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Jack Kirby Heirs Reclaim Marvel/Disney Rights

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the more-movies-for-grownups dept.

Movies 380

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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380 comments

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Hmm... (1)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497759)

Activision Blizzard and Marvel Disney, what's next? Googlesoft?

Re:Hmm... (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497771)

Activision Blizzard and Marvel Disney, what's next? Googlesoft?

I prefer Microogle.

Re:Hmm... (3, Funny)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498283)

It won't be either. One will take the other's head and their memories after a long hard battle in a phenomena known as the quickening.

Re:Hmm... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498451)

Yahoogle!

Wow! (-1, Offtopic)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497767)

Being older than 10 this is meaningless to me. Do kids today even buy comic books anymore? Isn't it mostly the 30-50 year old crowd trying to make an investment? Woo boy am I holding my breath for spiderman 4 in 2011...

Re:Wow! (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497807)

What should worry you is the fact that, thanks to Disney and massive amounts of bribery to congress, "copyright" now means that works don't pass into the public domain for nearly a century.

Disney, and their friends, have quite literally raped the public domain dry and given nothing back.

I can't fault Kirby's heirs for trying to regain some form of control on characters who have been treated like shit for years, but realistically, the characters themselves would be public domain by now in any sane system.

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29497823)

Literally, eh?

Re:Wow! (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497909)

Literally, eh?

Yep. Look at poor Snow White. And Ebenezer Scrooge, too! Their assholes are so much larger than they should be...

Re:Wow! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29497915)

Yes. They pilfered the public domain. "To rape" means "to take from by force", as in "the Vikings raped the German coastline".

Re:Wow! (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498103)

I don't think there's anything stopping you from mounting your own take on, say, on Snow White or Cinderella. The problem is that Disney managed to get something of a stranglehold on the imagery.

What I despise about Disney is singing animals. Every fucking feature length cartoon of even a story like Pocahontas (which was so obnoxiusly inaccurate in every other respect) requires singing fucking animals. In the Hunchback of Notre Dame, they altered the rule slightly and had singing fucking gargoyles, but the effect is the same.

Disney degrades everything it touches. It's run by some of the most vile, cynical bastards the entertainment industry ever produced (and that's saying something). It isn't the public domain these repugnant monsters rape, it's cultures. I quite frankly shiver at the thought of them taking any more popular stories from the fables and myths any more cultures and twisting them by their sheer hatred of anything that doesn't have singing fucking animals into grotesque caricatures.

Maybe in the early days there was a great artistic impulse, but even ol' Walt himself pretty much gave up the ghost after Pinocchio and it all turned into unforgivable pap, endlessly recycling the inventiveness of the early years.

Re:Wow! (2)

BakaHoushi (786009) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498237)

I agree wholeheartedly. Disney only furthers the idea that "cartoons and animation are for kids." Or the clinically brain dead. Groups like Pixar and studio Ghibli, on the other hand, continue to prove that something can be "family friendly" and still be entertaining for everyone.

But Disney is too busy selling Disney Princess Makeup Kits and Hanna Montana DVDs to give two shits about the actual quality of what they produce.

Re:Wow! (1, Informative)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498427)

Are you aware that Pixar and Disney recently merged?

Re:Wow! (2, Insightful)

Darkmaple (1517115) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498443)

BakaHoushi Sed:

Groups like Pixar and studio Ghibli, on the other hand, continue to prove that something can be "family friendly" and still be entertaining for everyone.

Which is why Pixar vets don't currently control Disney, and Disney itself doesn't distribute Studio Ghibli films in North America OH WAIT

Re:Wow! (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498707)

Every fucking feature length cartoon ... requires singing fucking animals.

There are exceptions: The Rescuers Down Under, The Black Cauldron, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Treasure Planet - possibly their biggest flop, and certainly one of their best works. Go figure!

Re:Wow! (1)

Uberbah (647458) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498905)

There are exceptions

And most of those are decades old. Disney got into a rut after Little Mermaid and Beauty in the Beast: movie would be a fairy tale musical, with highly annoying side kicks. So lets hope they don't fuck up Pixar.

