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Jack Kirby Heirs Reclaim Marvel/Disney Rights 380

Posted by kdawson
from the more-movies-for-grownups dept.
lbalbalba writes "Heirs to comic book legend Jack Kirby sent 45 notices of copyright termination to Marvel Entertainment, prospective Marvel buyer Disney, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, and others studios that that hold licensed media rights to Marvel characters. Some rights could revert to the heirs as soon as 2014, for characters that are among the hottest in Hollywood: The Incredible Hulk, The Mighty Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man, The Avengers, and others. Among other things the heirs' demand could cause problems for Disney's as yet unconsummated purchase of Marvel."
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Jack Kirby Heirs Reclaim Marvel/Disney Rights

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  • It's about time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WillyWanker (1502057) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:00PM (#29497787)
    Lee and Marvel shafted Jack big time during the 60s. Jack did 90% of the work while Stan took 90% of the credit. It's about time he gets the recognition and money he deserves. Too bad he didn't live to see it. I had the pleasure of meeting him once, he was a lovely, soft spoken man.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by NormHome (99305)

      It has been a bone of contention for years that Jack Kirby was the real creative talent while Lee was just a great PR man. People who are in the know in the industry agree that Kirby got screwed big time, I'm just sorry that he never lived to see his creative work returned to him.

    • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Informative)

      by Idiomatick (976696) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:30PM (#29498043)
      Jack kirby died in 94 this only works out badly for us.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        It won't matter to Mr. Kirby, who has no worries now. He's dead, Jim. We're not going to get him to produce any more comics.

        Why is copyright so long, again? And why is a corporation allowed to hold copyrights in the first place? The Constitution says "authors and inventors". Corporations neither create nor invent, and I don't see how letting a corporation hold copyrights and patents is legal. Can one of the resident /. lawyers explain this to me?

    • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Informative)

      by the Atomic Rabbit (200041) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:46PM (#29498187)

      Kirby did get shafted, but these claims about how "Jack did 90% of the work", casting Stan Lee as some kind of pointy-haired boss slash con artist, don't really stand up to scrutiny.

      For instance, Kirby played no role in the creation of Spider-man, Marvel's most iconic character. Yes, you could say that Stan Lee found someone else to rip off that one time, i.e. Steve Ditko. But the Spider-man comic's "canonical" period actually occurred after Ditko left (the Stan Lee/John Romita Sr era). So at some point you're left arguing that Stan Lee was incredibly lucky to find talent after talent after talent to rip off. It seems rather more likely that he made his own luck.

      • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209) on Monday September 21, 2009 @09:17PM (#29499025)
        Maybe comic book characters are a dime a dozen, and marketing really is the most important factor in their success.
      • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2009 @10:48PM (#29499721)

        True. Stan was a massive fountain of creativity, and it just so happened that Kirby was as well. There's plenty of credit to go around. Keep in mind that Kirby's attempts at DC and other places never caught on like his early Marvel days with Lee did; they both brought talents to the table.

        Also... the work done was clearly work for hire. Kirby knew it, Stan knew it. They designed a character, wrote a story, gave it to Marvel, and got a check. I find the idea that heirs can come along after the fact and, in effect, seize property from the rightful owners, as being quite troubling.

        (Posting anonymously because for some reason slashdot's 2.0 javascript is not letting me log in on this machine.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by julesh (229690)

          Also... the work done was clearly work for hire. Kirby knew it, Stan knew it.

          Doesn't matter. Since 1978, part of the deal in work-for-hire arrangements is that the creator gets to take the rights back if they want them (relevant legislation) [copyright.gov]. Being creative industry professionals, I'm sure both Kirby and Lee knew this, as well.

          We'll start to see some interesting things happening in 2013 when the window for making those claims opens, I'm sure.

  • Why?

    What is Mr Kirby Jr's stance on all this? Does he want money?

    He didn't do any of the work, he just inherited copyrights.

    Worse than a patent troll.

    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:16PM (#29497903) Journal

      Don't you have that backwards? Although the ideal is to let these works become public domain upon the artist's death, the second best choice for holder of the copyrights should be the SON of the creator, not some cold soulless corporation.

