A federal judge on Thursday dismissed Stan Lee Media’s multibillion-dollar lawsuit against Disney, potentially ending its long and confusing legal battle to claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee. The failed dot-com has had no connection to its co-founder and namesake in more than a decade; in fact, the two have sued each other on a few occasions.
As Deadline reports, in granting Disney’s motion to dismiss the 2012 copyright-infringement complaint, U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez didn’t attempt to hide his annoyance with the litigious Stan Lee Media, whose tangled web of lawsuits began it at least 2007, just months after the company emerged from federal bankruptcy protection.
“Plaintiff has tried time and again to claim ownership of those copyrights; the litigation history arising out of the 1998 Agreement stretches over more than a decade and at least six courts,” Martinez wrote in his 11-page order. “Taking its cue from the Southern District of New York and the Central District of California, this Court holds that Plaintiff is precluded from re-litigating the issue of its ownership of copyrights based on the 1998 Agreement …” He said it would be “futile” to permit Stan Lee Media to amend the lawsuit.
Thirteen years after his original arrest on child-molestation charges, DragonCon co-found Ed Kramer is at last heading to trial. Or, at least he has a trial date.
The Gwinnett (Georgia) Daily Post reports that following a two-and-a-half-hour hearing on Monday, Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Karen Beyers added the Kramer case to the judicial calendar for the weeks of Dec. 2 and 9 — and according to Kramer’s attorney McNeill Stokes, his client “wants to go to trial.”
Kramer was originally arrested on charges of molesting three teenage boys between 1996 and 2000, but the trial has been repeatedly delayed since his 2003 indictment through legal maneuverings and claims of declining health, which at one point apparently required the attention of 16 physicians. He was first released on bond in November 2000, less than three months after his arrest, but he was back in jail within days when a neighbor reported seeing a teenage boy enter his home.
Following claims of a January 2001 assault by a deputy, Kramer was placed on house arrest, an order later modified to permit travel between Georgia and New Jersey or New York to receive medical treatments and visit his ailing mother. Under the conditions of the bond, he was to report his weekly location and not have any unsupervised contact with children under the age of 16. However, in September 2011, he was arrested in Connecticut after he allegedly was found alone in a hotel room with a 14-year-old boy. He was extradited back to Georgia in January 2013 to face six counts of child molestation.
Nancy Silberkleit, the colorful co-CEO of Archie Comics, has entered the race for mayor of Rye, New York, a city of about 16,000 in Westchester County. News of her candidacy follows a report that she has filed a sexual-harassment against her longtime friend Sam Levitin, who served as her liaison following her bizarre yearlong legal feud with the publisher and Co-CEO Jon Goldwater.
A 22-year resident of Rye, Silberkleit is running as an independent against city councilmen Joe Sack and Peter Jovanovich after securing 1,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot for the November election; just 377 were required.
Silberkleit, who has no political experience, was an art teacher in New Jersey before the death in 2008 of her husband Michael Silberkleit, son of Archie co-founder Louis Silberkleit. She and Goldwater were the subjects of flattering media profiles when they assumed the roles of co-CEOs in 2009 (Goldwater’s half-brother Richard Goldwater had passed away in 2007), but it was what happened afterward that drew the most attention.
