How The Supreme Court And Jack Kirby Could Change Everything, Part II

jack_kirby__spanA few weeks ago, Bleeding Cool ran the story "How The Supreme Court And Jack Kirby Could Change Everything".

Looks like we are not alone in that opinion.

The Hollywood Reporter ran the story that Hollywood guilds have issued an amicus brief back the action by Jack Kirby's family to terminate Marvel and Disney's copyright on characters he created and co-created including X-Men, Fantastic Four, Thor, Silver Surfer, Hulk and more. We asked,

Imagine, say, if the Supreme Court decides, based on the Jack Kirby case, that, for all good and logical reasons there are only two forms of employment:

1. Employee, in which you and your work product belong to the company that hires you.,…and..

2. Freelance Contractor. In which you work for yourself and can and must transfer rights, by contract.

And that there is no third condition that strip freelancers of rights without their explicit agreement, yet gives them no privileges or rights of employees such as

1. Tax withholding
2. Work space and tools.
3. Minimum wage protection and time and a half overtime.
4. 1/2 payment to Social Security, and removing 1/2 from your weekly paycheck, for your future retirement.
5. Unemployment Insurance.
6. Disability benefits.
7. Medical insurance.

Well, it looks like those guilds have been asking. While Kirby's work has been deemed work for hire, the Supreme Court could change that – for everyone. And that a previous case that went against the Kirby estate could, according to this brief "jeopardizes the statutory termination rights that many Guild members may possess in works they created."

THR sets out that,

Most people know that the copyright term has gotten longer and longer over the years, but what is less appreciated is that when Congress extended the term in 1976, it also crafted the termination provision so as to allow authors to reclaim rights over their creations in the latter period of the copyright term.

The brief states, using music rather than comics, that under the current KIrby decision, all sorts of industries could be affecte.

"For example, a review of Rolling Stone magazine's top-500 songs of all-time list reveals that nearly 75 percent were created prior to the effective date of the 1976 Act… Of these, nearly 200 were created and released before these changes in the law. While not all of these songs will be subject to these same issues – e.g. some may have been created within a traditional employment relationship – it is inevitable that many share characteristics of the relationship between Kirby and Marvel and thus will be subject to the same uncertainty or inequity as their statutory termination windows approach."

If the Supreme Court takes on the case, it's going to be a lot more than Kirby Vs Disney, or comics creators vs publishers, it could affect the entire entertainment industry. One way or another, shit is going down.


About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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