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    • CommentAuthorDirk Deppey
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2008 edited
    This warms my heart on so many levels that I scarcely know where to begin.
  1.  (1592.2)
    To make sure this is clear to people, the following is now true subject to appeal:

    While Siegel now owns 50% of the rights in Action Comics Vol. 1, termination proceedings under the 1976 copyright act do not remove the license holder's rights to derivative works. So DC still has the rights to the piles and piles of Superman comics it published.

    This will have some impact on the rights to the character, but not what people think overall. There will be an accounting, probably at trial, of what money is owed, and that could last years. That accounting is subject to domestic copyright, international rights and related profits are not at issue here. Further more, Trademark is not in jeopardy, and DC's rights to use the character (at least until 2013 when Shulster's right of termination comes up Wrong year. Thats when trademark renewal occurs.) are not in jeopardy.

    DC also retains the right to reprint or use any material after issue one, though they are under estoppal (legally barred) from reprinting that single issue as of now.

    And sorry Warren, I posted that way to quick.
  2.  (1592.3)
    JTraub, can I get you to edit that post when you're next here? Thanks.

    Dirk -- yeah, Fraction sent that over a few hours ago. Wonderful.
  3.  (1592.4)
    Excellent news for creators everywhere.
  4.  (1592.5)
    Excellent news for creators everywhere.

    This is excellent news for the Siegel estate of course, and I know it has great symbolic weight, but I am not feeling the weight of new precedent on this. The issue here is that first issue of Action Comics was not done under a WFH doctrine so was subject to right of termination by licensor. The number of major comic book properties that will fall under similar conditions are limited.

    I have had allot more time to think it through now:

    Here is whats going on: In 1978 Congress extended copyright from its original 56 (28 years and then a renewal of 28 years), in doing so it made provisions for the original licensor or their estate to terminate a grant subject to 5 year grace period starting at the 56th year. The reasoning is very clear: many grants were made for the life of the copyright, which had been 56 years and, as of 1978, was suddenly 75 years. Such additional length was clearly not contemplated when the license was entered into. Thus the licensor could get a second bite at the apple, terminate and re-contract (or choose not too), and fairly receive a chance to profit from the additional 19 years. At the same time no windfall was unjustly created for the licensee. The key issue is this includes contracts which amount to transfer of all rights in copyright, which I believe is the case here, as the transfer was made on the assumption of 56 years of value not 75.

    This set out in section 304(c) of Title 17.

    Now, where allot of news sites are going to screw this up is they are going to interpret this as a ruling which sustains that any number of corporate characters are actually owned by their creators without regards to the fact pattern. It is critical to understated no change to WFH arises from this case, and more so DC legally used the 50% rights Siegel had in the character for a number of years equal to the original grant. Yes holding states the estate currently owns 50% of the character, but DC acted within its rights during the time of the license/contract in every respect, and the estates rights in reversion extend from the time of termination.

    What we may see is a number of 304(c) termination claims brought on characters within the grace period, however if the 5 years have passed no such right may be exercised until the next grace period. This of course was enacted alongside the Sonny Bonno Copyright extension act. Same deal as above, 75 years became 95 years and congress acted under 304(d) to allow a third bite at the apple for the licensor. This is the case with the Shuster estate, who did not act within the termination grace period under 304(c) but will have a chance to under 304(d) in a few years.

    What we won't see is a number of WFH revisions or character grants to creators outside similar fact patterns. It is critical that Action Comics and Superman preexisted the grant to DC, and only a similar fact pattern where the corporate entity claims WFH and the original creator (or estate) can show otherwise alongside a proper notice of termination will this case serve as a guide. More so any character or work created after 1978 is not subject to this fact pattern at all.
  5.  (1592.6)

    That's easily the best and clearest explination of this I've seen thus far. Thanks for that. A friend of mine is in IP law and quite a comic geek, I'm sure he's giddy about this whole thing.

    Sonny Bonno Copyright extension act.

    Ever since I first read that in my "intro to copyright" class in film school it has never ceased to fill me curious shame. Sonny Bonno...jesus.
  6.  (1592.7)
    @JTraub - Thanks for the details! OK, good news for the Siegel's then...
  7.  (1592.8)
    Would you like to get good and disgusted? This is a Newsarama comments thread that is mostly complaining that DC lost the case.
    • CommentAuthorAllen
    • CommentTimeMar 29th 2008
    Oh Lord I got about half way down the page on the comments and I'm done. Can I strike being a comic book fan now? Cause if it means acting that ignorant I'm out.

    Otherwise, great news and just hope things don't get litigated for years and years again.
    • CommentTimeMar 29th 2008
    Would you like to get good and disgusted? This is a Newsarama comments thread that is mostly complaining that DC lost the case.

    Warren, there are also retailers on the CBIA expressing similar thoughts.

    • CommentTimeMar 29th 2008
    That's one of the most depressing things I've read all week-- er, the comments, not the article.

    - Z
  8.  (1592.12)
    Warren, there are also retailers on the CBIA expressing similar thoughts.

    That, somehow, doesn't surprise me at all.
  9.  (1592.13)
    The extended litigation will be in the accounting.

    The court begs the question how many Warner family properties using Superman, since 2004, will fall under the ruling. Thats going to take some effort - though I expect settlement not trial.
    Warner has to want this over as fast as possible.

