Legal | Former comics retailer Michael George has lost his appeal for a new trial. He was convicted twice for the 1990 murder of his wife, first in 2008 and then in a 2011 retrial. George is serving life in prison without parole. [The Macomb Daily]
Creators | John Sutter profiles Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, whose hands were broken by government troops in an (unsuccessful) attempt to keep him from ever drawing again. [CNN]
Creators | Michael Diana, the first artist in the United States to be convicted of obscenity (for his comic Boiled Angel), returns to Miami after more than 20 years for a show of his work at the Miami Art Museum — which paid his remaining fines so he could enter the state without risk of arrest. [Miami New Times]
An Australian federal court has ruled a Melbourne fitness service cannot register the trademark “Superman Workout,” finding the company made the application in bad faith.
DC Comics had appealed a July decision by the registrar of trademarks that Cheqout Pty’s use of “Superman Workout” was unlikely to deceive or confuse consumers, or lead a significant number of people to presume there’s a connection between the fitness classes and the publisher.
Conventions | More than 30,000 people descended upon the 24th annual Motor City Comic Con over the weekend, with attendees reportedly waiting for up to two hours just to get into the parking lot, and then another one to four hours to get in the doors of Novi, Michigan’s Suburban Collection Showplace. Comics legend Stan Lee and The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus apparently contributed to the long lines, but the site was also hosting two other events and undergoing construction of a hotel, leading to a parking shortage. According to The Oakland Press, some fans parked as much as a mile away; traffic was backed up for miles. For the first time, the convention offered advance tickets, allowing attendees to pay extra in exchange for not having to wait in line. However, because of a mess-up, even those who pre-ordered had to wait in line. Related: Lee talks to USA Today during the convention. [The Oakland Press]
Legal | Singapore cartoonist Leslie Chew was arrested last week on charges of sedition, held over the weekend, and released on S$10,000 bail. His cellphone and computer were also confiscated. The charges stem from two cartoons on Chew’s Demon-cratic Singapore Facebook page. [Yahoo! News Singapore]
Crowdfunding | Chris Sims tells the truly bizarre tale of a crowdfunding scam: Someone copied Ken Lowery and Robert Wilson IV’s Kickstarter campaign for Like a Virus, including the video, and made it into an IndieGoGo campaign, presumably planning to pocket the money and run. [Comics Alliance]
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.
Legal | Egyptian artist Magdy el Shafee, creator of the graphic novel Metro, was arrested by security forces in Cairo and is being held in Tora Prison. The arrests weren’t directly related to his graphic novel, which was banned by the regime of Hosni Mubarak; el Shafee went to Abdel Moneim Riyad Square to try to stop a showdown between protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood, and ended up being arrested in a sweep that rounded up 38 people. [Words Without Borders]
Legal | The local paper profiles Susan Alston, who has been active in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund since the 1990s and even ran it for a while from the garage of her Northampton, Massachusetts, home. [Masslive.com]
Legal | The final chapter of The Oatmeal vs. Charles Carreon has been completed (we hope), and it’s not a shining moment for Carreon: A judge has ordered him to pay $46,000 in attorney’s fees to the creator of a Satirical Charles Carreon website, whom he threatened with legal action. Carreon eventually dropped his suit, but the whole dispute escalated anyway, and the judge cited his “malicious conduct” in awarding the fees. [Ars Technica]
Digital comics | Amazon has quietly launched Kindle Comic Creator, which allows creators to upload various types of files and make them into e-books to be sold in the Kindle store; the software has its own system for creating panel-by-panel view, and the finished product can be read on a wide variety of Kindles and Kindle apps. [Good E-Reader]
Awards | The 2013 Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year, presented by Penn State University Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, has been awarded to Chris Ware’s Building Stories. The jury’s comment: “Ware’s astute and precise renderings, composed with a tender yet unblinking clinical eye and fleshed out with pristine and evocative coloring, trace the mundane routines and moments of small crisis that his characters inhabit. In so doing, he produces not a document but a monument, a work whose narrative logic is architectural rather than chronological: a set of lives to be encountered, traversed, and returned to as the rooms and floors of a building might be over the years, still sequentially but not in a limited or decided-upon sequence. Stories, here, are meant not to be told but to be built, explored, inhabited—not merely visited but lived in.” [Pennsylvania Center for the Book]
Passings | The New Yorker cartoonist Ed Fisher has died at the age of 86. Mike Lynch has a nice appreciation, with a sampling of cartoons and links to other obituaries. Fisher was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2000, Lynch says, but even so, he often came to the New Yorker offices on “look day”: “He would be sitting on the couch, in the cartoonists’ waiting room, with his portfolio, ready to chat. I introduced myself and was really glad to meet him. More than once he pulled out his roughs and showed them to me. Ed treated me like an equal.” [Mike Lynch Cartoons]
Legal | Palestinian cartoonist Muhammad Saba’aneh, who was detained by Israeli authorities in early March, has been sentenced to five months in jail and must pay a fine of 10,000 shekels. Saba’aneh was charged with contacting “enemy entities,” according to his lawyer. He was originally arrested and held without specific charges, raising fears that he would be detained indefinitely. [FARS News Agency]
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.
