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Friday, July 29, 2011

On the legal news of the day...

And you can't find it either in the no-talent fools
That run around gallant
And make all rules for the ones that got talent
And it ain't in the ones that ain't got any talent but think they do
And think they're foolin' you
Bob Dylan, Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie, 1963

Well, not good news on the legal front, as a judge handed down a summary ruling siding against the Jack Kirby heirs in their attempt to terminate the transfer of copyright on the characters Kirby created between 1958 and 1963 that were published by Marvel, including The Fantastic Four, Thor and Hulk. I don't have any legal expertise, so I don't pretend to understand all the legal issues involved, and my bias on the case is probably obvious. I imagine there'll be some type of appeal, which may reverse the whole thing, or at least let it get a full hearing in front of a jury. Despite what some people may say about judges dealing in facts, they very much do deal in opinion, they just happen to be opinions backed by the force of law. And as successful appeals and split Supreme Court verdicts repeatedly demonstrate, judges given the exact same evidence can come up with polar opposite decisions.

But there's no question that the latest decision, like many prior ones for similar cases, raises the hurdle for the side I favour in this case, and it may well be that the law as written isn't on the side of creator rights (from what I've read in the decision, this judge seems to think that, absent any supporting written contracts from the period, the onus should be on the Kirby estate to prove that the work was not work-for-hire as then defined, not on Marvel to prove that it was).  Sometimes, as a Mr. Dickens once wrote, "the law is a ass".  And as young Mr. Dylan observed almost fifty years ago, at the tail end of the period in question, it's the no-talent fools who make rules for the ones that got talent.  And as for "ones that ain't got any talent but think they do", well, 'nuff said.


  1. The lyric running through my head whenever I think about this topic comes from Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood: "And the man in the suit has just bought a new car from the profit he's made on your dreams."

    The man has been making a massive profit on Kirby's dreams for seventy years now.

  2. My other potential opening was another Dylan

    In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
    To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level
    And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded
    And that even the nobles get properly handled
    Once that the cops have chased after and caught ’em
    And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom

    ...and I'm sure we all know how that ends. That's probably more relevant to a previous ruling that found Marvel was in fact still holding Kirby original artwork, over two decades after claiming to have returned what little they hadn't allowed to be stolen, but not liable since the statute of limitations had run out.

  3. My Dylan quote would be:
    "Let me ask you one question, "Is the money that good."

  4. Sadly, I think most people who need to be asked "Is the money that good?" would answer that, yes, it really is.

    And, to switch over to a question from John Lennon, they'd tell you they sleep just fine.

  5. "There it goes. The Mockingbird estate up in flames. It's happy memories. Mint Juleps, cotillions, Happy slaves. Looks kind of pretty though. Passion red flame, against undulating cyclopean black smoke. A Marvel of contrast."

  6. Thought this was drop dead incredible.
    Maybe you'll like it.


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