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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Legal Matters, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Siegel Superman case ends (almost)

superman79 192x300 Siegel Superman case ends (almost)As expected, the district court has ruled that the 2001 settlement agreement between DC and the Siegels is binding and did indeed transfer the Superman copyright to DC. But what about Superboy?This is how the lawsuit ends, not with a bang but a whimper:

The Court GRANTS DC’s motion for summary judgment on DC’s fourth counterclaim and holds that the October 19, 2001 agreement remains enforceable and operated itself to transfer the Siegels Superman rights to DC. This ends this Court’s involvement in the parties’ dispute ….

The ruling itself addresses Toberoff’s arguments for getting around the agreement and finds them wanting. The court agreed that it needed to make sure that the agreement did indeed transfer the rights,  but as we discussed in my previous post the court found the matter to have been resolved by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision.

If at times it sounds as if the ruling is a bit passive aggressive about having been boxed in by the interpretations of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, welcome to the real-world politics of the trial & appellate court divide.

The court also concludes that certain arguments were brought years later than they should have, which again is not a surprise. On page 10, we see that DC decided to use the argument that the Siegel side had failed to make a timely affirmative defense pleading, proposed in my previous post, and the judge agreed that it was correct.

The court leaves open the possibility of subsequent state-court breach of contract filings based on disputes over the performance of the settlement, but any such filing would be separate from the Superman copyright litigation now being closed.

After declaring the Superman copyright dispute to be over, the court goes on to ask for briefing on a couple additional issues that one would think have been resolved by the settlement, but the court wants to make absolutely certain before it ends the legal proceedings once and for all. The issues: the Superboy rights and the early Action #1 promotional ads.

One can expect that DC will make try to make quick work of both.

The settlement states that the Siegel family is to “transfer all of its rights in the ‘Superman’ and ‘Spectre’ properties (including ‘Superboy’)’” to DC, and DC will doubtless argue that this means what it says. Moreover, it’s not even clear that the Siegels’ claim to Superboy goes beyond any rights they might have had in it as a derivative work of Superman–in 2007 the district court vacated a previous ruling that gave the Siegels ownership of Superboy as a separate character, indicating that Superboy might instead be merely a derivative work.

As for the promotional ads, the 2008 ruling found that those belong to DC. This is why the judge had to come up with the weird ruling that the ads gave DC only the copyright in a black-and-white strongman–otherwise, the Siegels’ share of Action #1 would have given them far less.

And now, of course, that share is gone.

My condolences to the Siegel and Shuster heirs for what must be a crushing blow. The legal dispute may be all but over, but the work of Jerry, Joanne and Joe on behalf of creators’ rights will always continue to inspire.



11 Comments on Siegel Superman case ends (almost), last added: 3/24/2013
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2. DC moves to end Superman, Superboy lawsuits

Tweet Yesterday’s summary judgment filings confirm that settlement talks have been ongoing–and the Siegel side is in disarray.The motion filed yesterday was as expected as a player trotting to first base after ball 4. When an appeals court sends a case back down saying that the case is all but over but the filing, the [...]

4 Comments on DC moves to end Superman, Superboy lawsuits, last added: 2/9/2013
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3. Siegel and Shuster attorney to court: It’s over

Tweet News reports are circulating that the Siegel and Shuster heirs have asked the lower court to dismiss DC’s copyright lawsuits. What actually happened is rather different. The Siegel and Shuster heirs’ attorney, Marc Toberoff, appears to have conceded that the Superman copyright dispute is over and the heirs have lost. Here’s what happened in [...]

15 Comments on Siegel and Shuster attorney to court: It’s over, last added: 2/7/2013
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4. Man sentenced in cartoon obscenity case

In a troubling case, a Missouri man bas been sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to possession of obscene images of children.

3 Comments on Man sentenced in cartoon obscenity case, last added: 2/2/2013
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5. The Eyes of Joanne Siegel

Tweet In 2008, the Siegel family won a historic courtroom victory. So why did they risk it all on an appeal? An encounter between Jerry Siegel’s widow, Joanne,  and Super Boys author Brad Ricca provides a telling clue.On his must-read blog covering material connected to his forthcoming Siegel and Shuster biography, Ricca tells the following story as [...]

15 Comments on The Eyes of Joanne Siegel, last added: 1/25/2013
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6. Do comic company lawyers kill creative freedom?

TweetAmong the many thoughtful questions raised in my discussion with the Superman Homepage earlier this week was whether the Siegel lawsuit prompted changes to Superman’s uniform. This might seem like a small issue, but it reflects serious concerns about freedom and integrity in a corporate context. It wouldn’t be responsible to downplay the importance of corporate attorneys [...]

19 Comments on Do comic company lawyers kill creative freedom?, last added: 1/30/2013
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7. The Legal View: Did Marc Toberoff actually win in today’s Superman case ruling?

201212131445 The Legal View: Did Marc Toberoff actually win in todays Superman case ruling?
by Jeff Trexler

You might hear today that the district court judge has handed Toberoff another stunning defeat this week, “a doozy and an outright win for DC.

It’s actually a win for Toberoff, at least procedurally.

Here’s what happened.

As was widely reported on The Beat and elsewhere, back on October 17, 2012, Judge Wright granted DC partial summary judgment in its action against Toberoff’s Pacific Pictures. In particular, he ruled that the Shuster estate’s termination was invalid, along with subsequent agreements giving Pacific Pictures a substantial percentage of the Superman rights.

That was a momentous ruling–and, as I discussed, not at all unexpected. Toberoff tried to get the judge to vacate it, but to no avail–unlike 2008, this time he didn’t luck out and get a sympathetic new judge.

One would expect that Toberoff’s next step would be to appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, there’s a slight hitch in the rules of civil procedure. Because the October order was a partial summary judgment–the court ruled on some but not all of the claims at issue–there was no final judgment in the case for Toberoff to appeal.

