The CBLDF Weighs In On Mike Deodato, DC Comics and NFT Artwork

Over the weekend, Bleeding Cool posted an Open Letter by Mike Deodato, in which he defended his issuing of NFTs of his own digital art for comic book companies in the wake of publishers such as Marvel and DC issuing digital claims on such rights. These claims would be for digitally created, then published work that they would not do for work that was created with pen and ink on paper. Deodato pointed out that this was a shift in control from creator to publisher, the reversal of the battle that had been fought for original art to be returned to comics creators, and that it could be sold to collectors.

Mike Deodato CBLDF and NFTs
Mike Deodato digital artwork, created and sold as an NFT in violation of DC Comics' guidelines.

However, Deodato dismissed the environmental concerns regarding the use of NFTs, which have been shown to use an extraordinary amount of power as a blockchain transaction. And issued NFTs on a number of created artworks featuring DC Comics characters.

And then Jeff Trexler, Interim Director of the CBLDF, took the opportunity to use this as a positive talking point. He wrote with the CBLDF social media account on Twitter,

This open letter @mikedeodato underscores the constructive potential of the NFT moment – it's an opportunity to provide a clear and legal path forward for selling original digital art + commissions.

We're here to help w/ this issue – I personally have been advising & teaching on tech/IP matters for years. Anyone who'd like to discuss next steps re NFTs & original digital art is welcome to let me know here or @ Jeff.trexler@cbldf.org.

Which really didn't go down well. Here's a representative example of some of the reactions on social media.

Librarian Matthew Noe replied, "Maybe let's NOT encourage the use of something so blatantly environmentally destructive? Especially when it's of questionable value in the first place?"

Den Of Geek EIC Mike Cecchini reacted, "Lol, these tweets are like a matryoshka doll of bad. a veritable trifecta of nonsense."

Sonic The Hedgehog comics creator Jonathan H. Gray replied, "You can provide clear & legal paths towards selling digital art + commissions w/o making literal deals with devils. Artists are blocking grifters all over this bird app from stealing their work thru NFTs. If you acknowledge that NFTs are a mess then find & support better ways—"

Cartoonist Charles Forsman commented, "This organization is a continual embarrassment."

Comics publisher of Iron Circus, Spike Trotman, replied "I really didn't think you could top going out of your way to meat-shield Milo Y., but you managed it. I'm amazed."

Comics scholar Dr Francesca Lyn added, "This makes me sad. We already have clear and legal paths to selling originals. NFTs do not make digital works easier to sell or less easy to duplicate. It is market speculation run amok with the added bonus of using energy to produce them."

Comics journalist Erik Thurman commented, "At a time where legal advocacy groups in the creative arts should be pushing Congress for the dismantling of pyramid schemes such as NFTs and the prosecution of those involved, we are shown that, once again, the CBLDF is antithetical to workers' rights in the comic industry."

Atomic Robo creator Brian Clevinger had another solution. "File —> Print. And then update a spreadsheet, so you never do that page/cover again. I solved your problem and your rainforest what the f-ck man."

Mark Bouchard, writer of the It Took Luke comic, says "the CBLDF stays trash. your money can be put to better use."

Tyler Crook of Petrograd and Harrow County stated, "Ah, there it is: the old familiar feeling of the CBLDF going outside their mandate to protect sleazy bullsh-t."

Comics critic Alex Hoffman added, "That's a big yikes, folks."

Paloma Hernando, literary agent, stated "Shame on you, CBLDF, for once again taking any opportunity to vouch for those who see shallow gains in things like N/FTs, rather than helping those actually vulnerable in the community."

Pride creator and publisher Joe Glass went with, "An organisation desperately in need of goodwill, and now they're throwing in with defending NFTs. A pyramid scheme of techbro hypercapitalists, a speculator bubble about to burst, a scam that does not support original artwork at all. And is vastly destructive."

Comics creator Ramon Villalobos told us all, "nothing really is stopping anyone from selling "original digital art" now. I can sell a PSD or a tiff or a jpeg to a fan now, but it's so inherently worthless to most people that nobody would buy it. It's just shortsighted cynical greed posing as some sort of creators rights issue."

Small press publisher Amy Crook reminisced, "remember when @CBLDF was actually a good charity who supported comics artists and retailers, instead of this environment-destroying, copyright-stealing pyramid scheme? @neilhimself does, and I can only imagine what he thinks of these guys now."

Well, he is still on the board. Jeff Trexler replied, "supporting creators & retailers is exactly why I'm discussing problematic aspects of NFTs and highlighting need for a more comprehensive discussion & reform of creators' & retailers' rights. My very first post on this subject – "NFT BS" – critiqued confusion of NFTs with what really mattered. That's my whole point. Your insights are valuable – any thoughts you'd like to share about how we can better help creators & retailers are welcome."

Graphic novelist Emily Reisbeck exclaimed, "this is ridiculous! How can we even discuss any "constructive potential" of NFTs when the environmental cost they require is so destructive?"

Jeff Trexler replied, "They've sparked a discussion re creators' rights re digital art – that's the most important thing IMHO. Re the environment, I've been advising on & teaching sustainability ethics for years – familiar w/ & am discussing environ issues; also note that tech evolves. Example: car emissions today aren't what they were in '70s, '60s."

Robot Hugs, webcomic creator, exclaimed in response, "please add me to the list of digital artists and creators who think the environment is THE MOST F-CKING IMPORTANT THING to the NFT conversation. Good lord, it's not f-cking worth it. It's just a pyramid scheme to roll coal."

Darryl Mott, owner of Gamer's Tavern Media, replied "Cool, so how exactly is it going to be a "legal path forward" when, by the very nature of the underlying technologies, NFTs cannot be regulated in any way?"

Comics writer Christopher Sagar was worried. "Beyond the many pernicious qualities of NFTs, I worry that statements like this will provoke corporate IP owners to try to litigate traditional analog page/commission sales as well. That's a huge source of income for many creators already scraping by.

Comics creator Sarah Horrocks was succinct, "F-ck all the way off. None of this is about digital art."

Cartoonist JD Lunt concluded, "Feels weird unfollowing CBLDF, but here we are."

And graphic novelist Andi Watson replied, "Ffs". Whichever way you take it, this is where we all end up.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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