legal Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
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?”
Conventions | The Salt Lake Comic Con spinoff event FanXperience is shaping up for its April 17 debut with the addition of KidCon, a pavilion dedicated to younger attendees. “We don’t want the impression that we have KidCon there for everything else to become less kid-friendly,” says co-founder Dan Farr. “Although I would imagine 99 percent of the people that are coming are going to take their kids throughout the whole hall, it’s just to have an area where they can go and spend a little more time with their kids.” The inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con in September drew an estimated 80,000 attendees; organizers anticipate as many as 100,000 for FanX, which will have almost double the floor space. [Deseret News]
Legal | The judge was a no-show for what was supposed to be the announcement of the verdict in the trial of Algerian cartoonist Djamel Ghanem, who stands accused of “insulting the president of the republic” in a cartoon that was, bizarrely, never published. Ghanem’s lawyer says the verdict has been postponed; the cartoonist faces up to 18 months in prison and a fine of 30,000 dinars ($380 U.S>) if found guilty. [Global Post]
Police in South Bend, Indiana, are investigating the possible embezzlement of funds that led to the abrupt cancellation of the River-Con comics and gaming convention.
A brief message posted Feb. 21 on the event’s Facebook page announcing the cancellation and assuring vendors and Kickstarter supporters they “will be fully reimbursed” doesn’t hint at the circumstances surrounding the move. For those, you have to turn to a local news report and the Facebook page of the South Bend Gaming Association, a group formed last year to organize the planned April 19 show.
According to WSBT TV, police were contacted shortly after the SBGA reportedly received a message from its former president on Feb. 12 admitting to embezzling $1,300. According to the group’s Facebook page, the former president — identified in a subsequent post as Erica Warren — resigned her position, “offered to replace this missing money and expressed hope that River-Con will continue to take place as planned.” SBGA members instead decided unanimously to turn the matter over to police.
Attempts this morning by ROBOT 6 to contact Warren by phone, email and Facebook were unsuccessful. However, on the convention’s Kickstarter page, an SBGA member posted what’s purported to be the message sent by Warren. In it, she explains the money was used for medical bills — “It’s not a valid reason,” she acknowledged — and stated she can borrow against her 401k plan to repay the funds.
Legal | It looks as if Tunisian cartoonist Jabeur Mejri will not be released from prison any time soon, despite being pardoned by President Moncef Marzouki for charges stemming from his cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. It turns out that the mysterious other criminal case that’s been holding things up is a charge of embezzlement that dates back a few years to when Mejri was working for the Tunisian railways. Neither Mejri’s lawyer nor his family had been aware of the charge, but the judge in the case issued a warrant for Mejri’s continued detention on Jan. 9. His lawyer will submit a bail request, which he hopes will be granted next week. [Independent Online]
Creators | Chris Ware talks about his Building Stories in an interview that was recorded before a live audience in Portland, Oregon. [Oregon Public Broadcasting]
Digital comics | The Korea Times takes a look at the comics market in that country, where government suppression of comic books in the 1990s (and school-sponsored book burnings even before that) has combined with the current demand for free digital material (in the form of the wildly popular “webtoons”) to create an uncertain environment for cartoonists trying to make a living from their work. “Unlike Japanese manga, which continues to drive a large part of the country’s publishing market and provide a creative influence to movies, music and video games, Korea’s cartoon culture was deprived of its opportunity to thrive,” said Lee Chung-ho, president of the Korea Cartoonist Association. “However, the most difficult process for us will be to find a sustainable business model. Readership has increased dramatically through webtoons, but you have no clear idea on how many of these readers will be willing to pay for content.” [The Korea Times]
After being pursued in court over the past seven years by Stan Lee Media, Marvel and its corporate parent Disney have had enough: On Valentine’s Day, the companies asked a federal judge to put a stop to the failed dot-com’s dogged claims of ownership of Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men and other lucrative characters.
Filed Friday in federal court in Philadelphia, and first reported by Hollywood, Esq., the motion to dismiss comes as part of what began in September as a seemingly straightforward copyright- and trademark-infringement lawsuit 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.
However, as Disney states in its filing, that “simple case” was “transmogrified” with the surprising assertion in November from the theater that it 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). That conveniently opened the door for the company, which no longer has a connection to its co-founder and namesake, to sue Disney on Feb. 7, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, and, presumably, other characters co-created by Stan Lee.