Accordingly, in November Toberoff asked the judge to issue a final judgment certifying his October order. This way, as Toberoff correctly noted, he could appeal the October rulings in an expeditious fashion.

This is called a Rule 54(b) motion, for the section of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that allows a court to “direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims … if the court expressly determines that there is not just reason for delay.”

On December 11 the judge granted Toberoff’s request and certified the previous partial summary judgment order as final in accordance with Rule 54(b). Shortly thereafter on that same day, December 11, Toberoff filed his appeal with the Ninth Circuit.

For an indication of just how expected this was, note the date on Toberoff’s 12/11 filing–it was prepared on December 10.

On a side note, the judge didn’t grant Toberoff’s request for a stay of proceedings in regard to the other remaining issues–read the order carefully & you’ll find that the judge, in an interesting display of informality, issued his judgment by signing the alternative draft order prepared by DC’s outside counsel, which left out the grant of a stay.

Of course, more generally the ongoing Siegel and Shuster cases do continue to offer some interesting inside-baseball material for discussion, and if I can break away from other matters before another ruling comes down I’ll offer a few thoughts here at The Beat.

Rule 54(b) Motion and Judgment in the Pacific Pictures – Joe Shuster – Marc Toberoff District Court Case

4 Comments on The Legal View: Did Marc Toberoff actually win in today’s Superman case ruling?, last added: 12/15/2012
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8. News Notes from Around: Archie, Takei, Schulz, Moonstone, etc

Some quickies from the mailbag and around:

Steven Scott has been promoted to Director of Publicity and Marketing at Archie comics. Scott joined the Archie Comics PR team as Publicity and Marketing Coordinator last year following a stint at Marvel. Scott will supervise the company’s publicity outreach, social media and marketing strategy, and he’s already been filling our inbox with newsy notes such as this one. Welcome!

• Actor and Icon George Takei and comics creator Dan Parent will be signing Kevin Keller #6 at Midtown Comics Times Square today from 9:00PM to 11:00PM. You will need a ticket for the signing. The issue involves gay Riverdaler Kevin Keller picking Takei as his idol, and a journey to a local convention to meet up.

• Sue of DCWKA notes that DC ran a preview at the Mary Sue, a progressive attempt at marketing to the female fan market. We join Sue in applauding this move.

Jazan Wild, aka Jason Barnes likes to sue people over the fact that he once created a comic called Carnival of Souls. A judge has refused to throw out one of the cases , a claim that Melissa Marr’s fantasy novel Carnival of Souls infringes on his trademark. While you can’t trademark a title of a single work, the judge felt that Wild has created a series, which he did. Wild has also sued the TV shoes Heroes and a songwriter that he had a deal gone sour. Wild is so busy suing, how does he find time to make comics?

article 2243183 16598947000005DC 892 634x707 News Notes from Around: Archie, Takei, Schulz, Moonstone, etc

• While his first marriage was breaking up, legendary Peanuts creator Charles Shulz had an affair with a younger woman, and the drawings he sent her are being auctioned off. Good grief, Daily Mail. It sounds icky, but the drawings are sweet. Can you imagined being romanced with original Peanuts drawings?

• Moonstone Comics has been around for a while, but they publish in fits and starts these days. But they are still around. In April they’ll publish DOMINO LADY/ Sherlock Holmes #1 by Nancy Holder and Reno Maniquis, a DOMINO LADY: Blonde Bombshell collection by the same team plus Danny Sempere and LAI WAN: The Dreamwalker by CJ Henderson and Kieran Yanner. Here’s some covers. Headlights!

DLSH1sm News Notes from Around: Archie, Takei, Schulz, Moonstone, etc

DLtpbSCsm News Notes from Around: Archie, Takei, Schulz, Moonstone, etc

laiWanGN News Notes from Around: Archie, Takei, Schulz, Moonstone, etc

Send your news notes to comicsbeat at gmail dot com

1 Comments on News Notes from Around: Archie, Takei, Schulz, Moonstone, etc, last added: 12/5/2012
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9. Troll toll: the dark side of the internet

So I’ve been on vacation (on and off) for the last two weeks and hadn’t been paying too much attention to the internet—a wonderful activity that I highly recommend every six months or so. On the way home from a wedding I was surprised to learn that the man I call “John V.” seems to have become the focus of concentrated internet outrage for a day or so—and I couldn’t be more thrilled.John V., a message board poster who uses rotating IPs to avoid filters, has been haunting the comment boards of female writers for over two years. A few months ago, for whatever reason, he seems to have started using Twitter as a base for his insults and rape-obsessed ragings. As you can see from the above, about a month ago he made a series of posts aimed at me, Tom Spurgeon, DCWKA’s Sue, Jill Pantozzi and a few others that shocked quite a few people. Although John V. is clearly a misogynist with a deep hatred of women, he also seemed to have a mad on for men of comics like Spurgeon.

At this time we all just ignored him. It was nothing new. I know he’s been hounding Sue for a long time. His Twitter bio read “I eat loudmouthed feminist morons for breakfast. Afterwards I’m full because they are really, really fat.” It was also nothing new for The Beat. I have many of his deleted comments saved up. Here’s a sample:

Heh, linking to dcwomenkickingass. One dumb bitch linking to a dumber bitch. Classic Heidi.

And more recently:

Hey Heidi, guess who’s going to wondercon? Can’t wait to see you there, sugar britches. This is going to be really fun.
John V

While these sexual threats and “I’ll be back!” warnings are the products of what is clearly a disturbed mind, John V’s most annoying trick was posing as someone else—often a woman—and completely derailing otherwise at least semi-intelligent discussions, such as his posing as “Jason in the UK” and arguing that Faith Erin Hicks was a welfare slacker despite the plain statement that she had worked at an animation studio. My troll radar wasn’t up and Hicks herself defended herself against this creep, a situation I deeply regret and which I’ve apologized for. Here was his excited “unveiling:”

Well folks, now that things have died down, just wanted to say how much I enjoyed derailing this thread and causing the internet shit storm that I did. My troll powers are as unparalleled as the idiocy and irrelevancy of female comic bloggers. I had only intended on messing with my favorite victim Heidi. What a bonus it was then to get Faith Hicks all butt hurt!

