Tag Archives: politics

White Nationalism is the Issue. Video Games and Media Don’t Cause Violence

video games controller

With recent tragedies on everyone’s minds, some people are looking for a cause and culprit other than the shooters and perpetrators of the recent terrorist attacks in Dayton and El Paso. Unfortunately, some are blaming media, including video games, for violent behavior in individuals. We know this isn’t the case; banning or regulating media content, even more, won’t solve the issue.

Christopher J. Ferguson, the chair of the Texas A&M International University’s department of psychology and communication, among others including federally funded studies, have shown there’s no link between violent video games and real-world violence like mass shooting, bullying or youth aggression. There’s no need for more federal studies, when there’s been federal studies completed. Past research has been mixed, at best, and often weakened by substantial methodological flaws.

It’s clear that real-world statistics don’t back up the coordinated rhetoric championed by the Republican party and elected officials. It’s a coordinated deflection from the true cause of attacks, white nationalism, and loose gun laws. That’s the true threat to America, not video games.

The facts also back up no connection. While video game sales have increased, according to the FBI’s own statistics, violent crime has been steadily decreasing. In 2011, violent crimes nationwide decreased by 3.8% from 2010. Since 2002, it’s decreased by 15.5%. This is all during the time when games like Call of Duty and Halo have dominated sales. Other nations play the same video games and don’t see the violence and shooting that we see here in the United States.

While Trump also blames mental health, video games have been shown they can be used in therapy including for treating mental health issues.

The reality is President Trump’s own rhetoric fuels the violence and terrorist attacks. When an individual joked about shooting immigrants at a rally, Trump laughed. Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate crimes. Both Trump and the El Paso White Nationalist used the term “invasion” when describing immigrants.

Hate crimes in the country increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017, marking the third straight year of a spike in hate crimes, according to an FBI report released last November.

At the same time, federal courts – including the Supreme Court – have routinely held that government regulation of media, including video games, is unconstitutional.  Funding more studies – or passing laws that then get fought out in courts – costs taxpayers millions of dollars. That’s money better spent on treating the mentally ill or shoring up and improving background checks for weapons purchases.

We’ve seen these same conversations before. In the 1950s comic books were blamed for truancy, violence, and homosexuality in youth. This lead to hearings in the United States Senate. We look back on this piece of history and laugh out how ludicrous this claim was then. It’s just as ludicrous today when the conversation turns to video games and their effects.

There’s no easy solution to prevent violence like these events. But focusing on the wrong things isn’t the answer. Make your voice heard today.

U.S. Senate Candidate Jaime Harrison Embraces Comics in His First Campaign Video

Jaime Harrison is running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in South Carolina. In his first campaign video entitled “Character” Harrison talks about comics and uses panel visuals to tell his story.

In the 3 minute video, he recounts how comics were how he learned to read before going in to his “origin story.”

The video uses comic panels, and other visual styles, to tell his personal history and then go after his possible opponent Senator Lindsay Graham.

It’s an amazing use of comic visuals to tell a personal story.

Graphic Policy Weekly Episode 2: Elections Matter

Welcome to the second episode of Graphic Policy Weekly, our new weekly show going over the biggest comic news out there.

On this episode:
Last week and this week’s comics!
Marvel’s X-Line Gets Another Revamp
Read More
Atlas Comics is back!
Read More
Square Enix gets in to publishing in the US
Read more

Main story:
Elections and the policy spinning out of them impacts us every day but this past week has seen two big stories that impacts comics, games, toys, tv, and movies specifically. We talk about the Georgia abortion ban and the trade war with China.

NYCC 2018: Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Meets Convention Goers

Conventions are becoming a regular location for folks to get political. San Diego Comic-Con saw numerous groups registering voters. Congressman John Lewis has been to numerous conventions to promote his graphic novel March. New York Comic Con is getting a visit from 2020 Presidential candidate Andrew Yang who will be located at booth #2010

Andrew’s Platformis centered around the idea of providing a “Freedom Dividend” – a form of universal basic income (UBI) – to every American adult. It’s a concept that’s been seen in pop culture like Star Trek and The Expanse.

Andrew has been endorsed by technology futurists like Y Combinator founder, Sam Altman, as well as labor leaders like former head of the SEIU, Andy Stern.

