Legal Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

Marvel-Kirby dispute is over, but larger copyright issues remain

jack kirbyLaw.com has an interesting follow-up to the surprise settlement last week in the five-year-old legal battle between Marvel and Jack Kirby’s heirs, noting that the larger copyright issue at its center remain unresolved.

The children of the legendary artist filed 45 copyright-termination notices in September 2009, seeking to reclaim what they saw as their father’s stake in such Marvel characters as the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk. Marvel, joined by its then-new parent company Disney, responded with a lawsuit, setting the dispute down a path that ultimately saw the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirm Kirby’s contributions to the publisher between 1959 and 1963 were “work for hire,” and therefore not subject to copyright termination.

Under a clause in the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act, which extended the duration of copyright, authors or their heirs can reclaim rights transferred before 1978 after a period of 56 years. However, if a work is determined to be “for hire,” meaning it was created by an employee as part of his employment or specially commissioned as part of a larger work, then the publisher (or movie studio, record label, etc.) owns the copyright, and it is not subject to termination.

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‘Asterix’ co-creator Albert Uderzo ends feud with daughter

albert uderzoThe bitter, drawn-out legal battle between Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo and his daughter Sylvie has at last come to an end, the two announced today.

According to Agence France-Presse, they said in a joint statement that they are “reunited again and determined to make a clean sweep of the grievances raised by both sides.” Any existing legal complaints will be dropped.

The dispute dates back to at least 2007, when Sylvie and her husband Bernard de Choizy were dismissed from their senior positions at Les Éditions Albert René, the publishing company Albert founded in 1979, following the death of Asterix co-creator Rene Goscinny. The family quarrel erupted into the public eye two years later, when Sylvie criticized her father’s decision to sell his stake in the company to Hachette Livre and authorize the publisher to continue Asterix after his death.

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Salt Lake convention formally responds to ‘Comic Con’ lawsuit

salt-lake2014After first responding with press releases and a webpage, Salt Lake Comic Con organizers have now formally denied claims that their use of the term “Comic Con” infringes upon Comic-Con International’s trademark.

Comic-Con International sued the Utah event last month, insisting organizers were attempting to “confuse and deceive” fans and exhibitors with their use of “Comic Con.” The lawsuit specifically cited a customized Audi sent to San Diego during Comic-Con International to promote the Sept. 4-6 Salt Lake City convention.

In documents filed Monday in federal court in San Diego, Salt Lake producers Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg argue Comic-Con International’s asserted trademarks are invalid, and that “comic-con” and “comic con” are generic terms applied to comic conventions. They point to 10 other conventions that use some variation of the term, and note that SDCC has never taken action against them. The defendants ask for Comic-Con International’s trademarks to be ruled invalid and canceled.

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Deadmau5 fires back, accusing Disney of copyright infringement

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Bristling for a fight with Disney over its bid to prevent him from trademarking his signature mouse-head logo, DJ/producer Deadmau5 has wasted no time in returning fire.

Rolling Stone reports the progressive-house performer is accusing the entertainment giant of using one of his songs in an animated short without permission. Linking to a Disney.com video featuring footage from classic Mickey Mouse cartoons set to the tune of Deadmau5’s 2009 track “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff,” the DJ tweeted, “Okay mouse, I never gave Disney a liscene [sic] to use my track. So. we emailed you a C&D.”

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Disney tries to block Deadmau5 logo trademark

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Disney is attempting to prevent DJ/producer Deadmau5 from trademarking his signature mouse-head logo, claiming it’s too similar to the iconic Mickey Mouse silhouette. Signs that the entertainment giant would oppose the application surfaced in late March.

In a staggering 171-page notice of opposition filed Tuesday with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and first reported by TMZ, Disney traces its use of the familiar imagery back to “at least 1928,” with the introduction of Mickey in Steamboat Willie. Disney news site Stitch Kingdom has more details about the filing, in which the company argues the mouse ears have been a key element of its consumer products “at least as early as 1955″ (that’s the year The Mickey Mouse Club premiered on television).

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SD Convention Center expansion goes back to drawing board

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San Diego City Council decided Tuesday it won’t appeal a court ruling that struck down the hotel tax devised to fund most of the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

That leaves the financing “up in the air,” council President Todd Gloria told City News Service after the unanimous vote. “It means we’re going to have to spend some time figuring out a way to pay for this project or find a new one.”

In short, as Scott Lewis writes on Voice of San Diego, after six years and $10 million, the expansion plan is dead.

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San Diego City Council to meet about convention center ruling

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San Diego City Council will meet this afternoon in a closed session to discuss whether to appeal a recent California appeals court ruling that cripples the funding plan for the proposed $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

According to City News Service, council members don’t necessarily have to reach a decision today — although City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told them earlier this month that they have until Sept. 10 to file an appeal with the Supreme Court of California. Before any action is taken, however, an open session will be held to allow the public to offer input.

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Trial set for December in death of elderly comic collector

Rico J. Vendetti

Rico J. Vendetti

A Rochester, New York, businessman will stand trial for murder in December in the 2010 death of an elderly comic book collector.

According to the Batavia, New York, Daily News, the trial of Rico J. Vendetti is scheduled for Dec. 5 in U.S. District Court in Buffalo. Dates still haven’t been set for his four co-defendants.

Vendetti is accused of hiring seven people to steal the valuable comics collection of 77-year-old Homer Marciniak of Medina, New York. According to police and prosecutors, when Marciniak awoke during the July 5, 2010, burglary, he was beaten and knocked to the floor. They burglars fled with the comics, safes, cash, coins and guns.

Although Marciniak suffered only cuts and bruises from the attack, and was able to give a statement to police, he died hours later from a heart attack.

