Robot 6

Mattel wins fight with comics writer over He-Man rights

he-man and the power swordIn the battle over the copyrights to the original Masters of the Universe minicomics, it’s Mattel that has the power of Grayskull.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, a federal judge last week sided with the toymaker in its 2013 lawsuit against writer Donald Glut, who claimed he created the characters in 1981, owns the copyrights and merely licenses them to Mattel (a license, he said, that would expire in 2016).

The company insisted Glut was commissioned 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 noted the writer acknowledged as recently as 2001 that the minicomics were work for hire for which he received neither credit nor royalties. Besides, the toymaker argued, if there were any confusion about the rights, Glut had a legal obligation to come forward years ago.

Glut’s attorneys countered that his delay wasn’t unreasonable, as he believed his claim fell within the termination period stipulated by U.S. copyright law. But Mattel insisted that because the minicomics were work for hire, Glut never owned the copyright to be able to license or terminate it.

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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27 Comments

If you create content on a contract and are paid on that contract you should not being filing frivolous suits to gain the rights, the end

Who goes around bragging that he created He-Man? ;)

@AirDave: A person who sees that He-Man is resonates with nostalgic adults, much like Transformers, G.I. Joe, TMNT, Ghostbusters, ThunderCats and other 80′s properties. There’s money in nostalgia.

It also helps the resume that you helped created a toyline that generated millions during it’s heyday in the 80′s and made a character a household name.

This is why you NEVER do work for hire for CORPORATIONS. They will take everything YOU create.

So sayeth Hugh Janus…

Hugh Janus sounds like one of Hordak’s minions.

Same can be said about Hamma on GIJOE and Furman on Transformers.

I agree with Hugh Janus. Do some (Google) research on both Marvel and DC to find out exactly how right H. J. is or you can work for the corporations yourself and learn the hard way.

if you accept “work for hire” contracts you should be aware of the T&Cs included in that contract and know up front that anything you create is created for the Co. and you have no rights to any of it. in this case Glut was brought in by Mattel, given character description and asked to write a few stories…he did not create the characters or their designs, he wrote what he was contracted to write. the law suit is frivolous as he never had any claim to anything…all he did was create a little background info as supplied by mattel.

As for the “NEVER do work for hire for CORPORATIONS. They will take everything YOU create” correct they will but that’s why they hired you in the first place. Writers/artist do this all the time for many reasons, #1 being that they do not have the clout or money to do it themselves. they do work for hire to get a name and cash to be able to someday go it on their own.

Considering even in 1981 the only way work for hire could be considered work for hire is if you signed a contract ahead of time declaring it such, I doubt Mr. Glut walked into the project blindly.

And I’m sorry for anyone that thinks “evil corporations will take it all” is something modern creators do not understand when they walk into a work for hire contract. The point for most is the strong paycheck for the work, not the potential backend money.

duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh

March 10, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Wow – why are all of you assuming it was work-for-hire? What is your basis for claiming this? Or are you just making it up?

Glut said he created the characters. And that Mattel just built a toyline around his creations.

Mattel, of course, claims it was the other way around. But, according to this article, offered no proof other than “why didn’t he come forward earlier.”

If any of you have proof that it was work-for-hire, I’d love to see it. Since you’re all basing your arguments on that “fact”

@HJ: exactly. Thats the contract you sign and the corp is taking all the financial risk putting it out

With Marvel and DC I think there’s a grey area here, but Mattel…they created a toy and hired someone to help sell it.

Whoever thought up Ronald McDonald should sue McDonalds they would surely have as much recourse.

Nicholas Winter

March 10, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Failure to defend his claim to his ‘copyright’ would’ve invalidated it even if he wasn’t work for hire. That’s why companies, small and big, always defend both their copyrights and their brands whenever they discover someone’s infringing on it.

@Hugh Janus -

If you want to own the rights, then yes – don’t do work for hire. But if you want a steady job that still has creative opportunities and, most importantly, a paycheck, work for hire isn’t so bad. That’s just the nature of the beast. If Glut thought he could market He-Man successfully on his own, he shouldn’t have created him under a WFH contract. But odds are, if he hadn’t had Mattel behind him, those characters would have gone nowhere.

Any creator that doesn’t understand how WFH rights work is, at best, foolish.

Wow, reminds me of TOY MASTERS
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9USEtUDgydw
I sure hope they finish the movie :)

So sad. Yet again, the courts steal an individuals livelihood and give it to a soulless corporation who will own it in perpetuity, never allowing it to go public domain. THIS alone is why we need to revoke the ability of corporations to be treated as people in law.

Sad, sad story. Unfortunately, the same story.

