Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On Having My Work Published Without Permission

On August 23rd, I received this email:

Dear Amber,

I am currently completing a book called FANZINES (Thames & Hudson) and have included the cover of Culture Slut (no.10, 2007) fully credited in the book.

My book looks at the history of fanzines in a general overview of UK and USA-based self-publishing. As a good example of an interesting girl/mini-zine it would be remiss not to include it in any history of fanzines. The book is due out in September and I hope this will establish the importance of this form of self-publishing.

I do hope this is okay.

Yours sincerely,

Prof Teal Triggs
University of the Arts London


My immediate reaction was, "Cool. Someone thought of me while writing a history of zines." Moments later, I thought, "Oh shit. That zine was written three years ago." It's a 24-hour zine that I compiled on a whim one summer, and certainly not something that I would ever use as an example of my work. It's been out of print for years. I feel a mild form of embarrassment over some of my older zines, and who doesn't? My real problem lies in how my zine was credited. She did mention in the email that it was "fully credited", but I had to write back and ask, "... to what name?" You see, I had my last name legally changed a few years ago and am absolutely not okay with having the old one published. Here is her reply:

Hi Amber,

Thanks for getting back to me. Sorry - I didn't know you had your name changed. I've credited all of the zines in the book as they appear in the issue of the zine themselves and online (grrrlzines.net) to be historically correct.

If it helps, the credits appear in small text size and at the back of the book in a listing of 700 images. The caption in the main section of the book next to your image does not include your name just the title/date of the zine.
At this stage, all I can say is that I will pass this onto the publisher to note for any future editions.

I am really very sorry if this causes any concern. I did double check various sources to insure as much accuracy as possible with zines and producer names.

Best,
Teal


This is just absolutely laughable and I'm almost embarrassed for her. She did her "research" on grrrlzines.net! I didn't even know that website still existed. She ensured me that she "did double check various sources" but refuses to say exactly what those sources are. So I wrote back:

Teal,

I'm not trying to be difficult. I'm honoured to have been included in the book, just very frustrated about the whole name thing. It's taken me years of filling out (costly) paperwork, getting new pieces of identification, updating the info in my zines and online - then to have my old name published in a book just makes me really, really uncomfortable. You've been able to contact me to tell me about the book, which means that you'd have just as easily been able to contact me to ask for permission in the first place. I would have given you my proper name and sent a more recent issue of my zine. Aside from grrrlzines.net (which doesn't appear to have been updated in two years), I'm not sure what your "various sources" are, but even if you'd just Googled "Culture Slut", you'd see that six out of the ten results on the first page contain my real name and current contact info.


I thought it was clear that I was seeking more information. What are her various sources? Why didn't she ask for permission to use my zine in her book when she had my contact info the entire time? Instead of an explanation, I received this one-line reply:

I am truely (sic) sorry about all of this.


Nothing else. This exchange took place two days before I left for my trip to Portland, so I wasn't able to follow up immediately, as I was busy assembling zines, packing my belongings and planning my itinerary. When I returned home on the last day of August, I discovered that I was not the only zinester whose work had been published without permission. And I was not the only zinester who was angered by it either. In fact, there was a thread on WMZ dedicated to it. Both Zine World and Your Secretary have contributed to the online discussions as well. I highly recommend clicking on all of these links for arguments and context.

A lot of valid points are raised. Teal has said in each (copied and pasted) email, "The book is due out in September and I hope this will establish the importance of this form of self-publishing." Importance of self-publishing, hmm? If she believes that it is so important, then why has she shown such an incredible amount of disrespect to so many creators? She had all of our contact info the entire time she was working on the book, yet didn't think to send a quick email to tell us about her project or ask if we wanted to be a part of it. That, to me, is not the behaviour of a zinester or a community-minded person, and certainly not that of a professor and publisher. It's lazy, disrespectful and unprofessional. In fact, that sums up her behaviour throughout this entire debacle. Many people have emailed her to ask about her discrepancies, yet she refuses to acknowledge her mistake, compensate those whose work she appropriated, or offer up any valid solutions. She has been strangely silent while the rest of the zine world is abuzz. One has described her short replies as "irresponsible and uncaring." My sister (whose work was also included in the book without permission) emailed Teal and received no response whatsoever. And yes, her zines are copyrighted.

