Complications Of Ownership Society: Family Claiming Rights To Spiderman Doesn't Seem To Have Created Spiderman

from the whoops dept

We were just writing about how the heirs of Jack Kirby were alerting… well… pretty much all of Hollywood that they were going to use their termination rights to take back the copyright on a large number of famous comic book characters. We noted how this showed one of the more bizarre aspects of copyright law. However, there’s another, perhaps even more ridiculous parts: which is with these sorts of characters, no one’s really sure who actually owns the copyright. For example, one of the characters the Kirby heirs are looking to get control over is Spiderman. The problem? There’s a fair amount of evidence (including quotes from the Kirby family) that Jack Kirby did not create Spiderman and thus never should have the copyright on Spiderman. If true, that would indicate a rather major case of copyfraud, whereby someone claims copyright over something they have no rights to. But, in this case, it also highlights the silliness behind termination rights on things that were, at best, group creations for larger entities.

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Comments on “Complications Of Ownership Society: Family Claiming Rights To Spiderman Doesn't Seem To Have Created Spiderman”

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Matthew Cruse (profile) says:

Heavy Metal

I’m pretty sure it’s this kind of confusion and misconceptions about rights, who owns the rights, and what controls you have that lead to the animated film Heavy Metal not being releases on tape/cd for 15 years. So what was the publics response…Gasp…Piracy.
Which is what you get when the producer doesn’t provide what the consumer wants in the way the consumer wants it. So what I anticipate is a whole lot of legal wrangling and lawsuits to stop production and extort more money (ala Watchmen) and eventual piracy and then this will support claims for stronger copyright…

Anonymous Coward says:


Copyright should be limited to 20 years, a commonly accepted value for “one generation”.

To keep it flexible and consistent, I’d limit it to a length of time equal to the voting age.

To keep it internationally consistent, I’d limit it to the lowest (or highest) voting age of the western countries.

We could call that the “definition of a generation” for legal purposes.

An pubic limitation on an intellectual work should be limited to a single generation so that following generations can use the work to make their own contributions to the “body humanity”.

Paul Hobbs (profile) says:

Re: Re: Limits

There’s these things called jobs. The young kids of today don’t like them cos they reduce the amount of time the young whipper snappers can spend on Facebook. But I’m told they build character, and if you get a good job, you can even get paid lots of money. Mind you, getting a good job usually requires an education – something else the young kids of today seem to avoid. Yikes – I sound like my grandfather. And I’m only 41!

Albert Nonymouse says:

Taking my childhood away from me

Since I am not one of the blessed creators, I’m just worthless scum (aka a “consumer”) in the eyes of the “rights holders”. So anything I say is just going to be interpreted as entitled whining from one of the “pirates” of the blessed legacy of Mr. Kirby (and Mr. Lee and Mr. Ditko, and Mr. Buscema and etc.), but actions like this are quite disturbing. Am I now supposed to feel guilty for taking inspiration from these works? Should I now pay a stipend to the heirs of Mr. Kirby because I was inspired to be a good person because of the characters he drew pictures of? Am I now evil because I traded comics with friends instead of burning them and buying new copies? Or because I should have created my own moral ethos from scratch instead of taking inspiration from the heroic people depicted by Mr. Kirby? Should I be paying a tax because I derived hours of enjoyment as a teenager from reading Marvel comics (even though at the time I hated Jack Kirby’s art), since that pleasure was not of my own creation? Is every thought I had, every experience I was subjected to now fair game for the “rights holders” to lay claim to? When will this ridiculous cycle of grasping, clinging ownership of ideas end?

Or at the very least, could somebody come up with a way to keep these fucking leeches from polluting our minds before we know what they are doing so we can live our lives without looking over our shoulders to make sure we haven’t violated someone’s ‘intellectual property’ rights? So original thoughts are all the we can possibly think unless we are fully aware of the obligation that comes with being exposed to the profound thoughts of others? THAT is something I would be willing to pay good money for. I swear to all that is holy, I’d be willing to erase all music, all literature, all fantastical cartoony characters from my mind just so I could be free of this godawful grasping entitled bullshit.

