It was only a couple of years ago that after an extensive and (in parts hilarious) court case, Ken Penders settled in his favour with Archie Comics over the use of Sonic The Hedgehog characters he had created for the publisher which were used again after he left and by Sega in the games, but to whom he never transferred the rights.
Now another creator, Scott Fulop, says he created 15 characters for the Sonic comics and that he is owed six figures in royalties.
Fulop was an editor at Archie from 1988 to 1991 and then again from 1994 to 1996, when he commissioned Ken Penders as a writer. After that Fulop was a freelance writer for Archie until 1998, under the name Kent Taylor, writing for the Sonic comic book line under the pseudonym Kent Taylor.
Fulop's company, Narrative Ark, has launched a civil action seeking damages and injunctive relief for copyright infringement under the Copyright Act of the United States against both Archie Comics and Sega.
And he cites his own experience as an editor in evidence that there was no work-for-hire language in the comic book contracts issued by Archie, and states that payment only covered first publication rights in North America
Here are the properties in dispute;
The Fearsome Foursome (group name for Sergeant Simian, Lightning Lynx, Predator Hawk
and Flying Frog
Sir Connery, the Mighty Crusader
Damocles the Elder
The Swords of Acorns
The Sword of Light
The Land of Dark
Fly, Fly Freddy
Fulop was informed by Penders that Archie were reprinting his work. Fulop registered copyright in the stories that he had written from 2009-2010, for Archie Comics to then do the same the subsequent year. Scott has also registered a trademark for Mammoth Mogul under Narrative Ark. His legal representation, entertainment IP lawyer Neil A Burstein, wrote to Archie Comics stating that Scott's company Narrative Ark owned the stories and that there were no written or oral transfers of ownership, even as Archie was publishing and distributing the work digitally and being licensed to foreign territories, and continuing to use characters created by Furlop. He states that Archie and Narrative entered extensive discussion but without agreement.
In paperwork he lists almost a thousand examples in print and digital works of Archie using his work, without royalty payment, and of Sega for the Sonic Mega Collection video game that included much of his comic book work. And points out that in 2011, Archie Comics transferred ownership of Sonic characters and storylines to Sega, and disputes their right to do so.
Fulop is citing the Ken Penders case, both the court's decision and his knowledge of it from the other side of the fence, as a way to justify his claim, and noting that Archie Comics are keeping the work in print, digitally.
Narrative Ark requests a jury trial. Archie representatives did not provide any official statement to enquiries made over the weekend.