Andrew is a big sci-fi and comics fan (particularly of Star Trek and the Marvel Universe) and is heading to the convention this week to meet the attendees and build support.

Editorial: Pruitt vs. Peck – Who’s Worse?

With EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt‘s scandals all over the headlines and him likely the next member of the Trump Admin to get the signature

it seems like a good time to ask the questions no one else is willing to ask: How bad is Scott Pruitt really at his job?

As the head of the EPA, it’s clear. He’s. . . uhm, how do you say?

Literally, the worst. Go ahead. Name one other truly bad EPA Administrator. Can you? (You must be one of my co-workers if you can.) They all look amazing by comparison. Yes, even Anne Gorsuch. Yes, even Stephen Johnson.

So, to really compare Pruitt to someone, we have to go to the world of fiction. And we look no further than fictional EPA apparatchik and classic 80’s villain Walter Peck from Ghostbusters. 

Let’s run down their CV’s:

scott-pruitt-800x430NAME: Scott Pruitt
JOB: EPA Administrator
HOME: Oklahoma, or sometimes a swanky DC condo owned by a lobbyist that he pays $50/night for.
ENEMIES: Clean air, clean water, a stable climate, science, and kittens, probably.
OTHER: Is a dick.

 

 

william-atherton-as-walter-peck-in-ghostbusters

NAME: Walter Peck (played by William Atherton)
JOB: EPA jerk
HOME: New York City
ENEMIES: Ghostbusters, especially Peter Venkman
OTHER: Has no dick. That’s at least what I heard.

 

Ok, so straight off, Pruitt is in the lead. Because, I mean, he’s not fictional. And Peck, while a jerk, was legitimately trying to do a job protecting the environment. Pruitt seems to think his job is to make it easier for big polluters to make big money. Fox, here’s your job guarding the henhouse.

So next let’s look at one trait they both share: Skepticism.

Both Pruitt and Peck are famous skeptics of scientists who actually know what they’re talking about. But while Peck is skeptical of Drs. Venkman, Spengler, and Stantz for saying they see ghosts, we can somewhat understand that position. I mean, it does seem unscientific to believe in ghosts.

Pruitt’s skepticism is about climate change. He has somewhat famously been pushing to do a “Red Team, Blue Team” “debate” about “climate science” but it has mostly been shut down. Why? Because even the worst of Trump’s cronies know that’s an extraordinarily bad idea to give a stage to the 3% of scientists who don’t believe the climate is changing from greenhouse gas pollution (and who all, coincidentally, take millions in cash from the coal, oil, and gas industries) because they’re essentially crackpot conspiracy theorists. Also, that’s not how science works, bro.

Again, advantage Pruitt.

Next? Biggest bombs.

Walter Peck famously shut off the Ghostbusters’ containment unit, equivalent to “dropping a bomb on the city.” Listen to how he fails to listen to not only the expert opinions of the people who understand the technology the best, but also neutral actors (like the ConEd guy) who says he doesn’t understand any of this and maybe they shouldn’t shut it all down? Instead, he seems to take glee in abusing his power, even telling the cop that he can shoot Venkman. Have a watch:

Pruitt’s bomb he’s dropped is similar, but less spectacular. By shutting off Obama’s landmark Clean Power Plan, which limited greenhouse gases from power plants, and rewriting clean car standards to allow for more pollution (and more automaker profits!), Pruitt has dropped a climate bomb on all of us. But it is one which will more affect our children and their children, even while we deal with the shorter terms consequences of more smog, more asthma attacks, more premature deaths.

On the other hand, blowing up the containment unit brought about the coming of Gozer the Destructor. So. . . advantage Peck on this one. But really only slightly.

How corrupt were they?

Well, Peck doesn’t seem to be corrupt other than he’s a guy on a power trip. Meanwhile, Pruitt seems more like a fictional cartoon supervillain for all his corporate stoogery. Here’s an internet challenge: can you name all of Pruitt’s scandals in 30 seconds?

The Washington Post is saying Pruitt’s excuses for his corruption are “crumbling” and even Fox News is dogpiling on as his lavish travel, 24/7 security detail, sweetheart deals with lobbyists, and general mendacity become more and more impossible to defend.

