Zines and the Law

Copyright lawyer  Kohel Haver stopped by tonight to talk us through the zine he made with his daughter, “The Law and the Zine Artist: Free Speech and Copyright.”

“I want to teach you how to protect what’s good and also the value of stealing everything in sight,” he said, launching into the basics of what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to pilfering others’ work for your own art. The law bascially comes down to protecting intellectual property but also protecting the right to free speech by allowing zinesters and others to reprint people’s work if they’re making some sort of scholarly commentary about it. The most fantastic song of my 6th grade year, for example, ws Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” which later won a copyright lawsuit filed by Mattel because their use of Barbie and Ken had been pure satire.

Haver also spelled out that you can use only as much of copyrighted material as you need to prove your point – including a picture of Mickey Mouse to talk about musophobia in modern society is fair game, but including an entire old Mickey comic in your zine would be pushing it.

To those that disparage copyright law as one of the many evils of capitalism, Haver acknowledged that some people and businesses exploit the system but that there are many benefits to copywriting your work – it’s insurance that someone (say, Disney) doesn’t rip off your brilliant idea. And a lot of brilliant ideas start small. “Giving people the tools to make zines is an important part of what makes this country work. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was a zine,” noted Haver.

Stop by the library to read Haver’s little zine in full. As a quick copyright primer for those of you too lazy to read, Haver points to this creative cut-and-paste video a Fair(y) Use Tale.