Oh, and I hope Mr. Kirby’s heirs have devised a plan to compensate all the people who worked their asses off writing and drawing stories about these characters when Mr. Kirby was feeding the worms at the cemetery. They fucking deserve something for their hard work too, even if they were just plagiarizing hacks riding on the back of the GREAT ONE himself.

If there are any ethical lawyers left out there, please, PLEASE do something to save us from this shit. Or at least encourage your clients to keep their ideas to themselves so we don’t have to hear from their grandchildren a century from now! Please!

DJ (profile) says:

Re: Taking my childhood away from me

Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait WAIT!

After reading that, I’m getting the impression that someone who is against copyright law (at least the way it currently exists) can actually form a well-thought-out, coherent argument. You must be disguising your agenda, because that’s clearly impossible.

Or have you not been swayed by the copyright lawyers’ propaganda? How could you not be swayed by such emotional legal mumbo-jumbo?

Seriously, though, my only problem with your argument can be summed up with a quote by David Keuck: “Profanity is the common crutch of the conversational cripple.” Which is not to say that it doesn’t have it’s place, just that overuse is, well, obscene.

Albert Nonymouse says:

Re: Re: Taking my childhood away from me

Point taken – sorry about that. I use profanity very little in life, so when I drop the f-bomb (or one of it’s siblings) it’s meant to indicate the depth of my feelings, rather than the absence of a more intellectually stimulating form of verbal invective. Please attribute my outburst to emotional stress.

I do, however, stand by my original thesis – if this continuous grasping after every idea is to continue, I’d rather not be subjected to them at all. Let’s add intellectual property to the group of things one does not talk about in polite company. If being exposed to someone’s ideas means I am to live in fear for the rest of my days lest I accidentally let slip some hint that I found inspiration somehow, let alone a specific mention of some aspect of the work, then please keep your work from me. Tell your stories to your family around the dinner table and spare the rest of us. We don’t want the great responsibility that comes with the great power bestowed upon us.

The thing is, I’ve been emotionally removed from many of the “IP” battles I’ve heard about in my lifetime, but this one hit closer to the heart. The more human heroes that Stan and Jack created back in the early 60s inspired me in a way that the more god-like heroes of earlier times (and other companies) did not, and had a profound influence on how I have conducted my life. I can say with near certainty that I’m not alone in this, given how many people love these characters (and how many have expressed their dismay at how they have been treated by recent incarnations of Marvel). Thanks for the gut-punch, “Kirby family”. I’ll encourage my children to look for their inspiration elsewhere – it’s much safer and less expensive.

Paul Hobbs (profile) says:

Re: Taking my childhood away from me

What I don’t get is how copyright law even got off the ground. It seems (to me) to fly in the face of the notion that nothing exists in a vacuum. There are very few truly original ideas – most advancement (in any field) is incremental. As the great Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants”. Ironically, he is also quoted as saying, “I can calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people”. Somehow apt given the crazy state of affairs in the world of copyright.

Mechwarrior says:

This is the first time in my 20 years of comic book collecting that someone said Jack Kirby made Spider-Man. Jack Kirby barely was on the periphery of creating Spider-Man. He may have been at a meeting or two and couldnt bother to care about the character.

Jeez, Kirby’s kids are fucking dumbasses. Especially when Stan Lee has for the last 40 years been credit with the original characters and stories.

Seriously, Kirby’s grandkids, please get jobs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Kirby drew one the cover of Amazing Fantasy 15, in which Spider-Man appeared. That’s it.

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Spider-Man.

Kirby’s heirs have NO claim to Spidey. nor do they have complete claim to ANY Marvel character, as Lee was co-creator of them.

And just to note, it’s spelled with a hyphen and capital M, not as Spiderman. But as Spider-Man.

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