What the Gary Friedrich/Disney/Marvel case means for comics creators

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201202151359 What the Gary Friedrich/Disney/Marvel case means for comics creators

You can be sympathetic to Gary Friedrich’s current situation—older, broke and in bad health—while still being alarmed over all the issues his court case has raised. My own email and IMs are full of variant views on it. So let’s trace the evolution of this a bit.

STAGE ONE: As shown by Torsten’s post, the first reactions were pity and alarm. Pity for Friedrich’s situation—ordered to pay $17,000 to Marvel/Disney for all the money he made over the years selling Ghost Rider merchandise at shows, and enjoined from ever making any money off of the character again. Alarm for the chilling effect this could have on creators who sell art based on copyrighted characters.

The extension of this alarm was worry over whether this might open the door for Marvel/Disney to go nuclear on all the artists selling their prints and sketches of Marvel characters at shows.

STAGE TWO: While efforts to raise money for Friedrich have gone on to help him in his current situation, a new train of thought emerged from the station, this one carrying the payload that maybe Friedrich had brought this on himself, and Marvel/Disney had no choice but to lower the boom on his case. Ty Templeton has the best encapsulation of this viewpoint, so we’ll take the liberty of reprinting it in full so you can follow along:

201202151329 What the Gary Friedrich/Disney/Marvel case means for comics creators
I’ve heard from several people who hold this viewpoint, and based on the source of these communiques, I’d guess that this is close to the line that Marvel itself is giving to edgy freelancers—not in an official capacity but perhaps in the confessional booth of the intimate editor-to-freelancer telechat. Some of this argument goes as follows:

When Friedrich sued Marvel, he stated in open court that he made his living off of Ghost Rider merchandise. This was such a blatant affront to Marvel’s trademark that they had no choice but to defend it, and as they would with any publisher who started publishing Ghost Rider comics without paying Marvel, they had to defend their trademark or risk losing it.

So, this argument goes, Marvel/Disney has no interest in patrolling Artist’s Alley and suing anyone who is selling a sketch for back pay. This is great news for Duval Stowers and Rob Granito alike, surely.

Along with these arguments there is also, as referenced in Templeton’s cartoon, a bit of a dig at Friedrich for the fact that he was selling Mike Ploog art without Ploog’s consent. And also the fact that Friedrich clearly CO-created Ghost Rider along with Roy Thomas and Ploog. By some accounts, it is Thomas, with his “Let’s update the old Night Rider character!” pitch who is the modern Ghost Rider’s true daddy. Thomas and Ploog don’t seem very concerned with the matter, publicly at least. But they both have had far more successful careers than Friedrich.

Before getting into whether the Marvel Trademark Gestapo is being armed and briefed as we speak, it should be pointed out that that there are two fairly reasonable courses of action here that should surprise no one:

201202151403 What the Gary Friedrich/Disney/Marvel case means for comics creators

As an older creator in an industry with no safety net, Friedrich did what most people do, and traded on the most famous characters he created. If copyright is really going to be applied, good thing old Mart Nodell and his “I created Green Lantern” sign in AA isn’t here to see it. What Friedrich did has been standard practice since the dawn of the con.

By the same token, Marvel was only doing what they had to, legally. Setting aside the moral and ethical issues of what they owe Friedrich (and Ploog and Thomas), they had to enforce their trademark. And it is totally their right to do it, especially in a court case that is setting precedent. They couldn’t let it slide with some kind of “Only a Poor Old Man” clause.

STAGE THREE: OKAY, got all that? Now here are two posts you must read. First is Daniel Best’s roundup of misconceptions about the case, including lots of court documents and exhibits. For instance, the court did NOT ban Friedrich from saying he created Ghost Rider:

What this means is that Gary CAN say that he created Ghost Rider.  If you ask him to, he can sign your comic books, artwork, posters and prints – no problems.  Gary can also sell signed merchandise, but the merchandise has to be official Marvel licensed goods, bought at retail.  If Gary approaches an artist to draw images of Ghost Rider, has he has done in the past when he commissioned Arthur Suydam and Herb Trimpe to create original art which he then had made into prints, then he’ll be in breach of the court order (you can see the Trimpe images here).

Anyone interested in the case should read Best’s entire post. Go ahead. We’ll just drink our Aeropress coffee.