      But don't worry. I'm sure Marvel and Disney will ultimately win. At the end of the day the artist/singer/inventor and his family almost-always get the shaft, and the corporations almost-always win by bribing the appropriate politicians. Look at what happened to the inventor of FM Radio (bled dry in lawsuit-after-lawsuit by 1930s-era RCA until he eventually died - then they took over FM Radio for themselves).

    • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:19PM (#29497943)

      Why?

      Because he can and he should. What's the point of licensing a character if the licensee could wait for you to die and say "ha ha" and continue using that character?

      What is Mr Kirby Jr's stance on all this? Does he want money?

      Probably, but hey what's wrong with that? You don't seem to mind the movie studios making money from the characters. He most likely would like to protect the legacy of the comic book characters, and as a consequence the continued value of the character in the comic book marketplace.

      He didn't do any of the work, he just inherited copyrights.

      So? What's the point of building an estate if you can't pass it to your children?

      Worse than a patent troll.

      How so? His father actually created the comic book characters, not patented them and wait for something to come up with a similar idea.

      I see nothing wrong here. The movie studios are having to follow the rules that THEY created...

      • by xigxag (167441)

        What's the point of licensing a character if the licensee could wait for you to die and say "ha ha" and continue using that character?

        That's like saying what's the point of Toshiba licensing Bluray IP when they can just wait for the patents to expire and say "ha ha." They can just wait, but some other company that's not being self-defeatingly cheap can license it now and make a crapton of money while the first company is still waiting around.

        • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday September 21, 2009 @09:17PM (#29499019) Journal

          You jest, but the RCA Corporation did *exactly* that in the 1930s with FM Radio. They were afraid it would kill their dominance in the AM market so they kept the FM intellectual property under wraps for as long as possible. And when the actual inventor tried to develop FM independently, they sued him again-and-again until he was a broken man. Not until he died did RCA bring FM to the marketplace.

          Never underestimate corporate deviousness. It's as bad as government, minus the ability to send you to the jail, or suck money from your wallet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098)

        So? What's the point of building an estate if you can't pass it to your children?

        Intellectual work is not part of an estate. It does not diminish if shared, it is often built on the work that others have shared freely and, in the case of entertainment, is what it is because of its audience.

        If you want to leave behind an estate, make money and pass that on. To consider intellectual works part of an estate diminishes human capital and is an insult to those who created it - for it means that achievements can be appropriated by those who had no part in it.

        • by princessproton (1362559) on Monday September 21, 2009 @09:07PM (#29498937)

          Hard decision whether to mod this or comment, so I chose to comment so I can correct the erroneous information here.

          What you wrote is ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT. Intellectual property and intangible assets are absolutely part of one's estate (and also come into play in divorce proceedings, for that matter -- See the divorce of Tom Clancy) and are recognized as such under the law. If you disagree on a moral level with this practice, that's another matter, but to state that "it is not part of an estate" is spreading misinformation. I work at an IP consulting firm, and we are frequently asked to value intellectual works for use in estate planning. These can range from rights of publicity, to copyrights/copyrighted works, to trademarks, among other assets.

          You say that "to consider intellectual works part of an estate diminishes human capital and is an insult to those who created it." I think you have this backwards. When the esteemed playwright George Abbott died, for example, his estate was left with the rights to his many copyrighted plays, which could then earn them royalties on performances. Similarly, after Marlon Brando's death, the demand to use his name and likeness did not immediately disappear. His heirs controlled his rights to publicity and had the power to decide when it was appropriate to use his voice or other personal aspects to endorse products for a fee. Don't you think that Marlon Brando would have wanted his legacy to continue to provide for his loved ones? Wouldn't it be more of an insult to George Abbott (whose "human capital" is at issue) to have his works just be taken away on the day of his death instead of allowing him to build something that could continue to benefit his family?

          Copyright law may be totally frakked in its current iteration, but that is a completely separate issue. The fact is, people work to build an estate -- but this work does not always take the same form. Some people build corporations, invest is stocks, or gather cash; others create works of art. You would never just assume that a corporation should automatically become public because the owner died, so why should that novel or that play immediately lose all of its value to the owner? Somebody spent their life working on that (instead of pursuing other avenues of wealth accumulation) so those assets are what they have to pass along in their estate -- Or should everyone just give up creating original works to pursue entrepreneurial or big business goals so they can provide for their families after they are gone?

      • Because he can and he should. What's the point of licensing a character if the licensee could wait for you to die and say "ha ha" and continue using that character?