Re:Wow! (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498741)

How dare you! The Disney corporation has, for decades, delivered countless hours of mindless, vapid entertainment and proxy childrearing to millions of happy All American Families. We have turned kitsch from a derisible concept, to a mass industry, to the very apex of American cultural achievement. I mean, what kind of monster would object to carpeting bombing our youth with bright eyed, euphoric, singing animals and animated gargoyles? A Communist monster, that's who!

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498749)

Three words: Get A Life. Sheesh.

Re:Wow! (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498145)

Yes. They pilfered the public domain. "To rape" means "to take from by force", as in "the Vikings raped the German coastline".

I think the word you were thinking of was "Pillage".

Re:Wow! (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498245)

I think the word you were thinking of was "Pillage".

No, the grand-poster was technically right, although nobody has really used the word that way in a long time. Basically, the archaic meaning was "to take by force", which is a pretty descriptive metaphor for the current definition. Just add "sexually" to it and you're there.

Re:Wow! (2, Funny)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498731)

I got into that argument of semantics about 17 years ago in high school, she said rape meant the sex act, I said it could mean forcibly carried away.

She kept arguing so I raped her all the way to the dictionary. [reference.com]

Re:Wow! (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498085)

You are wrong.
A dictionary.
Get one.

Re:Wow! (3, Funny)

Xaositecte (897197) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498807)

Burma Shave

Re:Wow! (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497901)

Newly discovered documents show that Hans Christian Andersen actually published his works under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence.

Disney made this press release: Oh shit!

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498793)

Nice idea, but the original copyright, if it even existed in Denmark in those days, would have long expired, and once it did disney would no longer need a license. Neither should we now for the mouse. Well, actually, where I live copyright is still fifty years, so the mouse is out of copyright. Although I suspect he is still covered by Trademark.

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498371)

"Literally raped" the public domain? Are you sure "literally" is the word you want? Maybe "figuratively" is more appropriate.

Re:Wow! (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498643)

There is no good reason for the Characters to copyrighted. In fact, I don't think you CAN copyright a character (you can copyright a specific instance of one, like a comic book, a still, etc).

You trademark characters, and trademarks don't expire so long as you actively defend them.

As horrible as this sounds to our standard knee jerk reaction on slashdot, this IS a good thing as far as I care. This is what makes it so that a company/person can create a character, make them famous, and continue to profit from their current work on the character, despite having made it ages ago.

Re:Wow! (0, Troll)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498657)

I do. I hope his heirs all die painfully and penniless. How are they any better than Disney when all they want to do is get money for something they were never a part of?

Re:Wow! (5, Insightful)

pluther (647209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497877)

No, it shouldn't matter to you.

But it is of interest to others around here.

Believe it or not, some people who read/post here are a little on the nerdy side. And some of them read comic books.

Then there's the occasional person who just comes on to a site labeled "News for Nerds" to attempt to boast about how he's not really interested in a specific aspect of nerd subculture.

Those people are sad. They are nerds, but rather than revel in it, they are desperately trying to convince themselves they're not.

Re:Wow! (0, Troll)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498389)

Believe it or not, some people who read/post here are a little on the nerdy side. And some of them read comic books.

Not a troll, just being honest.
I have always wondered, why exactly, because for me, comic books are for those who are literacy-challenged and/or don't have a developed fantasy. Nerds should be neither and rather go for real books.

Then again, I grew up in a country where comics were considered medieval junk.

Re:Wow! (5, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498539)

I have always wondered, why exactly, because for me, comic books are for those who are literacy-challenged and/or don't have a developed fantasy.

For you, maybe. Others aren't so narrow minded, and realise that like any other expressive medium, comics can be used to cover the entire artistic range, from high art to complete crap. Only some of them "are for those who are literacy-challenged and/or don't have a developed fantasy."

Re:Wow! (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497893)

I'm not sure if you're fishing for a defensive response or are just playing the part of your curmudgeonly moniker. Either way, I grew up unable to afford comic books although a friend had every Punisher comic book and reading through them was okay but left a lot to be desired. It wasn't until three years ago that I read The Watchmen -- the first comic book that made me think and expressed depth of characters. By now you've heard of the movie but this comic book showed me that there are more to comic books than flash and outrageous super powers. In fact, I did a review on a collection of non-superhero comics today [slashdot.org] and was thoroughly impressed with the kinds of issues people are tackling out there with comic books (please don't jump on me for not calling them graphic novels, I really don't care as either term is just as respectable to me). Since then I've ventured out to publishers that aren't one of the big three or four (although Image has some series that I find interesting).

