners copyright and are potentially liable.
Copyright issues are everywhere. For example, users posting comments in this forum are permitting the owner of this forum to use the contents of this forum thereof. Although I'm wanting to help explain some basic principles, I also want to maintain control of my work and where/how it is published. To facilitate the discussion, as well as to prevent really long posts, I'll be posting my content offsite, and provide a URL link for more detailed information.
The first IP area discussed will cover basic copyright law, which I hope will be helpful.

See link: http://www.domine.net/gmpa/media.htm

I look forward to your comments, suggestions and questions.

Message: Posted by: axtell (Jun 8, 2008 11:08PM)
Glenn...Your upcoming book sound both exciting and important. Finally so many mysteries will be made clear. How exciting! Our little niche of entertainment is maturing! There are so many of my customers going from part time to professional, or from pro to world famous. This will be very good for us all to become aware of the laws that we work within on a daily basis as entertainers. I'm sure it is a labor of love, as so much of what we do is, so I thank you for writing it. Being that you are also an entertainer makes you VERY aware of our questions and situations.

Oliver...Axtell makes a ton of exclusive one of a kind custom puppets too..... http://www.axtell.com/custom.html

Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 9, 2008 03:21AM)
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jun 9, 2008 04:49AM)
Great stuff, Steve. I almost wish I could work at your factory! It looks like a great mix of art and engineering.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 9, 2008 06:30AM)
I've decided to stop posting on this thread unless specifically addressed becasue, some felt I was putting pressure on people. That was never my intent.

My views are stated throughout and I apologize if I dominated any discussion. This is a subject I feel strongly about. One last thing before I go - Ventriloquist Central posted a guest blog about the topic. Bill Nelson & Lee Dean have contributed thoughts there:

I appreciate everyone helping to raise awareness of the issue and contributing their opinions. I hope you will continue to have an excellent discussion.
Message: Posted by: Keith Singleton (Jun 9, 2008 12:41PM)
Consider this - if there was no added fee for mass distribution/profits from dvds, Ax's characters would get too heavily exposed, cheapening a lot of great acts that depend on them. There is absolute value in being unique. That is what you are paying for - the uniqueness of getting to make money in media off Ax's figures. That uniqueness "wears off" when they are in cheap amateur videos all over the place; ones that don't deserve to make a profit.

I think of figures, the best of them, as original works of art that are the prime focus of attention in a vent act. If you spend a lot of money producing a high quality video with great lighting and sound, sets, artwork, etc., then why not spend part of that budget (don't do it if you don't have one) on the star of your show? If I spend a lot of dough to produce a video, I want to know these characters are special and not pedestrian. Yet to a beginner vent, one is as good as another, and that is sooo wrong. It is crucial to have just the right figure for your show. To allow a measley fee to stop one from making the best possible choice for one's act just shows a lack of seriousness about the art. It devalues it.
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jun 9, 2008 05:53PM)
Thanks for sharing your viewpoint on the issue. That's an interesting way to look at it.

Message: Posted by: axtell (Jun 9, 2008 08:20PM)
I have met with my team and will be posting more info soon. Check out our webpage tomorrow. http://www.axtell.com

Steve Axtell
Message: Posted by: mthat (Jun 10, 2008 06:07AM)
After reading some of the other posts, I thought it would be good to interject a section on "Why Intellectual Property Rights Are Good For Creative People" The lengthy segment can be found at: http://www.domine.net/gmpa/media2.htm

The Next section will be on trademarks and why they are important to any performer/artist.