        You know. You're exactly right. It's not fair.

        Just the other day, I saw a man building a wall on the outside of someone's house. I thought to myself, that wall is increasing the value of this property and indeed all the properties around it by a considerable amount. Why should that man be satisfied with just one payment. His wall could last forever. Shouldn't his creativity and hard work be rewarded during that time? The owner of that house an others nearby should pay that man a fair licence fee for his work for the rest of his life.

        Your argument has further persuaded me that not only should they pay the money to the wall builder, but also to his heirs. After all, they are his family, and he was working for them while he built those walls. True, they didn't lay a brick themselves, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be able to profit from their father's honest labour till the end of their days. And their heirs in turn should be able to enjoy the benefits. It's their moral right.

        When I think how copyright has consistently delivered fresh innovation and content in the form of superheroes like Superman(1938), Batman(1939), and Spiderman(1962), I realise that the joy they ring to millions should mean financial benefit for the children, grandchildren, and great grand children of the authors. Who knows? Maybe with all the money they earn and such solid intellectual property rights, they'll go on to produce other famous superheroes who careers will last longer than most nation states. After all, copyright is the great motivator of new creative content!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Uberbah (647458)

          Too bad your analogy sucks in 18 different ways. First, a brick wall doesn't continually generate money. Copyrighted works do, as long as there are customers to buy them. Second, you might have a point if it was a matter of an author's heirs holding onto the rights vs them sliding into the public domain. But that's not the case - it's heirs vs a famously greedy conglomerate.

          • SWOOSH!
          • by wes33 (698200) on Monday September 21, 2009 @10:14PM (#29499445)

            "Too bad your analogy sucks in 18 different ways. First, a brick wall doesn't continually generate money. Copyrighted works do, as long as there are customers to buy them"

            only because they are *copyrighted* - if walls had the same protection
            they would generate revenue forever too (cause walls are damn useful)

            this is circular reasoning not criticism

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by lennier (44736)

            "First, a brick wall doesn't continually generate money."

            Neither does a copyrighted work - it *transfers* money from one person to another. The total amount of money in the cosmos remains constant. Actually, since the transaction itself imposes a processing cost, I'd say money was lost to entropy.

            Now, bank loans - those do generate money, for some definition of 'money'. They also destroy money when the loans come due, apparently.

            But perhaps you were thinking about generating *wealth* rather than merely real

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

          We didn't ask Stan or Jack or anyone else to make us a comic with a spider mutant in it. Without them, we wouldn't have that as a part of our culture. Like it or not, the parts of a culture which hold us together are those things we can share everywhere.

          A wall is a known thing, and if I want one built I can stab the guy who made it and get someone else to build the same thing. They'd be different, but not in any way that's important. No child is going to want to grow up to be a plaster wall.

          You can't st

        • by wvmarle (1070040) on Monday September 21, 2009 @10:36PM (#29499625)

          An old, flawed analogy. I have seen it so many times, it's truly sad that people still come up with it.

          This man is ordered to build the wall, and in advance knows how much he's going to get paid - basically no risk there, do the job well and get paid. The owner of the property has a good idea on how much the value is of that wall, based on the effect of the wall and the quality of the workmanship of the mason. The wall wasn't the mason's idea, it was the property owner's idea.

          This is similar to a company ordering creative work: think of all the artists working for Disney. They do not get copyrights paid over their arts, they get a salary for what they are doing. The Pocahontas movie was not their idea, it was the company's idea. They just implemented it. Or a research company developing a chip (e.g. ARM), where the designers of said chip do not get royalties but they do get their salary. ARM later tries to make money by licensing that design. Again no risk for the creative people, they have their money in advance. The idea of investing a lot of money in a energy efficient micro processor was also not their idea, they merely implemented it.

          When an independent author is writing a book, no-one ordered him to do so. He wants it because he likes it, or because he thinks he has a great idea and a great story to tell and hopes to sell this story. Thus he owns the copyrights, and can license it to anyone he likes. The independent author doesn't get any money for writing the book, he invests a lot of time (and money: to eat and pay the rent while writing) in the book, but has also take a great risk. The book may flop and he ends up with nothing. The book may also become a bestseller, and he ends up rich.

