Say what you will about the shareholders of Stan Lee Media, but despite suffering one loss after another in their decade-long battle for the rights to Marvel’s best-known characters, they’re still unwilling to concede defeat.
In papers filed Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, and first reported by Deadline, the failed dot-com now seeks a declaratory judgment that it, and not Disney or Marvel, owns Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, Thor and other superheroes.
The move, which comes just three months after an annoyed federal judge dismissed their multibillion-dollar claim against Disney, springs from a lawsuit filed in September by the media giant against the American Music Theatre, which is accused of using elements of Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in a stage revue without permission. In a surprise twist, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based theater responded last month that it has a license to use Spider-Man and numerous other Marvel heroes — through an exclusive agreement with Stan Lee Media. Somewhat conveniently, American Music Theatre filed a third-party counterclaim against Stan Lee Media, opening the door for Tuesday’s filing.
Although Ed Kramer pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of child molestation, the DragonCon co-founder insists he’s innocent of the charges that date back more than 13 years.
“He maintains his innocence on all charges,” hit attorney McNeill Stokes told reporters at the Gwinnett County (Georgia) Courthouse. District Attorney Danny Porter countered that the result remains the same: “If it made him feel better not to have to say ‘I did it,’ then what difference does that make in the end?”
Kramer, who was accused of molesting three teenage boys, entered an Alford plea, in which the defendant doesn’t admit guilt but acknowledges there’s sufficient evidence that a judge or jury would likely find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The 52-year-old Kramer entered pleas on three of the six counts in the original indictment, one for each of the victims; the state agreed not to pursue the other charges.
Under the agreement, Kramer was sentenced to five years of house arrest for each count, to run concurrently. Because he was previously jailed in Connecticut and Georgia for 26 months, he’s left with 34 months. He also must pay $100,000 restitution to each of the victims. He will be a registered sex offender for life, and barred from interacting with anyone under the age of 16 — which includes involvement in any occupation that could put him in contact with minors. Kramer was previously involved in photography, videography and filmmaking, all of which are now off-limits to him.
DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer pleaded guilty this morning to child-molestation charges even as his long-delayed trial was set to get under way in Lawrenceville, Georgia. However, he won’t spend any additional time in jail.
The Gwinnett Daily Post reports the 50-year-old Kramer entered guilty pleas three of the six counts in the original indictment, one for each of the teenage boys; the state agreed not to pursue the other charges. Under the agreement, the district attorney recommended a 20-year sentence, with Kramer serving five years on each count, to run concurrently. Because Kramer was previously jailed in Connecticut and Georgia for 26 months, he’s left with 34 months — which will be served under house arrest.
That sentence, as the newspaper notes, is likely because of the myriad health problems Kramer claims to suffer. He also was ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution to each of the three victims by July 2014, and is prohibited from interacting with anyone under the age of 16.
If convicted, he had faced 25-year mandatory minimum sentences on each of the charges, with two aggravated counts potentially carrying life sentences.
Just ahead of Ed Kramer’s trial on 13-year-old child-molestation charges, DragonCon has announced a settlement that officially severs all ties with its litigious co-founder.
The board of the popular Atlanta sci-fi/fantasy convention revealed in July, amid a boycott effort, that it had offered to buy out Kramer’s shares in a merger — his attorney called it a “discriminatory squeeze-out” — in which a new company called Dragon Con Inc. absorbed the old DragonCon/Ace Inc. Kramer initially rejected the offer, which led the board to sue him in August; DragonCon spokesman Greg Euston told Atlanta magazine the out-of-court settlement calls for Kramer to be paid a “small amount over” what the company had offered.
Kramer, who helped found DragonCon a quarter-century ago, hasn’t been directly associated with the event since his arrest in August 2000 on charges of sexually abusing two teenage boys (a third later stepped forward). However, he continued to receive annual dividends from DragonCon — $154,000 for 2011 alone — after attempts to buy out Kramer’s stake in the for-profit corporation proved unsuccessful. He filed two lawsuits against co-founder Pat Henry and DragonCon/ACE, and rebuffed three previous offers to buy out his shares for $500,000, in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
Although the attorney representing the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had vowed they were “prepared to go the distance” in their legal battle with DC Comics, they appear to have reached the end of the road. Of course, that’s been said a few times before.
As Deadline reports, in a 2-1 vote the Ninth Circuit on Thursday tied up the loose ends in what it describes as “the long-running saga regarding the ownership of copyrights in Superman — a story almost as old as the Man of Steel himself,” reaffirming an October 2012 ruling that the Shuster estate is prevented from reclaiming the artist’s stake in the character by a 20-year-old agreement with DC.