Okay, now to the Artist Alley Gestapo. On Facebook, Steve Bissette has posted thoughts from comments from Jean-Marc L’Officier, an agent/legal consultant who has had many official dealings with Disney over the years. Bissette has urged reprinting the entire post, and we’ll do just that:

ALERT, ALL COMICS CREATORS [Reposting, for a necessary (requested) edit; reposting all comments, too, after this main post. Apologies.]: With permission, I’m quoting key points my dear friend and own legal advisor/contract consultant (since 1992) Jean-Marc Lofficier raised on his posts to a Yahoo forum discussing Ty Templeton’s cartoon concerning the Gary Friedrich v Marvel judgment. Jean-Marc succinctly notes WHY this judgment has changed EVERYTHING for anyone who has worked for Marvel, or what this judgment changes (probably irrevocably) about the landscape for all concerned:

“…with all due respect to Ty, he’s talking (drawing?) out of his ass.

So to clarify again, here is what I thought is important to remember here:

1) This is the first time Marvel is using convention sales of copyrighted Marvel characters as a “weapon”. They are of course perfectly entitled to do so, legally speaking. But it does mean that, from now on, all of you here who draw sketches of Marvel characters for money at conventions or sell sketchbooks containing pictures of Marvel characters are on notice that you might be sued (usually for triple the amount you made) should Marvel decide to go after you.

My legal advice to you guys is simple: STOP and destroy all sketchbooks for sale with copyrighted materials in it. I’m serious. You’ve just been put on notice by this case.

[Note: In a followup comment to a question on the matter of selling sketches/sketchbooks at conventions featuring Marvel characters, Jean-Marc added:]

If Disney and/or Marvel have a policy to deal with that sort of business, I would encourage anyone planning to sell sketches, etc. to contact them and obtain a waiver or a permission of some kind under that program.

— [name withdrawn] is incorrect about one thing: Disney, if not Marvel, does have a full office staffed with para legals of young lawyers whose only job is to look for copyright/tm infringements and send C&D (cease & desist) letters. I have seen them. They don’t do it for the money or to be a pain the the ass, they do it based on the legal theory that if you don’t actively protect your (c)/tm, you run the risk of it being used against you as an affirmative defense in an infringement case.

Based on the GHOST RIDER case, it is, in my opinion, only a matter of time until Disney, now aware of the issue, sends one of their young attorneys with a stash of blank C&D letters at conventions and start handing them out to everyone selling Marvel sketches without authorization.

Receiving that letter will oblige you to hire a lawyer and even if Disney lets you off the hook (which they probably will), you might be out of a couple of grands by the time the process is over — or you run the risk of being stuck with a $15K bill if you fight them.

Again, I emphasize: this is sound business practice for Disney; NOT doing it entails risks far greater than doing it. They have gone after children’s nurseries before which had Mickey painted on their walls for the same exact legal reason. And that was far more time consuming and bad PR-wise that going after some comic book guys at artist’s alleys.

It is only a matter of time.

So if they have a waiver/permission program as Ivan says, join it; if not, stop.


[Back to Jean-Marc’s original, full post:]

2) Although there never was any serious dispute that Marvel owned whatever share of GR Gary Friedrich was claiming (personally, I’m not a mind reader but I think Friedrich was hoping for some kind of settlement), there remains two legal issues that Ty obviously didn’t grasp:

2.1) When Moebius drew his SILVER SURFER with Stan Lee, he got royalties and he was still getting them when Starwatcher split in 2000. You will note that modern-day WFH agreements spell out that the money you’re getting will be the sole compensation you will ever receive and you’re not entitled to anything else. It is spelled out because if it is not, courts are at liberty to interpret the contract and decide whether or not you should be getting something extra.

The back-of-the-check contract signed by Gary did transfer ownership of GR to Marvel, and the amount of that check was the consideration for publishing rights, but nowhere did it actually state (as it does today) that it was the ONLY consideration to which Gary might be entitled in the event of a film or a TV series. The Court could have easily decided that on the absence of that clause, Gary was owed something.

