Ken Penders, comic book writer best known for his work on Sonic The Hedgehog and associated comics has released an open statement with his current battle with Archie Comics over exploitation of his Sonic The Hedgehog work.
He claims that the US Copyright Offics have recognised him as the owner of the Sonic and spinoff Knuckle stories that he wrote, which means that Archie cannot repringt his stories of use his created characters without his permission – including Julie- Su, Geoffrey St. John, Hershey, Rob O’ the Hedge, Lien-Da and the Dark Legion. That he is creating new stories using the characters he claims he owns for independent publiction.
And, if valid, this may have immediate impact on the Sonic game, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood which he alleges uses a number of these characters. And Ken specifically states that he never signed anything that might allow his work to be used in anything other than the comics he wrote. So this would affect current issues of the comic that use his created characters since he left the book. And also the archive collections of Sonic comics, and the current digital sales of said titles.
Here’s the open letter Ken has published, followed by a not-completely-uninformed legal dissection.
As of April 21, 2010, the U.S. Copyright Office finally began certifying my copyright claims (which I initially filed beginning back in January 2009) on every single story I ever wrote, penciled or both for Archie Comics. As a result, I am now officially recognized by the U.S. Government as the owner of every single SONIC and KNUCKLES story I ever created (well, almost every one right now, but it will be “all” shortly, as soon as the Copyright Office finishes with the last few claims. But I digress…).
What does this mean?
That means anyone seeking to use my characters, concepts and stories that were published in the pages of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, various SONIC 48-page specials, various issues of SONIC SUPER SPECIALS, the PRINCESS SALLY mini-series, the SONIC’S FRIENDLY NEMESIS KNUCKLES mini-series, KNUCKLES THE DARK LEGION and the KNUCKLES THE ECHIDNA series, must first contact me for permission and to make arrangements for the use of this material.
For example, if someone were to display a panel or page from a story I wrote and illustrated on their website, or planned to make a poster from a cover I drew, they must contact me for permission first before doing so. They will be asked to place the proper copyright notice – for example, “© 2010 by Ken Penders” – alongside the graphic image.
As for how it affects the SONIC THE HEDGEHOG titles published by Archie Comics, while it does not prevent them from publishing the SONIC series, they are not allowed to use any of my characters, concepts or stories without further discussion with my representatives. For now, they cannot reprint any of my stories in any media whatsoever, nor can they use any of my characters. Julie-Su, Geoffrey St. John, Hershey, Rob O’ the Hedge, Lien-Da, the Dark Legion along with the rest of the characters and concepts I created – including the alternative universes and future timeline – cannot appear in the series.
Every story since issue #160 that features my characters and concepts is essentially unauthorized, as I did not grant Archie Comics the right to use my creations for their benefit without compensation to me.
I am currently at work creating a new story featuring my characters, the first of which is a tale of Lara-Su learning about her family, in particular the early days of her grandparents Locke and Lara-Le leading up to the time of the birth of their child. Whether or not this new story or others will feature SONIC and KNUCKLES is a decision only SEGA can make. However, there are plenty of stories to be told with the cast I already have created, and there is a sizable audience for those stories.
I initially took the action of reclaiming my work when I was contacted by many SONIC fans asking me if I had contributed in any way to the development of the video game SONIC CHRONICLES: THE DARK BROTHERHOOD. I was then startled to learn how many characters and concepts from the KNUCKLES series I created were adapted within the framework of the game’s storyline. It was clearly obvious why suddenly so many fans sat up and took notice.
While I initially contributed to the SONIC mythos within the pages of the various SONIC-related comic series, I did not sign any agreement allowing my work to be used in another media. During this time, I consulted with Michael Lovitz, an Intellectual Property attorney based in Beverly Hills, who advised me of my rights and how to proceed to protect those rights.
At this time, anyone distributing and selling copies of SONIC ARCHIVES Nos. 3 through 13, SONIC SELECT Nos. 1 and 2, as well as any of the latest issues of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG and SONIC UNIVERSE that feature my characters in any way, shape or form will be asked to cease and desist or else risk facing the consequences. This includes any version of said material, which also includes my original works, which sees release in any format beyond the original published comic books, including but not limited to digital downloads. (Yes, the iTunes and iPhones stores distributing my stories are currently infringing my copyrights, and are in the process of being made aware of this infringement.)
So here’s a Bleeding Cool handy dandy legal response.
Well, anything the US Copyright Office says can’t be treated with any legitimacy. They often don’t research claims or hear evidence. They leave that for the court – which is where this will be decided. However if indeed Ken wasn’t working for hire, and he only transfered rights for comic work and not games work then yes he may have a case, if a court would agree that the game has indeed used the comics work, characters and scenarios. But we’d have to see the contract.
More to come. And hey, does that mean Mark Millar might be able to get the rights to his Sonic The Hedgehog character back, one Clint Flicker?
And the response from the fans? Well, naturally, absolute rage that Ken may deprive them of their Sonic fix.
This has to be a joke. I can’t believe that this dude would be so spiteful towards the publisher. I think that Archie will find a way around it, either through monetary compensation or outright challenging it in court. Panders is showing the maturity of a small, over privileged child. Such unprofessionalism is disgusting.
Business as usual then.
Ken is currently finishing post-production on a project with Marc Singer and Sean Young titled The Republic, and developing a film project based on his The Lost Ones comic from Image.