Since then I’ve been very suspicious of new posters engaging in long arguments in the many gender comment threads here…if I’ve gone too far the other way, too bad. One rotten apple and all that….

Frankly, I never bought this up before because John V. was looking for attention and hoping to frighten people and I didn’t want to give him any more attention. But now the cat seems to be out of the bag. Over the last few days he made the mistake of targeting Ron Marz, who got people more up in arms about it; and then Mark Millar saw it and was shocked:

As male pros we maybe live in a little bubble. This might go on more than we realise. But we need to clamp down on this shit fast… ethically, if not because many of these pros are personal friends of ours. Comics has the coolest rep with people now. It's a broad church and much less of a boys club in particular than it was when I was a kid. This kind of thing just gives us a horrible name and we owe it to ourselves as well as the pros concerned to stop it.

According to Millar’s sources, John V. is a 51-year-old married man living in California. And the law has been engaged:

Thank you very much, but I engaged a criminal lawyer in LA yesterday and have one of the women involved co-ordinating with the others today, hopefully. I don’t want to say much more in a public forum just now as it may prejudice the case and between the details we’ve got and the tweets we saved the police have everything they need. Even if this doesn’t go to court the guy should hopefully be publicly outed in California and the shame of this will not only stop him attacking women online, but also discourage others from trying this in future. I found out last night that this idiot had been making sexual threats to some of the women concerned for over two years now.

While no one has contacted me directly, it does seem that John V’s Twitter accounts—he had several—have been shut down. If this guy is as crazy as he seems—and his mentions of rape and escalation of contact over the last few months suggest that there is some real escalating mental illness involved—I doubt that the threat of legal action will be enough to stop his behavior. But we’ll see.

And of course there has been a ton of internet commentary on this. And a private message from a woman industry professional I respect greatly who says she actually altered her public behavior over fears about John V. I can’t express the rage and sorrow this makes me feel. I never thought John V. was anything but a pest, but I can see how others have taken him more seriously. Maybe I didn’t take him seriously enough.

There’s also been some discussion of whether it took a man to actually rouse people against the troll. I’m really, truly grateful to Ron and Mark for raising awareness of this. One of the reasons I know several women never brought this up is because they felt they would be questioned for making accusations—and indeed some of the “free speech” advocates in various comment threads has diverted attention from the fact that some malicious idiot was making threats and crude sexual comments about women.

That said, this is far from my first time at the internet pigsty dance. I was once a member of a message board where male members proudly discussed that they loved to make “jokingly” misogynist statements. When I complained (or argued) I was told I didn’t get the joke and was being childish. Guess which message board I don’t go to any more?

Back on the Comicon.com and original TCJ.com boards—petri dishes of internet fungus in a variety of colors—a coterie of deeply embedded trolls got on my case a number of times—photoshopping a picture of me into a sexual act, calling me names, blah blah blah. At the time, these things bothered me, of course, but it bothered me more when some of the perpetrators were eventually allowed back into the fold—I’ll tell you this right now, my tolerance for internet trolling is Zero and my forgiveness is non-existent. Electronic emotion is cheap, and if you go out of your way to insult me on the internet, I have no reason to forgive that member ID ever.

201209041150 Troll toll: the dark side of the internet

Nowadays, I have more of a seen-it-all attitude towards the internet and message boards. I get annoyed and angered but not upset. However, I know a lot of people aren’t as thick-skinned as I am. And while we all take our lumps on a public forum, I’d suggest that those who were so outraged by the crude rape threats of John V. look a little deeper into some of the other messages floating around. For instance, Rachel Edidin examines the Idiot Nerd Girl meme which started as another expression of “get your cooties out of my hobby” insecurity:

I hate the Idiot Nerd Girl meme. I hate it for much the same reason Feminspire writer Jessica Bagnall hates it: the entrenched geek misogyny that informs its pretty pink face. I hate it because it’s a convenient distillation of everything I hate about the “fake geek girl” strawman. I hate it because it vilifies enthusiasm. I hate it because, as a member of the geek community and a geek-industry professional, and especially as a feminist geek, I nurture a deep and abiding dislike for gatekeepers.

I hate the Idiot Nerd Girl meme because it’s not just a meme in the diluted ‘net-slang sense. It reflects and recycles and reinforces a bundle of more traditionally defined memes: the sticky and tenacious subtexts and cultural dogmas that justify and normalize misogyny and harassment and make the geek community so seethingly toxic to female members–and especially female newcomers–that it doesn’t even need a formal gate to keep them out. Idiot Nerd Girl is the throwaway byproduct of a culture that regularly responds to criticism from women with flurries of rape threats.

One thing is true: I am definitely seeing a lot more male insecurity in the trolls and threats, as do some of the women I’ve privately corresponded with over this. I’m sorry that some of you feel powerless when women invade your pastimes. But just as uniting the power of the crystals makes the most powerful crystal or it takes a lot of vehicles to make a Unicron …the more people who take part, the more powerful the hobby. Guys, we’re not STEALING power. We’re making it.

In conclusion, I don’t know the actual status of any legal action against John V., but anyone who wants copies of my correspondence can email me at comicsbeat at gmail dot com.

And thanks again to Ron Marz and Mark Millar for raising attention on this matter. It’s nice to have someone in your corner.

