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tacrowl
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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.
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Wanlu
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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 Smile

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.

Thanks

Wanlu


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... Smile
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tacrowl
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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...
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chris mcbrien
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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.
However,
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.
C
tacrowl
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Quote:
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?
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chris mcbrien
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Quote:
On 2008-05-30 00:07, tacrowl wrote:
Quote:
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.
C
tacrowl
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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?
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Doug Higley
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I would turn this around if that's what a maker wants to do is charge extra...if I am the performer and the name that people pay to see, then I would require the Puppet Maker to put my 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 any Puppet maker first starts out they would kill to have a DVD made of their creation...and they would kill 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 practice doll.

True...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 that is what you are paying for in my estimation.

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

Having said that...if 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...read 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.
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Wanlu
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LOL Doug...for the record my PM to you was sent before I read this. Smile
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Neale Bacon
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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.
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Wanlu
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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 free.

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. Smile
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tacrowl
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Quote:
On 2008-06-01 10:04, Doug Higley wrote:
I would require the Puppet Maker to put my 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.
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Wanlu
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Quote:
On 2008-06-02 08:59, tacrowl wrote:

... Please note I am not pointing out any specific maker or makers.


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...
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Doug Higley
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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 will 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 intent 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 live performance rights?
Media permission is needed? Funds will be due or is it my character once sold? Are only certain 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 credit 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 all that, here is this...

Maybe 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 why 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.

Doug
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tacrowl
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Doug,
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...
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Doug Higley
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Your correct as you have been all along.

It will affect sales overall though because now it is out 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:
Quote:
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 should hurt their business...as it will 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 after 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
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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.
Ax
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tacrowl
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Quote:
On 2008-06-02 12:36, Doug Higley wrote:
You said:
Quote:
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 should hurt their business...as it will 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 my.

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.



Quote:
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.
Ax

Steve,
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.
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Winks
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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.
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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 Smile

Wanlu
"The Old Path"
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