Friday, June 20, 2014

Supreme Court to Rule on Jack Kirby Case?

Updated at the bottom.

Readers of this blog know of my interest in creator rights and the work of Jack Kirby.  Kirby was one of the most prolific comic book artists of the 20th century.  It's not just that he turned out an enormous amount of work, it's that he created more characters - both heroes and villains - than anyone else.

At the time he did his work, the comic book business was run by people with questionable ethics and business practices.  As a result, Marvel does not have a clear title to the characters Kirby created and Kirby's children have fought in court to recover the copyrights to their father's work.  So far, the courts have ruled in Marvel's favour.  However, the issue is not yet resolved and the Supreme Court of the United States will soon decide whether to hear the latest appeal.  In the corporatist time we live in, I'm skeptical that the court will rule against Marvel and Disney, but there is still a chance.

The Hollywood Reporter has the latest on this case and it is worth reading.

If you create material that you pitch to broadcasters or studios, you own the copyright to your work.  While the thrill of a sale can be overwhelming, don't lose your copyright without fully understanding the repercussions.  It is the single most valuable part of your creation.  If Jack Kirby owned the copyright to his characters, his life would have been very different and each of his four children would be multimillionaires.  Instead, Disney is not paying the estate when they reprint Kirby's work or when they make blockbuster movies featuring Kirby's characters.

Creative people need to understand what happened to Jack Kirby (and Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and Bill Finger) in order to prevent it from happening to them.  Educate yourself.

Update: The Hollywood Reporter says that the actors, writers and directors unions are filing briefs in support of the Kirby case being taken up by the Supreme Court.  The article points out that the case could have repercussions for the music industry as well.


Steve Schnier said...

While educating yourself is all fine and good, being able to defend your rights is even more important.

Many of the creators of Canadian animated series were never paid the royalties due to them. Even though rights, terms and conditions were stipulated in the contracts, the studios have the financial muscle to drag the cases throught the courts, in appeal after appeal until the creators' financial resources are exhausted.

D said...

Gee.....BUT.....a submission form that was presented to me lately says I must submit an original work .....and then surrender ALL rights to it immediately ....the studio "MAY" credit me for the idea ( or not )if they use it.....or adapt it for use.....or just not use it at all. I'm not sure I really want to present them with the project I've spent years of my spare time developing anymore.

My suggestion is if any artist has an original project they care about...they should publish it publicly first . There are more friendly way to establish ownership and interest .