The CREATOR is cheated by the big CORPORATION. Let’s hope Mattel has to pay through the nose in compensation. But when has justice ever been served anywhere in this world?

Sad.

I love it. All the corporations are eeeeeeeevil and all the creators are mistreated, fragile creatures who can’t read contracts but they’re still in the right no matter what. You make me and Alan Moore so proud. Go forth into the world, reproduce and spread your imbecility. Please.

If you are contracted and paid by a company to design and build a home, that doesn’t mean you get to come back at some future point to claim a share of the profit from the rent or sale of said home; and anybody who expected otherwise would be laughed at.

I feels sorry for creators who don’t always get to share in the success of their creations, but when you are creating characters and attendant mythology for someone else and getting paid to do that as work-for-hire, you should at least have the decency not to sue over it at some point.

Hey, duuuuuuuuuh, did you eve read the article…it states that “the writer acknowledges as recentently as 2001 that the minicomics were work for hire for which he received neither credit nor royalties.”

I’m a CG artist with 21 years of professional experience under my belt. In that time, I’ve done my share of client work. The simple fact is whenever you work for somebody else, unless you stipulate something to the contrary, the work you make is NOT yours. It’s their IP to exploit and do with as they please. Your only reward is a solid day’s pay, which you’ve hopefully negotiated to be healthy.

Even when you work a standard 9-to-5 job, your compensation is your pay. You serve the much larger machine. They’re the ones who reap the larger benefits, not you. It’s capitalism, baby. That’s fine. If you owned a company, wouldn’t you like to see the most profit? Sure. Pay your employees fairly. Meet your contractual obligations to your sub-contractors. Maximize any potential on the IP, which your wages bought. Ca-ching. It’s only unfair if you either don’t know how the system works, get greedy, or fail to negotiate properly – assuming that negotiation is an option.

In your capacity as artist, writer, or whatever, you’re an AGENT of this corporation, local business, or one-man-band client. You’re their proxy, in effect. You’re their (talented) eyes and hands. Your actions might as well be theirs. You’re acting on their behalf and being paid for it. That’s the bottom line. Whether that pay is fair or not…. Let’s just say, if the pay is not worth your time, there are other jobs or clients out there. If you’re desperate for the money, suck it up and deal with the consequences. That’s life. “There’s no crying in baseball.”

mr glut really does not have a case since he stated that the minicomics he is using to lay claim to he-men and co were work for hire which means mattel paid him for the rights plus the fact that some of the ones who created the toys said they had a hand in creating motu too.

So, does this mean the mini-comic stories will be re-released, now?

duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh

March 11, 2014 at 10:18 am

No, Wringer, the article states that Mattel said Glut admitted it was work-for-hire one time in 2001. When did he admit this? In an interview? In an off-the-cuff remark at a convention? I suppose we’ll all just take Mattel’s word for it, right?

I mean wouldn’t a large corporation have proof of a work-for-hire contract? And not have to rely on hearsay (which, by the way, Wringer, is inadmissible in court).

Again, it is funny that all of you automatically bought Mattel’s claim that it was work-for-hire – with no proof of such at all.

Well duuuuuuuuh, I actually looked at the article and have a couple questions. If Glut licensed He-man to Mattel, where is the contract that expires in 2016? Someone from Mattel must have signed it. If there is such a contract, where are the royalty payments? Certainly if Glut knew this was going to be such a great creation he wouldn’t have accepted a one time payment for it. He should be getting royalties of some sort for the TV show and movie that were produced.

Also rather odd that Glut didn’t come forward with his ownership claim until a NEW movie was announced, which would have been released right after his licensing deal with Mattel would have expired, meaning he would have been able to claim all the money from the movie was his.

Gluts argument seems to be “Mattel can’t produce a contract that says it was work for hire, so I own it all”, yet he can’t produce the licensing agreement. It’s also interesting that Glut only created the back story for He-Man, not the actual design of the characters (that was Roger Sweet, lead toy designer at Mattel).

BTW, Glut wrote the novelization for The Empire Strikes Back, if they ever do a reboot of that movie, I expect to see him filing a lawsuit on that as well.

Ok, Time for reality.
I am one of the two original designers at Mattel that originated HeMan.
We started the project in 1979! It takes a year to get a toy in to production.
Because the marketing department was afraid to put the toy out by itself. the company decided to include a comicbook. this was done as the tooling for the figures and vehicles were being tooled, way before the comic was started.
Yes we signed contracts saying that anything creative belonged to Mattel, thats what you do, and you get a regular salary. See my original sketches for Heman vehicles circa 1979 on my website.
I designed the vehicles and Mark Taylor designed the figures. We have the sketches, they have all been documented. We received nothing but our salaries, and thats OK. Website Ted-Mayer.com

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