Comic Book Creator Takes Battle to U.S. Supreme Court

Image credit: Susan SkaarAt 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.

A Lesson In Contract Drafting: eBook Deal Violates Publisher’s Copyright

American Graffiti movie poster.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 1973The 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.

5 Attorneys on 5 Entertainment Contract Essentials

Image Credit: frank3.0 on FlickrIn the world of entertainment contracts it can be next to impossible to comprehend the legalese without a thorough understanding of the law. Yet, there must be some essential points to an entertainment contract that all creative people should know about, right?

In searching for an answer to the “essential points” question, I decided to poll five prominent entertainment attorneys from across the country and ask them! Here’s what I discovered: