Sunday, July 25, 2010

Superheros [sic] Tangle in Copyright Battles; New York Times, 7/23/10

Michael Cieply, New York Times; Superheros [sic] Tangle in Copyright Battles:

"Lawyers on a Friday afternoon panel at Comic-Con were supposed to be talking about the legal challenges of social media and the battles over copyright, notably a case that involves the Walt Disney Company’s Marvel Entertainment and the heirs to the comic book artist Jack Kirby (Spider-Man among many others).

But David P. Branfman, a lawyer on the stage, first had a word of warning for anybody whose Web site carries stock photos that might belong to someone else: “Make 100 percent sure you’ve got a written license” to use the pictures, said Mr. Branfman.

Companies that own stock photos, he said, have been cracking down on sites that use their wares, demanding, in his experience, an average of $15,000 for each photo lifted from them.

That was certainly an attention-getter for the Web-friendly Comic-Con crowd. Many in the room had just raised their hands, to acknowledge having photos on sites of their own.

Moving on to the main event, Mr. Branfman and his fellow panelists said they were amazed at their ferocity on display in the disputes between Marvel and the Kirby heirs, and between Warner’s DC Comics unit and the heirs to a pair of Superman creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, .

“You don’t see that too often,” Mr. Branfman said of a recent move by Warner to file suit personally against Marc Toberoff, the lawyer who has represented heirs in both the DC and the Marvel cases.

Michael Lovitz, a lawyer who moderated the panel, suggested that attempts by the Kirby and Siegel heirs to regain ownership of copyrights would open the floodgates to similar moves by a host of comic book creators. “This is something we’re going to see more and more of, these terminations,” he said.

To judge by the crush of attendees who afterward grabbed for a written rundown on copyright termination from Mr. Branfman — he called it “The Legal Undead” — Mr. Lovitz would appear to be right."

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