Some of the highlights of Pruitt’s ineptitude? First, his entire reasoning for needing a 24/7 security detail and to fly first class everywhere? Because, apparently, people who care about the environment are mean to him. In his requests for first class travel, he recounts an incident where someone at the airport baggage claim confronted him and told him, “Hey Scott Pruitt, you’re f—ing up the environment.”

Beyond pointing out that flying first class still means you have to stand at the baggage claim with everyone else, this is just a lame excuse from a fragile snowflake who can’t take criticism for his work. An easier solution? Pruitt could maybe not f— up the environment? And then people wouldn’t be mad at him.

But his security detail and security concerns. Whoa. . . there’s so much to unpack here. So, first, Pruitt had them build a soundproof secure booth in his office. Why would the EPA Administrator need this? Sure, head of the CIA or Secretary of Defense or State. . .  but EPA? Lots of state secrets you can’t share with the public, Scott?

Or– OR– this was just a clever way to be able to skirt freedom of information and oversight laws and make it easier to collude with corporate polluters about what kinds of policies they wanted. I can just see it now. . .

“Administrator Pruitt, your landlord is on the line.”
“Great, is he calling about the leaky faucet?”
“No, he says you’re late on your rent, but mostly he’s calling to talk about his clients’ pipelines and the clean car standards on behalf of the auto industry. He also wants to know if you’re going on the swanky Morocco junket to promote natural gas exports for his clients.”
“I REQUEST A CONE OF SILENCE!”

***AND…. SCENE***

But this security detail. . . they’re just the gift that keeps on giving. Apparently Pruitt made EPA pay for a door to the condo he was renting, because they broke it down while their boss was taking a nap.

Then, when Pruitt was late for a dinner at a fancy restaurant, he asked if they could put the sirens on. Taking a page from Ghostbusters, “Hey, let’s run some red lights!”

The icing on the cake of this story is Pruitt’s security told him they could not turn on the sirens unless there was an emergency. Pruitt then fired his security chief like any toddler throwing a tantrum because they can’t turn on the sirens.

Walter Peck? He did none of these things. A million points to Pruitt, none to Peck.

And finally, how’d they end up? Well, we only assume Pruitt is covered with an oily sheen gotten from bathing in the ill-gotten gains from his friends in the fossil fuel industry. He’s also surrounded by a dense cloud of smoke– but one can’t be sure if that’s from the coal stacks or just ethical problems. Peck, however, made it out at least a little better.

While being covered in liquid Stay Puft goo was described as “feel[ing] so funky” and “like the floor of a taxi cab,” at least marshmallow is yummy, and it’s nothing a shower and a trip to the dry cleaner’s can’t fix. Pruitt wins this round, too.

So, who’s worse? Pruitt, Pruitt, Pruitt.

When you lose so badly to a classic 80’s movie villain, you really need to wonder just how bad of a person you are.

Join us in our next round of these articles where I compare Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to Hedley Lamarr from Blazing Saddles or Mark Zuckerberg to famous James Bond villains.

Support Comic Creators By Rejecting Graham-Cassidy and Supporting Healthcare

We’ve reiterated numerous times on our site that ending the Affordable Care Act would have a devestating impact on the comic industry. Way back in February I brought up the fact the industry should get organized politically to oppose legislation such as this and prepare for battles in the future.

Here’s what I had to say then:

The pay for comic creators can be pretty low and add on top of that a lack of benefits and it’s clear that eeking out a living as a creator isn’t the easiest or most rewarding career there is. Freelance creators are forced to purchase their own healthcare through the ACA, from a union, a spouse, or through another job. That first option is currently at risk with threats of a repeal which will cost an estimated 18 million people their insurance in the first year.

Our insurance system is flawed, that’s not what this is about, this is about ensuring an easy way for self-employed individuals to gain insurance, not be discriminated against due to pre-existing conditions, and benefiting women and helping with their choice of birth control.

A repeal would increase costs by either putting some individuals in a high cost “risky pool,” deny coverage outright, or increase out of pocket benefits. It’s estimated that women will have to pay $1.4 billion in copay for birth control for instance.

That’s less money in the pockets of creators. More freelance jobs needed to take. Possibly greater cover prices due to the need to charge more by freelancers. Decreased health. Less money means less traveling for conventions. Less interaction because time spent online is time not spent earning money.