15 Comments on Troll toll: the dark side of the internet, last added: 9/4/2012
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10. Ron Marz, Mark Millar, Comics Industry Acts to Shut Down Cyberbully

Abusive attacks via Twitter aren’t new, but have certainly increased in media visibility over the past few months. Racist and sexist comments and threats have been detailed repeatedly in the mainstream press recently, often aimed at various prominent people in society. It also exists on a personal level, sadly, with personal attacks and bullying on the rise online.

And sadly, this is true for the comics industry as well. I hadn’t been aware of this myself, but today Ron Marz alerted his followers to one twitter user in particular, who has for the past few months been anonymously attacking prominent women in the industry with gender-specific abuse and threats. Writers, artists and journalists have all targeted by this poster over an extended period of time, whose attacks tend to refer back to rape, submission and misogyny at every opportunity. These were explicit threats made to women simply because they were women.

Mark Millar was one of those who saw Marz’s call for awareness, and made a post to his Millarworld forum in which he not only detailed the comments, but also made plans to take a stand against them. Asking for legal advice and people affected by the poster to step forward, several people contacted Millar via twitter and his message board with what could be done about the comments.

Following which, he posted again later today, explaining that he has contacted a lawyer with a view to taking legal action against this poster – who has used various accounts over the past few months to attack people, but left behind an IP trail. The police, Millar says, have been informed, and will now be following up on this. Action will be taken within the next few days.

The threats are misogynistic in the extreme. I won’t link to them.

It’s a reminder that while abuse does exist online, they come from the minority voice. For every person who decides to use the internet to try and threaten other people, there are tens of thousands of other people who won’t tolerate prejudice. If you ever find yourself to be a victim of online abuse, please do not suffer it in silence. Let other people know.

16 Comments on Ron Marz, Mark Millar, Comics Industry Acts to Shut Down Cyberbully, last added: 9/3/2012
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11. Youth uses Wolverine claws to injure comrade

201208210319 Youth uses Wolverine claws to injure comrade
Here’s a new one for the comics-related crime blotter: A Utah teen has been arrested and charged with aggravated assault after he used replica Wolverine claws to attack a friend.

No one knows why Kristofer Ryan Huff, 19, set into his 20-year-old roommate with the claws….and also a knife. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that the victim was dating Huff’s mother, who was also injured in the attack.

The victim ended up with injuries to his head, arm and thigh, presumably long slashes of the kind a weapon that goes “Snikt” would make.

Will replica Wolverine claws now be banned? They don’t seem to be too hard to buy, although one guesses they are generally sold for cosplay purposes, not mayhem.

6 Comments on Youth uses Wolverine claws to injure comrade, last added: 8/21/2012
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12. Tony Moore files suit for co-ownership of The Walking Dead and other properties

201208091320 Tony Moore files suit for co ownership of The Walking Dead and other properties
Well, if you wondered if tensions were going to deescalate between former collaborators and childhood friends Tony Moore and Robert Kirkman after Moore filed a suit to collect what he alleges are his fair share of the profits from the Walking Dead comics and TV show, the answer is “HELL NO.” Moore has actually filed a SECOND suit claiming that he should be named joint author of THE WALKING DEAD, BATTLE POPE, BRIT, DEAD PLANET and MY NAME IS ABRAHAM. (The latter two are comics as yet unpublished but developed by the two when they were friends.)

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in US District Court, Moore came out swinging with Lucille:

Kirkman is a proud liar and fraudster who freely admits that he has no qualms about misrepresenting material facts in order to consummate business transactions, and it is precisely that illicit conduct which led to the present lawsuit (and to Kirkman’s business ’success’ generally).

At issue is Moore’s claim that he and Kirkman co-created all the works in question back when they were friendly collaborators, and that Kirkman fraudulently removed Moore’s name as co-copyright holed after the proofs of the first issue of THE WALKING DEAD had been turned in. Moore claims he was listed as the co-copyright holder in the proofs he saw but when the printed issues came out, Kirkman was the sole copyright holder—however, he didn’t notice this until August 2005. (THE WALKING DEAD debuted in the innocent year of 2003.)

Moore also claims that he was coerced into signing an agreement to transfer all of his copyright interests in THE WALKING DEAD to Kirkman so that a TV deal could be signed. As we’ve noted before, this is fairly standard in getting TV or film deals exactly because of these kinds of rights disputes—studios don’t want to deal with a bunch of warring copyright holders. However, Moore claims that this was all part of a swindle to get him removed.

The lawsuit seems to stem from the earlier one, in that as agreements between Moore and Kirkman for the monies to be received are already in existence, in order to get the piece of the pie he feels he is due, Moore must sue for his co-creator status. And as we’ve seen time and time again, that is where things get messier and messier in this comic book business.

Although Kirkman has yet to respond publicly to this lawsuit, he issued a statement on the first one, which was filed back in February, which stated that Moore was being paid what he was due under agreements that had been signed seven years prior.

You can read the entire new filing below.

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16 Comments on Tony Moore files suit for co-ownership of The Walking Dead and other properties, last added: 8/9/2012
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13. Marvel and Fox Playing Swapsies for Daredevil Film Rights?

By Steve Morris

According to a report in Variety, it looks as though Marvel Studios may be looking into extending 20th Century Fox’s contract on the Daredevil franchise – last seen being worked on by director Joe Carnahan – in return for having certain Fantastic Four characters given back to them. Namely, it appears, Silver Surfer and Galactus.

fantastic4silversurfer Marvel and Fox Playing Swapsies for Daredevil Film Rights?

In an interesting move, Fox have only a few months left to get their reboot of Daredevil off the ground before they lose claim of the character rights back to Marvel. If they don’t start pre-production by the 10th October, then Marvel would get Daredevil back, for use in their own projects. Fox have been desperately trying, with this in mind, to get a new film off the ground, but have struggled to find a director to stay with.

But it appears as though Marvel, in exchange for passing up on this chance to reclaim the franchise in this case, are instead more interested in getting back the rights to some other characters belonging to Fox: The Fantastic Four’s cosmic opponents Silver Surfer and Galactus.

