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Friday, October 03, 2014 

Ruling in Kirby court case leaves uncertainty for freelancers

Reuters spoke about the recent results in the Kirby estate lawsuit against Marvel, and says:
There were at least two reasons why U.S. Supreme Court watchers were paying attention to a petition for review by Jack Kirby’s heirs. The first is obvious: Kirby was a legendary comic-book artist and writer who had a big role in the creation of the X-Men, Thor, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four – enduring characters that continue to generate big returns for Marvel Entertainment and its parent, the Walt Disney Company. The other reason why this case was notable is more abstruse, but ultimately of bigger consequence than Jack Kirby’s rights to characters he helped create: Can freelancers reclaim copyrights to work they sold before the Copyright Act of 1976 took effect?

A settlement announced on Friday – just before the Supreme Court was to discuss the Kirby case at its conference Monday – has ended the battle between Kirby and Marvel (alas, on undisclosed terms). But their deal leaves intact bad precedent for other independent contractors who want to take back the rights to their old work.
We probably should've seen that coming - these conglomerate-owned companies will go out of their way to appeal every ruling against them till finally, the appellate court rules in their favor, as it did with Siegel/Shuster's heirs. The biggest problem with the 1976 Copyright Act is that it became a gift to conglomerates, allowing them to get away with cheating freelancers out of their dues for many years. How are freelancers going to get what they're really owed if this keeps up?

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Unfortunately, the big corporations can hire an army of lawyers, and can afford to file endless requests for postponements and continuances. Even if the case does finally go to trial and the corporation loses, they can file an appeal to a higher court, and continue to delay a final verdict. Either way, the case can drag on for years until the plaintiffs run out of money and can no longer afford to pursue it. If the plaintiffs are elderly and/or have serious medical problems, they may even die before the case can be resolved.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

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