2.2.) There is a famous case about singer Peggy Lee who won her suit against Disney for their reuse of her songs in LADY & THE TRAMP on video, because that medium didn’t exist when she signed her original agreement with the Mouse, and contracts at that time didn’t specify the now standard “and other media to be invented in the future”. The Court chose to interpret that lack of specificity in favor of Peggy Lee. When Marvel sold the rights to GR to the studio which produced it, they likely sold the video, DVD and game rights. These media did not exist when Friedrich signed his back of the check contract which did not list any and all future media. Therefore, based on the Peggy Lee case, the Court could have found that Marvel didn’t own those rights, and therefore couldn’t resell them, or, as in the Peggy Lee case, simply that they owe the plaintiff some kind of percentage, that’s all.

So it remains my contention that Marvel owes “something” to Friedrich (and Ploog as well) based not on the publishing, but purely on the disposition of the multimedia rights to GR. That the Judge decided otherwise is a tough break for creators, and unjust.

3) Which brings me to my next point, which is that documentary standards are being unfairly applied throughout the judicial system, and somehow mistakes always seem to favor the corporations, not the small guy. The enforceability of a contract depends on accurate documentation which must be produced in Court. If you have a mortgage, but the bank cannot produce your properly signed promissory note, then the court has the possibility of nullifying your mortgage. It’s happened in a few rare cases, but more often than not, people have been thrown out of their homes despite banks being unable to produce a properly signed note.

In this case, has any of you seen the back of the check signed by Friedrich?

Was that check properly endorsed? Was there anything crossed out? Why should mistakes in documentation automatically benefit the corporations, and the little guy should be held to standards of evidence that the companies themselves don’t respect? Why did the Judge assume that the paperwork was in order & automatically benefited Marvel? What I’m saying is, if people can lose their homes despite proper paperwork, well, then, Marvel could lose GR despite its paperwork. It’s up to the Court.

So whether or not you feel any sympathy for Gary and his cause, this is another loss for the Little Guy which, in the greater scheme of things, impacts all of us.”

SPREAD THE WORD. SPREAD THIS LINK.

And QUIT doing, creating, selling ANY sketches or sketchbooks or prints featuring Marvel/Disney characters, IMMEDIATELY. And let fans know WHY you are no longer doing them, and/or CANNOT do them ever again.

So there you have it, gentle, friendly checkbook-wielding Marvel assuring its freelancers they aren’t coming after anyone, along with the fairly inarguable fact that they now have a legal precedent that sets the stage just for that.

So what to do?

My own personal takeaways:

2012021514051 What the Gary Friedrich/Disney/Marvel case means for comics creators

Art by Manon Yapari

1: The potential for Marvel and even Disney to have a black eye over all this is huge. The stories of Siegel and Shuster and, increasingly, Kirby are well known enough that the idea of a poor older creator being stripped of some kind of morally decent stipend for the multimillion-dollar exploitation of his or her work isn’t hard to swallow. While Marvel and Disney have kept a hard line on this—because as a corporation, they have to—I would say that with the internet and all, now is the time to complain and complain loudly. Boycotts, protests, more. Warners didn’t HAVE to give Siegel and Shuster that stipend back when the first Superman movie came out; but the executives at the time knew that they were losing the PR battle. The idea of Nicolas Cage riding up on his chopper and giving Gary Friedrich a check for a few thousand dollars would be worth an entire year’s PR budget.

2: To be on the safe side, you should do as Jean-Marc suggests; my own guess is that Marvel is not going to sink any money into forming a Gestapo/Clone Army right now. I doubt Disney is that interested, either—Deviant Art is proof of that. However, as J-M says, down the road, as Marvel becomes more and more a division of Disney and less its own thing, they might be more inclined to take down more flagrant violators.

Even now you can walk through Artist Alley and see kids selling their manga sketches of Jasmine and Belle. Disney hasn’t stopped them. Yet. So there is some “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in all this.

3: Do comics artists of the world have one more thing to worry about? Without questions, yes.

Comments

  1. “Ghost Rider was never that popular when Gary was writing it …”

    And if we start making a list, which I don’t have time to do at the moment, we could think of many characters who were not popular until years later, when someone else handled them. But that shouldn’t count against the creator of the character.

  2. Chris Hero says:

    I have no issue with Marvel defending itself in court. And I know they countersued for damages as a result of the law suit. But, I do have a problem with them trying to collect that money.

