The catalyst event is not only chronicled here, but it is described in detail from the point of view of Marvel Comics’ Editor in Chief Joe Quesada and Publisher Dan Buckley. The event described is the second court case revolving around the creator of Ghost Rider, Gary Friedrich, and Marvel’s suing him for distributing, for profit, unlicensed reprints/copies of old Ghost Rider Comics. As they were “unlicensed” and, as proven years earlier, in the ownership of Marvel, the suit claims that Friedrich is illegally making a profit on stolen merchandise, regardless of his being the creator or not.
I intend to use this as the overall springboard for all points to be made, as this is the catalyst for Marvel, Disney, and their lawyers’ decisions. The case and the interview will be referenced constantly, with the interview itself providing means for comprehending Marvel’s viewpoint.
The article provides background, and rather unfortunately recent, information on the first Ghost Rider copyright court case. It analyzes the creator of Ghost Rider, Gary Friedrich, claiming that Marvel did not have the rights to Ghost Rider beyond producing comics for the character, as film and marketing were not discussed at the time of contract signing, and he deserved royalties for the 2007 film. This past year, a federal Judge ruled that Marvel’s new mass media division, which also did not exist at the the time of Friedrich’s contract signing, Marvel Entertainment, does in fact retain the rights to his character. This would be a stepping-stone to the current debacle.
I intend to use this as background to Marvel’s integrity and character study, as means to understand Marvel’s stance on copyright and what “ownership” of a character is. The article will also serve as background to the larger, overall court case and dispute between Friedrich and Marvel, that provides the main thesis.
A very lengthy, extensive, article dated the first of this year, analyzing the vague concept of copyright and copyrighting images. Rebecca Tushnet is incredibly critical of the Law, and her focuses on multimedia and images, specifically them as “transparent or opaque” concepts, is quite welcome in terms of the comic art topic, as comic images may not be directly connected to ownership and copyright claims within the realm of artistic liberty.
This is not an academic database article or analysis, I will say that upfront. This is a journal post on the popular, and possible number-one, art congregation location on the internet, DeviantArt, where artists professional and amateur around the globe share their creations publicly. The journal piece itself is a well-crafted analysis, commentary, and repost of professional comic artist Steve Bissette’s statements that comic artists should openly refrain from drawing Marvel characters, whether for profit or not, as a means of protest and personal safety.
I intend to use this exactly as it is presented: this is not an academic article. This is the voice of the people, and even more specifically the people this case is intentionally working against, and their reaction. Public reaction is very key to disputes such as these, and from the perspective of actual artists this makes a very useful weapon. (An interesting note not mentioned here is a statement made by artist Robert Liefeld: “Not a single creator that has sued Marvel for creative compensation has succeeded. The list is getting longer. Know what you signed. I do not own Deadpool, Cable, X- Force—I get a generous payout on their exploitation, but I knew from day one, they are not mine. Period. I signed those deals when I was 21 years old. I knew that pennies on the dollar were better than no pennies at all. I was an eager young talent looking to change the game and the playing field, I did that through my creations. No regrets.”)
This is the United States Copyright Law, from the US Copyright Office, by which all creations are given official ownership to a party, legally. There is irony in their mission statement, “To promote creativity by administering and sustaining an effective national copyright system.” as they state that they at the Office are “proud to be part of a long tradition of promoting progress of the arts and protection for the works of authors.” Perhaps not so much to sustain creative rights of artists and authors, but whoever that Office can decree owns them at the time? Rather convenient, actually. This source is, of course, to criticize while abiding by the legal proceedings and how Marvel is capable of making their claims. While it is no personal contract, which would be the best possible source, it is the next best thing for an overall standpoint.
I intend to use the Copyright Office as a means of maintaining a sense of professionalism, as analyzing Marvel’s actions cannot be done without considering the laws that they themselves are claiming they can use. Understanding knowledge of copyright laws will provide a better outcome, regardless of what the outcome actually is. It is a necessity for this type of analysis.
The article from the Copyright Office of the United States discusses the Fair Use policy, which distinguishes an image or creative property from something similar without it breaking a law. Under Fair Use, an image can be considered a “parody,” an imitation that is not plagiarism, which allows it to legally exist outside the sue-able realm.