Noting that co-founder Ed Kramer is still “a stockholder despite our desires otherwise,” DragonCon issued a statement on Friday to address the “great deal of discussion” surrounding the accused child molester and his association with the convention.
Much of that discussion has been driven by novelist and comics writer Nancy A. Collins, who late last month asked professionals to boycott DragonCon because of its continued continued connection to Kramer, who was extradited back to Georgia in January on child-molestation charges dating back to 2000. Although Kramer resigned from the board following his original arrest, he continues to receive annual dividends from his one-third stake in the for-profit corporation — $154,000 for 2011 alone, according to Atlanta Magazine — while stalling his criminal case for more than a decade and suing co-founder Pat Henry and DragonCon/ACE Inc.
“No matter what Dragon*Con does or says, funds from the convention will continue to go to Edward Kramer until either he dies or the corporation that runs the convention dissolves and reincorporates under another name,” Collins wrote. “Dragon*Con knows what needs to be done, but has been dragging its feet on this matter, and has gone to great trouble over the last 12 years to hide the fact that they continue to fund Edward Kramer’s lifestyle. [...] It is up to the Professionals — we writers, artists, musicians, editors, actors, and film-makers — to make a stand, as we are a large part of what attracts (at last count) 50,000 fans to the convention each Labor Day.”
According to the statement from DragonCon, organizers have made multiple attempts to sever ties with Kramer, including efforts to buy his shares.
“Unfortunately, Edward Kramer’s response to our buyout efforts was repeated litigation against Dragon*Con … thus our buyout efforts have been stalled. The idea proposed of dissolving the company and reincorporating has been thoroughly investigated and is not possible at this point. Legally, we can’t just take away his shares. We are unfortunately limited in our options and responses as we remain in active litigation,” the statement reads, noting that they hope the upcoming trials will “provide a resolution of Edward Kramer’s guilt or innocence, and therefore a cause of legally divorcing ourselves from him once and for all.”
You can find the entire statement below.
Legal | Forbes profiles Michael Wolk, a lawyer who’s organized the financial backing for Stan Lee Media’s prolonged, and so far unsuccessful, multibillion-dollar lawsuits against Marvel and Disney over the rights to the characters co-created by Stan Lee. Wolk’s primary investor is Elliott Management, one the nation’s largest hedge funds. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. “We are in the right here,” says Wolk, who’s not actually a Stan Lee Media shareholder. “No court has ever addressed or ever decided who is the owner of the characters — all of the prior litigation got dismissed for reasons that have nothing to do with who owns the characters.” [Forbes.com, via The Beat]
A federal judge on Thursday dealt a crippling blow to a custom carmarker, siding with DC Comics in a ruling that declared the Batmobile isn’t merely an automobile but “a copyrightable character.”
The publisher sued Gotham Garage owner Ben Towle in May 2011, accusing his California-based business of violating its trademarks and copyrights by manufacturing and selling unlicensed replicas of the 1966 and 1989 Batmobile. DC sought a permanent injunction, the destruction of all infringing products and damages of no less than $750,000 for each infringement.
However, Towle countered that the U.S. Copyright Act affords no protection to “useful articles,” defined as objects that have “an intrinsic utilitarian function” — for example, clothing, household appliances or, in this case, automobile functions. He failed to persuade U.S. District Judge Ronald Lew with that argument last year in a motion to dismiss, and he was no more successful this time.
Seeking to end nearly a decade of litigation, DC Comics has asked for summary judgment in lawsuits brought by the heirs of Jerry Siegel regarding the copyrights to Superman and Superboy.
In a motion filed Thursday in federal court, and first reported by Law360, the publisher’s attorneys assert the Jan. 10 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that effectively affirmed DC’s ownership of the Man of Steel bars Siegel’s daughter Laura Siegel Larson from moving forward with any claims.
That decision overturned a 2008 ruling that permitted Siegel’s family to recapture his portion of the copyright to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1 under a provision of the 1976 Copyright Act, which seemingly cleared a path for the estate of his collaborator Joe Shuster to do the same this year. That would have given the family of ownership of many of the Man of Steel’s defining elements, including his origin, his secret identity, Lois Lane and certain aspects of his costume and powers (super-strength and super-speed), while leaving DC with such later additions as Lex Luthor, kryptonite and Jimmy Olsen — not to mention the all-important trademarks.
Legal | In the aftermath of last month’s ruling that DC Comics retains full rights to Superman, the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are urging federal judge to dismiss claims that their lawyer interfered with the publisher’s copyright to the character. DC sued attorney Marc Toberoff in May 2010, accusing him impeding a 1992 copyright agreement with the heirs by striking overriding deals with them in 2001 and 2003. The families insist the publisher filed its claims two years too late, as the statute of limitations expired in 2008. [Law360]
Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen]