Copyright problems sink int’l LEAGUE distro

On Monday, Rich Johnston’s LITG column reported on difficulties with the long awaited LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE BLACK DOSSIER, due to potential copyright problems.

DC sources inform me that the reasons for concern are over issues concerning copyright and trademark of certain literary characters referred to in the book, some that are public domain in the USA but not in other territories who have different copyright laws.

The US states that if a work was published before 1923, or it is 70 years since the death of the author, then it is in public domain. The UK has a similar rule, without the 1923 proviso, leading to a number of creations published before 1923 but not yet out of copyright. Canada, New Zealand and Australia also have no 1923-style ruling, but wait till 50 years after the author’s demise, although Australia now has a 70 year policy for work created since 2005.

It was this difference that led to the suspension of the publication of “Lost Girls” until January 2008 in the UK, as only then will it be 70 years after the death of Peter Pan author Barrie.


That part of the story seems to have been confirmed as today DC released the following
statement:

WildStorm/DC Comics regrets to announce that “The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier,” by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill, will only be published in the United States due to international copyright concerns and related issues.


Johnston’s column also reported that Wildstorm Executive Editor Scott Dunbier has been put on a leave of absence.

Comments

  1. Torsten Adair says:

    Wikipedia’s article on Peter Pan explains the special copyright. The EU copyright expired recently. In the UK, Great Ormand Street Hospital, the copyright holder, receives royalties forever, but has no say in how the character is used.
    What is unclear is that previous volumes of League have used characters which were not completely in the public domain. Also, given the length of THIS copyrighted work, eventually it will be published once the other copyrights expire.

  2. Is that DC’s shortest ever press release?

  3. Still announced is when the actual release date is. I’m sadly betting that we won’t see it this year.

    I hope if Scott Dunbier is no longer at DC that he gets a gig that he’s happy with because I’m sure that just about all of the huge flub-ups at Wildstorm / ABC were way beyond his control.

  4. Mark Parsons says:

    It’s not Moore’s job to sort out copyright issues. That’s one for DC/Wildstorm’s legal department.

  5. Score, Alan Moore hasn’t published anything aside from the first issue of Big Numbers and AARGH.

    As far as I am aware, the Black Dossier has no more legal issues outside the USA than League 1 and League 2. Both of which were cleared and posed no problem on publication.

    Naturally, LITG will be following this up next week, with new information.

  6. Score. I’m sure all posting here would appreciate it if you would not be so rude. Calling people a fool is not necessary to the discussion at hand, regardless to whether you agree with them or not.

  7. Putting the editor on leave is an interesting decision. Didn’t the company have procedures in place to route greenlit proposals and drafts through legal?

    Managing the complexities of multinational copyright is hard enough for lawyers, let alone an editor without specialized legal training. If it’s possible for a book to get to press without these issues being addressed, perhaps something more systemic needs to be re-structured besides one individual’s career. Either a procedure wasn’t followed–which in any case should have raised a red flag a lot earlier, given that the project in question was public knowledge–or it did not exist.

  8. SCORE – you know the score about nothing except your inflated sense of yourself. Nor do you speak for copyright legal issues.

    Marvel’s MASTER OF KUNG FU featured a supporting character who was the illegitimate son of James Bond. Like BLACK DOSSIER, it’s hinted at, not stated outright. Where was the lawsuit brought against Marvel?

    And you talk as if Alan Moore has the power to force publishers, editors and producers to do his bidding. That’s just retarded.

    You have no idea how the real world works.

  9. SCORE – is your real name JESSE BAKER? You awfully like him.

  10. The Beat says:

    Score Knower, you obviously DON’T know everything. Who was Clive Reston’s dad, eh?

    Pastiche and parody have a long and valued tradition in literature. You can argue with Alan Moore’s decisions and literary merit all you want but your name calling and idiotic posturing just earned you a banning.

  11. ScoreKnower says:

    Heidi

    Never said I knew everything, just everything about Alan Moore

    Your point is foolish- Alan is NOT parodying Wendy Darling, he is USING That character to have hard core hetero and homo sexual sex.

