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Tuesday
Apr082014

Comic Book Creator Takes Battle to U.S. Supreme Court

Image credit: Susan SkaarAt the end of March, Jack Kirby’s descendants took their legal battle against Marvel Comics to the next level by filing a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States.  Jack “King” Kirby is one of the most well-known figures in the history of comic books, known for creating and co-creating iconic characters such as the X-Men, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. 

Kirby’s estate has been fighting in a battle that began in early 2010 for the termination of an earlier transfer of ownership in copyrights to the characters that Kirby helped create and still maintain large amounts of popularity, as well as profit-generation. 

Termination Rights: The Works Made for Hire Exception

The Copyright Act of 1976 contains a provision known as “termination rights.”  Termination rights have become more and more popular as we have just recently started reaching the thirty-five-year mark for many copyrights registered following the 1976 Act.  In 17 U.S.C. 304(c) and (d), artists are given the ability terminate their transfer rights - effectively allowing them to reclaim ownership of their copyrighted works thirty-five years after transferring them to another party.  Congress intended this to provide original creators and their heirs the ability to recover rights that might have been assigned or licensed based upon the previous provisions of the Copyright Act.

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Tuesday
Mar252014

A Lesson In Contract Drafting: eBook Deal Violates Publisher's Copyright

American Graffiti movie poster.Star Wars taught me the importance of contract drafting.  No, seriously!  I was reading for an Entertainment Law course two years ago when I came across a case from the 1980s involving Lucasfilm, LTD and Platinum Record, Co.  The lawsuit centered around a dispute over a contract which allowed director George Lucas to use four popular songs in his film American Graffiti, first released in 1973The issue in the case didn't arise until almost a decade later, when MCA Distributing Corp. (an affiliate of Universal) released the film for sale and to rent on videocassette, which Platinum Record argued was in violation of their contract.

By this point, you might be wondering what this has to do with ebooks (or Star Wars, for that matter).  Well, last week U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald held that a 2011 ebook distribution deal signed by author Jean George violated an earlier, 1971 contract.  The 1971 contract granted publisher HarperCollins the right to publish the children's book Julie of the Wolves in "book form" and "electronic means now known or hereinafter invented."  This language in the contract is what caught my eye and provides an important lesson in contract drafting: think ahead.

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Monday
Sep162013

Law Firm Clerking 101

I spent an amazing summer clerking at a law firm in downtown Nashville, TN.  Litigation was the last thing I thought I'd be doing, but it turns out (as everyone often says in law school) I enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would!  In all honesty, the process had a huge learning curve because I had never been in a law firm environment.  This blog post is an attempt to educate other law students about what you can expect going into a position clerking at a law firm.

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Friday
Jul262013

When Musicians Die Young, So Do Their Copyrights

The list of musicians who have died before they reach the age of 30 is strikingly long. [1]  Not to mention those who didn’t even make it past 27; such as Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Jimi Hendrix to name a few. [2] 

Have you ever considered the impact an early death brings to an artist’s copyright ownership?

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Wednesday
Apr172013

Check Out My Guest Blog Post!

VLPA Spotlight - Ben & Brittany CooperHead over to the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville's website for my guest blog post where I interview some friends of the Volunteer Lawyers and Professionals for the Arts (VLPA)! Check it out.