legal Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
A British author is accusing DC Comics and Marvel of “banning the use of the word superhero” after he received notice that the publishers are opposing his attempt to trademark the title of his advice book Business Zero to Superhero.
“I was very shocked,” Graham Jules told BBC Radio. “I’m a new author and small business, and I’m now in the position of fighting or scrapping the entire book.” The Mail on Sunday picked up on his story, running it with a headline that’s both cliche and misleading: “Zap! You can’t say ‘superhero’.”
As many comics fans know, and Jules quickly learned, DC and Marvel have since 1979 jointly owned the trademark for “super hero” and “super heroes,” covering a range of products, from comic books and playing cards to pencil sharpeners and glue. Their renewal of that mark in 2006 drew widespread attention, as well as scrutiny from those who question whether such a term should be allowed to be registered.
Comics | Tammy Oler considers the roles of Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel within a growing movement to make superhero comics more diverse: “The devoted fans in the Carol Corps and Kamala Korps view themselves as part of a movement for a bigger and more diverse comic book universe, and it seems like publishers might finally be starting to pay attention. Both Ms. Marvel and the rebooted Captain Marvel are part of Marvel NOW!, an effort by the publisher to attract new readers by providing a lot of accessible places for new readers to jump on board with ongoing series. (DC Comics has done something similar with its New 52 initiative.) Marvel and DC have also taken some steps to address their lack of superhero diversity, in part by launching some new female solo titles, including Black Widow, She-Hulk, and Elektra. Of course, there’s a whole world of mainstream and indie publishers beyond Marvel and DC, but the big two still matter the most because they create the pantheon of superheroes that make it into movie theatres and onto the racks of Halloween costumes at Target.” [Slate.com]
Legal | Signe Wilkinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, has been named in a defamation lawsuit filed against the newspapers by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and his wife Lise Rapaport. The judge and his wife accuse the two papers of running a smear campaign against them, and the suit specifically mentions a Wilkinson cartoon satirizing their marital and work relationship (it’s complicated). Blogger Alan Gardner adds that he hasn’t been able to find a case in which a cartoonist was successfully sued for defamation, although in this case the newspapers’ reporting is part of the issue as well. [Philadelphia, The Daily Cartoonist]
Graphic novels | BookScan’s list of the bestselling graphic novels in bookstores in March divides neatly into eight Image Comics titles (six volumes of The Walking Dead and two of Saga), eight volumes of manga (four Attack on Titan, four Viz Media titles) and four volumes of media tie-ins. For the second month in a row, not a single DC Comics or Marvel title cracked the Top 20, although an older DK Publishing character guide to the Avengers (not actually a graphic novel) came in at No. 11. The top-selling title was the 20th volume of The Walking Dead, and the No. 2 was the third volume of Saga. It’s also interesting to note that the first three volumes of Attack on Titan charted higher than the most recent release, which suggests new readers are still coming into the franchise in substantial numbers — and sticking with it. [ICv2]
Claiming an appeals court “unconstitutionally appropriated” Jack Kirby’s copyrights and gave them to Marvel, the late artist’s heirs have taken their fight with the comics publisher to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a petition filed March 21, and first reported by Law 360, Kirby’s children argue “it is beyond dispute” that the artist’s Marvel work between 1959 and 1963 was not produced as “work for hire” and, therefore, is subject to a clause in the U.S. Copyright Act that permits authors and their heirs to reclaim copyrights transferred before 1978.
The appeal follows an August decision by the Second Circuit upholding a 2011 ruling that Kirby’s Marvel works were indeed made at the “instance and expense” — that term plays a significant role in the heirs’ petition — with the publisher assigning and approving projects and paying a page rate; in short, they were “work for hire.” As such, the courts found, the 45 copyright-termination notices the artist’s heirs filed in 2009 for such characters as the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Hulk were invalid.
Legal | Algerian cartoonist Djamel Ghanem is seeking asylum in France as the prosecution and plaintiff appeal his acquittal on charges that he insulted Algeria’s president in an unpublished cartoon drawn for the newspaper Voix d’Oranie. The newspaper brought the criminal charges against Ghanem; in possibly related news, Ghanem is suing his employer for seven years’ unpaid wages. Ghanem now claims Algeria wants to make an example of him. [Radio France International, Ennahar Online]
Conventions | Mark Rahner, who has been going to Emerald City Comicon since the first one in 2003, initially as a reporter and then as a creator, talks about why the event has grown so big (75,000 attendees are expected this weekend) and why it’s still awesome anyway. [Seattle Weekly]
Legal | The creator of the Islamic superhero comic The 99 says he hasn’t been officially notified of a reported ban of the animated adaptation of his comic in Saudi Arabia. “Nobody ever contacted me, nobody ever asked me any questions,” Naif Al Mutawa says. There have been numerous Twitter campaigns against me for a while now and so for me it’s not new. Maybe it is true this time, but I find it very difficult to believe that a group as influential and high profile as them [Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta] wouldn’t recognize the good that The 99 has done for Muslims around the world.” He adds that the comic has been available in Saudi Arabia for seven years, while the cartoon has been airing for two and a half years, making the timing of a ban “a bit weird.” [Gulf Business]
The Davis Clipper reports a Davis County deputy stopped 33-year-old Christopher Reeves around 3 a.m. Tuesday after he was spotted weaving in and out of traffic in his Chevrolet HHR at speeds exceeding 80 miles per hour. That’s Reeves pictured at right, wearing the Superman T-shirt.