    He is not doing a pastiche of Jeeves or James Bond he is USING THE CHARACTERS THAT ARE OWNED BY OTHERS.

    As for your attempts to ban me, why would you want to deprive your readers of information? Some sort of Alan fetish?

    The people called idiots were idiots.

    I know the score about Alan Moore!

    Are you now a censor?

  12. Thomas Gerhardt says:

    Score… hm…could that be Don Murphy in disguise?

    It sure sounds like a repeat from a Newsarama “discussion” a year ago, especially the “I know more about copyright than you will ever learn, Nimrod” comment

    http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?s=f1a0eda66ee97e61dbdf3d0ad0a21e21&t=64938&pp=25

    How utterly odd. Circles.

  13. ScoreKnower says:

    Could be but isn’t.
    Just a Wildstorm employee pretty damn pissed off that Dunbier gets the axe when Alan is the culprit. He was a great editor.

  14. Ah Score, I think I know who are you are, my old sparring partner. I like your nickname.

    EON, the owners of James Bond, may well take an interest in Black Dossier, in which they will find a familiar spy character named Jimmy – this was in a Wizard interview. However, no trademark has been breached, the character is unidentified (though again there will be familiar background details no doubt) and indeed other works have gone far further in terms of parody or recontextualisation without being sued. We are aware, DC have had a legal team go through the book. And considering Bond is in copyright in all territories, this won’t have been behind the territory restriction decision.

    There’s certainly a possible lawsuit, there’s a possible lawsuit from old Mrs Miggins at no 42 who says the book smells of fish and it’s causing her grief, but it’s not guaranteed it will go anywhere.

    And yes, indeed, the first books were released outside the USA, despite having HG Wells characters, and character named Bond who worked for ‘M’ without a lawsuit from anyone.

    Again, Alan Moore isn’t publishing this or previous books.

  15. Heidi, if Score is who it is presumed he is, he may have an aggressive tone, but as producer of a certain film, he does have a certain knowledge and experience which may be pertinent to this topic. Might an unbanning be in order, with perhaps a reminder of the column’s etiquette?

  16. The Beat says:

    Hm, while some think that Score knower is movie producer Don Murphy, I’m putting him on probation since he is rather entertaining. HOWEVER NO NAME CALLING! That is not allowed here by movie producers, people pretending to be movie producers, Wildstorm employees or anyone else.

  17. Mr Don Murphy has assured me that he is not Score Knower. He states he doesn’t post online under assumed names.

  18. Chris G. says:

    Wait, Jeeves is in LOEG?

  19. Thomas Gerhardt says:

    That’s actually a valid point. Mr. Murphy did have the backbone to participate in the grand and glorious Rich Johnston vs. Don Murphy fight under his own name, gotta give him that!

    (Hey, Rich! That WAS a fun fight, wasn’t it? Did Big Brother give you his love… or at least presents for Christmas?! I always wondered)

    Actually, I think we should all post under our real names, except Heidi, who IS the BEAT (who else could that be?)… it may prevent derailing, personal and pig-headed comments, because then people know it’s a real person, yes?

    What was that netiquette thingie again? Never post something that you wouldn’t tell somebody to his/her face…

    So, if that presumed Wildstorm employee would kindly state his real name :P

  20. Thomas Gerhardt says:

    By the way – let us just assume that ScoreKnower is in fact a Wildstorm employee with inside knowledge, then this statement: “this is all about Moore trying to get DC to drop the book because he dangerously broke the law- again. Like he did and does all the time” (time stamp 10.32) merits some thought.

    Considering that the next LOEG books will be published by Top Shelf and considering the rather public fall-out (yes, again) between Mr. Moore and DC and also keeping in mind that Wildstorm/DC was rather generous in letting another controversial creator-owned property go with Ennis/Robertson’s “The Boys”…

    … and keeping in mind the constant delays of the book…

    … would Mr. Moore try to kill his own book?! Perhaps, perhaps not. I don’t know.

