Thoughts on Copyright & Zines

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Joan Crasten 2 months, 2 weeks ago.

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    Posted by James N. Dawson

    In a recent discussion on ZinePal, the issue of copyrights was brought up. I know this question may have already been beaten to death, but I’d like to say a few more words.

    I don’t take an absolutist position, but I lean against copyrights, which isn’t surprising, it’s a common tendency among libertarians and anarchists, though of course, not universal.

    I try to be aware of how a zinester or author feels about the issue and OUT OF COURTESY, respect their claim to any copyrights to their art or writings. There is *some* logic to pro-copyright arguments. CERTAINLY, I don’t think it’s a considerate thing to go spreading around somebody’s personal narratives all over the place, and absolutely respect the wishes of per-zinesters to limit the distribution and exposure of their writings.

    The type of writings I am very disinclined to respect the “copyrights” of are political essays, recipes, medical advice, and especially older fiction, of 15, 20 years old, or older. I’ve reprinted old short stories from the fifties and things like that in my zines. I don’t do this often, but there are SO many old, forgotten stories and essays that ARE GOING TO DIE, if somebody doesn’t put them back into circulation, and if that’s the consequence of copyrights, then I say to hell with them. I make my decision to copy or not to copy on a case by case basis.

    Then of course there’s the “fair use” clause that one can use pretty broadly and freely, so even “copyrights law” isn’t as cut and dried as many of its advocates try to make it out to be.

    I see all sorts of purloined photos in zines, many or most from the 50’s. These were often, maybe always, as a matter of course, “copyrighted” by the publisher, and as far as I know they remain copyrighted. How many people who freely use these photos and other “detourned” items from mass media (retro though it may be) are claiming copyright to their zines? Not only are they ignoring the copy rights of the original artist or publisher, but they’re mocking them as well!

    Printing images and text from mainstream sources has been so much a part of zines for so many decades I just don’t understand all this new concern with copyrights. Who can possibly create anything and follow it consistently? How can we ever tear down the walls of censorship with the minefield of copyrights blocking our path?

    Reply by Dan 10things

    I’ve always thought it was ironic how zinesters happily steal copyrighted images and text from other publications, but get pissed off when it happens to them. Although, I’m totally guilty of the same thing! But I think most zinesters would agree, that it’s not about copyright so much and more about sticking it to the big corporations and helping out the little guy. We are happy to scam, steal, beg and borrow from large corporations to make our zines, but treat our fellow zinesters more as friends/our community.

    So when a fellow zinester reprints something from your zine without permission, or even crediting you, it hurts. Especially when they are trying to pass off an interview you did, article you wrote, or photo you shot like they did it. I generally send people a pretty nasty email when it happens with my stuff… and the thing is, I just don’t get it. All you gotta do is ask and give me credit to use something I’ve done, yet it happens all the time especially with band photos I’ve shot, they just use it without even asking.

    Reply by Alex Wrekk

    I think that a lot of people who create zines, for better or for worse, see themselves a participant in a community rather than a consumer of goods. Does that make sense? It is a lot easier to find out that someone has basically plagiarized your work when you have friends and eyes all over the place and when you aren’t really making any money with it. It becomes not about the culturally accepted value of money, but about respect.

    Also for better or for worse that fact that we see zines as a community applies a lot of social ideas to zines. We have seen on this site many different corners of zine culture come together that have very different views of copyright, distribution, or respect. i’m not one to jump into the fight about it because I’m pretty convinced that no on is really going to have their mind changed. I do know what I want in the ways of copyright and creative commons for my creations and am totally willing to respect other people’s ideas. Generally though, I think that erring on the side of caution is key.

    It does piss me off to see my book for sale on Amazon for $60 because it is out of print and I have been saving pennies for the reprint.

    Sorry this is all over the place.


    Joan Crasten

    I just found this post here about copyrights. Back in the 1980’s I use to publish newsletters. I did have one copy of one of my issues copyrighted, I forget how much it costs back then to do so. It probably costs more nowadays.

    Well, there is a cheaper way to copyright it yourself. For one thing don’t forget to date it, and mail a copy to yourself. DON’T OPEN IT! Put it in a safe place, like a safe deposit box. The envelope will have a dated postmark on it as proof when you created it. I’ve done that, and it makes me feel safe knowing it is proof that it’s my creation. Give it a try!


    Olivia M.

    I don’t know about other countries, but in the US any original work you create is automatically granted copyright, though it’s hard to enforce your copyright if you don’t register it with the Library of Congress or get an ISBN.


    Joan Crasten

    True Olivia, an ISBN is a good idea too. I never even thought of that. Does it cost any money to get an ISBN?


    Olivia M.

    I think you can buy an ISBN on some websites, but I know you can get one free if you publish something through CreateSpace. I’ve never gotten an ISBN for a zine though, so I’m not sure how that works. I’ve only ever seen one or two zines with ISBNs, and some zinesters frown on the practice.


    Joan Crasten

    Hi Olivia,

    Maybe an ISBN is not such a good idea for zines. I’ll check out CreateSpace anyway, just out of curiosity. Meantime, I will apply my own copyright and mail a copy to myself like I use to do with my newsletters years ago. Thanks for writing back to me.



    You can buy ‘blocks’ of ISBNs, but it’s not very cheap. A block of 10 ISBNs is $88 here in Australia, and I’ve heard that it’s more expensive in other countries.


    Joan Crasten

    Thanks NYX, that is good to know. I will check the prices here in the USA.


    Frances DeMartino

    I’m working on my first zine which will include some reviews and scans/photos of zine cover – I contacted every author/creator for permission.
    I read a few older zines – part of zine collections – and unfortunately those authors don’t seem to be using the emails listed.
    I’m still reviewing the zines, but without an accompanying graphic.
    I will include the name and location of the collection where the zine can be found, and it’s individual number in the collection.
    The posts and replies in this thread made me think a bit.
    How would I feel if someone lifted my material.
    Well, I blogged for 18+ years, and occasionally I have found my photos on other blogs and Pinterest.
    The individuals linked to my blog or Flickr collection so I was okay with it.
    I would be upset if they were used for financial gain.
    I’m going to mail a copy of everything I do to myself – Thanks Joan!
    Back to work.
    My best to all.


    Joan Crasten

    Hi Frances,

    It’s nice to know that you think my idea of mailing copies to oneself is a good idea. Good luck with your first zine. You were lucky that they didn’t use your blog photos for profit. I always worry if people will steal my ideas too.
    The very best of luck to you!

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