Legal | Archie Comics Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit is in court again, this time claiming sexual harassment by former friend Sam Levitin, who was her liaison to Archie after her legal feud with the company and C0-CEO Jon Goldwater was settled last year. Levitin has responded that Silberkleit “lacks functional communication skills and has an unstable temperament” and has a “venomous and destructive effect” at the company. Levitin asked the court in December to remove Silberkleit as a trustee of the company, and she responded in April with the allegation of sexual harassment against both Levitin and Archie Comics. An outside firm hired by Archie determined that her claims were “unfounded,” and the publisher is not a party in the latest lawsuit. [New York Daily News]
Legal | Jeff Trexler takes an in-depth look at the copyright battle between Marvel and Jack Kirby’s children. [The Comics Journal]
Legal | Singapore cartoonist Leslie Chew apologized today for four comic strips that were formerly posted on his Facebook page Demon-Cratic Singapore. In a statement released by his lawyers, Chew said, “I accept that (the) comic strips had misrepresented to the public that the Singapore Judiciary administers differential treatment to individuals based on their nationality, social status and political affiliation, and that there have been specific criminal cases in which decisions were made by the Singapore judiciary on the basis of the above factors rather than on the merits.” In light of the apology, and the fact that the strips have been taken down, the Attorney-Generals Chambers has dropped contempt of court charges against Chew. The cartoonist was also charged with sedition in April, but those charges have been dropped as well. [Straits Times]
Publishing | As the movie version of 2 Guns heads toward theaters this weekend, BOOM! Studios CEO Ross Richie talks about his company’s “creator share” model and his career in comics publishing, from Malibu Studios to Atomeka to BOOM!, which he co-founded on a suggestion from Keith Giffen, whom he describes as “the Aerosmith of comics”: “If Steven Tyler came up to you and said, ‘You really ought to produce albums,’ you probably would listen.” [The New York Times]
Legal | The prosecutor for Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers has decided not to pursue sedition charges against cartoonist Leslie Chew, who was arrested in April on charges stemming from a cartoon at his Demon-Cratic Singapore Facebook page. Chew still faces charges of contempt of court for “scandalising the Judiciary of the Republic of Singapore.” That case will be heard on Aug. 12. [Straits Times]
Legal | Kevin Lim and Evaline Danubrata add some context to the story of Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew, who was charged Thursday with contempt of court for several cartoons critical of the Singapore courts that appeared on his Facebook page Demon-cratic Singapore. This isn’t the first time Chew has run afoul of authorities; he was charged with sedition earlier this year for alleging official discrimination against the Malay population. Singapore recently enacted a law requiring licenses for news sites that report regularly on the country, a move that critics of the ruling People’s Action Party see as an attempt to silence dissent. [Reuters]
Retailing | Comic-store owners in the Tampa Bay area agree that sales are up, but they differ on the reasons why. [The Tampa Tribune]
More than a year after a Kickstarter campaign for a lighthearted Lovecraftian board game generated $122,000 in pledges, the project has been abruptly canceled, triggering accusations of fraud.
Erik Chevalier of The Forking Path Co. announced Tuesday to backers that The Doom That Came to Atlantic City! was simply “beyond my abilities.” “Every possible mistake was made, some due to my inexperience in board game publishing, others due to ego conflicts, legal issues and technical complications,” he wrote. “No matter the cause though these could all have been avoided by someone more experienced and I apparently was not that person.”
Writer Nancy A. Collins, who led the charge for a boycott of DragonCon because of its financial ties to co-founder, and accused child molester, Ed Kramer, ended that call on Monday after organizers announced they’ve transferred ownership of the Atlanta convention to a new legal entity and have offered to buy out Kramer’s shares.
Kramer, who’s in jail awaiting trial on child-molestation charges that date back 13 years, hasn’t been involved in the operation of the event since 2000, but continued to receive annual dividends because of his stake in the for-profit corporation. He’s said to have made $154,000 from DragonCon in 2011 alone.
“Barring unforeseen events, I am now officially calling off the boycott,” Collins said in a statement to The Beat. “It’s interesting to see that something that had not been done and supposedly *couldn’t* be done for nearly 13 years somehow managed to be implemented in less than 6 months. I would like to thank those professionals who took a stand and vocally supported the boycott of DragonCon, as well as the many fans who have done so as well. You looked the dragon in the eye and made it blink. And have no doubt, it was your unified efforts, actions and voices that made this happen, and nothing else. It was you, and no one else, who were responsible for this cancer finally being cut from Fandom.”
In a preemptive move, Studio JMS has sued a self-publisher who threatened legal action over a character in J. Michael Straczynski’s Sidekick. The dispute centers on the Red Cowl, the former masked mentor of the protagonist in the upcoming series from Joe’s Comics and Image Comics.
Straczynski and Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson received a cease-and-desist notice in late May from an attorney representing Richard A. Hamilton of Dial “C” for Comics, insisting that the Cowl (as he was then called) infringes on his client’s trademark and copyright for a costumed character of the same name in the series Miserable Dastards.
