Legal Professors Discuss Comic Book Copyright Law

Doug Lichtman, Professor of Law at UCLA. Peter Menell, Professor of Law at UC Berkeley. David Nimmer author of Nimmer On Copyright. Together, they talk the history of copyright termination in the USA. And the impact that Captain America, Superman, the Fantastic Four, Winnie The Pooh or Lassie are having upon it.

The panel look at the 1976 act that allowed creators to file for termination of copyright deals thirty-five years after creation. As he points out, that’s next year. Hence all the recent cases – and more to come. And just what counts as a collaboration anyway. And they decide to play a game of Hyptheticals with a superhero comic book.

Take author  Doug, who creates Light Man and pitched it to BA Comics. They publish it in 1970 and it becomes a series. Can Doug terminate that assignment? When must notice be served? After termination, what can Doug and BA Comics do with the movie rights for previous and future movies?

Biut if this concerns US copyright law, what about trademark law or publicity law, or foreign copyright law. Can BA Comics continue to make more Light Man movies for audiences in Brazil, France or Canada. And can Doug even use the title Light Man in future comics or movies? And just how does collaboration confuse all this? And what happened if Doug was commissioned by BA, not as an employee, but to create a new series for them? And what about the creation of Dark Man? And what happens when he joins the Justice League Of Uganda?

And how the courts may have already broken the law over a number of recent cases? And how Jack Kirby’s estate may be caught between the two. And how the decision may be worth the four billion price of Marvel Comics.

This is pretty much essential listening for anyone with a passing interest in this subject. Though it only really gets going about half an hour in, it’s worth the whole hour.

Especially how serious everyone gets about the creation of Frog Man and Squid Man.

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