Hope you enjoy them,

Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Jun 10, 2008 09:35AM)
I haven't read all the lengthy posts in detail here, so maybe I'm repeating what someone has said. Keith Singleton (four posts above) has a valid point - and further to what he says, imagine if someone were to get a lot of TV coverage using one of Axtell's stock characters....then all the other vents who also use that puppet would have problems whenever they use the puppet. The kids would be shouting out that it's ANOTHER puppet, who's associated with a TV personality....I can see this becoming a very sticky issue.
And as far as I'm aware, all the Axtell puppets have a label clearly stating that media rights are restricted, so I don't understand how so many folks seem to be unaware of this policy.
For the price you pay for these excellent puppets, you can go and make a good living working live shows. Steve will allow you to use the puppets on DVDs etc if you contact him and pay a royalty fee; and my feeling is that if your puppets are likely to get extensive TV coverage, then it would be prudent, and fair to the other vents who use the same figure, to ask Steve to make a custom puppet solely for your own use.
We all know Steve Axtell is a sound guy, and a great artist. I'm quite sure he'll come up with a satisfactory solution that will address most if not all of the issues being discussed on this thread.
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 10, 2008 10:26AM)
I wish you had pointed that out before! Even Steve didn't point that out! I honestly had never read the label - which is visible on one figure, but further up inside the other. Apparently I'm not the only one who didn't read it. Looked more like a care tag...

I agree that major exposure would be unfair - but as you stated in the earlier post, in your case it may have allowed the producer to show a routine or puppet you preferred using. Its not an easy balance.

I'm sure that Steve and company gave this a lot of consideration and I'm curious as to how he will handle things. Axtell has always been a leader in the field and concerned about clients - so I've no doubt whatever he decides will be accepted as a new standard. Even if he doesn't change his policy - I've no doubt he will make it more visible and help educate new customers.

Although Axtell kind of became the focus because of the company policy, it was never intended to be just about them. I still think that this a great subject and Glenn's recent additions to explain the rules of Intellectual Property are eye opening. If nothing else - it raised the thought of how custom figures can benefit the professional performer. Maybe that will be the legacy of this thread - creating more custom jobs for all figure makers.


BTW - I know I said I'd stop posting here - but I was told I hadn't crossed any lines. I'm glad of that.
Message: Posted by: Acecardician (Jun 10, 2008 12:09PM)
I was going to stop posting also, since I'm not a vent. But thanks for opening our eyes to the labels on the puppets. This could have stoped a lot of needless posts.(by me!)
I have in my lap 3 Axtell Puppets.
Pedro Parrot has a label that states: "media Rights reserved!"
I have a "Baby Vern" and the label states nothing about media rights, it just states: "All rights reserved"(that's pretty broad)
And I have an amazing Ape, the label also states: "all rights reserved".

This still does not help someone know ahead of time, when they mail order a puppet from a contracted seller.

But now I do know, no excuses!
If I do media, I can do the right thing.

And for my everyday regular shows, I can still pretty much use whatever puppet I like, who-ray!

ACE :)
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 10, 2008 02:54PM)
There were no 'needless posts'. There were NO concerns mentioned anywhere in this thread that were not valid. All were valid or honest ignorance or stemming from a need to know. No need for anyone to appologize as this was one of the best threads ever on the Café IMO. These are issues that are out there and obviously misunderstood by all sides. We all know where we are coming from now and the final destination will be one of knowledge rather than heresay.

(BTW: 'All Rights Reserved' doesn't cut it as an explaination BUT it can/should direct the pupeteer to the manufacturer for clarity.)

My 2 cents is that if YOU are poised to hit the big time why would you not spring for an original? You would want to use say a 'Vern' that everybody and their Uncle Louie is using? This is a specatacular puppet no doubt about that...and everything one would need for a regional presentation...leave your personal space and you can count on many other 'Verns' being used. It's a 'ready made' and used by countless folks skilled or not. Steve can custom anything you want and it seems to me if you are rising to the big pay check it demands it. Would you use an old 'Charlie'?

I have no intention of going to a big time or even mediocre time but I'm having an 'original one of a kind all rights' done by Wanlu. The price is more than right and the time is right while they get their biz in full gear. Strike while he needs you!! haha.

