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Comics A.M. | Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience adds KidCon

Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience

Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience

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]

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Indiana’s River-Con canceled amid claims of embezzlement

river-con logoPolice 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.

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Comics A.M. | Pardoned Tunisian cartoonist may remain in prison

Jabeur MejriLegal | 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]

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Comics A.M. | Amid Korea’s webtoon boom, cartoonists struggle

The Great Catsby, Vol. 2

The Great Catsby, Vol. 2

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]

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Disney seeks to end Stan Lee Media’s pursuit of Marvel heroes

disney-marvel-logoAfter 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.

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Comics A.M. | ‘There’s a real feeding-frenzy for graphic novels’

Le Transperceneige

Le Transperceneige

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]

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Comics A.M. | Two Japanese men arrested for uploading manga

Gin Tama

Gin Tama

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]

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‘Calvin and Hobbes’ makes surprise appearance in courtroom

calvin and hobbes

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.

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Stan Lee Media steps into licensing dispute, sues Disney

marvel superheroes

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.

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Comics A.M. | Al Plastino’s Superman art arrives at JFK library

Superman's Mission for President Kennedy

Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy

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]

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Comics A.M. | Injured actor sues ‘Spider-Man’ musical producers

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

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]

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Mail Order Comics files for bankruptcy, owing Diamond $325,000

mail order comicsFollowing reports late last month of fulfillment problems, Mail Order Comics has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, seeking to liquidate the nearly decade-old business.

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.

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Appeals court denies Shuster heirs rehearing in Superman battle

From Action Comics #1

From Action Comics #1

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.”

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Comics A.M. | Cartoonist summoned after offending Ecuador’s president

Xavier Bonilla

Xavier Bonilla

Legal | Ecuadorean cartoonist Xavier Bonilla has received a court summons on unspecified charges that seem to relate to a cartoon that President Rafael Correa finds offensive. The case was brought by Ecuador’s new media regulator; Correa has stepped up attacks on the press in recent years, and the newspaper that runs Bonilla’s cartoons, El Universo, has been prosecuted in the past. [Business Standard]

Censorship | Michael Dooley looks at successful and unsuccessful attempts to remove comics from schools and libraries over the past 13 years; this short roundup is informative in its own right, and it’s apparently a sidebar to a longer article that’s not available for free. [Print Magazine]

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Comics A.M. | Case of Sherlock Holmes rights isn’t over just yet

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Legal | As the dust begins to settle on the ruling last month by a federal judge that Arthur Conan Doyle’s first 50 Sherlock Holmes stories have lapsed into the public domain in the United States, out march the analyses pointing out the buts. Chief among them, of course, is the possibility of appeal by the Conan Doyle estate, which contends the characters were effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States (the 10 stories published after Jan. 1, 1923, remain under copyright in this country until 2022).

However, Publishers Weekly notes that because U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo didn’t rule directly on that “novel” argument, the estate may be satisfied with the ambiguity of the decision, given that uncertain creators still may seek to license the characters to steer clear of any trouble. Estate lawyer Benjamin Allison also insists that the Sherlock Holmes trademarks remain unaffected, an assertion that puzzles author and scholar Leslie Klinger, who brought the lawsuit. “There is a very good reason why the Estate did not assert trademark protection: The Estate does not own any trademarks,” he told PW. “They have applied for them, and there will be substantial opposition.” There’s more at NPR, The Independent and The Atlantic. [Publishers Weekly]

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