Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rompak rompak!

Kartunis muda wanita Sarah Joan Mokhtar menulis pasal rompakan karya kartunis .
This is the ugly side of the Malaysian comic magazine industry (although artists are more aware and informed of their rights nowadays – thanks in part to the heroes below).

"tergamak anda buat keuntungan dengan karya orang lain dan membuang nama pengkaryanya..."

1) In the first book , a very popular comic compilation, the name of the original author Ujang Budak Minang was erased from the cover after a legal dispute with the publisher. Ujang's case is a whole essay in itself. I wont even go there. The next two happened during my years at the magazine.

2) The middle book was also a compilation whose printing status was 'frozen' by the publisher and is in purgatory , the original/author artist , Ubi Kamil has since left the company (over the issue of artists rights) and is freelancing but cant publish this work elsewhere because apparently all rights of his artwork are owned by company FOR ALL ETERNITY. The original art will probably rot in the MOY cellar somewhere.

3) The third book : the author/artist Aie Sulong (arguably Ujang's no. 1 artist at the time and wildly popular) name was erased from the cover of this compilation of HIS work after the artist quit working at the studio over the issue of artist rights.

You'd think the readers would realize their favourite artist/authors were gone, right? You'd think the magazine would be worried they’d lose two of their top artists and their readers, right?

NO. They let these two top artists quit rather than ‘infect’ the other artists with inconvenient notions of intellectual property. Then , horrifically, they simply hired two other artists to mimic Aie and Ubis work (to cringe worthy effect ) and continue their hanging series so their readers wouldn’t know they were gone.

Of COURSE the readers realized the very,very sudden drop in quality, which was the final humiliation for these artists , because the magazine didn’t publish the names of the new artists or announce the original artists departure.

So , in addition to losing their job and intellectual/moral rights,they had to bear the additional embarrassment of their readers wondering why their favourite series had become so crappy. ( This was before the facebook days ). Not that the artists could continue the original series they so creatively conceived elsewhere…without being sued (and being told this explicitly to drive fear into them).

The very very fine print was that once they paid you (ONCE) for handing over your artwork, your rights as a creator disappeared. You were simply a worker bee. And they weren’t changing their ways to suit you, the ‘artist’. Sadly, most artists whose eyes were open were too timid,scared or didn’t want to rock the boat, leaving the more courageous ones who put their necks out to suffer financially, emotionally and psychologically….only because they wanted to stand up for fairness and their rights as creators and to be respected as creators

All this drama started a while after I became an artist there. Things were great initially, the creative atmosphere was fantastic, the artists seemed to be genuinely happy. Then things started to change. Whispers of disputes. Rumor was the new business owner got was more interested in a career in politics and frankly couldn’t care less about artist welfare. Furrowed brows. Cold silences between long time cartooning comrades.

It didn’t feel good. Or right. When I realised how (in my eyes) the artists were seen as dumb cattle being milked for profit I felt disgusted, and very vulnerable. I was just a kid after all. Remember, I started when I was 14 at Ujang. What chance did *I* have negotiating my rights?

Then I thought…hey…I AM just a kid! And you cant sue a kid for signing any legal agreement without parental consent.

I figured I was young and didn’t have much to lose ,except a huge fanbase. But then, I never drew comics for the fans or money. I did it for the challenge.
So I left, at the height of my Ujang popularity. I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving.

My fantasy was to publish Aspuri in the future and if anyone comes after me, I mused ,I’ll tell them all my work was created as a minor and I quit before I became a legal adult. That will be my legal loophole if need be (yeah, I’ve spoken to a few lawyers and they agree the odds are very much in my favour). I say fantasy, because my original artwork is also probably rotted/shredded somewhere leaving little record of my early work except for a few saved issues that are not tattered, borrowed or etc.

So I rather sadly sent in my last comic before my 18th birthday (telling no one it was my last- after all , what if they replaced my comic with a horrifically drawn knock-off?) and began the next phase of my life as a Fine Arts student.

And that was the end of my time at Ujang. It was great. It would have been great if the bosses had listened to the artists. The one’s who stayed behind will all tell you it’s not the way it used to be. The readers will say the same thing and wonder where all the good artists have gone. They are still making good work.

But you’ll have to look a little harder now.

Disertakan juga karya asal kartunis Kelinci yang diterbalikkan kepada Cik Elin

1 comment:

alien said...

teruk mereka itu kan..
aku peminat Aspuri..dulu salu baca, la ni da xbeli komik..hehehe