          It is basic business here: the greater the risk taken, the greater the potential rewards. That's all. And now please stop that nonsense of wanting to be paid forever for something that someone else asked you to do.

  • At what cost? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MicktheMech (697533) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:01PM (#29497799) Homepage
    Neither the summary nor the article (I know...) mention what it's going to cost the heirs to get the rights back. TFA states that they can regain control a certain period after the grant of rights had been made, but is this just a normal end of the contract or do they have to buy it back? In the article Disney is quoted as saying they knew this was coming, so I'm guessing this is just the normal end whatever contract the film companies had to license the characters. Are there any IP lawyers who could shed some light on this?
    • Re:At what cost? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:27PM (#29498017) Journal

      >>>Disney is quoted as saying they knew this was coming

      And the rest of that, which was muttered under their breath, was: "We've already bribed the appropriate politicians and judges, so we're certain of victory. It's good to be a megarich megacorporation. Money is power to run the government."

      • Disney could of course solve this problem for themselves by ordering their pet legislators to pass laws limiting the term of copyright, say an automatic fourteen years, with one optional fourteen-year extension by the original author if he's still alive -- I think I heard that one somewhere before. Then they could make all the movies about Jack Kirby characters they wanted, and his heirs couldn't say a damn thing. I wonder why they don't go for such an obvious and reasonable solution?

    • Re:At what cost? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by langelgjm (860756) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:31PM (#29498057) Journal

      IIRC from my IP law class, when you sell a copyright to someone, there is a certain point where you can decide to take back control. I don't remember the exact details off the top of my head, but it's statutory. A quick glance here [copyright.gov] looks to be from 30 to 35 years into the license, but copyright math depends on a lot of factors, e.g. when the work was originally registered.

      Also IIRC this was originally instituted as a statutory way to prevent publishers from forcing authors to turn over all their copyright rights - by building in a statutory exception giving the author a window of time when they could take control back, publishers wouldn't strike such hard bargains.

  • by the Atomic Rabbit (200041) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:02PM (#29497801)

    That was Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

  • by painandgreed (692585) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:06PM (#29497829)
    If anything will get the length of copyright reduced back to reasonable levels, it'll be creators reclaiming their IP from big business. Then it'll enter into public domain and big business will probably just settle it via trademark legislation as they divide up public domain.
    • by fermion (181285)
      Exactly. As far as I can tell, sane copyright law, prior to the hyper corporate control of the post WWII world, would have the copyright expire soon after 2014. At that point we could all use characters such as Thor that were stolen from the public domain.
  • Good luck, kids! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Peganthyrus (713645) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:08PM (#29497853) Homepage

    Well. This should be interesting.

    I wonder what Kirby's kids will do with the licensing money for the Kirby co-creations that've become major movie franchises if they win this. It'd be nice to hope that they use a little of it to create a non-profit that helps fund innovation in comics like Eastman did after he ran out of things to spend his TMNT money on; Jack was an amazing fountain of ideas and I think that'd be a great way to honor his memory.

  • GOOD FOR THEM. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taikiNO@SPAMcox.net> on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:12PM (#29497875)

    I really hope this forces Marvel to rethink their strategy. I love comics. I don't like super hero books. Super hero books that run for hundreds of issues with no coherent message or vision suck. I don't care if the current run is good, or if it used to be good years or even a few issues ago. Marvel needs to get back to it's roots selling comics that everyone wants to read, not just 30 something fanboys who obsess over whether or not Kevin Smith did justice to the Green Arrow.

    • Agree.

      Some of the Vertigo titles (a branch of DC) have it right. The 75 issue runs of Lucifer and Sandman are excellent. The first 75 issues of Fables are equally good.

      Unfortunately, these are less marketable titles to the mainstream.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I love comics. I don't like super hero books. ... Marvel needs to get back to it's roots selling comics that everyone wants to read

      The Marvel "comics that everyone wants to read" have always been about superheroes. You may not like superhero comics, or Marvel's current crop of them, or whatever, that's fine -- but suggesting that Marvel return to its "roots" by selling something other than superhero books is pretty silly.

      • Stan Lee and Jack Kirby didn't come out of the gate in the gate writing Spider-man and X-men. They spent quite a bit of time in the 40's diversified.

        Vertigo's figured it out. End comics. let the owner control the property. Watchmen, Transmet, etc. Manga too. Kenshin comes to mind quickly with a 5 year run.