    It cost Marvel hundreds of thousands to defend themselves? Likely not, since they already have full-time lawyers on staff. But ok, let’s pretend that’s true…how much money have they made from their IPs? They sold to Disney for $4 billion, so let’s say $4 billion. This is the cost of earning that $4 billion based on years of shakey contracts. The check endorsement trick was going to bite them in the ass eventually.

    I’m not comfortable with the paradigm where Marvel or DC get everything they want with no costs and no compromises. Isn’t winning the law suit enough?

    It’s sad how fast people want to defend Marvel and DC because they need more of their sweet, sweet IPs.

  3. I think it’s important to ask, is Marvel/Disney actually going to try to collect the $17,000 judgement against Gary Friedrich? Disney got what they really wanted with by retaining ownership of Ghostrider’s rights. I can’t imagine they’d take great steps to collect such a small amount of money (small for Disney, anyway).

    They can’t take any action on it until the appeals process is over, but it’s something I’d love to know if they follow up on.

  4. comicsatemybrain says:

    My guess (and that is all it is) is that Marvel/Disney will try to collect the $17K only if they must do so to meet their legal obligations to preserve their trademark (same rationale as for filing the countersuit in the first place).

  5. This was the best and most informative piece of info about the subject thus far. I understand both the pro-Friedrich and the pro-Marvel/Disney positions much better now.

    And I believe that Marvel has already made their initial effort to collect the money, or at least, that’s what I’ve heard.

  6. So any retailer at a con can sell “used” GR books but Mr. is crucified for selling something he created. Screw Marvel.

  7. Great article, but it does need proofread.

  8. Thanks, Heidi, for putting all the facts together while still indicating that there is a problem that goes beyond the easy blame game.

    But the PR problem isn’t just one for the large corporations to face. It’s a deeper problem when artist feel constrained through legal processes that are difficult to understand and fans feel they need to take sides in what they perceive as an on-going war between creators and owners. It’s a problem for all of us because it makes comics seem to be a much dirtier and more cut-throat place then we’d like it to be.

  9. WorseHorse says:

    Here’s the passage that troubles me (in a memo from Friedrich’s own lawyer): “The parties have periodically discussed settlement in this case prior to Judge Forrest’s order with the gap between Plaintiffs’ demands and Defendants’ willingness to pay being several million dollars.”

    Now it’s possible Marvel only offered a pittance – say, $10,000 – but it’s possible they offered a lot more. But only “several million dollars” would satisfy Friedrich/his attorneys. That strikes me as a serious overreach on their part.

    with a judgment in their favor, Marvel has no real reason to pay anything NOW (other than bad press). But if tomorrow someone, say, Neal Adams brokered a deal for Marvel to pay out $750,000 to settle everything once and for all – would Friedrich even take it? It would pay his legal bills and put him six figures ahead. If all he will accept is “millions of dollars,” that’s a rather Quixotic quest that I would not support with my donations. Others may feel differently, of course.

  10. Bob, the “used” GR books were created by Marvel.

    Friedrich was selling material he created using Marvel’s art.

    Big difference.

    Replication is the issue here. If I draw Snow White and sell that original art, and just that, I doubt Disney is going to sic its lawyers on me.

    If I print 100,000 copies of it, however, that would be different. Disney/Marvel have the right to publish material it owns. I don’t.

    The fuzzy line in the middle is where satire and First Amendment issues are involved.

  11. One of the more important points above:

    “… the legal theory that if you don’t actively protect your (c)/tm, you run the risk of it being used against you as an affirmative defense in an infringement case.”

    That’s a big part of this, if Marvel passes on this they set a precedent that could haunt them in courts forever.

    It’s also important that the IP owner continues to broadly exploit the license. If the owner doesn’t sell products, it adds to the difficulty in showing infringement. If you aren’t making money from the IP, it’s hard to argue why someone else’s infringement is causing you lost revenue.

    As an example, Andrews McMeel/Universal Press still protects Calvin & Hobbes IP even though no new content will ever be made. However, since there was never any licensed product made aside from the strips, it’s very difficult for them to stop pirated uses of the characters (usually Calvin on the back of a Pickup window).

    In this case, AM’s legal team is supporting the creator. There can be cases where the publisher is the good guy in going after people profiting from the use of other people’s IP.

    The grey area in this comparison is someone doing sketches or fan merchandise at a con of other people’s IP. It’s an accepted tradition, but legally, there is a fine line between a sketch at a con and a sticker of Calvin peeing.

