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Supreme Court asked to consider Batmobile copyright case

#1 Batmobile, Superheroes, gadgets, Cable Cutter, Bat-Ray Projec

A manufacturer of unlicensed Batmobile replicas has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether Batman’s signature vehicle is indeed protected by copyright.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mark Towle of Gotham Garage filed a writ of certiorari today asking the justices to review his nearly five-year-old dispute with DC Comics.

Towle, who produced replicas of  the 1966 and 1989 Batmobiles that sold for as much as $90,000 each, was sued in 2011 by DC, which claimed copyright and trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting and unfair competition. Towle had argued that the U.S. Copyright Act doesn’t protect “useful articles,” defined as objects that have “an intrinsic utilitarian function” (for example, clothing, household appliances or, in this case, automobile functions); in short, that the Batmobile’s design is merely functional.

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Artist charged in alleged ‘Kung Fu Panda’ shakedown

kung fu panda

A Massachusetts cartoonist has been charged with fraud and perjury stemming from his failed 2011 copyright-infringement lawsuit against DreamWorks Animation involving the 2008 blockbuster Kung Fu Panda.

According to an indictment unsealed just before Christmas by the U.S. District Attorney in Boston, artist Jayme Gordon claimed the studio had stolen the characters and story for the 2008 blockbuster, and filed a lawsuit “as part of a fraud scheme designed to obtain a multi-million-dollar settlement” from the company.

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Comics A.M. | ‘Charlie Hebdo’ to mark anniversary of attack with special issue

 

Publishing | French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo will release a special double-size issue on Jan. 6 commemorating the one-year anniversary of the  jihadist attack on its Paris office by that left 12 people dead. One million copies will be produced of the issue, which will feature drawings by the cartoonists killed in the massacre, as well as illustrations by current staff members. A special “survivors issue” released after the attack sold 7.5 million copies worldwide. [The Guardian]

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Viz Media issues response to digital-piracy arrests

one piece-v69

Manga publisher Viz Media has issued a statement reaffirming its stance on digital piracy following the arrests in Japan of four men accused of illegally uploading a chapter of One Piece to a scanlation website.

Police in Japan say a delivery company employee stole a copy of Weekly Shonen Jump while it was en route from the printer to the retailer and sold the magazine to three other men, who then uploaded the comic to an English-language pirate site. Here’s Viz’s statement:

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Comics A.M. | Three arrested for illegally uploading ‘One Piece’

One Piece

One Piece

Legal | Japanese police have arrested three men on copyright violation charges, alleging they scanned and uploaded a chapter of One Piece from Weekly Shonen Jump to mangapanda, an English-language scanlation site. Police also arrested an employee of a delivery company who allegedly got his hands on a copy of the magazine at some point on its way from the printer to the newsstands and handed it over to the scanners. All four men are denying any wrongdoing. The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, which first reported the news, said this is the first time action has been taken regarding a foreign-language website. [Anime News Network]

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Comics A.M. | Two ‘banned’ Judge Dredd strips to see print again

From the Judge Dredd "Burger Wars" episode

From the Judge Dredd “Burger Wars” episode

Legal | A Judge Dredd comic that makes fun of McDonald’s and Burger King is finally being reprinted in a collection, thanks to a change in the European Copyright Directive, which now allows creators to use copyrighted characters if the intent is clearly parody. In the “Burger Wars” story, first published in 1978, Judge Dredd is captured on a trip to the United States and force-fed fast food; the story includes images of Ronald McDonald and the McDonald’s logo. Another story, “Soul Food,” has a mad scientist creating versions of the Jolly Green Giant and the Michelin Man. Ben Smith of Rebellion Publishing says fans have been asking for years for these story to be reprinted in their collected editions, but they were held back for fear of legal action. When the law was changed, Smith said, they took another look: “It was like a light bulb went on. We thought: ‘Surely this means we can look at Burger Wars?’ We looked into it and here we are. This is straight-out pastiche, parody and arch satire. There didn’t seem any reason not to bring them to the public again.” [The Independent]

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Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm & Sanrio slice into cake-frosting seller

birthday-marvel-social

Disney, Marvel and Lucasfilm have joined with Sanrio to stop a company from selling unlicensed cake frosting featuring their incredibly lucrative properties.

As first reported by THR, Esq., the entertainment giants filed a trademark- and copyright-infringement lawsuit against George and Danielle Wilson, whose Wilson Cake Imaging offers printed, edible frosting sheets and cake toppers depicting a wide range of characters and performers.

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Pokemon Company drops the hammer on unsanctioned fan party

pokemon

The Pokémon Company International filed a lawsuit last week that shut down an unsanctioned Pokémon-themed party tied to PAX Prime in Seattle.

