Paraphrasing Lucy van Pelt, a California judge on Wednesday sentenced the original voice of Charlie Brown to a year in jail for threatening his ex-girlfriend and stalking her plastic surgeon, and then released to a residential drug-treatment facility.
Handing down an additional five-year probation and an order to pay $15,000 in restitution, Superior Court Judge Dwayne Moring cautioned former actor Peter Robbins, “If I can borrow a line from Peanuts, sir, I’m going to grant [you] probation. If you adhere to those terms, you won’t go to prison. So, don’t be a blockhead.”
Three men who concocted a Ponzi scheme while in prison are heading back behind bars for bilking investors out of $3.6 million in a fraudulent business that dealt with comic book and film rights.
CBS Chicago reports 62-year-old Daniel Parrilli, 48-year-old John Lauer and 57-year-old Christopher Anderson were sentenced last week in federal court after pleading guilty to the fraud charges brought against them in 2010. Anderson, the lead defendant, is set to serve 95 months in prison; Parrilli was sentenced to 70 months, while Lauer received a 31-month term.
According to Patch.com, upon on their release from a minimum-security prison in Oxford, Wisconsin, Andersen and Parrilli opened Sundown Entertainment, a business that purported to buy and sell film and comic book rights. Together, they raised more than $7 million from about 150 investors. Lauer later entered the picture to offer false assurances to victims, some of whom prosecutors say “depleted their 401K funds or their college savings, or took out loans against their homes in order to invest with the defendants.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed Kohler said that while some comics and movies were actually produced, the con men weren’t able to repay the outlandishly high returns promised to investors — as much as 150 percent within days, in some instances — and the scheme began to collapse.
Parilli, who begins serving his sentence Aug. 1, was ordered to pay more than $3.6 million in restitution, while Lauer must pay $457,367 and surrender June 12. Anderson, who’s already serving his sentence, must pay $3.7 million.
A judge in Georgia today denied bond to Ed Kramer, the DragonCon co-founder who faces child molestation accusations dating back nearly 13 years.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Karen E. Beyers determined the 52-year-old Kramer, who was arrested in September 2011 on charges of violating his bond, might not adhere to the conditions of the order.
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 point 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.
The New York Daily News casts a spotlight on Ray Felix, the small-press publisher who’s challenging the joint claim of DC Comics and Marvel to the “super hero” trademark, and comes away with some interesting details:
- The two publishers have prevented at least 35 people from using “super hero,” or some variation, since they were granted the mark in 1980 for toys and in 1981 for comic books. (You may remember that in 2004 GeekPunk changed the name of its series Super Hero Happy Hour to Hero Happy Hour following objections by DC and Marvel.)
- Although Felix admits he’s unlikely to win his case before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property tells the newspaper that Marvel and DC’s joint ownership “violates the basic tenet of trademark law.” “A trademark stands for a single source of origin, not two possible sources of origin,” Ron Coleman argues. “If the public understands that the word ‘superhero’ could come from A or B, then by definition that’s a word and not a trademark.”
- Even if the appeal board were to find in Felix’s favor, it would only mean he can retain his registration for his series A World Without Superheroes. Revocation of Marvel and DC’s trademark would require a costly civil lawsuit.
Felix’s dispute with the comics giants dates back to September 2010, when he received a cease-and-desist letter after registering a trademark for his series. Following more a year and a half of exchanges between Felix and the companies’ attorneys, DC Comics and Marvel Characters Inc. in March 2012 filed a formal opposition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
Even as Cleveland’s mayor proclaimed April 18 “Superman Day” to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the release of Action Comics #1, a federal judge effectively brought to an end the lengthy legal battle for the rights to the Man of Steel.
Deadline reports that on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright granted summary judgment to DC Comics, declaring that a 2001 agreement with the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel included the rights to Superboy and advertisements for Action Comics #1. Those two issues had been left unresolved in a January decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturning a 2008 ruling that the family had successfully reclaimed a portion of Siegel’s copyright to the first Superman story under a provision of the 1976 Copyright Act.
