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Time Inc. confirms layoffs ahead of spinoff from Time Warner

time incTime Inc. confirmed this morning that long-expected layoffs, which widespread reports place at as high as 500 employees, will begin immediately as parent company Time Warner prepares to spin off its low-performing publishing division. Time Inc., which publishes more than 20 magazines, employees about 7,800 people worldwide.

DC Entertainment, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Entertainment, won’t be affected by either the layoffs or the spinoff.

The New York Post contends the newly acquired American Express Publishing (Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, Departures), with about 400 employees, is expected to be hit hard by the cuts; its Executive Travel magazine could be shuttered immediately.

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Time Warner to spin off magazine division in 2014

time warnerTime Warner filed documents last week to spin off Time Inc. — the media giant’s worst-performing division — into what Bloomberg calls “the world’s largest publicly traded magazine company.” The move, as ICv2.com notes, would effectively rid Time Warner of all of its remaining print assets except for DC Comics, which remains part of the Warner Bros. Entertainment subsidiary.

Time Inc., whose sales have fallen in five of the past seven years, publishes more than 20 magazines, including its namesake Time, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and People. It added Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure and Departures in September when it acquired American Express Co.’s publishing unit.

Talk of the spinoff, planned for sometime in 2014, began in March after a failed attempt to forge a new venture with Ladies’ Home Journal publisher Meredith Corporation. “A complete spinoff of Time Inc. provides strategic clarity for Time Warner Inc.,” Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said at the time, “enabling us to focus entirely on our television networks and film and TV production businesses, and improves our growth profile.”

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Amazon and Warner Bros. go into fan-fiction business

kindle worlds

A week that began with Yahoo’s $1.1 billion deal for Tumblr got even stranger this morning with Amazon Publishing’s announcement of Kindle Worlds, billed as the first commercial publishing platform for fan fiction. In short, fanfic writers can now earn royalties for certain corporate-sanctioned stories.

For the launch, Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Alloy Entertainment, the book-packaging division of Warner Bros. Television, for Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl, Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars and L.J. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries — all bestselling young-adult series that have spawned hit television shows. More licenses are expected to be announced soon.

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Comics A.M. | Stan Lee’s Guardian Project target of lawsuit

Stan Lee

Legal | Stan Lee’s Guardian Project, introduced last year at New York Comic Con, has sparked a lawsuit from a Hollywood manager who claims he was cut out of the venture, which transformed National Hockey League mascots into superheroes.

In the lawsuit, filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, Adam Asherson contends the project, now co-owned by NBC Universal, dates back to 2003, when he was introduced to the idea by fellow manager Anthony Chargin and Chargin’s client Jake Shapiro. Asherson, who had a relationship with Lee, says he suggested the legendary comics writer would be the “perfect” partner for the endeavor. They pitched Lee on the project, called Defenders, which focused on the National Football League, with plans to expand to Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the NHL. For unspecified reasons, the NFL deal never came together. However, six years later The Guardian Project emerged with the involvement of Chargin, Shapiro and Lee — but without Asherson.

Asherson claims Guardian Media Entertainment, SLG Entertainment, Chargin and Shapiro have breach an oral joint-venture agreement, committed promissory estoppel and fraud, and breach fiduciary duties by leaving him out of the NHL agreement. [Hollywood, Esq.]

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Anonymous turns V for Vendetta’s Guy Fawkes mask into a bestseller

Anonymous protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks (photo by Vincent Diamante)

Infamous for its protests against the Church of Scientology and website attacks on Sony, Visa and, most recently, Bay Area Rapid Transit, the loose-knit hacker group Anonymous is perhaps best known for a single image that’s become a symbol of its anarchic movement: The V for Vendetta-inspired Guy Fawkes mask worn by its members in public protests.

However, as The New York Times notes this morning, each of those masks purchased by the largely anti-government, anti-corporation activists puts money in the coffers of Time Warner, one of the world’s largest media conglomerates. The parent company of DC Comics, which published the Alan Moore-David Lloyd miniseries in the United States, and Warner Bros., which released the film adaptation in 2006, owns the rights to the image, and receives a licensing fee for each mask sold.

And there are a lot sold, thanks largely to the Anonymous movement. Rubie’s Costumes, the New York company that produces the masks, sells more than 100,000 a year; by comparison, it sells only about 5,000 of each of its other masks.

