legal Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

Supreme Court to hear dispute over Spider-Man toy

web blaster

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether Marvel owes royalty payments to the creator of a Spider-Man toy after the patent for the Web Blaster expired.

As first reported by Courthouse News Service, Stephen Kimble patented the toy in 1990 and then approached Marvel to license the rights. Marvel passed, and when another company began manufacturing a similar toy — it shoots foam string, simulating Spider-Man’s web-shooters — Kimble sued, claiming patent infringement and breach of implied contract.

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Former investigator indicted in theft of vintage comics

A copy of "All Winners Comics" #1 was among the stolen comics

A copy of “All Winners Comics” #1 was among the stolen comics

A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, has indicted a former investigator for the district attorney’s office accused of stealing thousands of dollars in rare comics.

The Houston Chronicle reports Dustin Deutsch was indicted Tuesday on charges of felony theft by a public servant and tampering with evidence, stemming from an embezzlement case he and his former partner Lonnie Blevins were investigating in 2012 for the district attorney’s office.

Blevins was arrested in January 2013 following an FBI investigation into the theft of rare comics seized from the home and storage units of Anthony Chiofalo, a corporate attorney who embezzled $9.3 million from his employer, and then spent a sizable chunk of the money on high-priced collectibles, including a copy of Detective Comics #27 valued at $900,000.

Blevins pleaded guilty in May to taking more than $5,000 worth of those comics and selling them at a convention in Chicago. He’s awaiting sentencing.

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Spanish soccer team abandons new bat logo after DC challenge

batman-valencia

A Spanish soccer club has decided not to use an updated version of its traditional bat emblem, avoiding a possible legal fight with DC Comics.

News surfaced last week that the publisher had opposedd the trademark registration by La Liga club Valencia C.F., insisting the new variation of the team’s bat crest too closely resembles the familiar Batman emblem.

But now, The Guardian reports, Valencia says it no longer plans to use the new design after DC “presented its opposition to the request.” The club emphasized “there does not exist a lawsuit by DC Comics.”

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Batman and Joker take their fight to New York City Council

joker-batman

Longtime arch-enemies, Batman and The Joker faced off once more on Wednesday, only this time about a plan to require Times Square’s costumed characters to be licensed.

Wearing makeup and a red suit embellished with black bats, the Clown Prince of Crime told New York City Council’s Consumer Affairs Committee that the bill amounts to “fascism.”

“I might look like a clown but I’m speaking from the heart,” the New York Daily News quote The Joker, aka Keith Albahae, as saying. “I do this from my heart and not for tips. OK, I do ask for tips. And many people are glad to give them, but this is about the First Amendment and this is about discrimination. This straight-up seems like fascism.”

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DC argues Spanish soccer club logo is too much like Batman’s

batman-valencia

DC Comics is reportedly challenging the new logo of a Spanish soccer team, insisting it too closely resembles the familiar Batman emblem.

According to Eurosport, La Liga club Valencia C.F. sought to register a trademark for a variation of its crest, leading the publisher to file a complaint with the European Union’s Office for the Harmonization of the Internal Market.

As the website notes, the bat has been used in Spanish heraldry since the 13th century, and is part of the coat of arms of Valencia and other cities in eastern Spain. Valencia C.F. has used bats in its club logo since 1919, two decades before the debut of the Dark Knight in Detective Comics #27.

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Comics A.M. | Jillian Tamaki wins Governor General’s Award

This One Summer

This One Summer

Awards | Jillian Tamaki has won the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Prize for children’s literature illustration for her work on This One Summer, a graphic novel collaboration with cousin Mariko Tamaki (who was nominated in the text category). Their first book, 2008’s Skim, was previously nominated in the text division, further demonstrating a separation of illustration and story that Jillian Tamaki finds “strange.” ““I think we are both creators of the book,” she tells the Edmonton Journal. “You can’t read a comic without either component, it won’t make sense. It’s something I will always be addressing when talking about the award. But I am completely flattered by the honor and will be sharing the prize with my cousin.” [Edmonton Journal, via The Comics Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | Charges filed against ‘Hi Score Girl’ creator, others

