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Donna Wentworth
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Ernest Miller
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Elizabeth Rader
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Wendy Seltzer
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Alan Wexelblat
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About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

What Does "Copyfight" Mean?

Copyfight, the Solo Years: April 2002-March 2004

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

Copyfight

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May 25, 2012

LP Responds on Creation, Avengers, Kurtz

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Copyfight commenter Jim Keefe pointed me to "Comforting the Comfortable," a Ludic Live blog response by Leonard Pierce to Kurtz's Avengers creation piece. LP, as he authors his pieces, has something to say about nearly every point Kurtz raised.

Unfortunately, he starts off by bashing Kurtz - whose work he admits not to knowing - for being successful. That sort of personal attack isn't helpful and detracts from the important objections LP is raising. So let's skip forward to the substance.

First, LP notes that the question at hand is whether people who enjoyed the Avengers movie would be willing to donate something like the price of a ticket to the Hero Initiative. This non-profit exists to "create a financial safety net for comic creators". Far too often, people in creative endeavors need help - the finances of writing, acting, drawing, or doing comics aren't always lucrative and sometimes people need help with medical bills or just plain old money for groceries. LP notes that this effort to get people to give money in association with seeing Avengers will benefit many people in the comics business, whereas Kurtz's post was narrowly focused on the Avengers' creators and Jack Kirby.

Getting to the heart of the creative issue, LP notes that Kurtz seems to be shooting a strawman of his own creation. Nobody is asserting "that Kirby and Kirby alone be compensated for his work on the characters." And in fact the more modern Marvel writers and artists who've worked on these characters over the decades since Kirby stopped working on them will not be seeing big payouts from the movie either. Most will probably receive nothing - though movie companies notoriously keep their payout sheets extremely close to their accountants' chests. Who actually makes money from a given movie can be hard to fathom, as the IRS itself has complained from time to time.

Still, take it as given that more people than Kirby have worked on Avengers and more people than Kirby who did such work aren't going to share in the movie's success. Thus, Kurtz's focus on Kirby is misplaced at best, and misleading about the important questions of authorship/ownership and benefits.

Finally, LP points out that issues of creators' rights are still present, still important, and still relevant for discussion. Kurtz's column contained more than a little disdain and, frankly, name-calling which I had omitted in trying to focus on the Copyfight-relevant parts, but LP doesn't hesitate to shoot back, and probably deservedly so.

Moral issues and intellectual property rights have always been oddly entangled, particularly in the US which does not formally recognize artists' moral rights in creations. Calling on Marvel to voluntarily recognize what would be thought of as moral rights is always going to rub some people the wrong way, but is a common feature of charitable efforts.

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