Isn't it mostly the 30-50 year old crowd trying to make an investment?

If they're the only ones buying them it's probably not a good investment. While you might be able to show a stagnation in sales, the comic book publishers have no one to blame but themselves. If you can't survive changes in technology and you constantly rely on the same old tired franchises or crossovers, you're going to lose fans and you're not going to attract people like me that know the premise and details of all existing superheros. At least that's my opinion.

Woo boy am I holding my breath for spiderman 4 in 2011...

I share your remorse for the painful drivel that Hollywood (seq|pre)qualizes but to be fair comic books are based on this leave-you-wanting-more teaser serialization of the story ... so it should come as no surprise that Spiderman and X-Men are into this. Perhaps that's why I loved The Watchmen? I can't say for sure. One thing's for sure it might not be the 30-50 year old crowd looking to make an investment but rather (as the article put it) "superhero hungry Hollywood" looking to make an investment. The medium of the comic book may be dying but what they sold to youngsters will never die: the hero. It will live on in movies and video games until those methods succumb to emerging markets and we get retina implants or something.

I predict that Jack Kirby's heirs are in for the legal battle of their lives. Oh well, he's dead and I'm sure they're contributing to society somehow. I'm not really concerned about what they get out of this. And I will make the prediction that if by some miracle Disney opens up its animation resources to the folks at Marvel and leaves them as Marvel that we will see some good things come out of this. But if they (and this is a more likely scenario) just turn Marvel into Disney and homogenize them and scare away/fire the people who aren't afraid to try something new ... then we're just going to see Disney style Marvel heroes in surefire movies with the formulaic love plot + slapstick comedy + action + Disney ending = $$$$$.

Re:Wow! (1)

kailSD (1271360) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498023)

I don't believe Disney has any intention of imposing their style on Marvel. The very things you don't want changed is exactly what Disney are after. Of course, the possibility that they bugger it up is always there. :)

Re:Wow! (2, Informative)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498931)

In fact, I did a review on a collection of non-superhero comics today and was thoroughly impressed with the kinds of issues people are tackling out there with comic books

The Japanese, and to a lesser extent East Asian, Manga industry has been doing things like this for decades. Issues from the topical to the seemingly unpresentable. Remember the manga guide to statistics [oreilly.com] . By contrast, the now stagnant meme of superheros has proven itself utterly unable to discuss any topic that does not somehow involve men in leotards fist fighting one another.

The biggest problem with the western comic book industry is that it is not seen as a legitimate medium for adult discouse. It is not seen this way because publishers and writers deliberately market and censor their products for consumption by teenagers with their parents approval. The utter stagnancy of the American comic book industries is a testament to how successful this strategy has been in killing creativity. How many generations of artists have spent their lives drawing comics of characters invented by people 70 years ago?

Comics are a very legitimate medium, and a very powerful one. When the 9-11 commission sought a way to present their mammoth 571 page report to the wider public, they turned to the medium of comic books. Some people had the gall to ridicule them, but it was an incredibly brave and shrewd decision. The graphic novel of the findings is a power educational tool against the inevitable 9-11 conspiracy theorists. It was, all things considered, the single best way to tell the story of that day.

Comics are a medium of human communication. So is cartoon animation. The industrialisation of the comic book and animation industries in the Western world has robbed us of this medium. Because of the paranoia of 1950's American society, and the capitulation of the industry to hysteria like Comics Code Authority, the power of the medium comics, seen daily in newspapers across the country, is unable to be brought to bear in any arguments above the briefest of lengths. We are living with the bad decisions made by people 60 years ago and the effect of industry monopolisation and we are worse off because of it.