According to the lawsuit, filed late last month in federal court in Los Angeles, despite seeing no similarities between the two characters, Studio JMS changed the name to the Red Cowl in hopes of arriving at an “amicable resolution,” and “for other creative reasons.” It’s when Hamilton’s lawyer was notified of the alteration that the conflict got interesting — or at least extremely prickly.
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest made the order a little more than two weeks after the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her 2011 decision rejecting Friedrich’s claims that the copyright to the Spirit of Vengeance reverted to him a decade earlier. According to Deadline, Marvel’s lawyers indicated Thursday in a conference meeting that they won’t challenge the appeals court ruling, and will file a motion for a jury trial.
Friedrich, long credited as co-creator of the character with Roy Thomas and Mike Ploog, filed the lawsuit in April 2007, shortly after the release of Columbia Pictures’ Ghost Rider movie, accusing the studio, Marvel, Hasbro and other companies of copyright infringement, false advertising and unfair competition, among other counts. The film grossed $228 million worldwide; the 2012 sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, earned $132.5 million.
Indeed, while death rays may have been the preferred weapon of Golden Age supervillains and B-movie mad scientists, their real-world application is dubious in best. However, that apparently didn’t stop 49-year-old Glendon Scott Crawford of Galway, New York, and 54-year-old Eric J. Feight of Hudson, New York, from trying.
The two appeared Wednesday in federal court in Albany, New York, charged with conspiracy to provide support to terrorists with the weapon. According to The Associated Press, federal prosecutors allege that Crawford, an industrial mechanic for General Electric in Schenectady, approached Jewish groups last year searching for funding and people who could help him with technology that could secretly deliver damaging, and possibly lethal, doses of radiation to Muslims and other targets he considered enemies of Israel. The indictment states that he traveled to North Carolina to solicit more money from “a ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan,” who contacted the FBI.
Cosplay is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States, and it raises a whole raft of issues about boundaries, privacy and proper behavior. Someone else can write a book about that; what I found interesting about the recent cosplay pillow controversy was the set of assumptions underlying it. While this touches on the law, I should say up front that I am not a lawyer and what follows is commentary, not legal advice.
Here’s what happened: At last weekend’s AnimeNEXT, a cosplay photographer was selling pillows with photographs of cosplayers that he had taken. One of the cosplayers, Marie Grey, gave her version of events on her blog, complete with a photo of the pillow.
On Saturday evening, I received a tweet from my friend Carrie with a photo of me in my Dark Phoenix cosplay emblazoned on a pillow. She asked me if I was okay with it. Obviously… I was not. Upon getting my response, she spoke with the vendor (Eric [Pearce] of Imagesolutions), who claimed I had signed an agreement stating he could sell my image whichever way he pleased without asking.
Grey posed for Pearce and had indeed signed a release, but she believed the document allowed her photo to be used for promotional purposes only. Pearce provided The Outhousers with a photo release he claimed all cosplayers signed, and it is considerably broader than that:
Despite a series of seemingly definitive decisions in DC Comics’ favor, the nearly decade-long legal fight over the rights to Superman continues, with the estate of co-creator Joe Shuster asking an appeals court just three weeks ago to overturn a ruling barring the family from reclaiming the artist’s stake in the Man of Steel. At the center of the battle is tenacious and controversial attorney Marc Toberoff, the longtime nemesis of Warner Bros. who represents the heirs of Shuster and his collaborator Jerry Siegel.
He’s the subject of a lengthy feature in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, in which he pledges he’ll take the Superman dispute to the Supreme Court, if necessary. “This case is by no means over,” he tells the magazine. “My clients and I are prepared to go the distance.” It’s an interesting article that’s part history lesson and part personality profile, with several tidbits (of varying importance) that I can’t recall seeing previously:
Legal | The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar has appealed a court decision upholding his 2010 arrest and detention, claiming police acted in bad faith when they arrested him under the Sedition Act because of his book Cartoon-O-Phobia, which had not yet been released at the time of his arrest. No charges were ever filed, as the police could not identify any actual seditious content in the books. A court ruled in July 2012 that Zunar’s arrest was lawful but ordered the police to return the books they had confiscated and pay him damages. An appellate court will hear the case next week. [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald takes a look at Marvel’s new graphic novel line, which will launch in October with Warren Ellis and Mike McKone’s Avengers: Endless Wartime. [Publishers Weekly]