Please remember the above quote next time you hear some corporate puppet bring up the "starving artist" argument in a copyright policy debate.
Corporations withholding royalties from artists is obviously bad. But it's entirely consistent to condemn such abuse while still supporting the idea that artists ought to be repaid for their work.
There are plenty of artist-friendly, or artist-owned, labels and distributions companies, and they are also hurt by piracy. In fact I would argue they are hurt more than the big labels, because each individual missed sale is a bigger percentage of their total revenue.
Whereas with a small group, pirating a torrent of stuff might be a way I actually discover an artist. I know I've downloaded big "mix" torrents, come across some stuff I like, then went to Amazon and bought all the downloads they had for that artist. Without the piracy, I'd have never found them.
On top of that, I think (perhaps incorrectly), that when you buy from a small label, you're promoting more good than buying from the big labels that will use my money to campaign for things I'm against. I know I have a few artists I like, but I'm not going to give money to folks that push for less due process.
Of course, actual data is hard to come by: it's not like you can accurately track torrent downloads/disk swaps and compare conversion rates.
Their fans are hurting them, but since they like their fans, they struggle to find a way to make up the difference somehow.
Piracy is a good way for new bands to get discovered, but that benefit fades over time. When you have a devoted fan base and you're trying to sell your 5th album, having most of them download it for free offers no benefit to the artist or label.
Btw, Don Rosa and Carl Barks are almost like national heroes in Finland where I grew up. When Carl Barks visited the country, there were people on the streets celebrating. Don Rosa's visits are also a big thing.
People who want to get into Software business because of money and people who want to learn how to play the guitar because of popularity have one thing in common: they only envision the outcome. They daydream of sitting on a load of cash or being surrounded by friends (and girls) when playing a tune.
People who get really successful at something enjoy the freaking process. Most of the times (if not all) they don't even realize they are heading for success: they are too busy enjoying the improvement of their craft.
It is (usually) an exploitative relationship, most just don't know it. The fact that this arrangement is the norm speaks only of the power differential and nothing of fairness. Could you imagine what would happen to management if employees got a fair share of the work they produced.. for that matter, how much of Don's profits came from his hand and how much from the advertisers and how much from Disney's distribution network? Why are advertisers paid so much and box packers paid so little?
The fact that so many of us accept this system is because we don't have the power to demand profits (or we don't know any better) and we need to eat. We just tell ourselves that we prefer to earn a little less so we don't have to worry about risk. It makes it easier to sleep at night.
At my last job, I got to choose the balance between salary and equity I wanted -- and I really had to calculate if I wanted to earn a little less (or a lot less) in exchange for a greater share of future profits. Or to earn a little more (or a lot more) in exchange for giving that up. And having gained quite a bit of knowledge from the investor side of things, at least here in the tech industry in NYC, I don't think it's accurate at all to say it's "usually an exploitative relationship". At least, as long as employees bother to figure out how it all works.
Of course your employer can sack you or withold a raise. But of course you can leave for another company, or tell them you're leaving if they don't give you a raise.
But you've got to have enough skill to be of value, and enough negotiating skill not to be taken advantage of, as well. Just like a company has to have enough skill not to hire not to be taken advantage of by its employees -- the employees who don't contribute, the employees who spend more time playing politics, etc.
Most employee's do not know, nor know how to find out, their net worth to the company. They definitely do not get offered equity.
Most companies go to some lengths to obfuscate the earnings from their employees and contractually forbid their employees from speaking about their own earnings. Most employees, even if armed with such knowledge, do not have the power to demand their worth as there are a large queue of eager replacements for their position.
My point was essentially, if someone thinks they are trading off rewards / equity / ip royalties etc for job security, they probably do not have a good understanding of their relationship or value to their employer.
Don seems to have known full well what he was trading off, and as he explained when he drew the line and exercised his right to negotiate "they simply refused to actually ask permission". They refused to negotiate as they were so used to being in a position of power.
"But you've got to have enough skill to be of value"
I would say, you have to have enough skill to be of 'great' value.. then you have the power to negotiate or go elsewhere. If you do.. more power to you!
Many software developers around these parts (myself included) want equity in the companies we work for. Equity is just our industry's form of royalties. Make awesome software that people love? Greater valuation of your equity!
This doesn't mean that Disney should or should not follow that practice.
Is your name used to promote work?
Do you have to go on promotional tours to show your face / drum up sales?
Is your work unique, no it's not. You can easily be replaced. You have a skill. Artist has talent and popularity. They could find another artist. Not easily and not with the fame and following and thus profitability of existing artist.
Thank you Don, for everything you have done and for being with me through all my childhood( and beyond) through your stories
Disney sucks to work with.
I don't want to trivialize the issue: making money is not easy, but the guy over-plays the victim card.
He seems to be a successful artist. He quits and it's all a fault of other people, who don't pay him as much as he deserves.
Again, not to trivialize the issue, but an artist with a lot of fans should be able to find a way to make money.
Did he try to follow the steps of many cartoonists that make decent money doing daily cartoons on the web, like theotmealguy?
Did he try to create anything outside of work-for-hire arrangement that he entered (willingly, as a consenting adult) into with Disney?
No evidence of that.
According to him, it's just the system conspires against poor artist.
According to me, he's just a lousy businessman who lacks awareness of his own shortcomings and oblivious to many ways he could have made money with his art. Instead he chose a safe route of employment and as an adult he should understand that it also usually comes with limited upside.
If he wanted a bigger upside, he should have taken more risks.
Did you even read the article? He turned down a lucrative career in a family-owned construction company to do this. He quit largely because a detached retina makes it impossible for him to draw. He's been doing this for at least 20 years; The Oatmeal has only been in it for 3. Have some perspective and modicum of respect.
The topsy-turvy situation the industry is in now, though, has countless factors - it's going to be discussed for years to come, and the signs of disruption are appearing on all fronts.
You have to remember, selling a duck comic carrying the names of Carl Barks and Don Rosa is a very big business here in Europe. The comic's don't sell because of Disney, because of the ducks themselves. People adore those two gentleman.
And they don't get anything out of it.
If _the artist_ is the product being sold, don't you think the right thing to do would have been to work out a new agreement?
I thought it was incredibly well written and quite forgiving of him.
That's how things go in engineering, though, you generally don't get employed unless you're willing to sign over whatever IP you are going to generate at the job (and sometimes even off-the-clock ideas too).