It’s strange how these behind-the-scenes dealings sound so much like playground trading sometimes. But it’s clear why Marvel would rather have Silver Surfer and Galactus than Daredevil. For one thing, their current ambitions are cosmic – Thor seems set to be playing in the cosmic realm in his sequel, whilst Thanos appeared at the end of Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxy will be Marvel’s next new property to hit the big screen. Fitting in some established, familiar names like Norrin Radd (uh, that’s the Silver Surfer) and Galactus would be a big help in guiding fans to the theatre.

Previously, Marvel have been able to reclaim both Blade and The Punisher as film properties, as the respective studios involved with those characters ‘timed out’ with them. If Variety are correct with this report, then it’ll be interesting to see just what Fox might do in order to hold onto their almost-cemented plan for a Daredevil film.

15 Comments on Marvel and Fox Playing Swapsies for Daredevil Film Rights?, last added: 8/7/2012
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14. The Legal View: Historic Documents in the Siegel & Shuster Lawsuits

By Jeff Trexler

Whatever the merits of the latest summary judgment motion in the dispute over the Superman copyright, its supporting exhibits bring together a number of important documents in two accessible filings.

The first set brings collects key contracts and court filings in chronological order, from the sale of Superman to the current termination dispute. We’ve seen much of this before, but not in one place. Especially worth noting are full copies of the complaint, court opinions & settlement in the 1947 Siegel & Shuster lawsuit.

The other set of documents, focusing on the Shuster heirs, contains material pertaining to Shuster’s estate and the 1992 pension arrangement, including an unproduced screenplay for a Siegel and Shuster biopic.

2 Comments on The Legal View: Historic Documents in the Siegel & Shuster Lawsuits, last added: 7/25/2012
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15. The Legal View: “Breaking” old news in the Superman copyright case

201207181740 The Legal View: Breaking old news in the Superman copyright case

By Jeff Trexler

Other comic news sites are reporting a bombshell development in DC’s legal fight to hold onto the Superman copyright: on Monday, the company filed a court document asserting that the Shuster estate had actually sold its share of the Superman copyright back to DC in 1992 and affirmed this sale in subsequent correspondence.

This was indeed a stunning piece of news — back in 2009, when DC first made this argument. Click below for an explanation of why DC brought it up again in a court filing on Monday.In 2009, DC Comics filed the hotly disputed lawsuit in which it is attempting to get the Superman copyright termination claims thrown out of court on the basis of misconduct by Siegel & Shuster heir lawyer Marc Toberoff. One of the arguments made in the 2009 complaint: the Shuster estate has no legal grounds for filing a termination claim, inasmuch as the estate signed an agreement in 1992 selling all of its copyright interests, including any termination right, to DC in exchange for a pension for Joe Shuster’s sister. The 2009 complaint went to assert that the Shuster estate affirmed this agreement in correspondence after the Siegel heirs filed their own termination claim.

The 1992 agreement and the related argument have been discussed by any number of writers since DC first made the claim, including me here at The Beat, and has been the subject of many court filings over the past three years. DC brought it up again on Monday as part of a standard legal move in a case such as this. Its July 16 filing wasn’t a Perry Mason-esque unveiling of surprising new facts. Rather, it was a routine motion for summary judgment.

In a motion for summary judgment, a party is asking the judge to make a ruling based on the existing case record without going forward with a trial. The factual predicate for such a decision is supposed to be the case’s undisputed facts. That’s why you see the abbreviation “SUF” throughout the most recent filing — it’s a reference to the “Statement of Undisputed Facts” proposed by DC. The summary judgment filing, the proposed SUF and the attached exhibits collect all of the material favorable to DC in order to persuade the judge to make a final judgment in its favor regarding the claims initially filed in the 2009 complaint (as amended somewhat a year later).

This isn’t to say the summary judgment filing is unimportant — to the contrary, it could lead to the end of the case or at least provide the basis of an appeal, as we have already seen following the district court’s historic 2008 summary judgment giving the Siegel heirs half of the Superman copyright. However, what this filing does not do is add unexpected arguments and facts. The whole point of a summary judgment filing is to say there’s nothing new left to discuss.

13 Comments on The Legal View: “Breaking” old news in the Superman copyright case, last added: 7/20/2012
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16. Claws Are Out for The Eagle Awards

Last week’s Eagle Awards were notable for both an uncharacteristic lean towards mainstream titles, and for a Scarlet Witch-esque announcement made by MCM Expo convention-runner Brian Cooney at the ceremony that from now on, there would be no more Eagle Awards.  It was widely reported that the ceremony – the longest established comic book awards show in the world, having first started in 1977 – would be replaced by a new show called ‘The MCM Awards’.

This came as a surprise to many people, but not least to Cassandra Conroy, the Chair of The Eagle Awards, who this week issued a press release contesting Cooney’s claim:

The Eagles are neither dead nor morphing into anything else. MCM Expo is in no position to announce, imply or indicate otherwise. In fact no third party can casually discard what my father has developed over the past 36 years.

Conroy made it clear in the release that neither her nor her father Mike Conroy, who founded the awards, were actually in attendence at the ceremony this year, ominously hinting that the pair had boycotted the event;

in response to actions that are now being reviewed by my lawyer.

First Brett Ratner leaves the Oscars, and now this. The Conroys go on to clarify that;

The Eagles will continue to soar into 2013 and beyond. We’ll be announcing further details of our plans for next year in the near future.

In response, the owners of the MCM Expo (and co-claimants of the Eagle Awards) have said that Cooney’s announcement was more an announcement that, from MCM’s perspective, the awards were done with forever. They view the MCM Awards as a replacement for the Eagles, rather than a spiritual successor or continuation, and are looking to launch in 2013. So, if the Conroys can regain their full claim on The Eagle Awards, it’s likely that they’d also be hosting a ceremony next year.

