Robot 6

Mattel fights rights claims by ‘He-Man’ minicomics writer

he-man and the power swordMattel hopes it has the power to tamp down claims by writer Donald Glut that he has a copyright stake in the original Masters of the Universe minicomics packaged with the action-figure line three decades ago.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Los Angeles, and first reported by Courthouse News Service, the toymaker seeks a declaration that it is the sole owner of the lucrative multimedia franchise, asserting that Glut’s four stories were work for hire. Mattel refers to the writer’s claims of ownership as “both baseless and stale,” insisting the statute of limitations long ago expired.

According to the complaint, Glut was commissioned in 1981 to write “He-Man and the Power Sword,” “The Vengeance of Skeletor,” “Battle in the Clouds” and “King of Castle Grayskull” and to create backstories for He-Man and other characters under the direction of the toymaker (“Mattel told Glut what the toys could do and directed him to have the characters in the minicomics do these things as much as possible,” the document states). The company notes the writer acknowledged as recently as 2001 that the minicomics were work for hire for which he received neither credit nor royalties.

“My work on Masters of the Universe taught me one basic lesson: Don’t create anything original, especially concepts that someone else will make millions of dollars from, unless you have a percentage of the profits or part ownership,” Glut said in a 2001 interview posted on his website. “It’s a lesson I’ve managed to stick to since my days with He-Man and the gang.”

But Mattel claims that this year the writer suddenly came forward to assert he created the characters and owns the copyrights, and merely licensed them to the toymaker. Under Glut’s alleged theory, that license would expire in 2016.

Glut, who wrote the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back, also penned episodes of such animated series as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, The Transformers and Centurions, as well as issues of Marvel’s Captain America, Conan Saga, The Invaders. Kull the Destroyer and The Savage Sword of Conan.

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Good luck with that, dude, but this case seems pretty clear-cut from this perspective.

I loved those minicomics.
I also loved the Earl Norem art that was so prevalent among early He-Man promotional stuff.

The article doesn’t say anything about whether Glut signed a work-for-hire contract with Mattel for the material. Before 1978 they wouldn’t need one, but this was 1981. They would have to have his signature on a proper contract to claim it’s work-for-hire. The fact that they’re trying to get his claim dismissed on statute-of-limitations grounds rather than pointing to a contract is curious. I’m interested in seeing how this one plays out.

I remember Paul Dini on the first “Fatman on Batman” episode talked briefly about this. About how they pretty much had to make everything up for the show, since the toy company just had designs and no actual information.

He also briefly mentioned that this guy (I assume he meant this guy, mind you. Didn’t actually mention a name) claims he created all of it, but didn’t actually.

Donald Glut is a HORRIBLE writer. The guy has never written anything I’d consider worth reading. Just terrible.

Ugh, why would anyone want to take credit for creating HE-MAN?!?

“Ugh, why would anyone want to take credit for creating HE-MAN?!?”

I’ll give you a hint: it starts with $ and ends with $$$$$$.

Not only does the sound like a hopeless lawsuit, but he’s going to be known as a guy that is dangerous to hire.
Good luck after that.

Dandruff – that is a very broad and inaccurate statement. While Glut did a lot of work for hire that asked him to complete a lot of memorable “done-in-one” stories some of them were very good. In addition, he wrote a range of both non-fiction and fiction-based prose that was memorable, not to mention contributing to a lot of memorable cartoons from the late sixties through to the seventies.

Not that this has anything to do with being treated in a fair manner by the entertainment industry.

“Ugh, why would anyone want to take credit for creating HE-MAN?!?”

Spoken like a true troll who obviously knows nothing about the rich history of the Masters of the Universe world. Troll on buddy, troll on…

Wait, in that interview except he openly states that he created the stories based on the existing toys (or at least prototypes). Likewise, most of what Masters of the Universe is nowadays is based on the animated series and later mini-comics (which were strongly influenced by the series), not the mini-comics (like the whole “dual identity” thing, Man-At-Arms being Teela’s father, Skeletor being He-Man’s uncle, etc). The best this guy can hope for, so far as I can tell, is a protracted legal battle in which a court tries to separate out all that stuff. Or a payout from Mattel, which is going to happen a quarter past never.