BUT there seem to be many of you out there who OWE Steve some loyalty and the oportunity to serve your needs with a custom. No? Did you not get your start in a more professional arena through the Axtell puppets? You graduated from your stinky sock to...? Vern? Hello? Wanlu asks, the Ax asks (and I ask in my own area of expertise) only the oportunity. Some of you have vast collections of Axtell creations...one would think it's a no brainer to step up.

Meanwhile though, CLARITY is necessary in all the parameters of the sale.

Great thread...keep it rolling!
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 10, 2008 03:28PM)
Hitting the big time has many different meanings for many different people. Just like success. Stock figures still have a valid place in this business. While I could replace Dangerous Duck with a custom piece - Pavlovs' figure started with me and, like a comfortable tool, I enjoy working with it. I would certainly work with Pavlovs if I ever decided to go custom on that figure.

Custom or stock - at any level of the business, the purchaser AND the figure maker should discuss the issue of performance rights, intellectual property rights and copyrights prior to the sale. If you are buying a professional puppet or figure - it is the professional thing to do.
Message: Posted by: axtell (Jun 10, 2008 03:31PM)
Okay you got it! Thanks again for all your input everyone. Here is our new "no fee" media policy for our loyal customers!


Steve Axtell
Axtell Expressions, Inc.
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jun 10, 2008 04:13PM)
That looks great to me, Steve. Thanks for being so responsive to your customer's concerns.
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 10, 2008 04:30PM)
Now that's service and showing great respect for the customer. I expected nothing less from the King. The AX has re-entered the building. :)
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Jun 10, 2008 06:34PM)
Ax, you rock!
Customer service par excellence!
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 10, 2008 08:58PM)
Merry Christmas everyone!!! :)

Now who will not love Axtell Expressions. :)

Thanks Steve :)

...and thanks Tom and everyone who participated in this thread :)

Now...let me go to that Axtell website and try to buy a new puppet just to show my appreciation... :)

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 10, 2008 09:19PM)
Steve Axtell is truly a class act and I want to thank him for making history with this thread. Everyone knows Steve is considered to be one of the top puppet makers in the world. His custom creations are in demand by name acts like Terry Fator and major production companies. But Steve also takes the time to help and has concern for every customer regardless of their level in the business.

His policy does set a new standard. With Axtell's status as a leader in the industry, performance rights, media rights, copy rights and intellectual property rights will now remain visible, be easier to understand and obtainable by all performers.

And so, as I posted other performer friendly figure and puppet makers - I now happily add Axtell Expressions to the list! You can find them at:

and they are highly recommended!
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 10, 2008 09:19PM)
I had the same thought Wanlu! I'm looking...hmmm
Message: Posted by: Acecardician (Jun 10, 2008 09:57PM)
I do need a new arm illusion, as I just completely wore out the one I had...and a new bird puppet to add to my collection would be cool...
my order is in.

ACE ;)
Message: Posted by: axtell (Jun 10, 2008 10:24PM)
The orders are greatly appreciated! I need to offset my new losses! Ha. : )

Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 11, 2008 05:38AM)
D: Hi Steve!

S: Call me Ax...

D: Ax...

S: Yeah...Ax

D: Then I'll have to change the letter in front of your dialog line...

A: Go for it...

D: You seem a bit uncomfortable...

A: (looks at Doug) Ya think? Can we say "My Night MARE!"

D: It is a bit of a switch isn't it...

A: Oh yeah...like when I got up this morning there was a flood of anticipation that later in the day I would be sittin on a knee and have a strangers hand inside my head manipulating my face...and what's with the arm!!??

D: I'm sorry...but it's my job...

A: Your job...more like The Revenge of the Puppets...

D: Well it is good to put your self in anothers shoes...

A: Shoes I wouldn't mind...a wrist in the neck, I get qualms...

D: Yes...I understand...kind of like what went on at the Magic Café this week..

A: Now that was interesting...

D: I think you handeled it rather well...

A: You do...

D: Yes

A: This is what I get for changing my company's policy...an elbow in the coccyx?
A simple wedgy wasn't enough?

D: I think you made many new friends

A: I think I got many old friends...

D: Sounds like the set up to a song...