    Not saying this is the same situation as the Friedrich/Marvel case at all, just adding to the discussion. Calvin & Hobbes is clearly the work of one specific creator. AM didn’t create licensed Calvin dolls when they had the legal right, leaving millions on the table. The bigger relationship had more long term value for all sides. Aside from pure legalities, the level of trust between publisher and creator is at the core.

  12. In a related note and speaking to the future, I received an email from Chris Ecker and Gary Carlson from Big Bang Comics this morning, and we’ve been discussing what we could do to a) help Gary Friedrich out, b) set up a way for artists to be able to draw licensed material at conventions and c) promote the heck out of the idea of comics people taking care of our own.

    We’ve yet to work out all of the details (we only started this morning), but in the near future Big Bang Comics and Pulp 2.0 Press will offer artists the opportunity to purchase a license so they will be able to freely draw Big Bang trademarked characters at conventions for a year. 100% of this small fee will go directly toward helping Gary Friedrich out, and then the rest will be funneled into the Hero Initiative and / or other charitable organizations that serve our comics community.

    We hope other indie companies will come on board with us and license their characters to artists to use for convention sketching. Pulp 2.0 is a small outfit, and like other indie companies and individuals we wouldn’t be where we are without the help of friends, mentors and community. It’s time we used that philosophy to take care of our own and set the stage for the future where we work together.

    As I said earlier, Gary and Chris just started this idea this morning so we have a lot of work to do yet. There are a lot of details to work out, but I am excited at what this promises for our community – support for creators who need it, the establishment of a system for making sketches “legal” at conventions and a greater sense of purpose.

    I’ll keep you posted.

  13. GR Artist says:

    It was a common practice, back in the day, to deposit those Marvel checks without signing them. The banks never noticed or cared…

  14. Mario Boon says:

    If you think Disney is bad, do a google search at what Moulinsart is doing with the protection of the IP of TinTin!

  15. Darlie says:

    Maximo V. Lorenzo , that was brilliant.

  16. RS David says:

    While I do not believe the Marvel/Disney will begin to take action en mass against artist regarding prints and comission with their characters, there is one thing that does concern me.

    While Friedrich’s case may have been a longshot, if a future creator has a legitmate greviance that invloves legal action against Marvel, they may have weigh that against a possible contersuit of trademark infringment with work sold at conventions like sketchbooks and prints.

    This may have a chilling effect and lead to artists being afraid to fully assert rights in contract/legal disputes even if they are in the right.

  17. Darlie says:

    Marvel has full time lawyers, it cost them virtually nothing. Tons of comics were not “famous”” when they started only later to become hits. If Marvel’s estimate that Gary made only $17,000 over all these years out of selling posters of Ploogs drawing (which Ploog got paid for I’m sure) signed by himself is pathetic. It’s such a paltry amount given Marvels hundreds of millions made off exploiting other peoples characters . Jack Kirby, the person who virtually created Marvel was deemed an employee and as far as I’m concerned until that is corrected Marvel is just another heartless machine.

  18. @WorseHorse. When it comes to money negotiations one side starts very high, the other side starts very low. They meet somewhere in-between, where you meet depends on your abilities as a negotiator. The common school of thought is the higher your opening amount, the higher the settlement will be in the end.

    At the lawsuit has been going on for 5 years and has racked up a huge amount in lawyer bills. Gary’s lawyers know they ain’t getting from him, so I think they’re going to explore all possible options to try and get the money from Marvel and something for Gary too.

  19. horatio weisfeld says:

    2 The Beat:

    I would simply like to express my gratitude 2 U 4 covering this situation in detail.

  20. I just wonder what Nic Cage’s take is on all this.

  21. comicsatemybrain says:

    @DavidG: As bad as Gary Friedrich’s financial situation is, they are nothing like Nicolas Cage’s financial sinkhole!

  22. Al™ says:

    So, will artists need to submit royalties to the copyright owners of characters that they draw at coventions?

    And how would that work? A percentage?
    Draw a Ghost Rider sketch, charge me $25 and give Marvel $10 of that?

  23. I’ve gotten several requests for historical sales data on the 1970s and 1990s Ghost Rider titles — for whatever it’s worth, it’s here:

    http://blog.comichron.com/2012/02/ghost-rider-circulation-history-online.html

    About 11 million copies of the first series were sold, 18 million or so of the 1990s revival. The figures on the revival depict rather starkly the fate of many of the hot titles of the early 1990s: sales dropped by half in 1994 and again in 1995.