“We are obviously very pleased with the court’s decision,” DC’s parent company Warner Bros. said in a statement.
That lower-court decision, which was appealed in May, dealt with a 1992 deal in which the Shuster estate relinquished all claims to Superman in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” which included paying Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and providing his sister Jean Peavy and brother Frank Shuster with a $25,000 annual pension. In October, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright found that the agreement invalidated a copyright-termination notice filed in 2003 by Shuster’s nephew Mark Peary.
The National reports the 23-year-old Suparman was arrested in August after he was caught on security video sneaking into a store on two separate nights, stealing a total of $500. He ultimately admitted to those crimes and eight other charges, including stealing his brother’s ATM card and making withdrawals of $650, and using heroin.
Prosecutors moved to trial on just three charges, and on Monday Suparman was sentenced to 33 months in jail. According to Channel NewsAsia, it could’ve been a lot worse: Housebreaking charges alone could’ve earned him between two and 14 years.
The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar describes his government’s attempts to silence him, and proclaims his determination not to be silenced, in a column on the news site Malaysiakini. Last week, a court dismissed his appeal of his 2010 arrest, although he was never formally charged, and another court ruled that the government had to return the books confiscated from him. Zunar says he has another appeal before the court and doesn’t expect to prevail in that one either.
The trouble started in 2009 with the publication of his comic Gedung Kartun (Cartoon-o-Phobia). Before it could be distributed, government officials raided his office and confiscated 400 copies of the book; the next day they raided his printer and warned them not to print any more of Zunar’s books, threatening to revoke their printing license.
No matter how hard they try, Disney and Marvel can’t seem to shake the specter of Stan Lee Media: Just two months after a federal judge dismissed a multibillion lawsuit against Disney for ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee, the failed dot-com has emerged in another, seemingly unrelated dispute.
In September, Disney, Marvel and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. sued Lancaster, Pennsylvania-bases American Music Theatre, saying it violated copyrights and trademarks by using elements of Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in its musical revue Broadway: Now and Forever (Disney and Mackintosh jointly hold the copyright to the Mary Poppins stage production).
On Monday the theater responded with an eye-opening claim of its own: that Disney doesn’t own Spider-Man. Instead, the counterclaim states, the character belongs to Stan Lee Media, which licensed the rights to the American Music Theatre.
An employee of the Ohio Department of Health has reportedly confessed to illegally downloading, television series and more than 30,000 comic books from torrent sites to state computers.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Edward Jones Jr., who has worked in information technology for the agency since 1992, admitted to the activity during an investigation by the inspector general’s office initiated last year after an allegation by media giant Viacom that copyrighted material had been downloaded using a state IP address.
According to the inspector general’s report, Jones initially suggested that Viacom might have simply detected him downloading “suspicious programs” or viruses to an unauthorized third computer for analysis as part of his job. Shortly after that first interview, in April 2012, Jones reportedly attempted to delete more than 5,000 files from the computer and an external hard drive; investigators were later able to recover those video and comic book files. They also determined that Jones was a member of several torrenting websites, where he both downloaded and uploading files.
With just nine words — “It is hereby ordered that the petition is denied” — the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday seemingly ended a four-year effort by the children of Jack Kirby to gain a copyright stake in many of the characters their father created or co-created for Marvel.
As Deadline reports, the Kirby heirs had petitioned for rehearing, either before a panel of the Second Circuit or the full bench of judges, of whether they had the right to file 45 copyright-termination notices in 2009 for some of Marvel’s best-known, and most lucrative, characters, including the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk.
Quickly responding to those notices, Marvel (later joined by then-new parent company Disney) sued to invalidate the heirs’ claims, arguing that Kirby’s creations for the publisher were work for hire, made at the company’s direction and expense, and therefore weren’t eligible for copyright termination. A federal judge agreed, ruling in July 2011 that, as works for hire, the copyrights to those characters belong to Marvel.
The Kirby family appealed, but in August 2013 a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit upheld the district court’s decision, reaffirming that the heirs had no termination rights. The judges also upheld the lower court’s exclusion of expert testimony offered by John Morrow and Mark Evanier on behalf of the Kirby heirs, agreeing that “their reports are by and large undergirded by hearsay statements, made by freelance artists in both formal and informal settings, concerning Marvel’s general practices towards its artists during the relevant time period.”
