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Leigh DJ Hunt
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Posted: 28 July 2011 at 3:02pm | IP Logged | 1  

http://www.deadline.com/2011/07/breaking-marvel-wins-summary -judgments-in-jack-kirby-estate-rights-lawsuits/
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Robert Cosgrove
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Posted: 28 July 2011 at 3:18pm | IP Logged | 2  

It's never good to lose a summary judgment motion, but we'll see what happens.  As I recall, Fawcett won round I of the Superman-Captain Marvel law suit.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 28 July 2011 at 3:51pm | IP Logged | 3  

"Think about it: like Siegel who sold the rights to the action hero he created with Joseph Shuster to Detective Comics for $130, the Kirby estate could have received a big wad of Marvel characters cash."

Difference being Siegel and Shuster were able to show EXACTLY that, that Superman had been created independently and SOLD to National Periodicals, and was not a "work made for hire".

Everything Kirby did for Marvel falls squarely within the latter category.

Work-for-hire was a sucky system, but it was the only game in town, for most people. It was also not a secret, and, perhaps most significantly, it was how Kirby ran his own company, in the 1950s.

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Brad Brickley
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Posted: 28 July 2011 at 4:26pm | IP Logged | 4  

How does it work now for comics? I assume that the companies own the new characters, but that the creator gets some kind of residuals or royalties. Is this correct?
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Brett Wilson
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Posted: 28 July 2011 at 8:24pm | IP Logged | 5  

I was hoping the Kirby estate would come out on top. I wish I knew more about copyright and intellectual property laws. I've been following the case for a while now, but I tend to get lost in all the legal jargon.
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Dave Aikins
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Posted: 28 July 2011 at 9:25pm | IP Logged | 6  

I know for the licensed character kids books that I do, I get a work-for-hire contract, and that's that. My books are printed hundreds of thousands of times, and collected or given new covers or chopped up into whatever... and they stay on the shelves for as long as they can. So I better make darn sure I get paid what I need the first time around, cuz there won't be any royalties...

However, a big big big difference is that I'm never asked to create new characters. There's really nothing to exploit except the actual story art I've created, which is already made up of art created by others  anyway (animation background artists, storyboard artists, character designers, styleguide artists,etc)...

It always seemed that this Kirby lawsuit was more about ethics, and that won't win you a lawsuit. If Kirby signed "work for hire" papers, then his estate shouldn't even had sued in the first place. What made Kirby different than every other comic artist back then, other than the fact that he was contributing more new characters as well as story art? What was the confusion that even started all of this?
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Jason Czeskleba
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Posted: 28 July 2011 at 10:14pm | IP Logged | 7  

As I understand it, the Kirby Estate's main argument was that he bore financial risk in doing the work because Marvel retained the right to reject pages and not pay him for any pages rejected.  Since he was not guaranteed payment for his work they argued he was working on spec rather than for hire.  The judge rejected this argument, but this issue will most likely form the basis of an appeal.  The complete decision is here, by the way.
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Pascal LISE
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Posted: 29 July 2011 at 5:06am | IP Logged | 8  

Bad practices rewarded.
Nothing to be proud about while Kirby can be proud of his achievements.
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Michael Todd
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Posted: 29 July 2011 at 5:08am | IP Logged | 9  

Corporations don't care one whit about people, but we all know this.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 29 July 2011 at 5:16am | IP Logged | 10  

Bad practices rewarded.

If you want to express it in those terms, the people who were really "rewarded" by the work-for-hire rule were the READERS.

Look how much creativity was poured into American comics, back in the days when the Publishers owned everything. Compare that to what we have seen in the past few decades, since things got "better" for the creators. In the past thirty years or so, have we seen anything come along that would even begin to approach the characters created in the Golden and SIlver Ages?

Roger Stern summed it up best (as usual). Years ago, when royalties and creator's rights were introduced, he observed that those of us who came into the business before these things were, in an odd way, lucky. Because our only motivation in getting into comics was the sheer love of the characters and the whole concept of comics. We didn't get into comics to make ourselves rich. There was virtually no way to do that. We operated on pride of accomplishment. Frank Miller said something similar -- that so much cool stuff happened because artists were in friendly competition with each other, not because they were trying to create the big money-makers, or cook deal for themselves in Hollywood.

From a financial viewpoint, the Business of American comicbooks has improved enormously for the talent, since I joined the industry. A pity the same cannot be said for the creative aspects.

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Ed Love
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Posted: 29 July 2011 at 5:19am | IP Logged | 11  

Is it separate or part of contention over the claims of the creation of Captain America and Spider-man not being part of the "Work for Hire" contracts? Because those two involve different issues. 
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Knut Robert Knutsen
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Posted: 29 July 2011 at 5:39am | IP Logged | 12  

"The judge rejected this argument, but this issue will most likely form the basis of an appeal. "

I agree that the argument is interesting, but not only did the judge reject the argument, he specifically noted that the only way to introduce the Kirby side of that argument was through inadmissible hearsay (which is why Evanier's testimony was stricken) while Stan Lee was available to testify to Marvel's side on the record.

I cannot see how, as a matter of law, an appeal can be based on a judge's finding that refers to what his ruling on it would have been if it had been admitted, which it wasn't. Because it was hearsay and the witnesses admitted as much.

Basically the Judge said that the case boiled down to verbal agreements and personal interactions between two people of whom only one was alive and able to testify.

If Kirby had been alive and able to testify as to a version of events that made his work not work-for-hire, then there might have been a slim chance that there would be a genuine issue before the jury.

As it is, I don't see how there are grounds for appeal.

I also think this strengthens DC case in that it solidifies their hold on the work-for-hire aspects of Superman. And the fact that the Kirbys rejected a settlement and lost out completely might have a chilling effect as well.

Though in most respects the cases are unrelated.

 

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