Hi Score Girl, Vol. 4

Hi Score Girl, Vol. 4

Legal | The saga of Hi Score Girl continues this week, with the Osaka Prefectural Police charging creator Rensuke Oshihiri and 15 employees of publisher Square Enix with copyright infringement. Game publisher SNK Playmore originally filed criminal charges against Square Enix over the summer, claiming that Hi Score Girl, a comedy about gamers, used its characters without permission. Square Enix has recalled the published volumes of the series and halted serialization in its Monthly Big Gangan magazine. [Anime News Network]

Passings | Political cartoonist and collector Art Wood, a founding member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, died Nov. 4 at age 87. He donated more than 40,000 pieces of original cartoon art to the Library of Congress for its bicentennial, and the library published a book, Cartoon America, based on the collection. [The Daily Cartoonist]

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Comics A.M. | Ed Kramer wants conviction thrown out

Ed Kramer

Ed Kramer

Legal | DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer is seeking to have his December 2013 conviction for child molestation thrown out, insisting he was forced into a plea deal by prosecutorial misconduct. His attorney Stephen Reba also claims that Superior Court Judge Karen Beyers ruled in 2009 that Kramer could determine whether he was healthy enough to stand trial, something she deemed unlikely. With the trial suspended, Kramer — who was accused of molesting three minors — was permitted to leave Georgia under conditions that included he not be alone with anyone under the age of 16. He was found in a Connecticut motel room in 2011 with a 14-year-old and subsequently extradited back to Georgia.

Reba claims that Beyers colluded with Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter to improperly reopen the case and denied Kramer the medical accommodations he needed to stand trial, forcing him into a plea deal. Porter has been removed from the case, as he is now a witness, and Reba wants Beyers removed as well. Nonetheless, Porter said the case is not going to go away: “The only way it will die is he’ll have to die or I’ll have to die and even that might not stop it.” [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

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Donald Duck goes undercover in police crosswalk sting

duck-cops

Dozens of drivers in Fort Lee, New Jersey, were ticketed on Halloween for failing to yield at a crosswalk to a 6-foot-8-inch Donald Duck. Go ahead, read that sentence again.

The police department saw the holiday as a perfect opportunity to deploy its decoy program, and dressed an officer as the Disney character to ensure motorists are stopping for pedestrians. By day’s end, WABC-TV reports, 130 drivers received tickets of $230, plus two points on their licenses.

However, one motorist insists the Duckburg-style sting wasn’t fair, and pledges to fight her ticket.

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Comics A.M. | Malaysian police launch new probe of cartoonist

Zunar

Zunar

Legal | The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar is being investigated once more under the country’s Sedition Act, his lawyer revealed Tuesday. Three of Zunar’s assistants were arrested last week for selling two of his books, neither of which has been officially banned, and his webmaster has been summoned to talk to police on Thursday. Zunar has also been called in for questioning at a future date. What’s more, the Malaysian Home Ministry has appealed the Court of Appeals’ decision to remove the ban on two of Zunar’s other books. [Malaysia Chronicle]

Publishing | Red Giant Entertainment has announced that retailers ordered about 900,000 copies each of its four anthology comics, which are ad-supported and will be given away for free. The company, which also releases digital comics and paid print comics, kicked off this program with a package of four zero issues on Free Comic Book Day. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | Three of Zunar’s assistants arrested

Legal

Legal

Legal | Three assistants of the Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar were arrested last week for selling his books. They were set up near the Putrajaya courthouse, where opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is on trial for sodomy, a charge Ibrahim claims is politically motivated. In a press release, Zunar said the three assistants were “investigated under The Sedition Act, Penal Code and Printing and Press Act” and released on bail. It has only been a month since a Malaysian appeals court overturned a government ban on two of Zunar’s books. [Cartoonists Rights Network International]

Creators | Garry Trudeau discusses his portrayals of different presidents, and politics in general, in Doonesbury and Alpha House. [The New York Times]

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It’s official: Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain

watson and holmes4The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to consider a case brought by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, which means the bulk of the Sherlock Holmes stories and characters have officially entered the public domain.