Quality of life will decrease for those in the industry.

What this means is the industry needs to start thinking of solutions. A guild through which freelancers could purchase insurance or publishers offering ways for creators to buy into their offerings are both solutions. Now is the time to think this through before it’s too late.

All of that stands today and we’re about seven days until creators who rely on the ACA can breathe a bit easier. Republican Senators are attempting to ram through legislation to gut the ACA before the end of the month because after they’ll need to work with Democrats as they’ll have to get 60 votes to pass major legislation.

Cassidy-Graham is a joke of a legislation shifting funds into block grants for states and allowing them to each set up their own system and standards. Some might do better than what the government does while others could gut protections and guarantees that exist causing skyrocketing costs leaving individuals destitute.

It’s reported that:

  • 21 to 32 million will lose their insurance
  • Those with pre-existing conditions will not be protected
  • “Under this bill, pregnancy will cost you an extra 17K. Metastatic cancer 172K. Autism 5K. Asthma 4K.” Just some examples.

Those with pre-existing conditions will see increases in their insurance and those who face life threatening illnesses won’t be able to afford treatment. While John McCain has said he will oppose the legislation putting the 50 votes it needs in doubt, there’s still a chance like a serial killer in a movie, it’ll come back to life before the month is done.

So, we’re asking you to take action and make your voice heard. Here’s a handy tool that you can fill out and they’ll connect you with your elected officials as well as a script for you to read. By doing so, you’ll support creators and allow them to worry about one thing less in their lives when this legislation is defeated.

Educator’s Perspective: “Sh*t My President Says”

It’s said that no work of literature is written in a vacuum.

One of the first things you learn to do as an undergrad in any course in literature is to unpack the political, cultural, and societal implication of whatever it is you’re reading, because whether the author intended it or not, he or she was assuredly influenced by the circumstances in which it was written.  Even as a high school student I learned that Shakespeare’s fascination with witchcraft in Macbeth is likely an influence of the King under which he was writing, who had an interest in the occult himself; The Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm both have their roots in a kind of British political anxiety, and the only way that On the Road can be more of a manifesto of the early counterculture movement is if copies of it are beaten by riot officers.

Yet I’ve always been more interested in the political, cultural, and social capital hidden away in the more obscure media, the stuff that, for whatever reason, has for so long escaped the notice of conventional scholarship. Though teachers have long adored the political cartoon there remains a strange, standoffish attitude toward the comic book, as though we’re all still in the 1950s and Dr. Wertham is sitting across from us making all sorts of uncomfortable eye contact over a stack of World’s Finest. Thankfully that attitude has receded significantly in recent years and I’m happy to see more and more that teachers like myself are having success in using the rife political and cultural content of comics as a springboard to discuss ideas as diverse and grandiose as race relations, diplomacy, and the importance of de-mystifying the “other”ness of foreign cultures, peoples, and ideologies.

The conversation about the political and sociocultural implications of comics – really, of all media – is always hobbled somewhat when it hits a K-12 classroom environment.  There begin conversations about correctness and age-appropriateness, and whether a book can or should be introduced to the student population for fear of indoctrination. Year after year mainstays like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird are called into question by school boards and parent groups across the country, and while their reasons are varied they general boil down to what we want our children to discover about who and what we are.  Works that are censored for classroom use have a common thread: they oftentimes highlight the worst of us, in an attempt to ensure that we avoid making the mistakes of our ancestry.

That being said, it seems highly unlike that Shannon Wheeler’s “Sh*t My President Says” will ever see regular use as a implement of classroom instruction, given that it is both a comic book, and therefore still a subject of academic uncertainty by some of my colleagues, and demonstrative of one of the most deranged, startling, and ultimately embarrassing garbage fires of the 21st century.  It is eye-opening in its candor, tragically funny, vitally informative, and ought to be required reading for anyone hoping to study the political machine of the early 21st century. It may very well be one of the most important historical artifacts of this decade.

All because of Twitter.

“Sh*t My President Says” is a perfect example of the historically-embedded nature of media. Even without Wheeler’s accompanying caricatures of Trump as a riotous toddler with a phone fetish, the collection of our mentally-errant President’s 140-character temper tantrums provides a sobering look at just how we got to where we are. Taken with Shannon Wheeler’s supplemental artwork, the Tweets take on a second life: their childishness is thrown into a stark relief with the inclusion of the author’s idealized boy king Trump, and indeed the whole work might read as a fiction were we not living it as we are now.

