I’ve long been concerned about the expanding length and reach of copyright protection in the United States, and elsewhere in the world. The US Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, empowers Congress to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” [Emphasis mine.]
These ever-increasing terms have the effect that media conglomerates have developed a sense of entitlement towards intellectual property, even when it’s not warranted.
Back in the 1980s, when I used to buy and sell comic books, Marvel Comics had this lovely line called EPIC. It was a place that creator-owned work, comic art NOT owned by Marvel Comics, as well as selected other items, could be published.
One of the products was called Starstruck, created by Michael William Kaluta and Elaine Lee, based on Lee’s 1980 play. Starstruck the comic book, which I used to collect, was subsequently published by other comic book companies.
This fall, Marvel’s parent company, Disney, sent Lee and Kaluta a cease and desist letter regarding Starstruck, which Marvel DID NOT and DOES NOT OWN. Fortunately, Kaluta had all the pertinent paperwork from nearly three decades ago. Possibly because of the bad publicity, on Facebook, at the Bleeding Cool forum, and elsewhere, Disney quickly recanted on its legal claim, acknowledging Lee and Kaluta’s ownership.
This is just one reason I vigorously oppose the proposed “Six Strike” copyright punishment system, in which ISPs, acting as cops, “voluntarily agree to penalize their customers if the entertainment industry ACCUSES them of piracy. As shown, entertainment media have been known to claim copyright for items they do not actually own.
The Starstruck incident scare tactics may have arisen because the work is now over 30 yrs old. There is a way for people who created “work for hire” to reclaim copyright after 35 years.
Does Sony Pictures own your art portfolio? Good question; apparently so. The agreement one signs “states that Sony takes ownership of your portfolio material when you apply for the job. If you are submitting samples of work you have done for other companies, Sony wants you to assign the rights to them. You clearly don’t have the authority to do that for work you don’t own, so that means that you are not legally allowed to show Sony the work you’ve done for other companies… What’s clearly disturbing though, is that any original work in your portfolio becomes their property. This does not depend on whether they hire you or not, they get ownership because you applied.”
In another bit of corporate excess: Why Are Dead People Liking Stuff On Facebook?
(Thanks to Stephen Bissette’s Facebook page, which contained some of these links.)