This could be a game-changer for my research, as the extents of Fair Use and Parody laws are potentially the liability for artists who illustrate copyrighted characters. However, to pose a contrast, even the Office themselves recognize and state that the line between Fair Use and Infringement is “unclear and not easily defined,” and proving it will be rather difficult.
A very key notion revealed itself in the process of writing my Definitional essay in regards to copyright: what are the boundaries of artistic liberty? Caricature artists do not get sued, sketch comedy programs on television do not get sued, and there should not be a difference here; the idea is that parody categorization prevents legal action. The issue here is that the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) does not have a specific stated exception for parody as an intellectual property, which Ronan Deazley believes is necessary.
With the parody research, it can be proved that artists are not actually stealing from Marvel by usage of their characters, but are imitating them with no malicious intent. Saturday Night Live, for instance, is among the skit shows that has been getting away with such concepts for years; they do not pay film companies whose movies they parody, nor can they be sued, and they show still makes a profit. Proving artists do something similar would be the most important step to sidestep Marvel’s action.
This New York Times article from last year discusses the conclusion of the Jack Kirby case, in which the estate and children of Jack “The King” Kirby, famed comic artist, sued Marvel over the use and ownership of his characters.
Provides further background and back-up information to show Marvel’s no-nonsense approach to these lawsuits, in addition to the Friedrich case. While Friedrich’s evolved into a case of Marvel suing him, this in turn deals with the opposite, with Kirby’s heirs reacting to the creation of such films like “Thor” based on his characters. Interesting to note the “Disney” credits.
The article address the same issues as many others take with Marvel’s case against Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich and copyright issues, but it is cited here for another reason: it provides a key piece of information not noted by the rest, in that Marvel expects Friedrich to not boast that Ghost Rider is his creation, though Marvel recognizes he is (not in print, however), and that he must pay $17,000 as a result of the suit.
The shocking, and sickly wonderful, point to note here is that Marvel us demanding $17,000 from the broke and unemployed Friedrich, who was only making a slight living on selling his Ghost Rider material at conventions in the first place. This certainly paints Marvel in villainous light, and it is interesting noting that the other news sources chose to not address the sanction from the trial.
This Journal article provides definitions of Fair Use and extension history, research, and previous Fair Use case citations; though elaborate, each section is neatly compact and organized enough to be more handy than the actual policy.
Serves a handy, and lengthy, guide to the concepts of Fair Use; this serves a purpose solely of acting as background information, definitions, and research that may not be directly cited in papers, but implied.
Though not the contract that an artist would sign, several key elements of such a document carry over into Marvel’s Terms and Conditions page, and demonstrates how serious offenses can be in their perspective. It also gives the full name and address of Marvel’s Legal Copyright Counselor, Seth Lehman.
Character reference is the usage here, mostly, so suggest just how drastic an offense can be to Marvel, even it does not appear to be as criminal to anyone else.
The most official and global dictionary in use (arguable, I realize) for centuries, and thus the most respectable and logical source to utilize for referencing certain notations otherwise not commonly known.
Online is a much quicker and handier reference than book format, and much easier to “dumb-down” than legal dictionaries.
Of course, it still makes sense to site an actual legal dictionary for professional legal terms and whatnot, so the most official as given by Law.com itself is quite a handy resource for clarifying terms like “Copyright” and “Parody.”
Usage intent is primarily for quick clarification of legal terms which will then be compared to Mirriam-Webster’s for similarity and more common understanding.
14. Jack Kirby
A detailed, and also oral for this who would rather listen than read, history of the life of Jack “The King” Kirby, arguable the greatest comic book artist merely for being the man who “created” the superhero style that evolved into what we have today.
I figure if i am going to reference The King so much, it would be wise for people to know who he actually is.
Background on the Marvel v. Kirby Estate trial and acts as a character reference for Marvel and how ruthless they can behave in their legal proceedings; as mentioned in the Robert Liefeld citation from his Twitter paper, “No one who has sued Marvel has ever won.” Grim, but true.
Just as the Kirby background reference provides his own history, this is another history reference to Marvel’s legal accounts fortunately also based on the grounds of a copyright claim.