    Seeing the usual mix of negatives: The fanboy crowd is terrified they might lose Superman (as Warren noted, as ever, showing misplaced loyalty to a corporation),and the anti-copyright crowd is angry the estate can get the rights back after all this time. Warren, your supposed to leave going to Newsarama threads to idiots like me.

    ...want to know what amuses me?

    Nobody can make the Siegel estate contract their 50% back. In can't be forced. Yes, Warners will throw a pile of cash at them, and I suspect they will take it, but they have equal rights as copyright holder to the basic character. Now a question raised in the holding is what elements of the character's narrative that includes, the implication being not many at all. That leaves the majority of what we think of as "Superman" being WFH developed at DC under license. I suspect the estate will take an offer to avoid more litigation on that issue alone.

    But you have to know...Mark Millar might have just realized another entity now has the rights to license Superman; none of the setting or supporting cast of course, but still I bet he can feel it in his bones. I doubt the man can sleep if he knows this.
  10.  (1592.14)
    But you have to know...Mark Millar might have just realized another entity now has the rights to license Superman; none of the setting or supporting cast of course, but still I bet he can feel it in his bones. I doubt the man can sleep if he knows this.

    If I open the window, I can hear him masturbating right now. And I live in south east England and he lives in Scotland. It must be fucking deafening in Hull.
  11.  (1592.15)
    And because I am that idiot I looked at the thread.

    The thing which pisses me off the most is the assumption of the court as sappy little muppets who gave the work back in some show of sympathy: see the chorus of : "They signed a contract - they have to live with it!"

    No, you know-it-alls, contracts are subject to the fucking rule of law, and the law allows a termination proceeding here. The court followed the law.

    I can't stand the fanboy Internet (libertarian) streak that insists contracts are unbound by any other legal consideration and last for eternity like its fucking Scientology. The level of their entitlement in the status quo is just galling, they fucking deserve to never read a book written or drawn by anyone with any sort of craft...the little...and I just want to....

    Huh. Um. Right. Look law!
  12.  (1592.16)
    Fine point of law I missed last night.

    The 1976 Act allowed for termination by artists and their descendants. This is controlled under 304(c)(1). Of course, as many people leave family behind this is usually the case. However, I was carelessly using estate in my above comments without regard to the limited scope of estate relevant under the 1976 Act. The 1998 act (third bite at the apple) allows for termination by the estate, regardless of identity, in the absence of actual descent under 304(d) and subject to 304(a)(c)(iii). This appears to be the case with the Shuster estate.
    • CommentAuthoromer333
    • CommentTimeMar 29th 2008
    This is some of the best news in comics ever.

    Warren, you were right about the Newsarama thread, absolutely disturbing that that the fanboys are pretty much toeing the corporate line.
  13.  (1592.18)
    Newsarama comments thread that is mostly complaining that DC lost the case.

    Doesn't reading those Newsrama threads cause sterility? Cause writing in them damn well should.

    And prolapse.

    I can't stand the fanboy Internet (libertarian) streak

    We had one working with us on a recent shoot. The guy basically worshipped Penn Jillette and espoused, his words, "Anarcho-Capitalism". Listening to him yammer about how national health insurance was "Fascism" and how Ron Paul was going to save us all gave me dark thoughts about sharp things.

    Mind you, he was 22, grew up in the fucking suburbs, went to a state school and was still covered under his parent's health insurance.

    In other words, the internet version of a self-made man.
  14.  (1592.19)
    In other words, the internet version of a self-made man

    With the promise I will drop this and not thread drift after this comment: I went to a state law school. 50% of tuition was covered by the state, 25% by students and 25% by alumni. My mentor used to ask anyone who made comments like the above if they were in-state, if they were he requested a check for about $10,000 dollars per semester to reimburse the school.

    Back on topic,

    Here the issue seems to be an inability by fandom to understand that the law provides remedies to protect artists. Those remedies are imperfect, but they thankfully exist. On the surface all fandom has is a fear they might "lose" Superman - which makes no sense obviously. However, I think something else lurks under the surface. They want to write and draw Superman. As long as its safely Warner's they can nurse their dream they will be the next writer.

    This is one reason I have such a short temper for the internet anti-copyright extension crowd some days. I am pro-artist first and foremost, including right to control and right to fairly contract. Thats why I love this holding. When I feel the anit-copyright crowd is arguing so for the public good or forum I have sympathy. I might not agree (and the anti-copyright crowd and anit-copyright extension crowd are two different groups at times), but I understand and see the point of view. However, reading comic forums, I suspect its more "I have this great idea for a story where Spider Jerusalem, Batman and King Kong fight the Transformers and fucking law won't let me publish it." Thats why there is another vein of rancor here thats not even pro-corporate. There are people with no grasp of the law as set down who want a magical ruling telling them Superman belongs to everyone right this second.
  15.  (1592.20)
    Here the issue seems to be an inability by fandom to understand that the law provides remedies to protect artists.


    Here, the issue is general hostility to the idea of creators having rights and their own voices, the chill of fanboys with the hearts of scabs worried that they'll no longer be able to fantasise about writing Superman, and the outrage at the notion that comics characters might belong to someone other than them.

    Nothing to do with an inability to understand. It's about having no wish to understand, and not even trying.