Re:Wow! (1)

crmarvin42 (652893) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498033)

The bottom fell out of the comic book as investment market back in the mid 90's. Essentially as prospectors bought everything and anything, the publishers simply printed more books each month. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that Superman #1 was valuable, not because it was a first edition, but because there were only a couple left in existance. All of the "Golden Age" comics were rare because the kids moms would grab the stack of comic books and bring them down for the local paper to help the war effort and only a handful of any issue managed to avoid recycling. Once everyone realized that they weren't going to be making a fortune off of anything printed in the preceeding 40+ years, everyone stopped collecting unless they were actually intersted the books for themselves.

I'm not yet 30, although its comming up fast, and I buy 3 or 4 titles a month. None of what I buy is Marvel anymore, but they still have a small fortune in stories that can be made into movies. Hollywood has been long on useless executives and short on actual tallent for years. They've figured out that the stories from comic books are easily adapted for the large screen with a built-in following, and since the stories are already written (or at least at a good starting point for re-writting) there is less risk involved in script development.

Sounds like Kirby's looking for a little bit more of the pie he helped bake. Depending on what he's getting already, he may be entitled. Could put some excs at Disney and Marvel in hot water for a little while, but I doubt that they'll be unable to make some sort of compromise.

Re:Wow! (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498111)

They've figured out that the stories from comic books are easily adapted for the large screen with a built-in following

Not to mention the money they save on storyboarding. Comics are effectively bound storyboards.

Downside is all the arguments and liquid lunches they miss out on in that stage, as it's effectively been outsourced as non-core process (grin).

Re:Wow! (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498193)

Are you joking, or just a troll? Comic book-based movies have pretty much dominated the Hollywood box office for a decade or more. I bet if anyone sat down and thought about it they could easily name 50+ comic book-based movies that have grossed many billons in all. It's BIG business, and yes, people older than 10 do go watch movies.

It's about time (4, Interesting)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:It's about time (2, Informative)

NormHome (99305) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497827)

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 (5, Informative)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498043)

Jack kirby died in 94 this only works out badly for us.

Re:It's about time (1, Flamebait)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498125)

The scary thing about Stan Lee is that he believes his own bullshit, and he never fucking shuts up about how great he and "his" creations are.

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

the Atomic Rabbit (200041) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Inheritance (-1, Flamebait)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498479)

I would contend something different. Inheritance is garbage IMNSOH - these kids did nothing to create this work, their father did. Why should they benefit from it? In fact, why should anyone receive many millions in inheritance?

Enough inheritance to go to a great school, start a business, get married, etc, etc - sure. But to recover enough to never have to work a day in your life? I don't think so. This work should be in the public domain because the author is dead. As a capitalist, I believe the most productive members of society deserve to be rich (i.e. those that can make the money, can keep it, so they can efficiently create the businesses that employ people), but once they're dead, it goes back to the society that enabled them to become rich, and helps set the stage for a new generation of entrepreneurs.

To paraphrase Buffett, the children of the rich deserve to be rich as much as the children of Olympic athletes deserve to be gold medalists.

Re:Inheritance (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498635)

First off we have no idea what his children intend to do with the money. They might keep it, or they might not, who knows?

And for me it's more about Jack finally getting the recognition and compensation he deserved for his achievements. It would be one thing if he himself had become wealthy from his creations, but he didn't. In fact he died practically penniless, despite the billions of dollars he made for Marvel. Not to mention the untold millions that Stan has made over the years.

It's not about his kids becoming wealthy off their dad's work. It's about their dad finally getting compensated for the true value of his work, something that was never done during his life.

Re:Inheritance (3, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498759)

As a capitalist, ...

I realize you intended this as flamebait, but you are hardly a capitalist.

Either someone owns his property or he is simply borrowing it from the state. The former is the heart of capitalism. The latter is socialism.

If someone truly owns his property, then it is his to do with as he sees fit. That includes giving it to his children when he dies. If he is only borrowing it from the state, however, then it is quite right to take it back when he dies.

Part of why parents work so hard is to provide for their children. Is it ok for parents to provide for their children? What about parents who die when the children are still young? Should the money be taken back as soon as they are 18?

If you get an inheritance and decide to give most of it to the state, that's fine. When I see you giving a hundred million of YOUR inheritance back to the state so you can live off your own labor, I'll consider your ideas seriously. Until then, I'll accept that they are just the result of class envy.