Yes, both the sheriff’s office and local media gleefully recognize the similarities between the suspect’s name and that of the late Superman actor Christopher Reeve. The Clipper used a “faster than a speeding bullet” reference, while Fox 13 went with, “He won’t be kneeling before Zod, but he will have to stand before a judge” (I’m pretty sure Fox 13 wins). Davis County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Susan Poulsen acknowledged the T-shirt might not have been “a wise fashion choice” — but as we’re about to learn, wise choices may not be part of Reeves’ repertoire.
Filed in federal court in Philadelphia, and first reported by Deadline, Disney’s reply is the latest volley in what began last summer as a relatively straightforward lawsuit against the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre, which was accused of using unlicensed elements from Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King.
However, as the media giant’s attorneys later noted, that “simple case” was “transmogrified” with the surprising assertion that the theater had licensed Spider-Man … from Stan Lee Media, which was named in a third-party counterclaim (it should be noted the license was obtained after Disney filed suit).
The failed dot-com, which hasn’t been connected to its co-founder and namesake in more than a decade, in turn sued Disney on Feb. 7, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, and, presumably, other characters co-created by Stan Lee. Disney responded with a motion to dismiss, which was of course opposed by SLMI; the company maintains none of the previous court cases has directly addressed ownership of the characters.
Legal | Those wondering how Stan Lee Media can possibly afford its long, and so far entirely unsuccessful, legal battle with Marvel and Disney may want to read this brief Wall Street Journal article about “litigation finance” — which it characterizes as the growing practice of investing in lawsuits. However, pointing to the fight over the rights to Spider-Man and other characters, writer Rob Copeland points out there are high risks: namely, that investors could never see financial return. As we’ve noted before, Stan Lee Media’s efforts are backed by a group of investors that includes the $21 billion hedge fund Elliott Management, which helps to explain why the lawsuits keep coming. [MoneyBeat]
Legal | Hirofumi Watanabe admitted Thursday in Tokyo District Court to sending hundreds of threatening letters to bookstores, convenience stores and convention centers associated with Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The motive, the 35-year-old man said, was jealousy of Fujimaki’s success; Watanabe reasoned that, “If I somehow managed to harass and depress him, I could drag him into my suicide journey.” Watanabe added that he had been abused by his parents and bullied as a child, and had “homosexual tendencies.” He attempted suicide before he sent the threat letters and would do so again after he was freed, he told the court: “That way, society can rest assured that I won’t do anything stupid again.” [Anime News Network]
Legal | Attorney Marc H. Greenberg revisits the lawsuit brought by musicians Johnny and Edgar Winter against DC Comics over a 1995 storyline in Jonah Hex that portrayed two evil brothers, Johnny and Edgar Autumn. [Print]
In documents filed Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, the failed dot-com again argued that none of the previous cases over the past decade — and there have been many — has directly addressed the merits of its ownership claims. “No judge has decided that Disney actually owns the Spider‐Man copyrights or, for that matter, that SLMI does not own the copyrights,” the papers state. “[...] That issue has never been decided, and Disney has now placed it directly before the court in this case.”
“This case” is a copyright- and trademark-infringement involving the use of elements from Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in a musical revue staged by the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre. What Disney’s lawyers thought would be “a simple case” took an unexpected turn in November when the theater responded that it had licensed Spider-Man, from Stan Lee Media, which was named in a third-party counterclaim (the license was obtained after Disney filed suit). That opened the door for the company, which no longer has a connection to Stan Lee, to sue Disney, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, and, presumably, the other Marvel characters it’s sought since emerging from bankruptcy in 2006.
Passings | Tom Medley, creator of the comic Stroker McGurk, which ran in Hot Rod magazine for many years, died on March 2 at the age of 93. Medley was a hot-rodder himself, which is how he got his big break: He used to post his cartoons at a local hot-rod builder, and the publisher of Hot Rod, which was just getting off the ground at the time, spotted them and hired Medley as his comics and humor editor. Medley’s son Gary said his father’s humor sometimes foreshadowed reality: “Stroker’s — or Medley’s — inspired genius came up with a host of crazy ideas that appeared impractical at first, but were later adopted by everyday car builders and racers. Multi-engine dragsters, wheelie bars, and drag chutes all sprung from Stroker’s fertile mind before they were embraced in the real world.” [AutoWeek]
According to The Hollywood Reporter, a federal judge last week sided with the toymaker in its 2013 lawsuit against writer Donald Glut, who claimed he created the characters in 1981, owns the copyrights and merely licenses them to Mattel (a license, he said, that would expire in 2016).
The company insisted Glut was commissioned to write “He-Man and the Power Sword,” “The Vengeance of Skeletor,” “Battle in the Clouds” and “King of Castle Grayskull” and to create backstories for He-Man and other characters under the direction of the toymaker. Mattel noted the writer acknowledged as recently as 2001 that the minicomics were work for hire for which he received neither credit nor royalties. Besides, the toymaker argued, if there were any confusion about the rights, Glut had a legal obligation to come forward years ago.
Glut’s attorneys countered that his delay wasn’t unreasonable, as he believed his claim fell within the termination period stipulated by U.S. copyright law. But Mattel insisted that because the minicomics were work for hire, Glut never owned the copyright to be able to license or terminate it.
Glut, who wrote the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back, also penned episodes of such animated series as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, The Transformers and Centurions, as well as issues of Marvel’s Captain America, Conan Saga, The Invaders. Kull the Destroyer and The Savage Sword of Conan.
Malaysia’s Home Ministry has banned the release of Ultraman the Ultra Power, claiming the comic book contains elements detrimental to public order.
While it’s unclear what specific content in the Maylay edition alarmed the ministry, The Malay Mail reports the decision has been met with widespread mockery online. One government official even questioned the move, with Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeting, “What is wrong with UItraman?”