Peter Robbins, the original voice of Charlie Brown, could face up to three years in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday to threatening and stalking his ex-girlfriend as well as the plastic surgeon who gave her the breast enhancement he paid for. (Obligatory “Good grief!” goes here.)
The 56-year-old Robbins was arrested in January on an outstanding warrant while returning to California from Mexico, and arraigned on four felony counts of making a threat to cause bodily harm or great bodily injury and one count of stalking. According to City News Service (via The Associated Press), prosecutors say Robbins called his former girlfriend a dozen times a day and threatened to kill her and her son if she didn’t return his car and dog. He allegedly also threatened her plastic surgeon, demanding a refund for the breast enhancement.
Ending more than a year of intermittent negotiations and aborted deals that left even the presiding judge frustrated, the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and ousted director Julie Taymor announced today they have reached a settlement in their legal battle over copyright, royalties and credit for the most expensive show in Broadway history.
“I’m pleased to have reached an agreement and hope for the continued success of Spider-Man, both on Broadway and beyond,” Taymor said in a statement. Lead producers of Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris offered: “We’re happy to put all this behind us. We are now looking forward to spreading Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark in new and exciting ways around the world.”
It’s not easy to bear witness to the downward spiral of a childhood hero.
It wasn’t that long ago that Cookie Monster, whose last known address is somewhere on Sesame Street, was the prime suspect in the brazen theft of a 44-pound bronze cracker, and now he stands accused of pushing a 2-year-old boy.
NBC 4 New York reports that a Connecticut woman claims an aggressive man dressed as Cookie Monster in New York City’s Times Square picked up her son and encouraged her to snap a photo of the two of them. Afterward, he allegedly demanded $2 from the woman, who said that she would need to get cash from her husband.
Following a series of devastating legal blows to the estates of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, their lawyer has finally received some good news: A federal judge denied a bid by DC Comics to force Marc Toberoff to pay $500,000 in attorneys fees.
According to Variety, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright on Thursday rejected the publisher’s 2010 claims that Toberoff illegally interfered with its copyright claims to the Man of Steel when he convinced the Siegel and Shuster heirs to walk away from “mutually beneficial” agreements and seek to recapture the rights to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1. They argued that the attorney stood to gain a controlling interest in the property.
But Wright sided with Toberoff and the Siegel and Shuster heirs, saying that DC had waited too long to make its claims of tortious interference. “The point here is that DC had more than enough knowledge by November 2006 to have tickled a suspicion that its business relationship with the Shusters was being tampered with,” the judge wrote. “It was then—and not when DC gathered the smoking-gun evidence supporting each element of its cause of action—that it should have filed suit.”
From the quarter bin to the slabbed copy sold at auction, sales of used comics are an important factor in the collectors’ market. Many a childhood comics habit started out with with secondhand copies picked up at thrift shops or garage sales for a dime, and a hefty area of the floor at every comics convention I have been to has been set aside for dealers with tables and tables of longboxes filled with old issues.
That’s one comics tradition unlikely to translate to the digital era: A federal judge has ruled the doctrine of first sale does not apply to digital files. In this case, they’re music files, but the case is being closely watched by book publishers.
The doctrine of first sale basically says that once you’ve bought a copyrighted product, you can re-sell it, rent it out, lend it, or do whatever you like with it — except reproduce it — without any obligation to the copyright owner. This allows comics shops to sell used comics and libraries to lend out graphic novels without having to pay royalties, but for obvious reasons, its application to digital products is problematic.
A federal judge confirmed Wednesday that the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel relinquished any claims to the character in a 2001 agreement with DC Comics. However, that seems unlikely to end the nearly decade-long legal battle over the Man of Steel.
