Monday, February 21, 2005

Perils of a litigious society.

Okay. I was going to write a blog entry that would regale you all with tales of my impending mid-life crisis (a little ahead of schedule) where I compare what I have accomplished to what I believe I am capable of in order to determine the net value of my life. Or something.

Instead, I will use this space to rail against one of the things stopping me from being able to easily pursue some of the things I want. Litigation.

I hate many forms of it. Some forms are justified. Some are outright lies, if you have seen some of the more ridiculous ones being circulated on the 'net, please do yourself a favour and become familiar with www.snopes.com. You'll find it in my links on my page.

But here is the thing: I can't send ideas to the people who should pay me for them, because they are afraid that if they use them, I will sue for infringement on intellectual property. What if I send an idea for a cool limited series to a comic book company, and they have someone working on something similar? They tell me no, a year later, they release something similar. I sue them for making money off of my idea. The thing is, it is a risk I'm willing to take. My favorite idea for a comic story is predicated on using characters who have 50 years of history or more with DC. Who else am I going to write that for? It won't work anywhere else. They can have the idea, and pay me for it if they think it is any good. Or don't. Whatever. I just want a chance to impress them with my brilliance.

But they won't even read it.

Similarly, I have some ideas that I think could improve Walt Disney World, quite often my destination of choice for vacations. Ranging from very broad suggestions, to very specific comments. I managed to dig up the mailing address for the guy in charge of Park and Resorts for the company, and sent him the package, stating in the covering letter, that these ideas were offered to them with no expectation of remuneration, on the other hand, if they'd like to hire me due to their uncommon brilliance and insight, I'd be amenable. They came back, unread, I presume, with a letter from a lawyer for the company. "Thanks, but we can't read these, as they are technically 'Creative Ideas' which we will not read unsolicited." Again, this is predicated on the Walt Disney World setup. Without it, the ideas are useless. Take them! Hell, some of them would make my stay more enjoyable, so take them and implement them just so I can enjoy them!

But no. Instead, both the world of comics and the world of Theme Parks is denied my contributions, because somewhere out there, (by which I mean West Virginia) a woman was awarded $2.2 million ($1.9 million of that is punitive) for hurting her back while opening a pickle jar at the convenience store she worked at. Or because some guy who changed his name to "Jack Ass" (I kid you not) is suing Viacom, who own MTV for the damage the show Jackass has done to his reputation and defamation of character, as well as copyright infringement. That's right. They have defamed his good name, the name "Jack Ass." He changed his name in '97 apparently to "raise awareness about drunk driving." He is looking for $10 Million in damages. More details on the Jack Ass suit here.

And so, because of people like this, and the steadily increasing "punitive" component of these kinds of suits, companies can no longer accept unsolicited submissions. And most of them are not soliciting by looking at blogs, so this won't help.

But hey, it's my blog, and lets me get things like this off my chest.


  • I agree.
    I think if you've outright stated that you don't want anything in return for the ideas unless they want to hire you for your... er... "brilliance"... there should be no question about whether or not you get paid for them.
    The problem, though, is that another aspect of all this throwing law suits around is that loopholes can be uncovered and exploited. These companies may well just be wary of the fact that even though they have a waiver in their hand which would, to any reasonable, logical person, mean that you're foregoing any direct benefits from the idea, they're afraid they may get dragged to court if they use the ideas, and that same totally reasonable waiver picked apart to the point of altering its meaning. Which, of course, leads again to the bottom line of having to pay up to someone who, on the surface of it, didn't want anything.

    I suggest you come up with other stuff, from scratch, and get them done up as a great final product as a calling card, and wait for others to come to you. We certainly have enough contacts to make, say, a sellable* comic happen. So do that, ship the final (brilliant) copy to DC/whatever, and when they approach you, you can finally say, "Well, I have had this idea in mind for a while..."


    *Yes, "sellable". Not "saleable". "Saleable" is a stupid word. If you can sell a product because it's good, it's sellable, dammit. It not only makes more sense, but is a real word. Use it often. In every sentence, if possible.

    By Anonymous Reay, at 1:41 PM  

  • Consider this a call for anyone who is a good enough artist and has enough time and the inclination to create a comic book with me. I can't pay much, but I can write a good story, and maybe between the two of us, we can get us some publishing going on.

    By Blogger Just_A_Rat, at 2:47 PM  

  • I'm suing you for writing a blog using my name as your title. ;)

    Just kidding.
    It's Jorge.

    Everything you said is right, and rightfully sucks. It's really too bad. You're a smart fellow, and they would do well to listen to your ideas.

    As for your comic idea, my drawing stylings are shite these days, and Reay will attest to the fact that I can't keep deadlines.

    By Anonymous John Ratspeak, at 3:00 PM  

  • I think there might be an entry for another time about where I think punitive damages are useful, and where they should go in order to prevent stupid lawsuits.

    I'm not sure I can make a whole entry out of it, but I shall endeavour to do so one day.

    By Blogger Just_A_Rat, at 11:01 AM  

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