How The Supreme Court And Jack Kirby Could Change Everything

"I would like to suggest, to anyone in the media, that they won't be wasting their time if they follow the 'Jack Kirby rights at the Supreme Court' story, more closely" – Neal Adams.

432124-jack_kirby01_superHe's got a point. Currently the case between Jack Kirby and Marvel Comics over the rights to X-Men, Hulk, Avengers, Fantastic Four and more is under review by the Supreme Court and could have massive ramifications for the whole creative community in the USA regarding copyright law and the definition of work-for-hire.

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.

Much of Jack Kirby's work/creation was done under the 1906 copyright law, under which only an employee could also do work-made-for hire, not a true freelancer. So while Stan Lee's work for the company may be considered work-for-hire, Jack Kirby's work may not be.

So not only could this case affect the rights, credit and financial remuneration owed to Jack Kirby's family and estate, but also so many other comic book creators – and so many other creators. It could lead to a seismic shift regarding who owns what.

And billions upon billions of dollars be spent righting what has to date been a rather one sided operation.

Bring popcorn.

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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