From a teachable standpoint, nothing beats a work that provides the subject’s words as they were uttered while simultaneously offering a responding critique of them. In this way Shannon Wheeler has submitted to his audience a kind of living primary source, an artifact that both serves to document history as well as record our collective reaction to the oftentimes unbelievable events of our current political climate – which, of course, is a form of history in and of itself.

Is it teachable? Absolutely, and pertinently so: in much the same way that we recognize the crassness of the language in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or the sexuality of “The Awakening” as indicative of the societies and cultures of the time in which they were written, Wheeler’s compilation of the fractured thoughts of our enfeebled Commander-in-Chief are likewise a reflection of the state of our society. Wheeler provides a means to process an pivotal event in American political history in a way that is accessible for its simplicity, honest for its presentation, and as painless  an experience as it could be possibly be for the author’s satirical approach to her bumbling, foolhardy subject matter.

Nevertheless, I give Mr. Wheeler a great deal of credit for his work in compiling this trainwreck of a timeline in recording the Trump tweets he has.  For the levity with which it is presented, there is something truly sinister about seeing these words become actions, and those actions engender other, more awful actions. Longtime exposure to those levels of ego-maniacal word vomit cannot be healthy for an individual, and I hope sincerely that Mr. Wheeler recovers quickly for his exposure.

While its unflinching revelation of the worst of our potential all but guarantees it never sees widespread classroom use, I fully expect that passages from “Sh*t My President Says” will find their way into political science and literature classrooms across the globe. This cutting work of comics journalism is a vibrant reminder of how we ended up in this mess, and I wager that there’s more than a few daring educators willing to make the case that, like Mockingbird and Rye, just because something is uncomfortable doesn’t mean that we turn a blind eye to its implications.

Literature isn’t written in a vacuum – but sometimes the stuff that inspires it sucks nonetheless.  It’s our job to learn from it, and works like Wheeler’s make that possible.

Book and Comic Publisher Françoise Nyssen is Heading Up France’s Cultural Ministry

With the French election over, the task of setting up a new government begins and France’s new Macron government is looking towards books and comics when it comes to their new Minister of Culture. Publisher Françoise Nyssen will head up the ministry in the Macron government. Nussen, Belgian by birth but a naturalized French citizen who also holds degrees in chemistry and urban planning, was the president of the publishing cooperative Paradou and eventually became chairwoman of the board of Actes Sud.

While the story of a book publisher being appointed to such a position would be enough for this site, Actes Sud also has a line of comics/graphic novels, yes a comic publisher is actually in the position. And it’s an impressive line-up of graphic novels and comics.

Some issues Nyssen might tackle include an incentive program to have libraries open on Sundays, an “art allowance,” and making cultural institutions’ executive appointments more reflective of the French population’s diversity.

This is the latest example of comic fans taking over politics and congrats to Nyssen.

(via Publishing Perspectives)

The Comics Are All Right: Now’s The Time to Be Political

greater_coat_of_arms_of_the_united_states-svgI began “The Comics Are All Right” feature to explore the inner workings of the comic book industry and give a take that’s focused more on data, facts, and examples, not opinion. And for the most part I’ve succeeded diving into actual sales numbers and trends, throwing out hypotheses as to the direction of the industry, giving examples of publishers and stores that are breaking the marketing mold, and more. And, I think I’ve done a decent job of staying away from opinion (Yes that is an opinion. The irony is not lost). But, this one is going to be opinion, sort of. Here we go:

The comic industry needs to get political!

Now, this particular column isn’t what you think it is. I’m not going to debate that politics and comics go hand in hand (they do and have a long history together). No, this is a call for the industry and publishers to become aware of possible legislation and policy changes over the next years and how it’ll impact them.

For almost seven years I worked as the Online Advocacy Director for the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA). During that period we monitored legislation and built campaigns to allow video game consumers to have a voice in the political process about legislation and proposals that directly impacted them. At times those campaigns overlapped with the needs and wants of the video game industry itself. We tackled issues ranging from censorship, broadband expansion, a Supreme Court case, video games and health, Net Neutrality, broadband caps, and more. I’m proud to say, we never lost a battle.