But it wasn’t until recently that Rubie’s knew why Guy Fawkes was a bestseller. “We just thought people liked the V for Vendetta movie,” Rubie’s executive Howard Beige tells the newspaper. “Then one morning I saw a picture of these protesters wearing the mask in an online news article. I quickly showed my sales manager.”

Joanne Siegel’s posthumous appeal to Warner Bros.

Superman

Joanne Siegel, widow of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, passed away on Feb. 12 with her family’s prolonged legal battle with Warner Bros. over the Man of Steel still unresolved.

Although a judge ruled in 2008 that the Siegels had successfully recaptured half of the original copyright to Superman, paving the way for the estate of co-creator Joe Shuster to do the same in 2013, Warner Bros. has continued its increasingly bitter fight for the property. In May the studio went so far as to sue the attorney representing the two families in an effort to force him to resign.

Noting the recent changes in tone and tactics, Joanne Siegel prepared a letter to Time Warner Chairman Jeffrey L. Bewkes just two months before her death asking for an end to such “mean-spirited tactics” as the lawsuit against attorney Marc Toberoff and multiple depositions of herself and daughter Laura Siegel Larson, both of whom were in poor health.

“My daughter Laura and I, as well as the Shuster estate, have done nothing more than exercise our rights under the Copyright Act,” Siegel wrote in the letter, obtained and published by Deadline. “Yet, your company has chosen to sue us and our long-time attorney for protecting our rights. [...] The solution to saving time, trouble, and expense is a change of viewpoint. Laura and I are legally owed our share of Superman profits since 1999. By paying the owed bill in full, as you pay other business bills, it would be handled as a business matter, instead of a lawsuit going into its 5th year.”

The latest turn in the case came just last week, when it was reported that Toberoff had asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to determine exactly what elements from Superman’s mythology his clients can reclaim as a result of the 2008 court ruling.

Read the full text of the letter after the break.

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AOL hopes to cut a whopping 2,500 jobs

AOL

AOL

AOL, which has been described as an albatross around the neck of DC Comics parent company Time Warner, plans to shed more than a third of its workforce as it spins off from the media giant next month.

Although earlier speculation placed layoffs at about 1,000, the struggling Internet company announced this morning that it will ask 2,500 of its 6,900 employees to accept buyouts. If it can’t find enough volunteers, AOL will resort to layoffs. The announcement, part of an effort to cut $300 million in annual costs, comes a little more than a week after 100 layoffs.

Founded in 1983 as Quantum Computer Services, AOL at one point boasted 30 million subscribers, a number that shrank considerably after its 2001 merger with Time Warner — a disastrous deal that resulted in a record $99-billion loss for the (briefly) rebranded AOL Time Warner and the removal of Steve Case as chairman.

AOL, which The Associated Press points out still makes money, counts among its operations the comics blog Comics Alliance, the tech blog Engadget, the video-game blog Joystiq and, in partnership with Time Warner’s Telepictures Productions, the high-profile celebrity-news site TMZ.com.


Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Blue Bloods: Masquerade

Blue Bloods: Masquerade

Publishing | Italian movie producer Domenico Procacci has purchased Bologna-based graphic novel publisher Coconino Press, adding it to his Fandango filmmaking and book-publishing company. In addition to its own titles, Coconino publishes the Italian editions of works by such artists as Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, and Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi. [Variety]

Publishing | Young-adult novelist Melissa de la Cruz has signed new contracts with Hyperion, the Disney Book Group imprint that publishes her bestselling Blue Bloods series. The deal calls for three companion books to the teen-vampire drama, including Blue Bloods: The Graphic Novel. [Variety]

The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn

Publishing | IDW Publishing will adapt Peter Beagle’s bestselling 1968 fantasy novel The Last Unicorn as a six-issue miniseries. The comic, by writer Peter B. Gillis, artist Renae De Liz and colorist Ray Dillon, will debut in April. [ICv2.com]

Publishing | Simon Jones offers commentary about declining manga sales in Japan: “Some blame was again placed at the industry’s increasing focus on niche genres (just as comics is a spandex ghetto, manga is facing a crisis of the moe slum), but I think this is being overstated as a cause, when it’s really a symptom that is self-feeding.  Manga sales have gone down … it could be lower birth rates, or competition from other media, or internet piracy (come on guys, we don’t need to couch this in flowery language), or any combination of those.  But it all comes down to fewer companies being able to produce mainstream products, because a growing segment of mainstream audiences are no longer willing to pay for them despite increasing demand.” [Icarus Publishing]

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