        • Okay, maybe "always" is too strong, by just a bit. But it was superhero comics, starting in the early 60's, that made Marvel a major player. For two generations, almost their entire corporate history, that's what their market's been based on. What Lee and Kirby, themselves, did before that is kind of irrelevant; for Marvel as a company to attempt to return to the comic market of the 50's or before would be absurd.

    • Marvel needs to get back to it's roots selling comics that everyone wants to read, not just 30 something fanboys who obsess over whether or not Kevin Smith did justice to the Green Arrow.

      'Get back to their roots'? Are you kidding? The only thing that's changed is the age of the fanboy Marvel is marketing to.

  • by TheSpoom (715771) * <[ten.00mrebu] [ta] [todhsals]> on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:13PM (#29497895) Homepage Journal

    "Give us money so we go away!"

  • by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:22PM (#29497967)
    Copyrights will do nothing to keep Marvel/Disney from ruining these franchises. You have to take the trademark.
  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:29PM (#29498035)

    Oh, my. I remember lawsuits involving Jack Kirby and Marvel of the 1980's, when he was still alive.

    For those of you who've not made friends with authors and artists, it's very common for companies to really screw the authors who create their most valuable intellectual properties. For any of us who've worked on a major software or hardware project and had it dropped by a VP whose goals it doesn't fit, or have a mediocre middle manager take credit for it, you can sympathize with what happens to these artists.

    This doesn't mean that Jack's heirs have a real case, but be aware that Marvel and Jack had some serious disagreements about intellectual property and artwork ownership during his lifetime, and a lot of artists believed that Jack was screwed, really hard, by Marvel's last generations of leadership during his life.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:33PM (#29498069) Homepage

    This is what the copyright kings might call "The Heir of the Dog that bit you in the ass."

    This has to be some sort of play to get more money for the rights than they are already getting and I think they should certainly go for it.

  • IP boomerang (Score:4, Insightful)

    by steveha (103154) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:33PM (#29498071) Homepage

    Copyright issues have become increasingly difficult for Hollywood, as it continues to trade on characters and stories that were created decades ago, but are now subject to deadlines and expiration dates under federal copyright law.

    Copyright issues would become easy again if copyrights ever expired and the copyrighted material entered the public domain. Of course, Hollywood has worked to try to keep that from happening. The lesson Hollywood will take away from this is: get Congress to overhaul copyright law so that nothing ever expires.

    Or did they already manage that, and the Kirby properties are only expiring because they are old?

    I know that copyrights used to need to be registered, and could be renewed only once, and the total life of a copyright was thus limited. Now copyright is automatic and lasts for the life of the creator of the work plus 95 years. (Likely this will be extended again, right around the time Mickey Mouse would enter the public domain... 2023, I think.)

    steveha

  • for Superman/Superboy lawsuits.

    First rename the characters or change the character to a different person being that character. Then drag the case on for years until a settlement is made.

    Incredible Hulk, The Mighty Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man, The Avengers, and others.

    Bruce Banner is no longer The Incredible Hulk, the Rulk or Red Hulk absorbed his gamma powers and Skar The Hulk's son will replace the Hulk.

    The Mighty Thor, Thunderstrike or Beta Ray Bill will have to sub in for Thor.

    Iron Man, Tony Stark got lobotomized in trying to erase the super hero registration list from his head, Pepper Potts has her own suit of armor and James Rhodes can take over as War Machine for Iron Man.

    Spider-Man, Eddie Brock is now Anti-Venom, can sub for Spider-Man as Peter Parker quits or loses his powers again. Either that or another Ben Reilly Spider-Clone.

    The Avengers have changed so much, right now the Dark Avengers are fighting the New Avengers, but they could easily change the group's name to the Challengers or Defenders like the other groups Kirby didn't invent.

    Captain America, James "Bucky" Barnes is the new Captain America and was The Winter Soldier. Steve Rogers is dead, but they are trying to bring him back, doubts are in if he'd still be Captain America or let Bucky keep the uniform. Other men have been Captain America in the past. The 1950's Captain America is still alive with Steve Roger's face.

    Most of those characters have been so radically changed that they don't resemble the Kirby versions anymore. Besides I thought Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did Spider-Man and not Jack Kirby.

