by Mike Masnick
Tue, Sep 22nd 2009 9:34am
In August, we wrote about the latest in the long saga of the heirs of one of Superman's creators trying to regain the rights to Superman. Copyright law, among its many complexities, includes a provision for terminating the assignment of copyrights, such that the original creator can get them back over time. Getting into exactly how it works and the reasoning behind it isn't worth mentioning here. But it's created the mess with Superman, and now the lawyer who helped win that case is helping the heirs of Jack Kirby, a comic book artist who worked on a bunch of comic books, to send out 45 letters warning pretty much everyone in Hollywood that they intend to take back the copyrights on a bunch of works, including the X-Men. Of course, the earliest they can actually do this is in 2014... so why announce it now? Well, one guess is that with Disney in the process of buying Marvel Comics, the studio might not want to have to deal with the complication and may be willing to pay off the heirs now. (Update: Some lawyers have pointed out that you have to alert the copyright holder a few years in advance to terminate... so that's another reason). While some may find it amusing to see the Hollywood studios suddenly on the "wrong" side of copyright law, the whole situation is pretty ridiculous. It's nothing more than a pure money grab on the part of heirs -- people who had nothing at all to do with the creation of a work.
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