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From Gin Lane to the Information Superhighway…

August 28, 2012 in Comment, General

Cartooning and copyright have a long history together.

Cartoons and copyright © Chris Madden @procartoonists.org

© Chris Madden @procartoonists.org

The very first visual copyright law – The Engravers’ Copyright Act of 1734 – was prompted by artist and engraver William Hogarth and his battles with unscrupulous printmakers who made unlicensed copies of his work. Of course, the surplus of supply made his originals, or any licensed prints of them less valuable to him in the marketplace. Cartoonists, singular creatures by nature, are of course also business folk

John Wilkes by William Hogarth @procartoonists

John Wilkes by William Hogarth @procartoonists

Today, while the commercial relationship between copyright and cartooning remains the same, the issues around it seem ever more complicated. Principally because the internet has made it easy to copy and distribute images instantly.

Contemporary cartoonists have tended to protect their work by publishing only small, low resolution versions of  images that would be unsuitable for subsequent printing.

But as the demand for print reproduction itself declines and technology moves on, cartoons will instead be viewed on larger, higher-resolution devices, monitors and retina displays.

These may come to render small images unreadable and blurry perhaps forcing those using digital distribution to load artwork at higher quality resolutions.

Taken in combination with the larger file sizes allowed by broadband download speeds it may soon be hard to protect the use of what used to be known as ‘print resolution artwork’.

There is some evidence to this assertion in a story we noted recently. Read – Does my cartoon look big in this?

So, what should a cartoonist do? Watch this space in the coming weeks.

 

Does my cartoon look big in this?

July 13, 2012 in General, News

If a cartoon is visual communication, legibility is key to every image that needs to use words. But technology can be disruptive, of course. And so, to The Guardian website for some proof:

Cartoon: Digital display of cartoon clip

Digital display of cartoon clip at The Guardian. Screengrab image is at 1:1

Reader reaction: I need a bigger cartoon for legibility

In a similar vein: What’s the point in employing a great cartoonist … ?

Reader reaction: Leave the cartoon off the digital version of the paper

Cartoonist responds: In detail

Why is this happening?

When the internet was young, pictures used to be displayed in very small shapes. This was usually to keep bandwidth demands low so that your dial-up modem could cope. You could compare this technique to the great expense of paper at the start of the age of print.

Now, the bandwidth that enables digital communication is much bigger, with broadband, and picture sizes have grown as a result. And not just in the physical dimensions of width and height. This also applies to the amount, or weight, if you prefer, of information inside each image you see. This applies to image display on the web, on your mobile phone or perhaps now on your tablet PC.

Detail, commonly stored as picture resolution, or dots (of data) per inch has increased massively and this potentially allows download of print quality imagery direct from the web. Of course, this is both a marvellous opportunity (Big cartoons, yay!) and a problem (Easier to nick, boo!)

Cartoonists might think about their own behaviour, if they distribute images by web, by noting how each third-party provider they use deals with image resolution. Of course, the simplest way to do this is to manage the resolution at the traditional 72 dots per inch before you supply to any other production house.

Downloading of artwork is an old problem that we have written about before. There are tools you can use to control unbidden usage of your work. And we have a short series of posts on some of these tools coming up.

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