  • Annoying (Score:5, Informative)

    by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Monday September 21, 2009 @08:00PM (#29498317) Homepage

    The Kirby heirs are doing this pursuant to 17 USC 203, if anyone is interested.

    The gist of it is, for works not made for hire, where the author licensed or sold his copyrights to someone else (except via a will), the author, or his heirs or estate, can get together and terminate the license or sale. It has to be done within a certain window of time, and it requires a sufficient number of heirs to agree to it, and there are some procedural steps that have to be taken. And this can be done even if the author signed an agreement that expressly said that he would not do this.

    I am all for reforming copyrights to something sensible in both length and scope, and I am concerned at the political power wielded with regard to copyright by publishers. However, I have to side against the authors on this sort of thing. While it might be fun to see someone stick it to Disney, it's ultimately a bad policy.

    If an author willingly signs an agreement transferring or licensing his copyright to someone else, then that agreement should remain valid. If the author wants to reserve a right to terminate the transfer or license because some sort of condition arises (e.g. licensing fees are no longer being paid), or arbitrarily at some point in time, then it should be written into the agreement. No one is forcing authors to sign these things; no one is forcing authors not to have an attorney help them out with it. If a contract is one sided, don't sign it. Hash out a more agreeable agreement or walk away. And if your bargaining positions are unequal, well, welcome to the real world; this happens a lot.

    To have a law that mandates that authors can cancel their contracts at will, with no particular repercussions for them is offensively paternalistic. Authors should not be universally treated like children, able to escape their commitments. They are not any more or less sophisticated in their business dealings than any other ordinary person, who is not treated so astonishingly favorably by the law.

    Further, it is unjust. While an author certainly is essential in the success of a particular creative work, publishers also often make invaluable contributions. To the extent that their agreements with authors permit them to do so, I think it is completely fair for them to share greatly in the rewards. Publishers that contribute little will tend to not be in as favorable a position to benefit as the publishers that contribute a lot. Authors who don't want to have to pay or share profits with publishers can always self-publish. It is entirely doable, but the difficulty tends to be off-putting. So long as it is the decision of the parties involved, and not of Congress, it's okay.

    In this case, suppose that Kirby had never worked for a comic book company, but instead had started his career by self publishing comics. Would he have achieved so much success, thereby indicating that his estate deserves to profit from his comics and characters alone? I doubt it. So did Kirby, apparently; he chose not to go that route, and instead worked for publishers for whatever pay or other compensation both sides found agreeable.

    For the Kirby estate to wrest away control of the work Kirby did under contract with Marvel, in contravention of contracts willingly entered into by both sides that state otherwise, and with no other penalties is just not fair, and the law should not permit it. It is no different than if Alice sold land to Bob, Bob invested in the land raising its value, and then Alice snatched it back contrary to the original agreement.

    If you want to be able to end an agreement after you make it, make that part of the agreement. Otherwise, well, you'll know better next time.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      It was part of the agreement since that's what the law says (unless it changed in the meantime, in which case blame Congress) and the contract doesn't exist in a vacuum.

    • I couldn't disagree more. While I do believe that copyrights should only last for a sane period of time, the very basis of copyright in the United States is encouragement of innovation. If you create a work for hire, the publisher presumably paid you to create that work, in effect furnishing the resources to create that work and absorbing the risk. As any 2L course in business associations will emphasize, risk and control go hand-in-hand.

      When an author has created a work that they sell after the fact,

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cpt kangarooski (3773)

        the very basis of copyright in the United States is encouragement of innovation.

        Well, that's half anyway; really the basis of copyright is encouraging authors to create and publish the most, in exchange for the least copyright, so as to maximize the net public benefit. Both creation and publication are necessary elements of good copyright policy. A work cannot benefit the public unless it is both created, just so it exists, and published, so that people beyond the author can actually get and use it.

        When an

    • Re:Annoying (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2009 @10:02PM (#29499369)

      "If you want to be able to end an agreement after you make it, make that part of the agreement. Otherwise, well, you'll know better next time."

      Well, Marvel entered into that contract knowing full well that the family could petition for the rights after the authors death. They knew that regardless of what they contract said, under federal law the rights they were purchasing would be for only a limited time after Kirby's death. They knew that if they wanted to continue to have those rights after his death they would have to pay for them. They knew what the copyright laws were at the time to contract was signed, and that should have been calculated into the price they were willing to pay for the rights.

