Animators File Copyright Suit Against 'Iron Sky' Producers

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  09 September 2017
Animators File Copyright Suit Against 'Iron Sky' Producers

Finland, where the VFX work for Iron Sky was made has an Author's Rights system of copyright. This means that Iron Sky VFX artist's own their work and they never agreed on any future projects.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/ne...oducers-1036144
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  09 September 2017
Trevor, since you're posting this perhaps you'd like to explain what exactly is going on in this legal case?

To be honest I find it inconcievable that artists working on a show would expect that a) they would be able to have shared IP after the design of some elements, and b) that they would own the final elements/design that would usually have their rights transfered to the studio. If I model a ship, it's not mine because I did it at the office - at least in every part of the world I've worked in.

On every project I've every worked on it's been extremely clear that the client/studio owns the copyright to the work we produce while working on the show. While it's concievable one would put in place a contract where-by they retained copyright of some aspects and were licensing them under standard rates (as with stock footage or licensed music) I've never seen this happen on feature films for visual effects before.

I understand from your reddit posts on the topic that the law in Finland might allow you to assert these rights but from my point of view as someone who works in visual effects on feature films the idea that I would claim to be a join author of a film seems crazy to me. Is the gaffer a joint author? What about the drivers? Do the computer manufacturers and software vendors need to be included if their software has a TOU based out of Finland? I'm confused as to how this works legally speaking.

I do find the system in Finland to be very interesting and have some merit but to be claiming joint ownership of IP seems rather ... vengeful? over the top? unprecedented? Did you guys come up with the script, pitch it, sign up for shared ownership, or explicitly talk about this stuff? If I was going to request any of these things I'd have got it in the contract from the beginning explicitly.

Note: I'm not affiliated with Iron Sky and have never had any involvement in any of their projects beyond contributing to crowd funding for the second film. I do know artists who have worked on the franchise. I am just really confused as to how this can happen legally, it feels like someones pulling a fast one ...

p.s.
I was more neutral to this case initially as I highly support artist rights and, to an extent, unionisation in VFX. It worries me however that you didn't identify yourself as personally involved in this when posting to the forums here. It makes it feel a little more underhanded.
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Last edited by axiomatic : 09 September 2017 at 06:23 AM.
 
  09 September 2017
Hi axiomatic, Thanks for your interest. I'll try to answer as best I can

"I find it inconcievable that artists working on a show would expect that a) they would be able to have shared IP after the design of some
elements, and b) that they would own the final elements/design that would usually have their rights transfered to the studio. If I model a
ship, it's not mine because I did it at the office
" (axiomatic)

Well, ultimately it depends on the contract you agree and the law of the land. There are two types of copyright traditions. Common Law and Civil Law. The US and UK have Common Law traditions which tend to make corporations first owners of copyright. In contrast the Civil Law tradition means that only a natural person can be first author of copyright. So in a civil law country, if you model a ship IT IS YOURS regardless of you doing it for an employer. However, there is a 'fallacy of popular opinion' that suggest that employers own employee's copyrights. Often "arm chair experts" refer to the 'work for hire' doctrine but that only really exists in the US which has a common law tradition.

"On every project I've every worked on it's been extremely clear that the client/studio owns the copyright to the work we produce while working
on the show." (axiomatic)


So this is an example of you (and many many others) perpetuating the 'fallacy of popular opinion' that suggest that employers own employee's copyrights. Not in Civil Law systems they don't!

Here is some reference to the Author's rights tradition of copyright which exist in most countries other than the US and UK. I think you will find it interesting.

"It is an essential feature of authors’ rights and of many copyright laws that the object which is protected must arise from the creativity of the author rather than from his or her simple effort or investment (see Feist v. Rural in the United States): both French and German copyright laws protect “works of the mind” (oeuvres de l'esprit and persönliche geistige Schöpfungen[3], respectively). This has led civil law systems to adopt a strong link between the rights (at least initially) and the person of the author: the initial ownership rights by a corporation are severely restricted or even impossible (as in Germany[4]). Common law jurisdictions are more willing to accept corporate ownership of copyright, as in the U. S. work for hire principle. Although the following comparison is simplistic and
dependent on the exact laws of individual countries, it is difficult to see an effective (economic) difference in the two situations:

Common law: employer owns the copyright in work created by employees

Civil law: employer enjoys an exclusive licence to the economic rights in work created by employees

Civil law systems have also been forceful in protecting the moral rights of authors, arguing that their creativity deserves protection as
an integral part of their personality."