The comic industry will face legislative issues (they always do beyond censorship) and it’s time we recognize this, and do something beyond it. Here’s just a sampling of what we’ll likely have to deal with in the years to come and why it’s important.

Repeal of the ACA aka Obamacare – The pay for comic creators can be pretty low and add on top of that a lack of benefits and it’s clear that eeking out a living as a creator isn’t the easiest or most rewarding career there is. Freelance creators are forced to purchase their own healthcare through the ACA, from a union, a spouse, or through another job. That first option is currently at risk with threats of a repeal which will cost an estimated 18 million people their insurance in the first year.

Our insurance system is flawed, that’s not what this is about, this is about ensuring an easy way for self-employed individuals to gain insurance, not be discriminated against due to pre-existing conditions, and benefiting women and helping with their choice of birth control.

A repeal would increase costs by either putting some individuals in a high cost “risky pool,” deny coverage outright, or increase out of pocket benefits. It’s estimated that women will have to pay $1.4 billion in copay for birth control for instance.

That’s less money in the pockets of creators. More freelance jobs needed to take. Possibly greater cover prices due to the need to charge more by freelancers. Decreased health. Less money means less traveling for conventions. Less interaction because time spent online is time not spent earning money.

Quality of life will decrease for those in the industry.

What this means is the industry needs to start thinking of solutions. A guild through which freelancers could purchase insurance or publishers offering ways for creators to buy into their offerings are both solutions. Now is the time to think this through before it’s too late.

Import Tax – The Trump administration has threatened to create an import tax, the theory of which is it’ll force manufacturers to produce items in the United States. I’m not going to go into the legality of this or how flawed the economic theory is (that’s for another post). Instead, if it goes through, the import tax won’t be paid by corporations, it’ll be paid by the consumers. That $3.99 comic will now be $4.99 or $5.99. Nothing changes except higher retail prices which equates to fewer items sold, stores struggling further, and publishers cutting back or going out of business. No one gains in this scenario, from the consumer through to the publisher, we’re all screwed.

Repeal of Net Neutrality – If you sell digital comics or use the internet to market, you should care about this issue. At it’s basic core, Net Neutrality is the concept that like content online should be delivered at like speeds (it’s more complicated than that, but we’ll stick with the basics). If Comcast offers you internet and voip phone and another service offers voip, Comcast wouldn’t be able to slow down the competitor to benefit their service.

If Net Neutrality goes away the internet becomes pay for play with content producers shelling out money making it more difficult for upstarts to get noticed. It would allow internet providers to outright block content and websites. It could slow down connections making it more difficult for creators to talk to fans, their publishers, or fellow creators to work on projects.

That’s not even getting into data caps.

The Return of SOPA/PIPASOPA/PIPA is online censorship. The legislation was first put forth in 2011 and threats of new versions rear their ugly head every year. We beat it once. It doesn’t mean we will definitely beat it again.

European Rules on Copyright Infringement – Lets not focus on a “what if” and instead focus on the now. A current proposal by the European Commission would adopt new rules requiring platforms to scan and filter user uploads for copyright infringements.

Want to share that cool art? Yeah, not happening. Want to upload a gif? Nope.

SOPA/PIPA was a similar plan and was defeated here in the US, but this is one that’s being discussed, today. As is, the copyright system and its tools are broken. The DMCA is used in ways it wasn’t meant to and the one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. A rule like this is an affront to the rule of law and freedom of expression and if you’re in Europe, this should concern you.

Immigration and Travel – The Trump administration that has put out an Executive Order that has thrown our immigration and border system into chaos. Individuals are being asked to hand over their phones and unlock them even if they are US citizens. Not to mention the disturbing questions being asked and social media being mined. The EO threatens all of us, but if you’re a foreign creator or US creator (citizen or not) who has to return from overseas, I’d be nervous right now. Do you enjoy creators being flown from overseas to conventions? This could impact that, at a minimum.

Publishers, creators, and we the fans, need to organize and be aware. These issues will impact our enjoyment within the industry and the ability for publishers and creators to deliver. Now is the time to band together. Now is the time to build an apparatus to lobby and help speak on our behalf. Now is not the time to sit on the side and watch it all pass us by.