  24. WorseHorse says:

    @JamieCoville – I understand negotiation very well. But I’d be interested to know what settlement number(s) Friedrich turned down before donating money on his behalf. I’d feel less inclined to support fundraising efforts if he turned down a six- or seven-figure offer because he gambled he could do better and then lost.

    Given all the bad PR, I’m sure Marvel wants this to go away. But I don’t think they will make the first move while there was a decision in their favor AND an active appeal going on. Friedrich’s team should be looking very hard at the last offer Marvel made – assuming it isn’t completely ridiculous – and ask for a reasonable amount above that.

  25. Jason B. says:

    “Was that check properly endorsed? Was there anything crossed out?”

    I know from previous experience in contract law that these two issues do not matter.

    Even if the check was not properly endorsed, if the check was cashed, then the person received consideration for the transaction. He cannot receive payment and then argue that he did not properly endorse the check that enabled him to receive payment. The court will find that he constructively endorsed the check by virtue of receiving payment.

    Also crossing out or modifying the check before cashing it does not work. Those modifications would be deemed unilateral. It would be like you receiving a contract signed by a person, then adding your own clauses and trying to enforce your new additions to person that had previously signed it.

  26. Prodigal says:

    Funny how Ty is not too sympathetic to Gary’s case in regards to copyright and trademarks, and yet blasts Rob Granito’s sketch alley sales & artwork. Double standard when the situation involves personal work & friend’s artwork?

  27. GeoffJM says:

    Everyone usually justifies this stance because Marvel have made so much money from the characters. Has everyone forgotten that Marvel almost ceased to exist a few years ago? Would we expect the creators to fund Marvel on the basis that they get a cut when it’s profitable so therefore they should suffer when the company is suffering? I don’t understand all the ins and outs and probably never will but it seems to me that there must be a point where enough money is paid for the work that is done. In a thousand years will some distant relative of some creator expect to be receiving a cut of the pie because its moved on to the next super medium? I wish the things that I created in my work 20 years ago still earnt me a crust :-)

  28. GeoffJM, yes, of course a creator should be receiving a cut of the pie for every use of his or her creation. And the creators heirs and assigns should be receiving that cut after the creator’s death–until the copyright runs out. Pretty standard in most forms of publishing. You create something–you benefit from sales of that creation.

    Modern comics publishing began in the 1930s, developing out of magazine distribution with lots of ties to organized crime. Publishers then took all the rights from writers and illustrators who were often young and inexperienced or who for some reason couldn’t or wouldn’t get jobs from more respectable publishers such as those of books and magazines. Despite strides made in the last few decades toward fair deals for creators the current comics industry in the USA still has strongly ingrained practices and attitudes that date back to the early, exploitative decades of comics publishing.

    I have great sympathy for the creators who felt they ad no choice but to accept raw deals in the 1970s and before. But anyone who accepts a raw deal these days doesn’t have any excuse–the information is out there about protecting yourself. You’ve really got to weigh all the alternatives for each and every job you accept and be careful not to sign away rights for something you create and care about.

    I urge all creative professionals–particularly those who are just starting out–educate yourselves on the issues involved so you can do your best to avoid situations like this one involving Gary Friedrich. And if you can’t educate yourself, find someone who can protect you if you can’t do it–an agent, a lawyer, a professional organization with a commitment to education, a fellow creator who has demonstrated the ability to protect him- or herself and who’s willing to give you some useful advice.

    READ your contracts before you sign them. Have I signed contracts for work-for-hire? Yes, but not until I weighed the consequences. Have I turned down work because I didn’t like the contractual terms? Yes. Have I negotiated with comics companies if I didn’t like contract terms? Yes–sometimes I get what I want, sometimes I don’t. You can all do this too.

    No one can avoid all pitfalls in life, but it’s much better to avoid all the ones you possibly can. Fair deals all around also make the comics industry as a whole a better place for everyone to work.

  29. MBunge says:

    “GeoffJM, yes, of course a creator should be receiving a cut of the pie for every use of his or her creation.”

    Why should Marvel be held to a higher standard than internet pirates?