A: NO! That's where I draw the line...put the glass of water down...no way are you going to make me sing...CUE The Dragon! OREO! Where's OREO! Oh my gawd....

Row Row Row......

(sound fx of wind chimes)

Steve...Steve...wake up...it's ok...here...have a sip of water...
Message: Posted by: axtell (Jun 11, 2008 10:59AM)
Ha! Very creative Doug. My favorite line is... "Well it is good to put yourself in another's shoes... "

That's what we did this week. You stepped into my shoes, and I stepped into yours. Let us never stop doing that! The more we consider another's point of view the bigger we become. Media rights fees are part of the media industry and it's standard, but you are a niche of puppet users that are first stage performers. The media industry paradigm doesn't feel right to you, so we AXed it on our characters. I think we will make up for that with customer trust and continued orders.

Tom thank you for initiating this and for staying with us! Potty thanks for your story and for your loyalty (it made the difference) ...Oliver thanks for keeping us in your show....everyone else we appreciate your heart felt comments.

Other puppet makers and figure builders.... it's not only competition, we are in this together in so many ways. We refer some customers to you, thank you for referring some to us. We all want to be keenly aware of copyright issues. We need to help each other be aware of dangers and concerns in the marketplace. We need to continually praise excellence in each others work. We will all grow as our industry is growing.

Ventriloquists....we are in a real powerful season of growth....our little corner of entertainment is becoming a professional industry. We are expanding in exposure all over the world, fast becoming a respected form of entertainment. We need to be in step with professional standards and legal issues. Glenn we are all looking forward to your legal book! We can all use that as a platform for these rights discussions.

Axtell Expressions is currently featured in the PUPPETRY JOURNAL MAGAZINE. It is the mag of the Puppeteers of America. One of the puppet related organizations. I am sure there are some practice standards there to analyze. We can also borrow from the Magic community. I hear from so many vents who started out as Doug said with a sock who are now rockin' full-time businesses with puppets & magic. Some of these will progress on to super stars....we all will benefit and build on their successes.

Please join our Newsletter mailing list to stay in touch. We We are about to announce 5-6 new BIGGIES. You can sign up at http://www.axtell.com

Steve Axtell
Axtell Expressions
Message: Posted by: chris mcbrien (Jun 11, 2008 05:07PM)
Steve, re-read my comment on your web page.
"Steve did the entertainment world a BIG favor when he opened the doors of Axtell!"
Chris McBrien
I still stand by every word of that.
Steve, You DA MAN!!!!!!
What you just did is yet another way you've show how much you love this artform along with the great products and service you've already been putting out there for our benefit for years. Many best wishes to you and your family for being here for us! Thanks for another great gift to us!
Chris (Dedicated Axtell Customer!)
Message: Posted by: Red Shadow (Jun 12, 2008 04:00AM)
Steve, Thankyou, Thankyou, Thankyou!

You are a star in the world of puppets and magic, and your decision has just cost me my next four paychecks, since I'm about to spend them on new puppets!
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 12, 2008 06:30AM)
We've also generated some interest in the art here. I've gotten more than one e-mail that this inspired people to use a bit of simple vent and start practicing!
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Jun 12, 2008 10:13AM)
I never doubted that Steve would resolve this matter, but hey, he's done in in his own inimitable way, with grace and style. Steve, you lead and others will follow....
Thanks so much for giving so much to the world of kids' entertainment!
Message: Posted by: Mind_Magic (Jun 12, 2008 12:24PM)
On 2008-06-10 21:58, Wanlu wrote:

Now...let me go to that Axtell website and try to buy a new puppet just to show my appreciation... :)


Agree. I just placed an order for one Puppet from a series of four I need for a foreigner show.