      Based on both parties knowledge of the copyright law, it would be unfair would to give Marvel a windfall by changing the rules that both parties entered the agreement under.

    • Re:Annoying (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Cadallin (863437) on Monday September 21, 2009 @11:15PM (#29499881)
      Ahem. Boo-Fucking-Hoo. My heart is simply rent asunder by my grief for large corporations.

      They snatched the property from its owner, extracted economic rent (if you don't know what "economic rent" is, look it up) using it for decades, and now they might have to return control to the creators descendants? What a fucking crying shame.

      Where the fuck does this conception that, of all things, contracts must be absolutely fucking sacrosanct come from? Heaven forbid that someone be able to get out from under and abusive and exploitative contract! That'd be the end of society as we know it!

  • I loved The Last Boy on Earth.  That could make a great film too -- intelligent animals, humans gone, environmental disaster.  Hmm.
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Monday September 21, 2009 @10:03PM (#29499375)
    This is too funny for words. The very studios who have essentially screwed everyone else over with unconstitutional copyright "reforms" and "extensions" are now about to get royal screwings of their own. Not that any of this helps the common citizen or does anything to enhance the Public Domain, but it is still fun to watch.

    Funniest statement of all is Disney's CYA about how they had already factored all of this in when they offered billions for Marvel.

    Definitely the best thing since eBay bought Vonage without getting the rights to the code that runs it.
  • by Xin Jing (1587107) on Monday September 21, 2009 @11:21PM (#29499909)

    I have eliminated most of my commentary to present this analysis of Marvel motion pictures released since 2000. I mark that time period as the beginning of Marvel Entertainment's ability to bring characters and stories to life in a way they were never capable of before.

    1. X-Men (2000) - 80% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/xmen/ [rottentomatoes.com]. Released in July with a budget of US$75mil, it grossed more that US$296mil http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-Men_film [wikipedia.org] without Arad and Lee on production.

    2. Spider-Man (2002) - 90% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/spiderman/ [rottentomatoes.com]. Released in May with a budget of US$140mil, it grossed more than US$821mil with Arad and Lee on production. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider-Man_(film) [wikipedia.org]

    3. Daredevil (2003) - 44% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/daredevil/ [rottentomatoes.com]. Released in February with a budget of US$78mil, it grossed more than US$179mil with Arad on production. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daredevil_(film) [wikipedia.org]

    4. X2: X-Men United (2003) - 88% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/x2_xmen_united/ [rottentomatoes.com]. Released in May with a budget of US$110mil, it grossed more than US$407mil with Arad on production. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X2:_X-Men_United [wikipedia.org]

    5. The Hulk (2003) - 61% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hulk/ [rottentomatoes.com]. Released in June with a budget of US$137mil, it grossed more than US$245mil with Arad and Lee on production. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hulk_(film) [wikipedia.org]

    6. The Punisher (2004) - 29% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1131721-punisher/ [rottentomatoes.com]. Released in April with a budget of US$15mil, it grossed more than US$54mil with Arad and Lee on production. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Punisher_(2004_film) [wikipedia.org]

    7. Spider-Man 2 (2004) - 94% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/spiderman_2/ [rottentomatoes.com]. Released in June with a budget of US$200mil, it grossed more than US$783mil with Arad and Lee on production. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider-Man_2 [wikipedia.org]

    8. Electra (2005) - 10% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/elektra/ [rottentomatoes.com]. Released in January with a budget of US$43mil, it grossed more than US$56mil with Arad on production. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elektra_(2005_film) [wikipedia.org]

    9. Fantastic Four (2005) - 26% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/fantastic_four/ [rottentomatoes.com]. Released in July with a budget of US$100mil, it grossed more than US$330mil with Arad on production. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantastic_Four_(film) [wikipedia.org]

    10. X-Men The Last Stand (2006)- 56% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/x_men_3_the_last_stand/ [rottentomatoes.com]. Released in May with a budget of US$110mil, it grossed more than US$407mil with Arad on production. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X2_(film) [wikipedia.org]

    11. Spider-Man 3 (2007) 62% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/spiderman_3/ [rottentomatoes.com]. Released in May with a budget of US$258mil, it grossed more than US$890mil with Arad and Lee on production. http://en.wikip [wikipedia.org]

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