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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Last Legal Post for a long time.

Dear Neil,
Okay, I get it that McFarlane lost the court case and the appeal regarding the ownership of Angela, Cogliostro and Medieval Spawn. So THAT court case settled the issue regarding THOSE characters. But that still doesn't clear up the rights to Miracleman unless McFarlane still agrees to swap his interests in Miracleman/Marvelman for the characters after all.
Does it?
Although this was part of the agreement in 1997, swapping the characters seems to be something I doubt McFarlane will now do.
Will he?
Yes, I understand that you are raising funds for Marvels and Miracles with 1602, but will another court case be required to clear up the rights for Miracleman now?
Regards,
Luke Hodgson


All good questions.

I used to think that McFarlane actually had some rights in Miracleman. He told me he had, after all -- he'd bought what was left of Eclipse from a bankruptcy court -- and that he very much wanted to swap those rights for my rights in Cogliostro and Medieval Spawn. He never sent me any of the papers, though, after I agreed to the 97 character swap, although he sent me the film for several issues of Miracleman. Then, a month after sending me the film, and having told me that he had transferred his rights in Miracleman to me, he sneakily filed an application for the trademark on Miracleman. Then a year or so later, he abandoned that trademark application. (This was something I didn't know, but that came out in the run-up to the court case.)

During the legal case, the one thing that no-one was confused about was that I, and Mark Buckingham, and Alan Moore, owned the copyright to our work in Miracleman. That was straightforward and obvious. We owned our copyright on our material; the bankruptcy of Eclipse didn't affect our rights.

Actually that's not quite true. Todd said in some interview online before that he owned all rights to Miracleman and if anyone said different, he'd see them in court. Well, he saw me in court...

(Here's a google cache of the interview with Todd from that time.)

As part of the court case, we finally got to see the Miracleman paperwork. It turned out the entire paperwork that Todd hadn't sent me consisted of an expired Eclipse Trademark registration for the MM logo. From another source I also got to see the original contract, under which Eclipse had obtained their license to a part share in the Miracleman character, and it was explicit in saying that in case of Eclipse folding, or even substantially changing directors, that Eclipse's share in the rights to Miracleman would revert.

So one thing that the court case did establish was that Todd obviously didn't, as he had been claiming, own all of Miracleman. As far as I can tell, or any of the lawyers working with us on the case could tell, Todd probably doesn't actually own any share of Miracleman. He certainly has no copyright in any of the existing work.

Currently (as of late 2001) Todd has another trademark application in on Miracleman, on the grounds that it was an abandoned trademark, which we've opposed.

There may well need to be a final court case to tie up some of the last loose ends on Miracleman, which may wind up going to some very fun places indeed. At least with 1602, there's the money there to fight it. And there are a lot of places that want to republish the work that's been done on Miracleman, and the new work that Mark and I hope to do.

As regards the Angela, Cogliostro, and Medieval Spawn characters, Todd and I are simply co-copyright holders, just as we've been since I created the characters with him in 1993. He needs to financially account for everything he's done with them so far and in the future, just as I'll have to account to him when I license out, say, an Angela trade paperback, or license out the rights to do Medieval Spawn comics and merchandise (several of you have written to me suggesting uses and licensing organisations, for which I thank you all).

My own hopes for all this are that we've helped clarify copyright law in favour of creators (Scrivener's Error calls it a "victory for authors' rights") and helped to protect authors and artists and creators from unscrupulous publishers up the line (something that the Todd McFarlane of the early 90s, who proclaimed that Image was all about creators' rights and respect might have approved of); that we can move on and bring the existing Miracleman back legitimately into print, and that I can finish Miracleman: The Silver Age and write the concluding book, The Dark Age; and that the CBLDF (and possibly some other comics-based charities) can make some money out of all this foolishness.

...

I'm guessing that I'm one of about 873 people to tell you this, but - on the off chance that the other 872 are having a bad day:

The Lone Ranger was the uncle of Dan Reid - Britt "The Green Hornet" Reid's father - which makes him Hornet's great uncle.

Cheers,
Mark James


Mea culpa. A quick google has shown that the family tree and chronology for the Reids can be seen at http://www.pjfarmer.com/woldnewton/Reid.htm

And in a small piece of goofy news, longtime readers of this blog may remember that last year I was invited to be a horror host. It never happened, because of scheduling. It looks like it will happen this year. Coffin and all. More details as they turn up.
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