As regards to the law in Finland, Films are regarded as "Joint Works" and anyone who has had a significant enough creative contribution  can be considered an author of the film as a whole. Thus the Director, screenwriter, storyboard artist, musical composer and yes in the case of Iron Sky, the VFX artists.

Here is some reference for that,
"There are no specific standards in the Copyright Act regarding the authors of audiovisual and film works. Everyone who contributed in the making of the film with their creative and original work have a copyright to the film."
https://wiki.aalto.fi/display/copyr...hor+of+a+wor k

Also see,
Marjut Salokannel in Ownership of Rights in Audiovisual Productions: A Comparative Study,

"In individual cases there may also be other professional participating in the film-making whose creative contribution contains such originality and independence that is could satisfy the requisites of originality set by law. The creative independence must be judged in the context of the film as a totality; a person's individual contribution must be such that it leaves a decisive mark on the whole work."

So when you start to move away from the "fallacy of popular opinions" and start studying the law proper then things do start to get more conceivable than you may have thought.

So in the particular case of Iron Sky there were only a handful of experienced VFX/CGI artists who were actually tasked with making major contributions to many of the VFX scenes which carried the narrative of the film. I was one of them as were the 4 other plaintiffs which includes Kelly 'Kat' Myers (Battlestar Galactica (TV Series)). There were a number of junior modellers who perhaps could not claim authorship of the whole film per se but they could easily claim authorship for their own models. Such models were used in the game Iron Sky Invasions without their consent too and thus they would have a legitimate copyright claim.

Furthermore, none of the VFX work is delineated in enough detail in the script or storyboard to give the script or storyboard artists any claim to the VFX work! Some boards merely say "FULL CGI" for a space battle that the VFX artists basically had to invent themselves. Also the director and producers were in Frankfurt and Australia whilst a lot of the VFX work was being done in Finland so they cannot claim copyrights in the VFX work themselves!

So Iron Sky wasn't a "normal production". It even utilised crowdsourcing to a certain degree so artists from around the world were asked to contribute  and this was done under not much more than ticking a box on a website to grant a user license. Needless to say this alone would have raised concerns to any right thinking entertainment lawyer and in my view is one of the reasons Iron Sky was never released in the US.

And that brings us to the Chain of Title (CoT). To get distribution deals, copyright ownerships must be documented properly. (check internet search for "Film Chain of Title" for more info)

The problem with Iron Sky is that the director and VFX producer were basically amateur hobbyists and had no real clue how to manage a multi million euro film. They hired us professionals to make their film for them but treated us quite badly. For the first six months I was creating some very complex stuff (George W Bush Weapons and Götterdämmerung interior) without actually having a work contract. Basically they exploited a loophole in employment law to get a professional working for them whilst claiming unemployment benefits! It is translated as "work training" but there was no training and I already knew more than most people working on the VFX stuff at the time. The down side to their little scheme was that I was creating a considerable amount of VFX work which I basically owned outright.

When they did offer me a contract it was for minimum wages and it left out things like "adaptation rights" and there was no moral rights waiver. It was in keeping with their crowdscouring attitude that they weren't too bothered about owning the work. They just wanted a film at the end of the day. They kept promising to pay proper wages once the film was released but they never did.

Eventually, after the film was released, there was talk of a sequel and I asked for a salary review and a chance to revise the contracts. However, I was immediately sacked!  (this led to a separate court case which I won)

After my sacking I warned them that they still needed to revise the contracts to include "adaptions" to make sequels etc but they ignored me. I went on about it a lot over the years (if you've seen my reddit posts). They kept ignoring me and defaming me so eventually I hired a lawyer to convince them. They Ignored my lawyer and now there is a court case to settle things.

I hope this gives you some better insight. I am not the bad guy here. I am just trying to stand up for what is right and fix the (CoT) for future productions. There are no compensation claims as yet.

All the best

Trev Baylis
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I think it was Francis Bacon that said there is 'no such thing as an original thought.' But I suspect he was quoting someone else.

Last edited by bellwether : 09 September 2017 at 07:08 PM.
 
  09 September 2017
The best of luck to you Trevor.
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