Remembering that we also have the Hugos, Stan Lee Awards, Eisners, and Harvey Awards - among others - then it looks like 2013 is looking to be an excellent year for people who like seeing Paul Cornell in a smart suit.

5 Comments on Claws Are Out for The Eagle Awards, last added: 5/31/2012
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17. The strange case of the stolen Joe Simon artwork

201205170237 The strange case of the stolen Joe Simon artwork
Daniel Best is at it again, this time with the decades-spanning story of Joe Simons’s stolen artwork and a subsequent investigation by the FBI:

In 1997 an art dealer contacted Joe with an inventory list of 300 pages of his original art that another dealer was openly selling.  When asked how the dealer had come into possession of the art, the response was that Joe had ‘gifted’ the pages to the dealers father, a claim Joe denied; as the art had never been returned to him by DC, he could not have possibly gifted it to anyone.  DC Comics then drafted a letter asking for the return of the art and also refuting the story of how the dealer came to own the art.  Once again the reply was that the art would not be returned, so Joe Simon simply turned to the F.B.I. and requested their involvement and here’s where the story got very interesting.

This story touches on one of the great mysteries of the Bronze Age, the theft of thousands of pages of artwork from both Marvel and DC in the 70s, including much by Jack Kirby that was the cause of the movement to give him back his art in the 80s. The Simon case is less well known. Comments and links give some hints of other events and tantalizing hints of possible culprits.

Also interesting about this story, is that a 1974 fanzine—Inside Comics by Joey Brancatelli—was actually doing investigative journalism about the inside working of the comics biz! In 1974!!! Could such a thing happen today? More likely, as with this very story, some creator would write an angry blog post about it, someone else would comment, a blogger would link to both and add some other reference, and there it would lie to be chewed over on Twitter. Guilty as charged, ma’am.

4 Comments on The strange case of the stolen Joe Simon artwork, last added: 5/21/2012
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18. Buckley and Quesada speak on Marvel’s side of the Gary Friedrich matter — UPDATE

201202151729 Buckley and Quesada speak on Marvels side of the Gary Friedrich matter    UPDATE
Well, speak of the devil. As we posted only a few hours ago, Marvel is in a very vulnerable PR position on the Gary Friedrich matter…so much so that they have sent both CCO Joe Quesada and Publisher Dan Buckley to clarify and soothe at Comic Book Resources. As they point out, the matter is still under litigation and a settlement is being negotiated. Buckley and Quesada do a good job of trying to handle the negatives—they’re pros—especially with this:

Quesada: As many people in the industry know, I’ve been deeply involved with the Hero Initiative since its inception. It’s a cause that is very near and dear to my heart and the only organization of its kind that I’m involved with. Regardless of my role as CCO, I have never nor would I ever stand in the way of someone receiving much-needed help, and I don’t get involved with Hero’s decisions on how to help. As a matter of fact, when all of this Ghost Rider stuff broke, I immediately checked with Hero’s President, Jim McLauchlin, to see if Gary was in need of assistance, and Jim informed me that up until that point Gary had not applied for any. My understanding is that Hero has since been in touch.

Buckley: Let me add that Marvel has also supported many projects by the Hero Initiative. If fans are looking for a wonderful outlet by which to give back to the creators of a medium they love, please give to the Hero Initiative.

To which we say: Yes please give to the Hero Initiative, a charity set up to help comics creators who are in need. They are truly one of the finest comics-related charities out there.
J & D also quash the Artist Alley Gestapo theory:

Quesada: Let me put this as simply as I can: Marvel is not looking to make any new policy announcements through this lawsuit — a lawsuit that began five years ago.

As a case in point, the Internet and the creative community became incredibly concerned when Disney acquired Marvel in 2009, thinking that Marvel now wouldn’t return original art to its artists, even despite my publicly stating the contrary. As you can see, that was unfounded.
Buckley: We in no way want to interfere with creators at conventions who are providing a positive Marvel experience for our fans. We want fans to speak and interact with the creators who wrote, penciled, inked, lettered, colored or edited their favorite stories. Part of that positive interaction is that a fan can walk away with a signed memento or personalized sketch from an artist.

As we mentioned previously NOW is the time to put the pressure on Marvel to do the right thing by older creators.

And, while it is very plausible that Joe and Dan are serious about not patrolling AA, it’s still not inconceivable that Disney might have a different view some years down the line.

UPDATE: Just reading some of the twitter response to this piece among creators…they

21 Comments on Buckley and Quesada speak on Marvel’s side of the Gary Friedrich matter — UPDATE, last added: 2/15/2012
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19. ERB Inc. sues Dynamite and company over Tarzan and John Carter

313706 2306100585710 1645140903 2280723 728033197 n ERB Inc. sues Dynamite and company over Tarzan and John Carter
Uh, uh, looks like maybe Dynamite should have entitled its Barsoomian comics “Master of the Male Wedgie” and not Dejah Thoris and so on, because ERB, Inc., the family-owned corporation which controls existing trademarks to the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, is suing Dynamite, Dynamic Forces, and Savage Tales Entertainment for trademark infringement and unfair competition over Dynamite’s publication of books entitled “Lord of the Jungle,” “Warlord of Mars,” “Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris”, and “Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom” based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs originals.
021612 Tarzan Suit

The complaint is reproduced in full above, and makes interesting reading for everyone who’s been all about IP and copyright talk over the last few weeks. The John Carter books—soon coming to the screen as a major motion picture from Disney/Pixar—and the Tarzan books were first published a century ago and the first books in both series are now in the public domain—but only in the US. As the lawsuit notes, in the UK, Dynamite’s books infringe existing copyrights, and ERB, Inc. has been able to successfully prosecute copyright infringement in Europe before.

According to the suit, Dynamite’s Nick Barrucci approached ERB Inc several years ago re the licenses, but was rebuffed. However, he’s since established an entire line of Barsoom comics and a new Tarzan book as well, based on the material that is in the public domain.

