The Printing Press to the Internet
13. Copyright Law
C H A P T E R T H I R T E E N Copyright Law CONTROVERSY: Do superheroes really have super powers? Yes, if you consider mak- ing tons of money a super feat. Marvel Entertainment, the company that created Spider- Man, the Fantastic 4, the X-Men, and Iron Man, is worth about $4 billion. Now, imagine if your dad co-created many of those comic-book-heroes-turned-Hollywood- box-office-stars, and Marvel didn’t cut your father a share of the blockbuster profits. Would you need a super weapon to get the money due your father? No, just everyday copyright law. In 2010, the heirs of comic book artist Jack Kirby sued Marvel and Disney, its owner, in federal court in Los Angeles. They wanted to regain copyrights to some of Kirby’s artistic creations that helped make the comic book company a pop culture phenomenon by turning its print-based fictional characters to big screen stars. The family wanted about 88% of Marvel’s big screen earnings. Pop culture fans know that Kirby was a creative force at Marvel. That’s not disputed. The case turns on Kirby’s employment status. Was he an independent contractor, as his heirs claim, or merely a freelancer as Marvel argues? Under the Copyright Act’s “works made for hire” provision, the Kirbys will lose their lawsuit if a judge rules that their father was a freelancer. In July 2011, a federal judge in New York ruled for Marvel. But the Kirbys have intel- lectual property lawyer Marc Toberoff in their corner,...
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