A few weeks back, the This WEEK in LAW panel discussed one of my recent blog posts on an eBook deal in 2011 that violated an earlier publication deal from 1971. Guest panelist Nancy Sims brought up an excellent comparison Supreme Court case, New York Times v. Tasini, from 2000. Sims discussed the negative outcome…
On Friday, iMTX Strategic LLC filed a series of nearly identical complaints in Delaware federal court against multiple media technology companies for an alleged violation of U.S. Patent No. 7,269,854. The patent, called “Transaction System for Transporting Media Files from Content Provider Sources to Home Entertainment Devices,” purports to control the method in which a user’s…
At the end of March, Jack Kirby’s descendants took their legal battle against Marvel Comics to the next level by filing a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States. Jack “King” Kirby is one of the most well-known figures in the history of comic books, known for creating and co-creating iconic characters such as the X-Men, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four.
Kirby’s estate has been fighting in a battle that began in early 2010 for the termination of an earlier transfer of ownership in copyrights to the characters that Kirby helped create and still maintain large amounts of popularity, as well as profit-generation.
Termination Rights: The Works Made for Hire Exception
The Copyright Act of 1976 contains a provision known as “termination rights.” Termination rights have become more and more popular as we have just recently started reaching the thirty-five-year mark for many copyrights registered following the 1976 Act. In 17 U.S.C. 304(c) and (d), artists are given the ability terminate their transfer rights – effectively allowing them to reclaim ownership of their copyrighted works thirty-five years after transferring them to another party. Congress intended this to provide original creators and their heirs the ability to recover rights that might have been assigned or licensed based upon the previous provisions of the Copyright Act.
Star Wars taught me the importance of contract drafting. No, seriously! I was reading for an Entertainment Law course two years ago when I came across a case from the 1980s involving Lucasfilm, LTD and Platinum Record, Co. The lawsuit centered around a dispute over a contract which allowed director George Lucas to use four popular songs in his film American Graffiti, first released in 1973. The issue in the case didn’t arise until almost a decade later, when MCA Distributing Corp. (an affiliate of Universal) released the film for sale and to rent on videocassette, which Platinum Record argued was in violation of their contract.
By this point, you might be wondering what this has to do with ebooks (or Star Wars, for that matter). Well, last week U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald held that a 2011 ebook distribution deal signed by author Jean George violated an earlier, 1971 contract. The 1971 contract granted publisher HarperCollins the right to publish the children’s book Julie of the Wolves in “book form” and “electronic means now known or hereinafter invented.” This language in the contract is what caught my eye and provides an important lesson in contract drafting: think ahead.
Have you ever considered the impact an early death brings to an artist’s copyright ownership?
Head over to the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville’s website for my guest blog post where I interview some friends of the Volunteer Lawyers and Professionals for the Arts (VLPA)! Check it out.
Pre-order today! The ABA’s newest publication, “Careers in IP Law: Avenues and Opportunities,” is now available from the American Bar Association’s Section of Intellectual Property Law. Click here to order a copy. I had the chance to flip through a copy of the book at the Intellectual Property Law Conference in Washington, D.C. last week…
#IPLSpring CLE Preview: The Blonde, the Red Shoe, the Round-Cornered Rectangles: Debating the Frontiers of Trade Dress Law
#IPLSpring CLE Preview: From the Inside Looking Out: An In-House Counsel Perspective on US International Trade Commission Investigations
Wait! Don’t leave! One of the capstone CLE events of the 28th Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference in Arlington, VA this year covers the topic of Section 337 investigations. The CLE session will take place on Friday, April 5th, from 3:30 PM until 5:00 PM in Salon IV of the Arlington Ballroom. Plus, the program is eligible for ethics credit!
Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 is used most often in the area of intellectual property to prohibit the unfair methods of competition or other unfair acts in the importation of goods into the United States. Claims include allegations of patent infringement and trademark infringement by imported goods.