ERB, Inc., which was created in 1923 to manage the already expanding media empire of Burroughs’ immensely popular works, still owns the trademarks to the characters, including Tarzan, John Carter, and Barsoom. They claim “common law” rights to the titles “Lord of the Jungle” and “Warlord of Mars,” both actual titles of Burroughs books. You can’t copyright a title, but ERB, Inc. still owns the copyrights to both books. Similarly they have trademarked both “Barsoom” and “Dejah Thoris,” and claim the Dynamite book WARLORD OF MARS: DEJAH THORIS and other spin-offs violate their trademark.

201202171250 ERB Inc. sues Dynamite and company over Tarzan and John Carter

In addition, they claim the Dynamite titles contain inappropriate material: that something called the “Risqué Nude” cover variants feature nude Dejah Thoris—and other covers are “near pornographic.” Clearly these ERB, Inc. people have eyes in their head.

This is going to be a pretty

15 Comments on ERB Inc. sues Dynamite and company over Tarzan and John Carter, last added: 2/18/2012
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20. Michael George loses another legal round

michael george Michael George loses another legal round
Looks like convicted comic book store killer Michael George is running out of legal options:

A Macomb County Circuit Court judge has denied a motion for acquittal and a new trial in the case of a former Clinton Township comic book store owner convicted of killing his wife in 1990.

In a written ruling issued today, Judge Mary Chrzanowski dismissed arguments from defense attorney Carl Marlinga that there was insufficient evidence to convict his client, Michael George, who is serving a life sentence without parole.

Although the article doesn’t mention whether there can be further appeals, you’d have to think that George is left with few options any more.

George was convicted of killing his wife Barbara over 20 years ago in the back room of the comics shop they co-owned.

2 Comments on Michael George loses another legal round, last added: 2/23/2012
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21. Criminal charges dropped in manga Customs case

201203161154 Criminal charges dropped in manga Customs caseRyan Matheson, the American who was arrested, detained, abused, and charged with child pornography after a single image was found on his computer on the Canadian border, has had criminal charges dropped after making a plea bargain to plead guilty to a non-criminal procedural charge. It’s a big victory for the CBLDF and civil rights. The CBR story above has more details:

In a personal statement, Matheson said he decided to accept the plea bargain because, although he was sure he had committed no crime, the risks of a trial were too high. “If I had gone to full trial, the original criminal charges against me posed the risk of a minimum mandatory sentence of one year plus having to register on a sex offender registry in Canada and potentially even in the United States,” he said. “Therefore, in the end I decided that the final plea deal was acceptable because the criminal charges would be withdrawn completely.”

Matheson, a software engineer, anime and manga fan and aspiring artist, was 25 and traveling to a foreign country for the first time when he flew to Ottawa, Canada, to visit a friend in April 2010. A Border Service Officer interviewed him on arrival at the Ottawa International Airport and sent him to another officer for a secondary inspection. “I knew I didn’t have anything to hide, so I willingly gave them my password to log in to my computer,” he said. “Through an unusual search that lasted over four hours, they found anime illustrations from art books and other fully-clothed drawings of fictional anime and manga characters on my computer. Unfortunately, Canadian customs officers consider any comic or anime-style drawing suspicious.”

The Comics Reporter has an interview with the CBLDF’s Charles Brownstein that has more, including just how overzealous the border guards were:

CHARLES BROWNSTEIN: My understanding is that the breakthrough was a change in prosecutor shortly before the scheduled February trial date, coupled with the fact that Michael Edelson and his team developed an astonishingly strong defense on a wide range of constitutional grounds that would have been likely to prevail in court. I think that the facts were very bad for the prosecution. Ryan was outrageously mistreated in the course of his ordeal: his search was not conducted in a constitutionally valid fashion; he was denied access to counsel; he was denied basic necessities like food and blankets; he was denied access to the American embassy; he was taunted by police who actually told him he could be raped.

Although we often joke here at the Beat about the affability of Canada as a nation, this is a pretty disturbing story.

The CBLDF’s full statement below:

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund are pleased to announce that the Crown has withdrawn all criminal charges in R. v. Matheson, the case previously described as the “Brandon X case,” which involved a comic book reader who faced criminal charges in Canada relating to comic books on his computer.  The defendant, Ryan Matheson, a 27-year-old comic book reader,

4 Comments on Criminal charges dropped in manga Customs case, last added: 3/18/2012
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22. Crime Watch: Trailer full of Avatar comics and convention merch stolen

201203231214 Crime Watch: Trailer full of Avatar comics and convention merch stolen
Talk about a lousy break: The van containing all of Avatar’s merchandise from WonderCon that was going on to Emerald City Comicon was stolen from a comics shop parking lot:

In addition to convention display items like wire racks, large back-drop display and signage, loads of books are now gone.  Full cases of most of our most popular graphic novels like Neonomicon, Crossed, Freakangels, Night of the Living Dead, and Fevre Dream are gone.  Large quantities of World War Z, Zombie Survival Guide and books by author Max Brooks were in that trailer.  Some limited editions, created for the conventions, of Ferals #1, Crossed: Badlands #1 and Lady Death #14 and #15 are now much more limited as huge chunks of the entire production run are gone.

We are working with local law enforcement, but we could really use your eyes and ears on the ground.

Although they have more books at the warehouse, this would be a demoralizing blow for any company. If you have any more information, email Avatar at info@avatarpress.net.

5 Comments on Crime Watch: Trailer full of Avatar comics and convention merch stolen, last added: 3/23/2012
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23. Lamborghini Batman proves to be a real life hero

JN2 6825a 1332889922 Lamborghini Batman proves to be a real life hero
Last week, Silver Springs, MD police made a fantastic collar when a routine pullover for a license plate violation revealed a Lamborghini driven by a man in a Batman suit. But was it THE Batman or just a pale imitation?