The company, which manages the multibillion-dollar Pokémon property outside Asia, on Wednesday sued the organizers of the for-profit “5th Annual Unofficial Pokemon PAX Kickoff Party,” accusing them of copyright infringement, specifically citing the use of Pikachu and Snivy in promotional images. Ramar Larkin Jones, Zach Shore and Ruckus Productions are named as defendants in the complaint.

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Comics A.M. | Square Enix, SNK settle ‘Hi Score Girl’ dispute

Hi Score Girl, Vol. 3

Hi Score Girl, Vol. 3

Legal | Game company SNK Playmore has dropped its charges against manga publisher Square Enix and will allow the manga Hi Score Girl to use its characters without penalty. Last year, SNK filed a criminal complaint against Square Enix, charging that the manga, a comedy about gamers, included more than 100 instances of unauthorized use of SNK Playmore’s characters. As a result, serialization of the manga was suspended while police pursued charges against 16 of the people involved in its publication. Today, Square Enix announced that the two companies have reached an agreement: SNK Playmore has dropped its claim, and the two companies will work together with regard to sharing their characters. [Anime News Network]

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Comics A.M. | Trade deal could pose threat to fan comics

Comiket 88

Comiket 88

Legal | Anime and manga fans in Japan are raising concerns that a proposed provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership would threaten the existence of doujinshi, fan-made comics that are often parodies of commercial manga. Many established manga creators cut their teeth on doujinshi (and some return to it even after their series hit the big time), and the biggest comics expo in the world, Comiket, is devoted to doujinshi. The works are self-published and made in small batches, sold to fellow enthusiasts at large and small conventions, and Japanese publishers generally ignore them. Under current Japanese law, only the rights holder can bring a copyright complaint, but the TPP would allow complaints from third parties, including the creator of a rival doujinshi. “If creators can be prosecuted without complaints from rights holders, it could lead to some kind of snitching battle between fans,” said Negima creator Ken Akamatsu, himself a former doujinshi-ka. “Places for people to share their work will also disappear.” [The Japan News]

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Comics A.M. | Witnesses testify in ZombieWalk crash hearing

ZombieWalk: San Diego 2014

ZombieWalk: San Diego 2014

Legal | Witnesses testified Wednesday in a preliminary hearing that driver Matthew Pocci honked his horn and drove through the crowd of spectators last year during the annual SDCC ZombieWalk: San Diego, despite attempts by spectators stop him. Pocci, who is deaf, has been charged with felony reckless driving causing serious injury. But Pocci’s fiancee, April Armstrong, said the crowd had mostly passed when he started the car, and that the people surrounding them were frightening: “People then started laughing at us. People were getting close to us. I started to freak out. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I was looking back at my son, he was scared. I told Matt, ‘please let’s go.'” Armstrong also testified, however, she had told a neighbor she felt she couldn’t tell the true story because of her relationship with Pocci. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

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Disney and Marvel settle Spider-Man dispute with theater

marvel superheroes

Disney and Marvel have reached a settlement with a Pennsylvania theater in a copyright- and trademark-infringement case that unexpectedly turned into another front in their legal battle with Stan Lee Media.

Law360 reports American Music Theatre has agreed to stop using Spider-Man and other Disney properties without permission, bringing to an end a September 2013 lawsuit over the musical revue Broadway: Now and Forever. If the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based theater violates the permanent injunction and consent order filed Thursday, it must pay $25,000 in actual or liquidated damages per work, plus attorneys’ fees.

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Artists sue Marvel, Disney over ‘Iron Man’ armor design

iron man-radixArtists Ben Lai and Ray Lai have sued Marvel and Disney, claiming the Iron Man films ripped off the body-armor designs from their comic Radix.

The two brothers, who own Horizon Comics Productions, first rang this bell in April 2013, issuing a press release to announce a cease-and-desist letter just ahead of the premiere of Iron Man 3. However, as THR, Esq., first reported, on Thursday they finally filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts federal court against Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Studios, The Walt Disney Co. and a string of other defendants.

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Brewery to redesign beer label over ‘Powers’ art similarities

Comparison courtesy of Myron Campbell

Comparison courtesy of Myron Campbell

A Canadian brewery is headed back to the drawing board after learning a label for its new line of comics-inspired beers looks a lot like one of Michael Avon Oeming’s drawings from Powers.

The Surrey Now reports Central City Brewers in Surrey, British Columbia, will stop all shipments of Detective Saison — the first in a series of beers intended to tell a larger story — while the logo is redesigned. “I can tell you that we’re in a very awkward situation right now,” company executive Tim Barnes told the newspaper, while not commenting directly on the similarities.

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Stan Lee Media asks high court to revive suit against Stan Lee

stan-lee

After losing one lawsuit after another in its eight-year battle for many of Marvel’s most famous characters, Stan Lee Media is looking to the U.S. Supreme Court for a reversal of fortune.

In a filing made public Friday, and first reported by Law360, the failed dot-com asked the justices to revive its lawsuit against co-founder and namesake Stan Lee, arguing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals erred in its October dismissal.

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