California Has Made Getting and Selling Autographs and Limited Edition Items More Confusing and Labor Intensive

2000px-flag_of_california-svgIn early September Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1570, a consumer protection law aimed at fake signatures on sports memorabilia. The legislation has been the subject of a lot of chatter lately sparked by an impassioned blog post by Eureka Book Sellers. As usual, the discussion is full of hyperbole as to what the law does and does not do, and let me begin by flat-out saying it’s bad legislation that accomplishes little to solve the issue of fraud autographs.

Championed by celebrities like Mark Hamill (who we’ll point out make a decent chunk of change by selling autographs) the law does the following:

  • Expands the definition of “collectible” to mean an autographed item for sale in or from California by a “dealer” to a consumer for five dollars or more
  • “Dealer” is defined as a person who is mainly in the business of “selling or offering for sale collectibles in or from this state, exclusively or nonexclusively, or a person who by his or her occupation holds himself or herself out as having knowledge or skill peculiar to collectibles, or to whom that knowledge or skill may be attributed by his or her employment of an agent or other intermediary that by his or her occupation holds himself or herself out as having that knowledge or skill. “Dealer” includes an auctioneer who sells collectibles at a public auction, and also includes persons who are consignors or representatives or agents of auctioneers. “Dealer” includes a person engaged in a mail order, telephone order, online, or cable television business for the sale of collectibles.”
  • Whenever a dealer sells, or offers to sell, an autographed collectible in or from California, the dealer has to provide a certificate of authenticity at the time of sale. That certificate has some specifics that need to be met:
    • Shall be in writing (does a computer print out count?)
    • Signed by the dealer or authorized agent
    • Feature the date of sale
    • Must be in at least 10-point boldface type
    • Contain the dealer’s legal name and street address
    • The dealer must retain on file a copy of the certificate for no less than seven years
    • It shall describe the collectible and specify the name of the personality who autographed it
    • Specify the date of sale or be accompanied by a separate invoice with that information
    • Contain a warranty
    • Specify if the collectible is offered as a part of a limited edition and if so it has to say how it’s numbered and the size of any prior or anticipated edition. And if that’s not known, it should state that it’s unknown.
    • Indicate if the dealer is bonded or otherwise insured to protect consumers against errors and omissions and if so, provide proof
    • Indicate the last four digits of the dealer’s resale certificate number from the State Board of Equalization
    • Indicate if the item was autographed in the presence of the dealer and if so the specific date, location, and name of the witness
    • Indicate if the item was obtained or purchased from a third-party and if it was the name and address of the third-party
    • Include a serial number that corresponds any identifying number printed on the collectible item, if any. That should also be on the sales receipt and if that receipt is printed then write the number on the receipt
    • A dealer shall not present an item as a collectible if it was not autographed by the personality in his or her own hand
    • You need to post a sign close to where your collectibles are that let consumers know you need to provide them with a certificate of authenticity
    • Mail order dealers have some other things they need to do, especially if they advertise
    • If you plan on selling autographs at conventions you need to displace a “specimen example of a certificate of authenticity”
    • Consumers who don’t receive a certificate of authenticity with the above, or if it’s got false information, shall be able to receive damages equal to 10 times actual damages, plus court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, interest, and expert witness fees. Plus the court can award additional damages
    • Dealers in the state must have a valid resale certificate number from the State Board of Equalization
    • A dealer may be surety bonded or otherwise insured for purposes of indemnification against errors and omissions

And there’s some things promoters need to do as well, such as warning any dealer about the above with specific language provided:

As a vendor at this collectibles trade show, you are a professional representative of this hobby. As a result, you will be required to follow the laws of this state, including laws regarding the sale and display of collectibles, as defined in Section 1739.7 of the Civil Code, forged and counterfeit collectibles and autographs, and mint and limited edition collectibles. If you do not obey the laws, you may be evicted from this trade show, be reported to law enforcement, and be held liable for a civil penalty of 10 times the amount of damages.

There are exemptions to the law as far as what a “dealer” is….

  • “Dealers” don’t include licensed pawnbrokers
  • An online marketplace that is not primarily in the business of selling, or offering for sale, collectibles, in or from California
  • The personality who signs the memorabilia

Get all of that?

