Robot 6

Comics A.M. | Case of Sherlock Holmes rights isn’t over just yet

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Legal | As the dust begins to settle on the ruling last month by a federal judge that Arthur Conan Doyle’s first 50 Sherlock Holmes stories have lapsed into the public domain in the United States, out march the analyses pointing out the buts. Chief among them, of course, is the possibility of appeal by the Conan Doyle estate, which contends the characters were effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States (the 10 stories published after Jan. 1, 1923, remain under copyright in this country until 2022).

However, Publishers Weekly notes that because U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo didn’t rule directly on that “novel” argument, the estate may be satisfied with the ambiguity of the decision, given that uncertain creators still may seek to license the characters to steer clear of any trouble. Estate lawyer Benjamin Allison also insists that the Sherlock Holmes trademarks remain unaffected, an assertion that puzzles author and scholar Leslie Klinger, who brought the lawsuit. “There is a very good reason why the Estate did not assert trademark protection: The Estate does not own any trademarks,” he told PW. “They have applied for them, and there will be substantial opposition.” There’s more at NPR, The Independent and The Atlantic. [Publishers Weekly]

Dan Buckley

Dan Buckley

Publishing | ICv2 continues its interview with Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, who addresses how the company’s print and film divisions coordinate strategies: “The general philosophy is we’re going to try to build some heat around a character 18 months to a year before the movie releases within the comic continuity. That way we’ll have some fresh trades and collections on the shelves, with high level talent, when the movie releases. You’ll have some back issues; you’ll have some trades; there’ll be a market. The books will feel contemporary with the best read and art that we can provide at that time.” [ICv2]

Comics | Brian Truitt talks to Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort about the publisher’s next big crossover event, “Original Sin,” which debuts in May. [USA Today]

Comics | The animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which was abruptly canceled last spring, will finish its story in a four-issue limited series to debut in May from Dark Horse. [Newsarama]

Sholay: The Graphic Novel

Sholay: The Graphic Novel

Comics | Nyay Bhushan looks at the growing trend in India of making graphic novels from popular films, with a particular focus on Graphic India’s adaptation of the 1975 film Sholay. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Creators | Writer G. Willow Wilson talks about the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Muslim who has been attracting a lot of attention ahead of her February debut. [Wired]

Creators | Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons talks about working with Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Steve Rude and other creators in the first of a planned series of interviews. [13th Dimension]

Afterlife With Archie #1

Afterlife With Archie #1

Creators | Afterlife With Archie writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa tells Michael Cavna that while it’s fun bringing zombies and other horror creatures to Riverdale, “the real thrill has been telling these weird, deeply emotional, personal stories with these iconic characters. Treating them as real people, in extreme situations. Peeling back the layers to reveal their true cores. That¹s been the best part for a lifelong Archie fan like me.” [Comic Riffs]

Creators | In a five-minute video, Bizarro cartoonist Dan Piraro talks about how they made comics in the days before digital. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Publishing | RJ Casey, Andrea Bell and Kevin Budnik of Yeti Press, a small comics publisher based in Chicago, are the guests on the OC Dweeb podcast. [OC Dweeb]

Comic strips | Longtime Rex Morgan, MD, artist Graham Nolan is stepping down; Terry Beatty, who also draws The Phantom, has been drawing the daily strips since Dec. 30, and his first Sunday strip will appear this weekend. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Comics | Sean Kleefeld discusses the problem of trying to determine the copyright of some older comics he wants to write about, and the danger that Disney will assert ownership even though the works are in the public domain. [Kleefeld on Comics]

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Comments

10 Comments

IP law is broken, has been for years. The big downfall was when that stupid patent troll took down blackberry and tons of jobs with it.

I can’t wait for this Gibbons-Moore project!

