Honorverse Update Posted by: Dale Franks
on Monday, September 25, 2006
Back in June, I announced that my Honorverse artwork had been selected as the basis for the canonical representation of rank insignia for David Weber's Honor Harrington book series. We had already agreed on terms, Ad Astra had sent me a contract, and I had signed it and returned it to Ken Burnside at Ad Astra, along with the original Flash files. As far as I knew, it was a done deal. Soon after that, however, I had to announce that the project was on hold.
Since then, I have been in contact with some other of David Weber's representatives, who explained to me that Mr. Weber feels I have, in some way, misrepresented the Honor Harrington artwork at my web site, and that, as a result, he declines to work with me. Moreover, they state that Mr. weber remebers requesting me directly to cease and desist from publishing my Honorverse artwork.
Not only do I categorically deny that I ever misrepresented my Honor Harrington artwork, I also categorically deny having ever been contacted by Mr. Weber or his representatives, other than in the public forums of Baen's Bar or the alt.books.david-weber Usenet groups at all. I certainly was never asked by Mr. Weber or anyone else, to cease publication of my Honor Harrington artwork. Moreover, in every case where Mr. Weber has requested I make changes to the presentation of my artwork, I have done so immediately.
I defy Mr. Weber or his representatives to produce any evidence to the contrary. Indeed, I would ask the question how, if Mr. Weber had been in contact with me about my artwork, and was aware of it, did my artwork even make it onto the cover of War of Honor in the first place?
As it happens, I am still in posession of my computer from the time period in question, and I have offered to open my email and newsgroup archives to Mr. Weber's representatives for their inspection. In addition, I have offered to perform whatever tasks may be required to transfer to Mr. Weber the absolute and unquestioned rights to all of my artwork.
Their only reply has been silence.
I consider this a personal slap in the face. When Baen Books published my original artwork on the cover of War of Honor, without my knowledge or consent, I did not begin legal action, or make any financial demand whatsoever. Instead, I called Jim Baen personally, and my only demand, which Mr. Baen agreed to, was to credit my work publicly on the Baen Books web site, a credit which still exists.
Apparently, it is perfectly acceptable to steal my artwork for commercial purposes, but it is beyond the pale to use it legally, with my consent.
I’d have to comment though, that as fanwork derivative of the Honerverse, you never had the right to make money off of your art, unless it was parody—and it wasn’t parody. In fact, it should have had a disclaimer on it, whereby you relinquish all rights to your own work.
That said, Weber also had no right to make money off of it by using it for commercial purposes, unless he bought the rights to it.
Fanwork derivative of other intellectual property is in a strange legal area where if the fans try to assert any ownership of derivative property they create to make money off of it, the copyright owners are driven to vigorously defend their rights by issuing stop orders like confetti. This kills the fanwork genre—not a good thing for anybody.
I do feel Weber has done you wrong, or certainly soemone did by letting the contract negotiations get as far as they did—was it signed, sealed, delivered? without getting contractual garrantees from Weber.
They may be terrified of what may happen if your insignias/uniforms end up in the HH movie due out in 2008.
Or maybe they want to have a strong negotiating postion WRT that.
Meh. Who knows?
Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
DALE RESPONDS: I never tried to make any money off of it. David Weber’s official licensees were the only people who ever offered me any money, and at that it was only $400. This has nothing to do with the money involved which is negligible. And I’ve repeatedly offered to anything they might reasonably ask to give David Weber complete intellectual rights to it.
They don’t need a strong negotiating position. I’m willing to give the stuff to them.
It is the refusal to work with me due to some supposed transgression on part, which never occured, that irks me.
In any event, the contract was sent to me by Ad Astra. I signed it and returned it, then I delivered the original files to Ad Astra. Only then was I told that they wouldn’t countersign the contract
So they got all of my original artwork files, and I got nothing in return.
Dale, I did not say you tried to make money off of it, I said you had not right to do so.
Therefore they technically stole nothing from you, because your work has no commercial value.
However, lacking a signed contract permitting them to use the work, my understanding of copyright law is that you can prevent them from using your artwork for commercial purposes—however, the damages you could recover would be limited to the value of the time spent in negotiating the contract, since you don’t have the right to make money off of it unless it is constitutionally permitted parody.
Please bear in mind this just the thoughts of someone long engaged in fanfic writing who has rec’v’d a fairly elaborate cease and desist from an author* who was under the mistaken impression that not sending it voided her copyright to her own work.
Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
*PS Then followed a meeting with a lawyer who educated me to the extent this murky area of law permits.