Re:Inheritance (1)

Uberbah (647458) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498869)

I would contend something different. Inheritance is garbage IMNSOH - these kids did nothing to create this work, their father did. Why should they benefit from it? In fact, why should anyone receive many millions in inheritance?

And you'd have a great point if the heirs were keeping the characters out of the public domain, but that's not the case. If they don't repo the rights, they'll just be used by Disney for their next hundred copyright extensions.

To paraphrase Buffett, the children of the rich deserve to be rich as much as the children of Olympic athletes deserve to be gold medalists.

No doubt. But this isn't a case of do-nothing heirs vs the public, it's a case of do-nothing heirs vs a famously greedy conglomerate.

Re:Inheritance (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498881)

Other side of the coin:

As a parent, you often work to provide the best for your children, both for when you're alive and after you're gone. I might be a little miffed if I built up a multi-million dollar empire only to have it stripped from me when I die. Is my home not my children's home? Is my money not my family's money?

Granted this is more like a divorce settlement than family legacy. And that's business. When a business partner dies, his family does not necessarily inherit the business, especially when there are shareholders who might say otherwise. They might be entitled to a portion of the net worth of the business as a payout, but they shouldn't be able to claim future profits.

Re:Inheritance (1)

memnock (466995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498893)

ridiculous inheritance, i.e. getting super rich off of your parents while never having accomplished anything yourself, is garbage. but as a nostalgic or maybe a personal event, it seems fair. a rare model computer or collection of some sort, or even $$ enough to pay for a degree OR a house, seem reasonable.

but in this particular case, considering what gets the rights if the heirs don't, i'm siding with the heirs, meritorious or not.

One begs the question... (1, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497797)

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.

Re:One begs the question... (5, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497903)

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).

Re:One begs the question... (4, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 4 years ago | (#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...

Re:One begs the question... (1)

xigxag (167441) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498167)

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.

Re:One begs the question... (2, Interesting)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498331)

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.

Re:One begs the question... (4, Insightful)

princessproton (1362559) | more than 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:One begs the question... (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498663)

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:One begs the question... (2, Insightful)

Uberbah (647458) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498813)

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.

Re:One begs the question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498851)

Probably, but hey what's wrong with that? You don't seem to mind the movie studios making money from the characters.

The movie studios actually contributed to creating something. Probably not high art by any measure, but they still helped create something. The heirs that were willed the rights haven't helped create anything. They're simply trying to profit from the work of their dead relative. I don't believe that anyone considers whether their heirs will be able to profit from their creativity when deciding whether to create or share a creation. For me, there is no more broken aspect of copyright than the fact that copyrights can be willed to someone who doesn't add anything to the creative work.

So yeah, I'd side with the movies studios on this one. I'll side with actual creators (directors, actors, creators of the source material) over the studios almost every time, but this is a dispute with people who want to profit without adding anything of value. Boo hoo...get a job and work like the rest of us.

Re:One begs the question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498015)

But much more respectable than a /. troll.

Re:One begs the question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498081)

I don't even care about that. I'm just happy to see Disney screwed over by copyright law for a change.

Re:One begs the question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498259)

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.

As an artist, bite me! Why should some one like Stan Lee or Disney benefit and not my kids? Kirby created the look and feel of Marvel as well as their most popular characters. I get tired of hearing that artists kids are leeches for preserving what their parents created in part for THEIR benefit!

Re:One begs the question... (0, Troll)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498649)

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.

So you have a problem with inheritance? You think his family shouldn't have inherited the house, either? You think that when somebody dies, all their posessions should revert to the State? Or just the stuff that you want?

At what cost? (5, Interesting)

MicktheMech (697533) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497799)

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? (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498017)

>>>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."

Re:At what cost? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498255)

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? (4, Interesting)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498057)

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.

Kirby was not involved in Spider-man (5, Informative)

the Atomic Rabbit (200041) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497801)

That was Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

Re:Kirby was not involved in Spider-man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498449)

Bzzzzzzt! Wrong.

It was Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby.

Re:Kirby was not involved in Spider-man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498529)

Correction:

Steve Ditko and Stan Lee

Re:Kirby was not involved in Spider-man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498677)

Kirby drew the cover of amazing 15.

