One of the hot topics that came out of San Diego Comic Con #SDCC2015 this last weekend was about cosplayers that charged for photos or asked for tips. A few things I am seeing are painting all the cosplayers that ask for money with the same brush but I want to separate them into a few categories.
The first group are the ‘professional’ cosplayers, these are the ones that are at conventions either as guests of the con or they have purchased a booth. These are professionals that are marketing something and they have a right to charge for a photo. This is what they do for a living, cosplaying is how they pay their bills.
Even then, many of them will pose with you for a picture for free. Most (not all) of them that do charge for photos have an area designated somewhere to do a more professional style photo. All of them also sell professional photos of themselves in cosplay, usually autographed. In my opinion they have as much of a right to charge for a photograph or even a selfie as the artist down the row does for a sketch. You are paying for their talent, which may be nothing more than modeling. If you don’t want to pay for it, then walk away. Vera Baby has an interview upcoming with PopcultHQ, so when giving her a gift at #C2E2 she was gladly willing to give us a photoshoot for free. Later on in the show our Owner/EIC gladly paid for a selfie photo for his personal enjoyment (that lucky dog him)!
Regular (Amateur) Cosplayers:
These aren’t big name actors, they are just regular joes who purchased a ticket (or in rare cases won a ticket) into the con. These are the ones that everyone should have issues with when it comes to charging for photos.
- All of us that purchase tickets are there as guests of the event, we purchased a ticket for the right to attend. We are not vendors and we did not pay for the right to sell at the convention. We also don’t have a vending license, insurance or any of the other hundred things that are probably required to sell at some of these cons.
- A cosplayer charging for photos is misleading the public into believing that they are an authorized retailer at the con and as such that they represent the con.
- By purchasing a ticket, you have already agreed to be photographed. In many case there is a disclaimer on the ticket or somewhere in the purchasing agreement similar to the one on the C2E2 rules page.“By purchasing a badge and in consideration for being admitted to C2E2, the holder consents to being recorded (by audio, visual, and/or other means) for exhibition and exploitation by any means in all media now known or hereafter devised worldwide in perpetuity.”Actually most public events have a similar disclaimer, so you can’t actually charge for something you have already consented to.
- Regular cosplayers that are charging for photos are actually taking potential revenue from the real vendors and cosplayers. Cosplayers have a bad enough reputation with many vendors and artists because they feel that the cons have become more about the costumes than about the art that they derived from. If this becomes more common you can expect to hear an outcry from vendors and then the cons themselves will be forced to step in.
- And now for the really big one – Copyright infringement. We enjoy dressing as our favorite characters and most copyright holders and artists take it as a compliment and see it as free advertising, which is why we are indirectly allowed to do it. They don’t really give us a green light, but they do turn a blind eye. The problem comes in when individuals start making a profit off of those copy written characters without a licensing agreement. This steps into the same realm as piracy as they are now taking profit directly from those that own the rights to the characters. If they are not paying any form of compensation to the owners of that character, they are stealing it. Once the copyright holders realize that they are being stolen from they will start cracking down on all cosplaying of their characters to prevent it from happening. That means we lose our fun.
This is an example of greed at its best. It is the cosplayers that insist on money for photos that give the rest of us, the true cosplayers a bad reputation. They are no better than costumed beggers. Photographers and fans are going to start avoiding anyone in a costume if the first thing they think is ‘oh God, they are going to ask me for money.’ Personally I like to hear the shout from across the room because someone appreciates my costume, I have no problem stopping and posing (except during bathroom and water breaks) to have my photo taken or to pose with someone.
These are the types of cosplayers that ruin it for others. In one case, they ruined a costume idea simply because the character has a tip jar and they don’t want to be mistaken for one of the beggers.
The Grey Area:
The article that started all of this has a quote from the photographer that I would like to address:
“One just flat out said it was $1 for a picture. Another cosplayer dressed as Spock would only let you take his picture for a $2 “donation”. I was in costume and had no money on me, which I expressed to him and he told me he was there the whole convention, find him later. There was a Hulk who was collecting money as donations for a children’s hospital. We also spotted a Groot cosplayer with a sign that said “Tips make Groot grow”. At least this one let you take pictures of them anyway.”
I am familiar with the Spock cosplayer and he falls under the realm of a professional. Every con I have seen him at, he has a booth. He is Spock Vegas and is a professional Spock impersonator. The $2 donation for a picture is for a legitimate charity. When you speak to him at a con he seems very standoffish and almost rude, but that is because he is in character, he IS Spock. Out of character he is really a very nice guy. Our very own owner/EIC Manny has spoken with Spock Vegas at Wizard World Madison 2015 where Spock Vegas let Manny take this picture (below) without charging any fee. he has been longtime known for his charity and activist role as a pro Spock impersonator……he is not a “cosplayer”.
The grey area that I really want to talk about are the cosplayers out there who are attempting to do something nice for a charity. These are the ones that will walk around with a container for a charity. These cosplayers don’t charge for their photos, but they are not adverse to a donation to their charity of choice. I have problems with the ones that push it, but an occasional casual mention is acceptable. In my opinion they are no worse than the charity boxes at the register or the children who take around UNICEF boxes at Halloween. The problem is that you have to take it on faith that the money they are collecting is actually for that charity and that it is a good charity. Unfortunately too many people use charities as a scam cover these days, so most of us are leery about putting money in random donation boxes.
As for the one who accepted tips? Tips are generally given as a way of saying thanks for a service, I suppose he is providing a service, but the photographer themselves is also providing a service by spreading around his image…so who should really do the tipping?
Editors Note: Manny Popoca – “Holy shit! If they don’t have a booth and are not sponsoring the creator of the character they are cosplaying by giving some of that money to them also as a kickback………. I know a lot of comic book creators will be pissed!”