The author’s estate petitioned the high court in September, seeking to overturn a Seventh Circuit finding that 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published before Jan. 1, 1923, have entered the public domain.

Doyle’s heirs had long insisted that publishers, television networks and film studios pay a licensing fee to use the characters and story elements. Many, including Warner Bros. and CBS, complied, but Sherlock Holmes expert Leslie Klinger refused to fork over $5,000 while assembling In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of new stories written by different authors. When the Doyle estate sent a letter to the publisher threatening to block sales of the book through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers, Klinger sued.

In a series of legal defeats, the Doyle estate not only lost any claim to the stories but had to endure stinging public reprimands by Judge Richard Posner, who labeled the licensing fees as “a form of extortion” and praised Klinger for performing a “public service” by filing his lawsuit.

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Comics A.M. | Wally Wood estate sues Tatjana Wood over art

Wally Wood self-portrait

Wally Wood self-portrait

Legal | The Wally Wood estate has sued Tatjana Wood, ex-wife of the late cartoonist, claiming she’s in possession of 150 to 200 pages of his art erroneously sent to her address in 2005 by Marvel. The couple were married in 1950 but divorced in the 1960s; Tatjana later worked extensively as a colorist for DC Comics. Wally committed suicide in 1981, leaving “all bank accounts, whether savings, checking, Certificates of Deposit, or otherwise” to Tatjana, and everything else to his estate, supervised by John H. Robinson. [The Comics Reporter]

Creators | “I’m an acquired taste,” says Howard Chaykin, who was speaking to the press in advance of this weekend’s Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival. He talks about working for small publishers, his unhappiness with the licensed Star Wars comics he did for Marvel, and the current trend of movies based on comics: “It’s really just a matter of the guys who beat us up in high school finally figuring out a way to make money off our asses.” [Las Vegas Review-Journal]

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Stan Lee Media can’t assert Spider-Man ownership in Disney suit

Stan Lee Media

Stan Lee Media

Still reeling from its loss Wednesday in the Ninth Circuit, Stan Lee Media today suffered another defeat in Pennsylvania, where a federal judge ruled the failed dot-com can’t insert itself into Disney’s dispute with a theater company by asserting ownership of Spider-Man.

As you may recall, Disney in September 2013 sued Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre, claiming its musical revue Broadway: Now and Forever used unlicensed elements Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King. However, as Disney’s attorneys later noted, that “simple case” was “transmogrified” when the theater announced it had retroactively licensed Spider-Man … from Stan Lee Media.

That conveniently opened the door for the company to sue Disney, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, an issue Stan Lee Media argued had never been directly addressed by any court. It was certainly a creative maneuver using one of the few potential paths left to pursue its fight with Marvel and Disney (a clearly annoyed judge had warned in September 2013 that any attempt to amend its previous lawsuit against the House of Mouse would be “futile”).

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Marvel titles now include Jack Kirby creator credit

kirby-marvelEagle-eyed readers may have noticed a new entry to the credits pages of several Marvel comics released this week: a line acknowledging the contribution of Jack Kirby.

All-New X-Men #33, Fantastic Four #12, Inhuman #7 and Wolverine and the X-Men #11 include the phrase “Created By Stan Lee and Jack Kirby,” while Death of Wolverine: Deadpool & Captain America #1 states, “Captain America Created By Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.” The credits pages can be found below.

Added with no fanfare, the credits follow a settlement agreement announced last month, ending the five-year-old fight between Marvel and Kirby’s children over the copyrights to 45 characters created or co-created by their father — among them, the Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

Neither side has commented publicly on their agreement beyond the joint statement, issued even as the U.S. Supreme Court was expected to decide whether it would consider an appeal by the Kirby heirs: “Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.”

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