Now let's see if Copyright changes (4, Interesting)

painandgreed (692585) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Good luck, kids! (3, Interesting)

Peganthyrus (713645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497853)

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. (4, Interesting)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:GOOD FOR THEM. (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498073)

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:GOOD FOR THEM. (1)

IndependentVik (582582) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498771)

The two books you mentioned are great. People should also check out 'Preacher'. It had a limited run and was allowed to die, but WOW, one of the greatest runs ever.

Re:GOOD FOR THEM. (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498205)

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.

Re:GOOD FOR THEM. (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498503)

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.

Re:GOOD FOR THEM. (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498561)

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.

Re:GOOD FOR THEM. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498569)

This is inaccurate. Back in the newstand days, superheros were a lesser phenomenon behind war comics, western comics, romance comics, etc.

  That changed as comics went to direct mail subscription as the bulk of their sales. Suddenly all the "freakin' casuals" (as the "hardcore gamers" like to say) were removed from the picture. These folks would have picked up a comic now and then, but weren't about to subscribe for a year's worth. The market was now all about the comic geeks.

  And comic geeks are all about superheroes. The appeal of juvenile power fantasies to nerds is impossible to overestimate.
  There are (and always have been) good superhero comics, but Sturgeon's law applies. You gotta wade through the 90% crud to get to the 10% gems.

  I'd like to see a wider market for non-superhero comics, but until comic books get wider distribution channels than direct mail and comic book stores, superheroes will dominate what amounts to a niche market.

Re:GOOD FOR THEM. (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498633)

Back in the newstand days, superheros were a lesser phenomenon behind war comics, western comics, romance comics, etc.

True, but irrelevant. Marvel, as a company, came into existence at the beginning of the big superhero boom in the 60's, and almost all its commercial success has come from superhero books. Talking about "the comic industry getting back to its roots," which would be a fine thing if someone could pull it off (I have my doubts) is all well and good -- but very different from talking about "Marvel getting back to its roots," which is nonsensical since its roots are in the same genre of comics it's doing now.

Re:GOOD FOR THEM. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498661)

My point is, the market for superhero comics is miniscule. Even in the big superhero boom, it was small potatoes compared to the newstand days.

Re:GOOD FOR THEM. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498593)

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.

Subtext of these lawsuits (4, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497895)

"Give us money so we go away!"

Re:Subtext of these lawsuits (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498005)

Isn't that the subtext of every civil lawsuit?

Re:Subtext of these lawsuits (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498803)

Oh Great! Another Mickey Mouse Legal Strategy in the Magic Kingdom.

excellent! hopefully this will scuttle the buyout (2)

justdrew (706141) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497937)

disney can go straight to hell. horrible damn company.

Damn the accountants and the lawyers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498485)

O'Walt is still spinning in his grave.

Copyright or trademark? (4, Insightful)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29497967)

Copyrights will do nothing to keep Marvel/Disney from ruining these franchises. You have to take the trademark.

Youngsters, hop in the way-back machine (4, Interesting)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

In the Year 2013... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498041)

... do a movie sequel where all those characters turn gay. Very gay. Then the Kirbys have to write around that.

Heir of the Dog! (2, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498069)

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 (3, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498071)

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

Marvel/Disney will do what DC/Warner did (3, Insightful)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498235)

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.

Re:Marvel/Disney will do what DC/Warner did (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498313)

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.

All great examples, but that'd be why rights licenses to IP make mention of derivative works, that stops people (like you) from taking an idea, changing something cosmetic, and running with it as "new".

Misread Kirby (1)

JewFish (315210) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498243)

Am I the only one who thought this article was about Jack Kilby [wikipedia.org] , the Nobel laureate who invented the integrated circuit?

Re:Misread Kirby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498359)

So thats where the term kilobyte comes from

Re:Misread Kirby (2, Informative)

Lije Baley (88936) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498489)

Yes.

Annoying (5, Informative)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498317)

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.

Re:Annoying (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498705)

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.

What about Kamandi? (1)

Blain (264390) | more than 4 years ago | (#29498383)

I loved The Last Boy on Earth.  That could make a great film too -- intelligent animals, humans gone, environmental disaster.  Hmm.

Stop whining and make up some new stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29498435)

Just make up some new, open source, superheros.
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