Well, the Washington Post has spilled the beans and it turns out the driver is a pretty cool guy.

The Baltimore businessman is no Phoenix Jones. Lenny. B Robinson dresses up not to catch crooks, but to cheer up sick children at local hospitals.

“I’m just doing it for the kids,” he says.

But in light of him going viral — “Gotham City is on the verge of chaos,” Anderson Cooper informed CNN viewers — I asked him whether I could unveil the man behind the mask. He acquiesced but suggested I do so by accompanying him to the cancer ward at Children’s National Medical Center in Northwest Washington for a superhero party thrown by the Hope for Henry organization.

More in the link including a full-on slide-show. Mattel, maybe we need a Children’s Hospital Visiting Batman action figure?
BATMAN HO 07 1332953400 Lamborghini Batman proves to be a real life hero

15 Comments on Lamborghini Batman proves to be a real life hero, last added: 3/29/2012
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24. The Legal VIew: Jack Kirby and the Siegel Appeal

jimmyolsen138 The Legal VIew: Jack Kirby and the Siegel Appeal
by Jeff Trexler

Last year a federal court in New York denied the Kirby heirs’ attempt to claim the copyright in Spider-Man and other Marvel properties. Why, then, is their lawyer betting the future of the Siegel lawsuit on the same losing arguments?

Over the past few years, Marc Toberoff has become public enemy #1 for corporate copyright holders. His lower court victory in the Siegel case was a legal landmark, not least of all because it could inspire other writers and artists to sue to regain their own creations. This is a prime consideration in DC’s decision to make Toberoff the central target of recent court filings–taking Toberoff off the board could also complicate a Shuster estate lawsuit and dissuade other creators from filing new claims.

Given the high stakes, Toberoff’s appellate brief takes a rather interesting approach. As DC notes in its most recent filing, Toberoff’s filing does not appeal certain core rulings pertinent to the Siegel interest in the property, such as DC’s retention of foreign rights and the copyright in the promotional ads. This arguably means that Toberoff has waived the right to challenge these rulings, handing DC a decided victory in key aspects of the case. Instead, Toberoff stakes the entire appeal on the issue of whether Siegel’s work from 1938 to 1943 was truly work-for-hire.

The limited span of this claim–the focus on Superman & Action comics (plus Superman newspaper strips) up to five years from the publication of Action Comics #1–reflects a five-year termination window by Section 304 of the 1976 Copyright Act. Citing this provision, the lower court held that the Siegel’s right to terminate grants of copyright was limited to a five-year period from April 16, 1938 through April 16, 1943, which includes Action Comics 1-61, Superman 1-23 and the Superman strips prepared for or published by the McClure syndicate through April 16, 1943.

However, the lower court ruling did not automatically give the Siegels actually all of the material within the five-year window. The emphasis on work-for-hire in Toberoff’s appellate brief reflects the lower court’s determination that the Siegel heirs could reclaim only a small portion. In two major rulings in 2008 and 2009, the lower court found that the Siegel heirs could terminate the transfer of copyright in Action Comics #1, #4, select pages of Superman #1 and the first two weeks of newspaper strips–in short, the only material prepared prior to the sale of Superman to DC. Under the terms of Siegel’s 1938 employment contract and its subsequent revision, the remaining material was work-for-hire–and because DC was the corporate author, there was no copyright transfer for the Siegel heirs to terminate.

To persuade the appellate court otherwise, Toberoff attacked primarily on two fronts. One was to assert that Jerry Siegel wrote the material in Action #2-6 prior to his employment agreement with DC, which made him its original co-owner and transferor. Toberoff exploits the six month gap between the sale of Superman in March, 1938 and the employment agreement signed in September. His appellate brief also cites a paragraph that Siegel wrote pitchi

14 Comments on The Legal VIew: Jack Kirby and the Siegel Appeal, last added: 4/5/2012
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25. Juicy Archie Comics legal brouhaha gets more details

201204161331 Juicy Archie Comics legal brouhaha gets more details

The New York Times wades in to the Silberkleit/Goldwater legal battle over Archie Comics in a very lengthy story:

At this, the last of the privately run Mom-and-Pop comic book dynasties, Ms. Silberkleit, 59, the daughter-in-law of a company founder, Louis H. Silberkleit, is deadlocked in a court battle for control of the company with Jonathan Goldwater, 52, a son of another founder, John L. Goldwater. Like Betty and Veronica, the two are feuding over Archie’s future, but there is nothing comic — or friendly — about their rivalry. Each accuses the other of endangering the family legacy, Mr. Goldwater by wanting to expand Archie into a megabrand with help from outside investors and the Hollywood uber-agent Ari Emanuel, Ms. Silberkleit by vowing to keep the company’s traditions intact and preserve family ownership, ostensibly leading to stagnation.

By now you know a lot of the wacky details: “Penis! Penis! Penis!”, the restraining orders, the menacing muscle who was only a friend, and so on — but this account adds some dog poop.

As acrimonious as the dispute is, it is now going to mediation:

After a series of court rulings against Ms. Silberkleit that included a $500 fine — for violating the temporary restraining order by twice showing up at the office in mid-December with a former football player in tow — and responsibility for $59,000 in legal expenses accrued by the company, last month the hostile parties agreed to take their problems to mediation. Ms. Silberkleit’s 50 percent share of the company is not in jeopardy, but her job may be.

“The judge was very much against Nancy’s case,” Mr. Simmons, Ms. Silberkleit’s lawyer, said. “Mr. Goldwater defamed her, and Judge Kornreich has gone along with it. But the judge didn’t go to the length of removing Nancy as C.E.O., although that’s basically what Goldwater and his lawyer have been asking for.”

3 Comments on Juicy Archie Comics legal brouhaha gets more details, last added: 4/17/2012
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