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March 30, 2008

When Does Selling The Rights Not Mean Selling The Rights? [11:47 am]

More headaches for licensees: Ruling Gives Heirs a Share of Superman Copyright

A federal judge here on Wednesday ruled that the heirs of Jerome Siegel — who 70 years ago sold the rights to the action hero he created with Joseph Shuster to Detective Comics for $130 — were entitled to claim a share of the United States copyright to the character. The ruling left intact Time Warner’s international rights to the character, which it has long owned through its DC Comics unit.

And it reserved for trial questions over how much the company may owe the Siegel heirs for use of the character since 1999, when their ownership is deemed to have been restored. Also to be resolved is whether the heirs are entitled to payments directly from Time Warner’s film unit, Warner Brothers, which took in $200 million at the domestic box office with “Superman Returns” in 2006, or only from the DC unit’s Superman profits.

[...] When Detective Comics bought 13 pages of work for its new Action Comics series the next year, the company sent Mr. Siegel a check for $130, and received in return a release from both creators granting the company rights to Superman “to have and hold forever,” the order noted.

In the late 1940s, a referee in a New York court upheld Detective Comics’ copyright, prompting Mr. Siegel and Mr. Shuster to drop their claim in exchange for $94,000. More than 30 years later, DC Comics (the successor to Detective Comics) gave the creators each a $20,000-per-year annuity that was later increased to $30,000. In 1997, however, Mrs. Siegel and her daughter served copyright termination notices under provisions of a 1976 law that permits heirs, under certain circumstances, to recover rights to creations.

See The Siegel Superman decision with comments and links to the opinion (local copy)

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Democratizing Dataveillance [9:54 am]

You say “social networks,” I say “CRM/surveillance.” Sure, the network allows the musician to disintermediate the process of selling her/his product, but to adopt the methods of the database marketers is a start down a very slippery slope: Musicians take social networking into their own hands (pdf)

More and more acts, from Kylie Minogue to Ludacris to the Pussycat Dolls, are launching their own social networks, which are becoming a sort of next-generation version of artist Web sites.

The social networking component gives fans a reason to hang out on a site and visit more often than they would a standard Web site. And artists can sell advertisements on their sites and offer downloads and merchandise for sale — options they don’t have on MySpace or Facebook. Plus, they own the content and data on how fans use their site, which they don’t get on other social networks.

“The thing that separates Thisis50 from MySpace is we control the e-mail database,” says Chris “Broadway” Romero, director for new media at G-Unit Records, which handles Thisis50. “We can e-mail members if we want to.”

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