Should Superhero Superpowers Be Considered Property?

from the the-debate-is-on dept

We've had many, many debates around here over the question of whether or not "intellectual property" is actually property. So it seems like many of you might enjoy this article, sent in by johnjac, where some attorneys with way too much free time on their hands discuss whether or not superpowers possessed by super heroes should be considered property or not. I will give you just this short snippet as a taste, which I assume will make you rush over to read the whole thing:
If Superman uses the power of a blue sun to bestow superpowers on another person, is that a taxable asset transfer?  Who would want to try to collect?

If two superheroes marry, share a power, then later divorce, could one be forced to give up the power during the division of assets?  Does it matter who had the power originally?  Even though the shared power may be a non-rival good, one of the two superheroes may still have a claim to exclusivity.  Perhaps the power is a trademark ability of one character, or maybe they signed a superhero pre-nuptial agreement that determined the disposition of any shared abilities.

If one superhero lends a power to another (or to a normal person), does that superhero have an implied right to its return?  In other words, is a bailment created?  I think the answer here is yes.
Enjoy.

Filed Under: copyright, intellectual property, law, property, superheroes, superpowers


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  1. icon
    Joe Szilagyi (profile), 12 Dec 2010 @ 7:41am

    Mike, a more fun question for you to do a post on is...

    ...and that might be up your alley as a two-part question.:

    What if someone magically did wake up with super powers tomorrow--let's say good-old super-speed, and tossed on a red suit, fought some crime with a full-face mask (no one knows who he is), and then told a local news reporter on live TV that they can call him "The Flash", which is I think both a copyright and trademark of DC/Time Warner.

    Now, I'm sure the company could (and would) shut down the army of t-shirts and other bootleg swag that would pop up. But...

    1. Could DC/Time Warner legally stop him, the person, from calling himself that in his deeds, actions, and so on?

    2. If he called himself "New Name And Concept", or NNAC for short, which doesn't exist in any established, copyrighted work--could he stop DC/Time Warner or Marvel from just inserting NNAC or a shameless copy of it into their own books for profit?

    If you think this is more up their alley, I'll punt it over their, but it seems like yours.

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