Posts Tagged ‘Jack Kirby’

MickeyThe answer: Copyright problems.

I would like to preface this post to make it explicitly clear that I am NOT a lawyer. However, I do have an extreme interest in copyright law. Why? Well I come from a law enforcement family. I was actually considering going into law for a long time until my mom convinced me I would be happier in the film world. The great thing about producing is that you need to know a lot of legal things, at least a basic understanding of copyright, trademark and contract law.

While at Columbia College Chicago, I really studied copyright law because it just interested me that much. Since graduating out, I have (and Scourge can attest to this) read legal briefs for fun, especially if its about copyright law. This is why the post today is about copyright. Deadline broke the news today that the Jack Kirby estate is taking their issues on copyright law all the way to the Supreme Court. The Kirby estate is going up against the biggest baddest lawyers– Disney. These were the same lawyers that actually got a new clause written into the copyright law back in 1998. That clause changed rules on public domain so much that its unofficially called the “mickey mouse” clause.

Click on the links for the nitty gritty details on the Captain America/Kirby Case and the Superman/Schuster Case. I don’t want to get into the specifics of these cases, but I will say, unlike some

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Jack “The King” Kirby

companies, at least Marvel has tried to reach a middle ground with the Kirby family. That and I am surprised that both cases are being repped by the same lawyer- Marc Toberoff. Man, I am glad I am not him.

I cannot stress this enough. In this day and age, where if you make ANYTHING (a film, comic book, photography) you should copyright it. Why? Well theres alot of great reasons but heres the big ones:

  • If something happens to you, you can transfer the rights to someone else (i.e. your kids).
  • If someone,god forbid, tries to steal your work, registering it with the copyright office solidifies when the work was created. Plus, with registering, you can sue for punitive damages (which you cannot if you do not register).
  • If you want to sell the rights to your work (especially if you want to option for say, a film or tv show) any producer worth their salt will not touch your property or even think about optioning unless you have the copyright notice on you.

I cannot tell you how much it gets under my skin when people do stupid things. Over the years, I came across postings on Craigslist of fans trying to make movies of {insert comic book here} and flat out admit in the posting they don’t have the rights. Guess who sent emails to the publishers to let them know? Yes, me.

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Superman By Alex Ross

I know you may think that is very mean/dirty/underhanded. It’s not. People who do this cause problems for everyone else. First and foremost, its not fair to the original creator that someone is taking their property and doing something with it without the original creators permission/input. Secondly, lets say that this fan film got made. Then lets say, Lionsgate did the proper paperwork etc and wants to make the same movie? Now there is confusion in the market.

It’s like shopping for a high end purse- unless you know what you are looking for- you can’t tell the knockoff from the legit. When I was in school, Ellie Sully (read her web comic here or her blog here) worked on every single production that I did either as a production designer/actor or both. There was one shoot in which I couldn’t be on set for a chunk of the day. The director called me pissed as hell because Ellie Sully was holding up the production.

Why? She went through the entire department with a fine tooth comb looking for anything that was showing logos. I mean, EVERYTHING. She flipped dvd’s on the shelf around so you couldn’t see the labels, taped over logos on the stove and fridge, pulled down posters etc. Ellie told the director that if I walked on to the set and saw all the trademarks I would have a melt down.

Well she was right. I told the director to deal with it. Then I called Ellie Sully and told her to hurry up. I saw rough edits later on in class along with other people. Guess who was the only director that wasn’t going to have to go back and “clean up” ? Yea. You guessed right. The director, right then and there, dubbed me the “copyright nazi”.

There is also this huge misconception that if you give credit, then you don’t have to get the rights. For example, you made a movie for a class project and added, say Bon Jovi music to the soundtrack then uploaded said movie for class onto youtube. Even if you give credit to Bon Jovi, they can still sue you.  Why? You didn’t get permission before hand.  I know someone will be like “But I made it for class! It falls under educational use!” Actually no it doesn’t. Education use is only for teachers folks! Not students!

If you ever have a question about using someone else’s work or if you should copyright something go to the US Copyright Office website. They have a great little FAQ section and you can also

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Captain America by Alex Ross

register your work online here!

Also do a bit of research- if you need some legal advice there are numerous charities that could help depending on what you are doing. Here in Chicago we have a great organization called Lawyers for the Creative Arts. If you need help and you are working on a comic book or realize that someone stole your art etc talk to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.  Do a google search for more charties that are local to you. In a lot of cases, they will not charge you or they will charge you VERY little.  I have worked with Lawyers for the Creative Arts personally, and they are awesome. I am also a member of CBLDF. If you ever have an extra few dollars- help them out!