Don Glut did create Dagar the Invincible, a sword and sorcery character from Gold Key, back in 1972. The first issue does feature a rather Grayskull looking castle some 8 years before the toys were released. I realize he was not the artist, but I just found it interesting given this lawsuit.

@LonestarF1:

Dini probably meant this guy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Sweet

I can’t believe that Mattel didn’t have a contract. They just said, “Hey, Don, do this and this and this and we’ll pay you (fill-in-the-blank)!” I guess they figured their legal team could handle any suits thrown their way.

“The company notes the writer acknowledged as recently as 2001 that the minicomics were work for hire for which he received neither credit nor royalties.” If they have some kind of documentation to prove this assertion then Mr. Glut is pretty much done.

“My work on Masters of the Universe taught me one basic lesson: Don’t create anything original, especially concepts that someone else will make millions of dollars from, unless you have a percentage of the profits or part ownership,” This probably explains why he hasn’t worked in comics since 1980. Any of his original concepts, provided he has any, aren’t worth publishing. Didn’t read Dagar and have no inclination to.

This seems to be a similar case like Friedrich and Wolfman, they say nothing until there’s big dollars to possibly be made and then go to court. Yep, just tie up the system some more with frivolous lawsuits. Unbelievable.

“the rich history of the Masters of the Universe world”

LOLZ

@JB

Like they said: troll on buddy…

It took a whole five posts before we got to somebody saying “His stuff is bad” as if that has some sort of bearing on the legal case. I’m impressed.

Because anyone who doesn’t pretend masters of the universe is anything more than lame and stupid is a troll.

Poor deluded He-Man fanboys.

>> “The company notes the writer acknowledged as recently as 2001 that the minicomics were work for hire for which he received neither credit nor royalties.” If they have some kind of documentation to prove this assertion then Mr. Glut is pretty much done.>>

What follows is a 2001 quote from Glut that they seem to think backs up their case, but it doesn’t.

Selling the rights to something — even selling the rights to something in a manner in which you get no credit or royalties — is not necessarily work for hire.

Nor, for that matter, is writing material based on existing characters or designs.

Work for hire is a legal term that means the company (or whoever is doing the hiring), is legally the author of the work. So the rights always stay with them because the rights originated with them, as the legal author.

If you simply write something and then sell it to a company, that’s called a rights transfer. You owned the rights, you sold them to someone else. Those rights were transferred from one owner to another.

That’s not true of work for hire; it’s true of a rights sale.

So what’s the difference? Rights sales are able to be reverted, under the law, after a certain amount of time has passed. Work for hire deals don’t revert.

So it’s entirely possible for Glut to have done a job, one for which he got no credit or royalties, under a deal where Mattel bought the rights from him rather than one where they entered into a contractual work for hire deal before he began work. [That’s another difference: Work for hire, as currently defined, can’t be retroactive. If you didn’t sign a wfh deal until after you started the job, it’s not wfh.]

So is it a slam dunk for Mattel? No, not if they don’t have a contract, and certainly not if they’re relying on that quote to prove wfh.

Is it a greedy move on Glut’s part, only taken after the property made a lot of money? Probably not, since MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE was a much bigger property years ago, so that’d have been the time to act. Far more likely, it’s that reversion of the rights transfer _couldn’t_happen_ until a certain amount of time had passed. As the law specifies.

The argument that corporations should just naturally be the only ones to profit from ideas people consider dumb or bad is bananas on the face of it.

And Glut’s almost 70 years old. The people who think he shouldn’t assert his legal rights (if he did indeed make a rights transfer) for fear of damaging his employability are probably not thinking things through. When’s the appropriate time to assert your rights, after you’re dead?

kdb

>> This probably explains why he hasn’t worked in comics since 1980.>>

I’d think the explanation for why he stopped writing comics around then was more that Roy Thomas moved from Marvel to DC in 1980. By then, Glut was in-demand enough as a TV writer that what few comics he did were mostly to have fun and help Roy meet deadlines, and once Roy was writing for DC and not hiring other writers to do SAVAGE SWORD or INVADERS stories, Glut stuck with TV and film work, and the occasional other writing gigs that came out of that, like the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK novelization.

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