Monday, January 05, 2004

Legal arguments on the web.

Lots of people have written to ask if I'm doing a signing or something in Chicago and whether they've missed it -- no, I didn't, I wasn't and you haven't. I'd wanted to be there for this morning's Seventh Circuit Court, to watch the oral arguments in Todd McFarlane's appeal. For those of you who've been following the case, mostly in an effort to get Miracleman sorted, I sued Todd for Contract Violation in 2002, and won on every count, winding up with the co-copyright to the characters and material I created for Spawn. McFarlane's appealed. (This is the case, and the appeal, that 1602 exists in order to fund.)

I still wish I'd been there.

On the other hand, I've been enormously enjoying listening to the online audio of the oral presentation this morning -- including the rather peculiar bit from Todd's lawyer about how Todd was an innocent blue-collar artist who I somehow took advantage of.

If anyone feels like listening to it, it begins with Todd's lawyer, Mike Kahn, on first, being quizzed mostly by Judge Posner.

Ken Levin (backed by Jeff Simmons, who isn't heard on the audio), representing me, then come up next. Judge Posner still does most of the questioning, joined from time to time by Judge Rovner and Judge Kanne.

Then Mike Kahn comes up again and gets into legal areas I couldn't really follow, in which he seems to be claiming that the first appearances of supporting characters, those characters are in the public domain, but after about 50 issues they have become copyrightable, citing Jimmy Olsen as an example of someone who was, in Mr Kahn's opinion, a public domain character when he first appeared in Superman. It's not a point of view I've ever heard before, and I may not entirely have got the subtler nuances of it.

Anyone interested in the ins and outs of legal discussion of copyright law and comics, or just in hearing what an appeal sounds like can go to the Seventh Circuit page in question, and listen to the mpg -- it's 39 minutes long and is absolutely fascinating (and often genuinely funny). (I could only get it to play by downloading it first.)


And for the disappointed Chicago people, I feel duty bound to mentin that I'm on the Board of Advisors of the Chicago Humanities Festival, and talked to the organiser today about some people who I thought would be good guests in November 2004. And at the end of the conversation she asked if I'd be willing to come and do something, and I said I would. So there will, in all probability, be a Chicago reading-talk-something in early November 2004. Keep an eye on this blog or on Where's Neil for more info.


Hi Neil,

Noticed lately you've done a lot with your iPod. Do you make sure not to listen to the headphones too long? I'm only 24 and was in radio for three years, (where you wear headphones a lot!) and I'm a bit hard of hearing now, as is my fiance. Just a heads up on protecting your hearing.

Rebecca Mundschenk

Thanks a lot. Mostly the iPod lives in an iMotion cradle by my bed with attached speakers (and I've just asked my Mini dealer to install an AUX jack input, so I can, when driving, run the iPod straight into the car CD player, rather than faffing with FM radio broadcasters that don't ever really work very well). I pondered having one of these installed, and then decided I'd be happy enough with an aux jack: paying $300 just to be able to skip to the next track from the steering wheel controls seems silly.

Mostly I just use headphones on planes -- and to whoever asked last month, yes the Bose noise-suppressing headphones worked like a charm, at least on the plane, and just took out the background engine noise.

Hi Neil!
As you seem to collect odd news stories, I thought I'd send this one your way:

Which is a wonderful news story, and makes me wonder which genre the boy lives in. I mean, mysteriously getting into one of those toy-crane places means different things to someone in a horror story than it would to someone in a light and fluffy comedy or a medical drama. Right now it's almost a locked room mystery.

[Edit to add --

Follow up on the boy in toy machine: here's a copy of the same article, but this time with a picture (kid looks to be okay).
David (whose genre is sadly merely a coming of age story)