At the end of August while I was hip deep in Portland Zine Symposium planning and working on booking and promoting the Zines On Toast tour I received this message on Facebook:
I am currently completing a book called FANZINES (Thames & Hudson) and have included the cover of Stolen Sharpie Revolution / A DIY Zine Resource (c. 2003) and inside spread of ‘Making Paper’, as well as a screen grab of your blog home page: all 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 successful zine about zines 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.
Prof Teal Triggs
University of the Arts London
My first thought was “I don’t have time to deal with this! I have to figure out how 15 people are going to stay in my house and what the hell I’m going to talk about when Ciara and I lead a workshop on zine etiquette. Also, what kind of idiot am I for starting a band and agreeing to play a show in three weeks?” My second thought was “That’s bad etiquette to ask for permission AFTER the book had gone to print. I wonder if she really used the 2003 version of the paper making from SSR because Sugene from All This Is Mine did the illustrations for some editions and I wonder how she would feel about that.”
Then I saw this post on We Make Zines. It seems that I wasn’t the only one that had their zines included without being asked and flood of at least a dozen people have come forward. It seems strange that a zine that is meant to celebrate the zine community would forget that one crucial part of manners: consent. I don’t exactly know how it was that so many people were asked after the fact. Maybe it was merely an oversight? Maybe she thought people might say “no” and ruin her big project? Whatever the reason, I find this unacceptable. It seems that a major publisher would need permission before printing, right? How did this happen when so many people are pretty easy to find with a simple internet search? A simple internet search could have fixed some of the problems that went to print like work being attributed to the wrong name after Amber had gone through great lengths to change it years before.
The weekend of the 2010 Portland Zine Symposium we sure had something to talk about at our zine ethics workshop! Not only that but we had lots of discussions over zine filled tables, over pints … and I believe also a bottle of whiskey as a few of us sat on the floor of my office late into the night talking about zine ethics and this who Fanzines book debacle.
The funny thing is, a lot of the other zine creators and I, are not as upset about the copyright issues as we are about the lack of thoughtfulness and poor judgment. Had I been asked to include my work, I probably would have said yes and expected a contributor copy and a discount on future purchases. But I just feel that a for a book that is supposed to celebrate zine culture, a little more attention and respect should have been paid to that culture and what is expected of participants in it. I have had my work stolen and used without my permission pretty often and mostly it is for things that are not for profit, this book retails for $40. I guess I would have expected a lot higher standards for an academic to have done the research and for a publisher at least to have demanded those standards. I’m so over people saying it is flattering and I should be happy when my creations are used without my permission. Just because someone has a piece of exposure power pie and chooses to share it with you does not make it alright and excuse their abuse of that power.
I know that some people might be saying “but, zines up appropriated images all the time so what’s the big deal with this?” I know that my DIY punk background has skewed some of my ethics into a “us vs them” mentality that is often divided into the “haves” and “have nots” but zines are a hobby that I frequently loose money on, this a fully backed book with a traditional publisher and an academic that should have known better. This book is selling for $40. When I make zines I make them for peers, this book is meant to celebrate zines and be sold to others that celebrate zines yet lacks the decency to respect its subject matter.
So, now the book is in print and all sorts of sadly hilarious things are coming out. There are many other errors and straight up lies printed in its pages. Tobi Vail wrote what I might find as the most disturbing part of all this, that by being in print this book with all it’s inaccuracies is now sealed in historical stone as truth about fanzines and zine culture.
Last night I saw a link to this web page: Fanzinesbytealtriggs.weebly.com that documents other experiences with it and what can be done. I believe there is a list being created of all the zines that were included without permission. Whatever you do, don’t buy the book and don’t assume that anyone who is included in the pages consented to being there. I just requested my contributor copy, I was no offered one, i had to request it from the publisher. I’m sort of looking forward to going through it and marking it up!
Oh, in an amusing twist, I read on that page that Urban Outfitters is going to distributing the books. That seems like a perfect fit as Urban Outfitters is notorious for stealing designs from DIY artist with no compensation.
Edited to add: If I was Teal Triggs and I had genuinely made a mistake I would make a public apology and then I would have done my best to track down all the contributors and issue them a personal apology. Then I would get them contributor copies even if the money had to come out of my own pocket. I feel like Teal Triggs silence on all fronts, including direct requests from people like Jerianne fro Zine World, speaks volumes.