Publishing | Variety speaks with Madrigall President Antoine Gallimard about how the French publishing giant and its holdings (Gallimard, Casterman, Flammarion and Futuropolis, among them) handle the film rights to their many graphic novels, and the popularity of comics as source material: “I think that the French publishing and film industries feed on, complement, and ultimately do help each other. The number of films adapted from books that are produced every year in France is eloquent testimony to this.” Noting that, “In recent years, there’s a real feeding-frenzy for graphic novels, comic books,” Gaillimard says, “Comedy, in all its variants, is the most popular of adapted materials.” [Variety]
Legal | An Algerian judge has made a preliminary recommendation of 18 months’ imprisonment for cartoonist Djamel Ghanem for drawing a cartoon, which was never published, that government officials deemed offensive. In an odd twist, Ghanem was sued by his own newspaper, La Voix de l’Oranie, which tends to favor the current administration, and as a result, he has been blackballed by the Algerian media. The cartoon is critical of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fourth term but doesn’t even depict the president — it shows two people in conversation, comparing the fourth term to baby diapers — Ghanem said the point was that Algerians were treated like children. Pressed by the district attorney to admit the cartoon was insulting to the Bouteflika, Ghanem insisted that wasn’t his intention. [Global Voices Online]
Legal | The Hiroshima, Japan, police arrested a 36-year-old man on Monday for illegally uploading the manga series Gin Tama to the Internet; he was charged with copyright infringement. This comes just a few days after the arrest of another unemployed man for uploading a volume of Berserk. In both cases, the publisher and the creator of the manga involved have sued the suspects. [Crunchyroll]
Creators | Batman writer Scott Snyder talks about the women of Gotham City. [Comicosity]
Creators | In the first part of a two-part interview conducted at WonderCon, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick discusses how she grew up reading comics in the 1970s, her work for Tokyopop and Marvel, and what Carol Danvers means to her fans. [Toucan]
We’ve seen cartoonist Bill Watterson’s advice transformed into words of inspiration, but this may be the first time one of his strips has been used in a courtroom.
The Rochester, Minnesota, Post Bulletin reports that when it came time last week to give instructions to a jury considering the case of 20 silica sand protesters charged with trespassing, Winona County Judge Jeffrey Thompson turned to a classic Calvin and Hobbes comic.
Continuing its long, and so far wholly unsuccessful, fight for ownership of many of Marvel’s best-known characters, the tenacious Stan Lee Media has sued a Walt Disney Co. subsidiary, seeking to join a dispute about licensing Spider-Man for the stage.
In September, Disney Enterprises, Marvel and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. sued Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre, saying it violated copyrights and trademarks by using elements of Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in its musical revue Broadway: Now and Forever (Disney and Mackintosh jointly hold the copyright to the Mary Poppins stage production). The theater responded in November with the surprising claim that Disney doesn’t own Spider-Man. Instead, the counterclaim stated, the character belongs to Stan Lee Media, which licensed the rights to the American Music Theatre.
Comics | Once the paperwork is complete, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library will officially own the original artwork for the 1964 DC Comics story “Superman’s Mission For President Kennedy,” fulfilling one of artist Al Plastino’s final wishes. Plastino, who passed away Nov. 25 at age 91, was surprised to discover at New York Comic Con a month earlier that the pages hadn’t been donated to the library five decades earlier, as he’d been led to believe, but were instead set to be sold at auction on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. The auction was put on hold until questions of ownership could be resolved, and Plastino spent the final weeks of his life campaigning for the return of the artwork, even petitioning a judge to force the auction house to reveal the name of the seller. DC Entertainment intervened in December to acquire the pages and give them to the library. “We are thrilled to receive this historic artwork and look forward to sharing it with the public when the legal transfer is completed,” library director Tom Putnam said in a statement. [Newsday]
Legal | Daniel Curry, the actor who was seriously injured in August during a performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, has filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages, claiming the producers and other defendants knew a mechanical lift could be dangerous. Curry was hurt when an automated door pinned his leg; he suffered fractured legs and a fractured foot, and had to undergo surgeries and unspecified amputations. The producers have insisted the accident was caused by human error and not malfunctioning equipment. [The New York Times]
Events | Japan’s ambassador to France has expressed his country’s displeasure with a South Korean exhibit at the Angouleme International Comics Festival devoted to “comfort women” who were forced into sex slavery during World War II by the Japanese military. Ambassador Yoichi Suzuki said the exhibit, which attracted about 17,000 visitors, promotes “a mistaken point of view that further complicates relations between South Korea and Japan.” [GMA News, Yonhap News Agency]
In documents filed last week in federal bankruptcy court in Omaha, Nebraska, the retailer lists $45,000 in assets and $919,000 in debt, of which $325,000 is owed to Diamond Comic Distributors.
Signs of trouble with Mail Order Comics became apparent last month when customers began complaining on the store’s now-deleted Facebook page about unfulfilled orders and website troubles. Discount Comic Book Service quickly stepped in to fulfill all orders.
In the latest — and, quite possibly, final — legal blow to the estate of Joe Shuster, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a petition for a rehearing of its November decision that effectively brought to an end what a three-judge panel described as “the long-running saga regarding the ownership of copyrights in Superman — a story almost as old as the Man of Steel himself.”
Deadline reports that the one-page order closes the door to any more petitions for rehearing before the Ninth Circuit, leaving the Supreme Court as the only option left to attorney Marc Toberoff, who last year pledged, “My clients and I are prepared to go the distance.”