Vendetti, who owned a collectibles store, was arrested along with seven others within a few months. The U.S. Attorney stepped in to file murder charges against Vendetti and four of his co-defendants, arguing that the burglary led to Marciniak’s death.

He’s also accused of racketeering and witness tampering.

Ed Kramer didn’t violate plea deal, district attorney determines

ed kramerEd Kramer’s social-media activity didn’t violate the terms of his plead agreement, meaning he isn’t headed back to jail just yet. However, Gwinnett County (Georgia) District Attorney Danny Porter indicated it’s only a matter of time before the DragonCon co-founder makes a misstep.

“He’s very adept at the Internet … and he’s going to test us at every opportunity,” Porter told Atlanta’s WSB-AM last week.  “So it’s still my belief that before this is all over, he’s going to violate his probation and I’m going to have him in prison.”

The D.A. began an investigation last month into Kramer’s online activity after reports circulated that his Twitter account was being followed by a 14-year-old girl and his Google+ page showed a connection to the then-14-year-old boy he was found with in a Connecticut hotel room in 2011.

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San Diego has until Sept. 10 to appeal convention center ruling

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San Diego City Council recessed for summer break Thursday without deciding how to respond to a state appeals court ruling that the plan to finance the $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center is unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel ruled last week that the room surcharge, approved two years ago by hoteliers and City Council, has to be put to a citywide vote. The financing scheme, which would have added another 1 cent to 3 cents per dollar to room taxes, was expected to generate about $35 million annually.

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Man sentenced for insider trading in Disney-Marvel deal

disney-marvel-logoA San Francisco man was sentenced Thursday to three months in federal prison and ordered to pay $122,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to using insider information to make big bucks in Disney’s purchase of Marvel.

Law360 reports that in 2009, Toby G. Scammell was told by his girlfriend, a Disney extern working on the Marvel acquisition, that the entertainment giant was planning to buy a company “people would recognize right away.” Using her work schedule and their vacation plans, he was able to deduce when the deal would likely close, and learned from his then-employer — a consulting firm that had been contracted by Disney on occasion — that the company was interested in Marvel.

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Randy Queen: ‘I reacted without thinking’ to art critiques

queen darkchyldeWidely ridiculed this week for filing copyright takedown notices and threatening legal action against a blog that criticized his artwork, Darkchylde creator Randy Queen now acknowledges his response “was the wrong one to take.”

“I have been having a very hard time in my personal life with the loss of my mother and my marriage having fallen apart and found myself in a very vulnerable and fragile state of mind,” he explained this morning in a Facebook post. “There were posts on the web criticizing my artwork that were brought to my attention and added to my stress. I reacted without thinking it through, but have now stopped, realizing my response was the wrong one to take. I am doing my best, each day, to get myself back on my feet and getting my life in a better place and realize now that I have just try to move on and get back to my art, the thing I find the most joy in these days. I want to thank those professionals, friends and family who have been giving me their support, understanding and love.”

Queen had taken exception to critiques of some of his Darkchylde work on Escher Girls, a blog devoted to examining the way women are depicted in “illustrated pop media,” including comics. He sent Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices to Tumblr alleging copyright infringement in nine posts containing his covers. Entire posts, rather than just the images, were removed by the company.

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Police search Square Enix for evidence of copyright violations

Hi Score GirlThe Osaka police on Tuesday searched the Tokyo offices of game and manga publisher Square Enix as part of an investigation of alleged copyright violations.

The video game company SNK claims the manga Hi Score Girl, by Rensuke Oshihiri, contains more than 100 unauthorized uses of characters from its games, which include King of Fighters and Samurai Spirits. In addition to investigating materials confiscated from Square Enix headquarters and other offices, the police plan to question both Oshihiri and the editor of the series.

Serialized in Big Gangan magazine since 2010, Hi Score Girl is a romantic comedy involving two avid gamers, set during the 1990s 2D gaming boom. The collected editions list the owners of properties referenced in the story, including SNK, with a copyright mark, suggesting permission was given, but when SNK was contacted by a production company that planned to produce an anime adaptation, they determined the use was unauthorized.

SNK sent out a press release early today saying it had asked Square Enix to stop selling the manga but did not receive a “sincere response,” so the company filed criminal charges. The case is being investigated by the Osaka Police’s Consumer and Economic Crime Division.

Ruling leaves San Diego Convention Center expansion in doubt

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Delivering a crippling blow to the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, a California appeals court ruled Friday that the hotel tax devised to fund most of the project is unconstitutional.

Although hoteliers and city council approved the room surcharge two years ago, U-T San Diego reports the three-judge panel unanimously found that the tax had to be put to a citywide vote. Several groups, including San Diegans for Open Government, opposed the funding scheme, arguing that the arrangement amounted to privatizing the city’s taxing authority. A Superior Court judge sided with the city in March 2013, but opponents appealed the ruling.

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Randy Queen responds to critics with takedown notices, legal threat

darkchyldeDarkchylde creator Randy Queen faces growing online criticism after he filed copyright takedown notices to remove a series of Tumblr posts critical of his work, and then threatened legal action when the blog’s owner publicized his actions.

Operated by Ami Angelwings, Escher Girls is devoted to critiquing the way women are depicted in “illustrated pop media,” including comics. On Saturday, she revealed Queen had sent Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices to Tumblr alleging copyright infringement in nine posts containing his covers. Entire posts, rather than just the images, were removed by the company.

“To date,” she wrote, “Mr. Queen is the only artist who has taken this kind of action” against Escher Girls. She later offered an update, saying the Darkchylde artist had attempted to have that post removed as well.

Queen reportedly followed that with an email to Escher Girls threatening to sue for defamation:

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