Deadline reports that more than two years after the failed dot-com sued Paradox Entertainment in a bid to reclaim the rights to Robert E. Howard’s most famous character, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has effectively delivered the deathblow to SLM’s case, upholding a lower court’s 2012 dismissal. Of course, we’ve learned by now that the company isn’t one to give up a legal fight.
Stan Lee Media, which hasn’t had a connection to its co-founder and namesake in more than a decade — in fact, it has sued Stan Lee on a few occasions — purchased the rights to the Conan characters in 2000, shortly before it entered federal bankruptcy protection. The company claimed its interests weren’t properly represented, nor were shareholders notified, when in 2002 Conan Sales Co. bought back the rights. The complaint also alleged that the late Arthur Lieberman, Stan Lee’s longtime attorney, committed fraud during the proceedings, and failed to report conflicts of interest. Therefore, SLM argued, the subsequent sale of the characters to Paradox Entertainment should be annulled.
For a few weeks it appeared as if This Charming Charlie, the popular blog that mashes up Peanuts panels with The Smiths lyrics, was heading nowhere fast, as Universal Music Publishing Group began inundating Tumblr with takedown notices, claiming copyright infringement. However, the blog’s mastermind Lauren LoPrete stood her ground, and with a little legal help filed counter-notifications with Tumblr, insisting the mash-ups fall under the fair-use exception of U.S. copyright law.
Now, not only has Universal apparently backed away from efforts to yank the parodies, but former Smiths frontman and lyricist Morrissey has given This Charming Charlie his endorsement. He also made clear in a statement to the True to You fansite that he had nothing to do with the takedown notices.
As Morrissey once wrote, “I know it’s over/And it never really began”: This Charming Charlie, the delightful blog that mashed up Peanuts panels with The Smiths lyrics, has closed (at least for now), less than two months after its launch. But the culprit might not be who you think.
Techdirt notes that the blog’s mastermind Lauren LoPrete announced last week that The Smiths license holder Universal Music Publishing Group — rather that Peanuts Worldwide — began inundating her with takedown notices, leading her to advise her readers that she’s ending the Tumblr. However, she isn’t giving up without a fight.
LoPrete tells Motherboard that as soon as she posted the farewell, she began getting offers from lawyers to accept her case pro bono. And so now, with a little help, she’s filing counter-notifications with Tumblr, insisting the mash-ups fall under the fair-use exception of U.S. copyright law.
A federal judge on Thursday dismissed Stan Lee Media’s multibillion-dollar lawsuit against Disney, potentially ending its long and confusing legal battle to claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee. The failed dot-com has had no connection to its co-founder and namesake in more than a decade; in fact, the two have sued each other on a few occasions.
As Deadline reports, in granting Disney’s motion to dismiss the 2012 copyright-infringement complaint, U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez didn’t attempt to hide his annoyance with the litigious Stan Lee Media, whose tangled web of lawsuits began it at least 2007, just months after the company emerged from federal bankruptcy protection.
“Plaintiff has tried time and again to claim ownership of those copyrights; the litigation history arising out of the 1998 Agreement stretches over more than a decade and at least six courts,” Martinez wrote in his 11-page order. “Taking its cue from the Southern District of New York and the Central District of California, this Court holds that Plaintiff is precluded from re-litigating the issue of its ownership of copyrights based on the 1998 Agreement …” He said it would be “futile” to permit Stan Lee Media to amend the lawsuit.
Thirteen years after his original arrest on child-molestation charges, DragonCon co-found Ed Kramer is at last heading to trial. Or, at least he has a trial date.
The Gwinnett (Georgia) Daily Post reports that following a two-and-a-half-hour hearing on Monday, Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Karen Beyers added the Kramer case to the judicial calendar for the weeks of Dec. 2 and 9 — and according to Kramer’s attorney McNeill Stokes, his client “wants to go to trial.”
Kramer was originally arrested on charges of molesting three teenage boys between 1996 and 2000, but the trial has been repeatedly delayed since his 2003 indictment through legal maneuverings and claims of declining health, which at one point apparently required the attention of 16 physicians. He was first released on bond in November 2000, less than three months after his arrest, but he was back in jail within days when a neighbor reported seeing a teenage boy enter his home.
Following claims of a January 2001 assault by a deputy, Kramer was placed on house arrest, an order later modified to permit travel between Georgia and New Jersey or New York to receive medical treatments and visit his ailing mother. Under the conditions of the bond, he was to report his weekly location and not have any unsupervised contact with children under the age of 16. However, in September 2011, he was arrested in Connecticut after he allegedly was found alone in a hotel room with a 14-year-old boy. He was extradited back to Georgia in January 2013 to face six counts of child molestation.