Save your time, they made a movie of it already

The Conan Doyle Estate didn’t assert trademark protection because the Court ruled a few years ago that you can’t use trademark to enjoin use of public domain materials, so they needed to establish whether it was public domain in the first place to even make that argument. Copyright protection is much stronger than that of trademark, anyway.

That said, you can still have some trademark rights without a registered trademark. It’s the difference between ® and ™. ® means you registered your trademark with the Patent and Trademark office and it was approved, and you can get full statutory damages from anyone who infringes on it. ™ means that you’re asserting trademark rights over a name/logo/whatever but haven’t registered it. You can’t get statutory damages if someone infringes your ™, and indeed a court might rule that your ™ is not actually protectable, which is one reason someone might not ® it, if they think there’s a chance the PTO would reject their application. This is not quite as dodgy as it sounds–you see it a lot with character names of big franchises: Harry Potter™ allows JKR/WB to enjoin unofficial merchandise and the like, while Harry Potter®, if it were even granted, would allow them to be absolute dicks to any poor soul actually named Harry Potter trying to use his name in any kind of public capacity (Google “MikeRoweSoft”). And if the PTO denied the Harry Potter® application, then JKR/WB wouldn’t be allowed to use Harry Potter™ either.

I hope the argument that Sherlock Holmes the character wasn’t “complete” until the final story was published doesn’t hold up, because that undermines the public domain-status of the pre-1923 stories. You can’t say that the novel of The Hound of the Baskervilles is in the public domain, but I can’t actually use it in the way public domain is meant to allow because the main character isn’t there yet.

What if Sherlock Holmes weren’t complete? Then it would mean the pastiches use an incomplete version of the character (based on the first 50 stories out of a total of 60)! In the case of corporations like DC and Marvel that would mean none of their characters are ever complete as long as the corps publish them. this is a ridiculous argument.

The first commenter said it all for me: intellectual property and copyright law in the U.S. is busted and has been for a while. Congress has zero interest in making things better.

Imagine what would happen if they actually let Mickey Mouse go into public domain, as it should?

@Aaron B.: The worst part is the US Government in practice is totally in favor of all sorts of copyleft and open source stuff when it comes to getting their own jobs done. They will specifically request that contractors use free and open source software wherever possible. But then the idiots in Congress taking graft–sorry, “meeting with lobbyists and accepting campaign contributions”–from all the big media companies will swear up and down that Life+70 or 90 for Corporate-Owned isn’t enough “incentive” for people to continue to produce new media. And next to nobody argues, because the arts and humanities “don’t really matter”.

I think there’s an error somewhere in the following: “(the 10 stories published after Jan. 1, 1923, remain under copyright in this country until 1922).”

Last time I checked, 1922’s already passed and wouldn’t it be a bit difficult for stories published “after Jan 1, 1923″ to remain under copyright until the year before such stories were written?

Alexa wrote, “I hope the argument that Sherlock Holmes the character wasn’t “complete” until the final story was published doesn’t hold up, because that undermines the public domain-status of the pre-1923 stories. You can’t say that the novel of The Hound of the Baskervilles is in the public domain, but I can’t actually use it in the way public domain is meant to allow because the main character isn’t there yet.”

Couldn’t an argument be made that the character was “complete” in 1893 when Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem” appeared to KILL OFF Holmes? In fact, after pressure mounted on Conan Doyle to bring back Holmes, his first Holmes story in 1901 (“The Hound of the Baskervilles”) was set BEFORE Holmes’ death. If Conan Doyle had had his way, all the Holmes works would be in public domain because there wouldn’t have been any Holmes stories after 1893.

@Acmc: While I agree that patent law is broken, it’s completely irrelevant to the subject at hand. We’re talking about copyright.

Patents have their own host of issues, but they expire much more quickly than copyrights and disputes over their expiration is not a major source of confusion or abuse. (To the contrary, one of the major issues with patents is determining whether they should have been granted in the first place.)

The umbrella term “intellectual property” is part of the problem. It equates multiple areas of law that are only superficially similar.

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