The order by U.S. District Judge Otis Wright III follows the January decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the Siegel heirs had accepted a 2001 offer from DC that permits the publisher to retain all rights to Superman (as well as Superboy and The Spectre) in exchange for $3 million in cash and contingent compensation worth tens of millions — and therefore were barred from reclaiming a portion of the writer’s copyright to Action Comics #1.
Unwilling to give up, Siegel attorney Marc Toberoff introduced a new strategy earlier this month, arguing not only that the Ninth Circuit didn’t settle all of the outstanding issues but that if there was a contract, then DC failed to perform: “DC anticipatorily breached by instead demanding unacceptable new and revised terms as a condition to its performance; accordingly, the Siegels rescinded the agreement, and DC abandoned the agreement.”
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Kippa Man owner Avi Binyamin agreed to pay each company $17,000 for infringing on their trademarks; they’d originally sought $27,000 in damages.
Binyamin told The Jerusalem Post in September that he doesn’t produce the yarmulkes, but merely sells them like many other shops in the area. “They make them in China, I just bring them,” he said. “There are 20 stores on this street, they all sell the same thing,” Indeed, the newspaper reported that nearly every store on Ben-Yehuda Street displayed yarmulkes outside. However, Kippa Man is the most successful and best known outside of Israel.
The Times of Israel then characterized the lawsuit as “the first move by Marvel against what it perceives as widespread copyright infringement in Israel, where products featuring its copyrighted superheros are commonly sold.” Lawyers for Marvel and Warner Bros. told the Israeli newspaper Maariv that the companies will pursue legal action against other small stores that violate their trademarks.
Considering all the drama that once surrounded the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — cast injuries, delays, a ballooning budget, terrible reviews, the ouster of the original director — it was probably too much to expect that the resulting lawsuit between Julie Taymor and the show’s producers could be settled quickly and relatively quietly.
However, that seemed to be the case in August, when a federal judge announced that the Tony Award-winning director had reached a settlement with lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris regarding dueling lawsuits that followed her March 2011 firing from the $70 million musical she co-wrote. The case was dismissed, leaving the parties to put the finishing touches on an agreement. Unable to reach a deal by January, they agreed to revive the lawsuit in hopes that they could arrive at a final settlement before a May trial date.
Despite a January appeals court decision that seemed to signal an end to the nearly decade-long battle for ownership of Superman, the family of co-creator Jerry Siegel still holds out hope for victory over DC Comics.
Overturning a 2008 ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found Jan. 10 that the Siegel heirs had accepted a 2001 offer from DC that permits the publisher to retain all rights to the Man of Steel (as well as Superboy and The Spectre) in exchange for $3 million in cash and contingent compensation worth tens of millions — and therefore they were barred from reclaiming a portion of the writer’s copyright to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1.
That decision came less than three months after a federal judge determined the 2003 copyright-termination notice filed by the estate of co-creator Joe Shuster was invalidated by a 20-year-old agreement with DC in which the late artist’s sister Jean Peavy relinquished all claims to Superman in exchange “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” including payment of Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and a $25,000 annual pension for Peavy.
The Ninth Circuit rejected a comic creator’s $60-million claim against NBC Universal and the producers of the television series Heroes, determining there was no evidence of copyright infringement.
Jazan Wild (aka Jason Barnes) sued the network and Tim Kring’s Tailwind Productions in May 2010, accusing them of stealing the “carnival of lost souls and outcasts” depicted in the fourth season of the drama from his 2005-2006 comic series Jazan Wild’s Carnival of Souls. In his original complaint, he laid out numerous side-by-side comparisons that he contends prove the TV show’s traveling carnival is “virtually identical” to the one in his comic series.
However, in May 2011, a federal judge found that Heroes and Carnival of Souls “differ markedly in mood and setting, and weren’t substantially similar works, and therefore Wild had failed to prove his claim for copyright infringement. In Wild’s appeal, he insisted the judge erred by using too rigorous of a test to determine infringement, arguing that the wide availability of his comic meant he had to meet a lower standard of proof.