    Mike

  30. Oh my gosh! this is reat stuff!! Thanks for posting all the great artwork, too!

  31. Great article. Thanks for all the info. But I completely disagree with Jean’s affirmations about Disney and stopping to sell sketches. That conclusion is drawn from complete IGNORANCE of the comics community. Artists have been selling sketches of comics characters for 50 friggin’ years. No trademarks were harmed in the LEAST, Jean-baby! The horse is out of the barn and long, long gone.

    There is an inherent amount of free advertising and fan/pro goodwill generated by allowing this practice, as long as it’s not *abused.* (Selling prints/mechanically produced items or pornographic/distasteful representations of the characters).

    Just last year at San Diego, a CBG cover artist was selling hand-colored prints of his covers and other illustrations of Marvel and DC characters. DC’s publisher and legal rep did not consider them original art, and politely asked him to remove them; he could only sell hand-drawn originals. (Marvel did NOT have any objection.) No lawsuits, no threats, no letters, and it didn’t cost him “$15k” as postulated.

    Give me a break. Please stop the misinformation.

    Thanks,
    Mike

  32. @Workhorse. I very highly doubt Marvel offered Gary a 6 figure settlement and he rejected it. Without any evidence that a significant sum of money was offered I think it’s best not to assume it was. Especially when I’ve never heard of Marvel doing so in the past.

  33. Gillian Davencroft says:

    I guess Byrne is screwed then.

  34. Peter Urkowitz says:

    Mike Pascale: “But I completely disagree with Jean’s affirmations about Disney and stopping to sell sketches. That conclusion is drawn from complete IGNORANCE of the comics community. Artists have been selling sketches of comics characters for 50 friggin’ years. No trademarks were harmed in the LEAST, Jean-baby!”

    Jean-Marc L’Officier has worked in the comics industry both as a creator and as an agent for other creators for decades. He knows more about the business side of comics than you or I or anyone we know. You may disagree with his statements, but they were not made from ignorance.

    Jean-Marc’s statement was meant as free legal advice for creators trying to protect themselves in the new legal environment created by this case. You don’t have to follow his advice — maybe you think it’s too defensive or pessimistic — but don’t say you weren’t warned.

    And please don’t pretend that you’re an expert just because you saw something at a convention once. That’s really misinformation.

  35. Peter Urkowitz says:

    Oops, I (and the article above) had a typo in Jean-Marc’s name. It’s actually Lofficier without the apostrophe.

  36. Peter Urkowitz says:

    And, oops again, I hadn’t realized that Mike, creator of Bru-Hed, was apparently posting in character, and I failed to get the joke. I apologize, Mike.

  37. Disney/Marvel can sell licenses to the folks in Artists Alley during the cons at a healthy fee. The licenses would come with lengthy stipulations that determine the artists have no ownership or rights to said property and are merely conduits to promote said property to the consumer. Also the sketch product is considered a loan and legally remains the property of Disney/Marvel. During the cons joey q and other stooges can go around Artists Alley asking everyone “Vere are your papers?”. Problem solved.

  38. Jesse says:

    Guys, everyone, this pervasive idea that you forfeit your legal rights to your own trademark if you opt not to pursue damages against an infringer is just not, not not true. (Look, three “not”s!)

    Trademark infringement suits are generally good practice; they keep things clean and confusion-free in the marketplace, but they’re not obligatory. It’s like dusting the baseboards in your house: should you do it? Yes. Will you lose your house to repo men if you don’t? Of course not.

    There’s a very simple test for trademark ownership. Two questions. Have you registered this trademark? And are you using it currently or can you present reasonable proof of plans to use it in the near future? That’s it. If you have done these things and you choose to allow someone else to trade on your marks in your own industry the only thing you suffer is a probable loss of business and some head scratching customers who are wondering what happened. The infringer doesn’t gain some common law right to your trademarks just because he got away with it.

  39. Rockit says:

    The time is now for fans to save their beloved medium by following CREATORS not CHARACTERS. Stop being lazy by deriving your entertainment from childhood nostalgia and seek out something new.

  40. Scientist says:

    Hmmmm, while all of this does pose a problem. It should be kept in perspective that most scientists sign away their IP as part of a standard contract to work at most universities. Just think about the guy who cures cancer and misses out on that payday. Overly simplified but really there should be more of an outcry about that compared to this

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