Lets begin with the failure of the law…

johnhancockThe exemptions are the first problem with the legislation. The fraud that exists with online sellers through eBay is rampant and though there’s no numbers as to how bad it is, the legislation begs individuals to move their business online solving nothing at all in reality. But, eBay’s lobbyists are strong and their money flows regularly to California politicians. Check out 2015 through 2016’s donations and I’m sure the company’s donation of $15,000 to Jerry Brown’s run for Governor had no impact at all (and $5,000 to his Attorney General race). In general, the company’s donations to California’s politicians has greatly increased in recent cycles. When it comes to rampant forgery online, California elected officials apparently don’t care.

The exemption of the personality who signs the memorabilia is also hypocritical. I’m not sure if I’d really call this a failure, but there’s irony in the fact the celebrities who have demanded certifications themselves don’t have to provide one. What’s good for the rest isn’t good for them. And, I guess they don’t stand by their autograph, and as a consumer I wouldn’t trust any I didn’t see them sign in person. Autopens do wonders.

Finally, there’s already protections for consumers about fake autographs, this legislation really creates a consumer right to a certificate of authenticity. There’s already laws to protect against forged signatures. In other words, it’s not needed. Those who break the law by selling fake autographs will now likely continue, just with a piece of paper. There’s no difference in practicality of what was and what is when it comes to fighting this issue. Consumers had a right to sue then. Consumers can now sue now for the same thing. What is needed is for celebrities to file lawsuits, not consumers, put the onus on them, but then again, they can’t be bothered by providing a piece of paper themselves for authenticity.

There’s also the weird…

The legislation goes into defining “limited edition.” A consumer can request proof that the films, electronic coding, molds, or plates used to create the collectible was destroyed after the edition is up. It also decides to delve into the debate on “mint condition” to mean an item that must never have been circulated, used, or worn, with no signs of aging, and otherwise free of creases, blemishes, or marks. There’s no use of “mint condition” in the legislation other than to define what it is.

What’s the actual impact to comic dealers and comic creators?

For creators, there’s little impact by the legislation. They fall under that personality exemption so they can continue to go about selling autographs directly.

For dealers, the impact is much greater. There’s the signage that will now had to be had if they’re selling autographed materials in their store or their booth at conventions. In reality, the legislation is worded so poorly it indicates everyone that sells collectibles needs the sign, but I don’t think that’s the actual intent or how it’ll be enforced. If you’re selling autographed items for $5 or more you’ll need to provide a certificate and keep it on file for seven years. Yay more paperwork! I’d also expect more lawsuits by individuals looking to make a good buck. The fact is anyone can sue anyone and there’ll be a nice business coming out of this legislation potentially. Dealers should also be aware of any autographed items they’re purchasing, such as from Diamond, in that they’ll now need to provide a proper certificate of authenticity. I know autographed items I’ve purchased through Diamond in the past have had one, but they didn’t comply with the above.

For consumers, this is a good thing in that, in theory, it should scare off some sellers of forged autographs. It also means you get to keep a certificate of authenticity somewhere, so more items for you too.

The up in the air…

Since this includes all autographed items this now includes greeting cards as mentioned in Eureka Book’s post, something that wasn’t intended, unless that item is less than $5. Then “agent or intermediary” that is defined under dealer isn’t defined as well.

The bigger impact is signings in stores. If a comic creator comes to a comic shop and then signs items before leaving, that may fall under the celebrity exception, but maybe not? If the shop is selling the item at a celebrity signing, like what happens in shops, is one needed?

In reality…

The legislation is a failure of those who drafted and lobbied for it, but also a failure of those in the memorabilia industry for letting it get passed. This has been something that’s been lobbied for quite some time and went through the legislation process. Where was the comic industry speaking up about this when it was going through that? Where was our lobbying effort? We have a CBLDF, is it time for someone to look out for creators, stores, and consumers when it comes to matters beyond free speech?

The biggest reality is the legislation is passed and signed by the Governor.

What can you do?

You can still make your voice heard. Contact Governor Jerry Brown or contact elected officials in the State Senate and the State Assembly. Most importantly, pay attention at your state level to make sure you speak up before legislation like this is even passed.

The law takes effect in January.

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