Thanks Steve!
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 13, 2008 07:20AM)
I have heard from another figure maker - Mike Brose. Mike also sells kits that allow people to build their own figures. Here is Mike's response:
Hi Tom,

Our policy for using our figures in a high profile performance or mass
media distribution situation, is the same for our finished figures that
we make and sell or the kit figures that our customers have built from
our cast parts. We have no problem with anyone using them for TV,
movies, DVDs or other such mass media. So there are really no
restrictions or any special financial arrangements that need to be made
when using our products in such high profile performances. For instance,
when 'The Character Shop' (a very talented special effects company)
wanted to use one of our character faces for a Sprint commercial .......


.... we were quite pleased to let them use the 'Fred' character for this
purpose. The Character shop was a wonderful company to work with BTW.

My wife and I answer a lot of questions from customers and prospective customers every week, so if anyone has any further questions on this or any other figure related questions, drop us an email!

Thanks Tom for starting such a beneficial discussion about this. I
definitely think all in the ventriloquist community have benefited!
Please feel free to post my comments in the Café. If I can be of any
further help, just let me know.

Best Regards,

Mike Brose
Message: Posted by: Wanlu (Jun 13, 2008 11:25AM)
And Mike Brose is such a pro to deal with. Quite a great guy and very helpful in building figures...

I recently corresponded with him concerning one of my hard figure's face lift :)
Message: Posted by: Tod Todson (Jun 16, 2008 05:44PM)
Oh man, this all could have turned into some pretty bad feelings.

When I saw Potty's story, that really got to me personally.

Thank you for your classy decision Ax, taking a "higher road" than perhaps the lawyers and business bobble-heads said was needed.

All the commentary this weekend on Tim Russert shows how we should all aim to be thought of and remembered.

A very grateful customer (and continued fan),
Tod Torrent
Message: Posted by: Acecardician (Jun 17, 2008 02:31PM)
Just received my New Axtell Bug-off Buzzard and arm illusion.
His red nose matches my clown characters nose! We are going to have lots of fun!
I am creating a Pirate Character, and will be looking into the Real McCaw.

I'm happy this topic worked out well for everyone.
Thanks Ax, for putting your customers first!

Message: Posted by: axtell (Jun 17, 2008 03:29PM)
Thank you all for your kind words.

Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Jun 25, 2008 11:10AM)
I just got an e-mail from Mary Ann of MAT Puppets.
Tom - Sorry it has taken so long to get back with you - we have been out of town and I wanted to give your question a lot of thought - My daughter is making puppets and I also want to protect her - as of now and I can't see it changing - I have no policy - you buy it and it is yours - the more you put the puppet out there and the more money you make on it the happier I am - if you have any other questions just let me know - take care - Mary Ann

You can find MAT puppets at:
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 25, 2008 02:07PM)
I love her Misc. U10. haha. Cool.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 9, 2008 02:58PM)
On 2008-06-05 07:03, ku7uk3 wrote:
Steve (Axtell) - I have a question.

I purchased the Axtell Drawing board and Chimp from a local magic auction. They are now currently used in my show. I have some great original routines with them, that I devised.
I am planning on producing a DVD to sell to other magicians, showing my routines along with my other puppet routines.
This doubt this DVD will not be released into supermarkets or high streets etc. It's sales will be mainly limited to my own website and eBay.

Since I bought these second hand, I had no knowledge of any media issues. The DVD is not targeted for public domain, just to help other magicians.

Am I allowed to use them in the video?


Just a point of information, Steve. I'm sure Glenn (da lawyer) will back me up on this.

"Public domain" does not mean the same thing as "the general public." Public domain is a legal term that means that an item is not protected by copyright or patent. For example, Bobo's [i]Modern Coin Magic[/i] went out of copyright when Jay Marshall neglected to copyright the old version of the book when he issued [i]The New Modern Coin Magic.[/i] The original book, which was significantly different passed into the public domain, which gave Dover the ability to put out their own copy of it. As a matter of fact, ANYONE can put out their own copy of the original book.

This is why many of the Hoffmann books and other magical classics have been reprinted. Erdnase is in the public domain. However, [i]Revelations[/i] is not, because it is also the explanations of the material that Vernon had added to the book.