    But it does merit some thought… IF the poster truly comes from Wildstorm

  21. Mark Hazard says:

    I think it’s Ian Fleming Publications who own the literary copyrights to Bond, not EON. EON (the Broccoli family) own the filmic Bond, along with the video and video games aspects of this IP.

  22. Pardon my ignorance but I don’t understand this very well because, yeah -like Gerhardt says-, Black Dossier will be published by Top Shelf and Knockabout in 2008, so I don’t clearly understand why DC has copyright problems with the book if this is now out of their hands.
    I made an interview with Mr. Moore two weeks ago for the mexican press, and he tell me that everything was OK with the project, so the first book of (the 3 that will complete) Black Dossier will be out in 2008.
    But, of course, maybe you have more info, guys.

  23. Scoreknower seems to believe Alan Moore could bend publishers to his will and make them publish books that get them into legal trouble. He also wilfully misreads or misunderstands what everyone else says in order to troll in the most hilarious ways. There is no way he’s a Wildstorm employee or anyone in the media or publishing industry, except maybe on Earth Psycho.

    You might he’s really in love or lust with Alan Moore but this is the only way he can express his love for the elusive Mr. Moore. Otherwise he would post under his real name.

  24. “… would Mr. Moore try to kill his own book?!”

    I think he would. I get the impression that he wants out, yet feels that people are going to keep calling him, unless he makes himself unpalatable. I cannot judge him as a person for good or bad. I don’t know him. As a writer he has done work to rival the bard. Hell, he really is the bard of our time, comics aside, lets face it.

  25. Mark Hazard says:

    Rich, what about the vinyl record that Moore intended to accompany this book and for which he wrote and recorded music with Tim Perkins?
    http://www.worldfamouscomics.com/bakersdozen/back20070103.shtml

    Mauricio, while this will be the third League story released, it won’t be volume 3, but merely ‘The Black Dossier.’ It will be the final thing Moore will ever release through DC/WS. On the other hand, the stories after that, will be called Volume 3: Century and will be released through Top Shelf and Knockabout.
    http://www.dccomics.com/graphic_novels/?gn=5977
    http://www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog.php?type=2&title=583

  26. All I have to say is: color me curious as to who these legally complicated characters might be!!!???!!!???
    I love the League books. Can’t wait!

  27. Thanks a lot for this important correction, Mark.

  28. “It was done when Fu Manchu had fallen out of copyright. Notice that now that Fu is back under copyright, Marvel does not claim Shang Chi’s heritage and League 1 did not dare speak his name.”

    Not according to any history of the situation that I ever read. Marvel had licensed the Fu Manchu property, and credited the creator in the book. I’m not sure by what mechanism you think that something under the public domain was moved back into copyright; that’d be taking something out of the public domain.

    (The early Fu Manchu stories are in the public domain.)

    And as for Marvel not claiming Shang Chi’s heritage… you may want to check Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #16, published in 2002.

  29. “(The early Fu Manchu stories are in the public domain.)”

    Just to be clear — they’re in the public domain in the US; I believe (but haven’t double-checked) that they are not PD worldwide.

  30. All bickering aside –

    All I want in this remaining lifetime is to see Marvel finally release the entire Master of Kung Fu series as part of their Marvel Essentials books?

    Is that too much to damn ask?

    ~

    Coat

  31. SeanNoir says:

    The Comic Book Resources article is innacurate in mentioning “70 years since the death of the author”, that has nothing to do with US copyright expiration.
    It’s beyond me how the dossiers publication is restricted to the US only, I know that the characters are supposed to be taken from the “British spy scene of the 50′s”. Probably pastiched characters. The use of “Jimmy” should be fine legally considering James Bond is a stock-character, though there may be some legal action, however wrongful that might be. It’s more confusing when you consider the Wells characters used in the first two volumes.
    One should also take into consideration the fact that even if you do use a character that is in the public domain both in the U.S. and internationally you still may be sued by someone just because they can sue you.

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