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.

#IPLSpring CLE Preview: The Blonde, the Red Shoe, the Round-Cornered Rectangles: Debating the Frontiers of Trade Dress Law

With trade dress being a hot topic in the news recently, you know the 28th Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference in Arlington, VA would have an entire CLE session devoted to the topic! “The Blonde, the Red Shoe, the Round-Cornered Rectangles: Debating the Frontiers of Trade Dress Law” CLE session will take place on Thursday, April 4th, from 8:30 AM until 10:00 AM in Salons I and II of the Arlington Ballroom.

#IPLSpring CLE Preview: From the Inside Looking Out: An In-House Counsel Perspective on US International Trade Commission Investigations

Credit: U.S. International Trade CommissionWait! 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.

#IPLSpring CLE Preview: Copyright: Copyright Infringement in Patent Prosecution: Might Your Firm Be the Next Litigation Target?

We are less than a week away from the ABA’s 28th Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference in Arlington, VA! There will be over 30 Continuing Legal Education credit sessions, some eligible for ethics credit, in addition to multiple networking events. I will be covering one of the sessions on Copyright called “Copyright Infringement in Patent Prosecution: Might Your Firm Be the Next Litigation Target?” at 8:30 AM in the Arlington Salons 5 and 6.

Book Preview: “Careers in IP Law” by Sharra Brockman

“If you get a law degree you can do anything you want.” That is a phrase often heard before, during, and after attending law school. How much valuable information ever follows that sentence? My guess is not much.

Image courtesy of the ABA-IPL.However, Ms. Sharra Brockman aims to bring real answers to that token phrase in her new book, “Careers in IP Law,” published by the American Bar Association’s Section of Intellectual Property Law.

Keeping A Professional Image Online

A recent segment on ‘The Ellen Show’ got me thinking about the importance of your online image. In the clip, you can watch as Ellen DeGeneres surprises members of her audience by showing embarrassing photos they posted on Facebook. Some are mortified, others are strangely proud. Below are a few take away points from Ellen’s mischief.

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