Let's get personal. I did not change my last name for fun. It was a long process that involved first waiting until I'd become a legal adult (as I would have done this as a teenager, had it been an option), procuring my long-lost birth certificate at an expense of $60, filling out a 17-page form at the cost of about $120 and making a dreaded phone call to my father (whom I've seen in person twice in the past decade) to both inform him of the situation and ask for some vitals, like his birth date and middle name, which I did not know off the top of my head, but needed in order to properly fill out my paperwork. This led to him dramatically declaring, "I have no daughter," and berating me over the phone until I had to hang up. He is an abusive alcoholic who was rarely present in my life, and dropping his last name and taking on that of my mother was extremely important to me. The process was well-documented in my zines, and I have since spent a lot of time and energy acquiring new pieces of identification and updating all of my information online and in my zines. To have this old name published in a book without my permission negates my efforts to drop it and is so incredibly insulting and invalidating.

It's too late to go back. Because I wasn't alerted until the book had already gone to press, there is no way of having my zine properly credited. So here is what I want: I want every copy of the book Fanzines by Teal Triggs to come with an insert that states proper credits for both myself and anyone else who may have been mis-credited. It should also disclose the fact that proper permissions were not secured prior to publishing the book, and some copyrights were flouted. It should explain the reasons for this and include a formal apology. I also believe that those zine creators whose work is published in the book deserve a free copy.

And if you wanna read the book, by all means, request it from your local library. But I would not recommend contributing your hard-earned cash toward it, considering the author seems to care so little about those of us who unwittingly provided the content.

5 comments:

ingrid said...

It is so awful that this has happened and completely ridiculous that someone has decided to publish a book on something they clearly haven't cared to research in the proper way. I hope that you can get the insert sorted out, when several bloggers feel the same as you I don't see how that will encourage sales at all. x

armchair traveler never! said...

Geez... and this lady is a professor? Not only it is unbelievably disrespectful (she should have contacted all of you months ago, telling you about the project in depth and asking for permission in the first place! not now as a last-minute sort of cover up to show she did some research...) but also proves she does not a clue whatsoever about how the zine world 'works'. Zinesters move around quite a bit, their PO boxes change, their full names/ nicknames do as well... does she even read zines? Somehow I very much doubt it.

Careless and unprofessional work; a 12 year old would have done things way better, that's for sure.

I haven't seen my father since I was 3 years old (he wanted to see me a few years ago, when he found out via a newspaper article I had at the time a good salary job... hey! suddenly he remembered he had a daughter when he smelled the cash from a distance... 'funny') a total waste of space like yours so I can understand how you feel. It sucks. Big time.

Is there any way you all can file a complaint with the publishing house to stop publication of the first edition? I don't see the point in this book being published with so many mistakes. Who is gonna buy it? This Teal and a handful of her relatives? No-one else for sure.

c said...

I'm a student at LCC where Teal Triggs is a professor and what's more I'm supposed to be learning about publishing... what a joke. I really wish i'd seen your post or the thread on we make zines before today. I have been without internet for the last few months but was able to look for more info about the event this afternoon, really disappointed to find this out.

We submitted our group project zine to the reading room thinking it would be something cool to get involved in, evidently not. I feel pretty bad now, especially as I have a article in there about big companies ripping off independent designers and crafters copyright for their own profit and it seems Thames and Hudson are up to the same thing.

Obviously before I found out about the situation I was planning on attending the event but I don't know what to do now. Though I would like to see how the works are being represented and if Ms Triggs will be there to answer questions.

Hope you get a positive response toward your suggestions x

Hello Amber! said...

"We submitted our group project zine to the reading room thinking it would be something cool to get involved in, evidently not. I feel pretty bad now, especially as I have a article in there about big companies ripping off independent designers and crafters copyright for their own profit and it seems Thames and Hudson are up to the same thing.

Obviously before I found out about the situation I was planning on attending the event but I don't know what to do now. Though I would like to see how the works are being represented and if Ms Triggs will be there to answer questions."

I think it would be really lovely if you were able to ask her about this mess in person and report back on the results. She is no longer replying to emails and I am appalled at her disrespectful and unprofessional behaviour.

Thanks for your comments, everyone!

aoife said...

copyright goes without saying every time you create something. you dont have to apply for it. it just exists. (or so i am led to believe, though maybe where you live is different) so on a very technical note....legal action could be taken though...would be costly and between you would result is not very much compensation. however, rallying the zine community together and complaining to not only her but the company publishing this book...might make some impact.
seriously unprofessional.