legal Archives - Page 2 of 42 - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Placing what very well could be the final lump of coal in Stan Lee Media’s stocking, another federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the failed dot-com can’t claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by its namesake.
As ROBOT 6 readers are well aware, the litigious shareholders of Stan Lee Media have long insisted that between August 1998, when Marvel terminated Stan Lee’s $1 million-a-year lifetime contract, and November 1998, when he entered into a new agreement, the legendary writer signed over to Stan Lee Entertainment (later Stan Lee Media) his likeness and the rights to all of the characters he co-created.
A Texas company has sued Harris County and its district attorney’s office over high-priced comic books that were seized in an embezzlement case, only to be stolen by investigators.
As you may recall, attorney Anthony Chiofalo was charged in January 2013 with siphoning from employer Tadano America upwards of $9.3 million, much of which he spent on sports memorabilia and vintage comics, including a Detective Comics #27 worth about $900,000. His house and storage units were raided, and the collectibles seized as evidence — all standard procedure.
But then two investigators with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office allegedly hatched a scheme to steal some of those comics — worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — and sell them at a Chicago convention. Lonnie Blevins, who left the DA’s office before his arrest in February 2013 on federal charges, pleaded guilty in May 2014 to stealing the vintage comics; his former partner Dustin Deutsch was indicted just last month. Not to be forgotten, Chiofalo was sentenced in May to 40 years in prison.
Now, Courthouse News Service reports, Tadano America is seeking damages for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and fraudulent concealment, accusing the DA’s office of failing “to notice that their employees removed several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of highly collectible comic books” from storage units. The crane manufacturer obtained an $8.9 million judgment against Chiafalo in 2012, making those comics the company’s property.
Crime | Police in San Antonio, Texas, arrested two men on Friday on charges of stealing $5,000 worth of comics from a local collector. After the robbery, the collector contacted local comic shops and asked them to keep an eye out for the stolen goods. Several retailers gave police information, including a license plate number, that led to the arrests of Gino Saenz and Jose Gonzalez on charges of theft. [San Antonio Express-News]
Digital comics | Humble Bundle sold $3 million worth of DRM-free digital comics in 2014, the first year in which the company included e-books and comics in its bundles. Total e-book revenues were $4.75 million, of which $1.2 million went to charity (including the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund). That may sound like a lot of money, but as director of e-books Kelley Allen said, “The numbers generated by the book bundles look like a rounding error in comparison to video games,” because the audience for the latter is so vast. Humble Bundle’s e-books are DRM-free, which has been a stumbling block for traditional book publishers, but comics publishers are more flexible, Allen said. [Publishers Weekly]
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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]
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]
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]
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.
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]
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]
The 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.