Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Some updates about the Warner Bros thing

This is just kind of rambling and thinking out loud, but I wanted to reply to some things I've seen said online about this.

1 Yes, I know I was legally wrong. I was just naive about how strictly DC enforces these things because there are dozens of pieces of art on ebay featuring their properties at any given time and I know of other charities that have used donations similar to mine. I just thought this would slip under the radar like artists selling sketches at conventions.

2 Warner Bros pulled two auctions, both already completed. One had been paid for, one had not. The one paid for has been refunded, though I'm not sure if I'm still obligated to ebay's charity handler for the final price.

3 I pulled the active auctions featuring Warner Bros properties. No, I'm not going to be relisting them.

4 I may be canceling the bids on the other completed auctions and issuing refunds. Since this is already on the Warner Brothers legal department's radar, I'm not sure having accepted money for art featuring their characters is a good idea. I'm not sure what to do there yet.

5 The money thing I mentioned. The ebay fees won't be that much, and if I issue refunds paypal doesn't charge me anything. But, the way ebay's charity handler works is you give them your final information and then make a donation based on the final price of the auctions. Technically, these auctions did end, so I may have to pay for them any way. I have until the 19th to get them their money. Which sucks.

6 Please don't send nasty emails to DC. They probably have no idea this even happened. What probably happened here was some suit saw something for sale with Superman on it and didn't go any further.

7 I'll likely be shutting down SIB once the dust has cleared here. I've sort of lost my enthusiasm for promoting WB's products, and I've been told lots of times I sold people on some Superman comic or toy or whatever.


Bubbashelby said...

Wow. I don't know what to say. Let me know if there is anything that I can do on my end to help you out.

I know my piece sold, and the whole point was to raise funds for the charity. Maybe you can put the high bidder of my piece in contact with me and I can work with them directly to insure the goal of this whole situation is fulfilled.

ThePariah said...

Who says you have to promote WB on here? There's plenty of Superman-related blogs that talk about the fandom but don't shill products. I never looked at this blog as selling me on anything, I came here for the humor and nostalgia.

And curse WB. May something truly awful come raining down on their heads.

Anonymous said...

meh. I sent an email to the WB legal dept. Shame on them; even if they felt that you were treading on their territory (doubtful, but possible), the correct response would be to find a way to work with you to achieve mutual goals.

Fie on WB, I say.



K.G. MadMan said...

Hey There,

Sorry to hear about this. From my experience in working on charity projects I understand how frustrating it is when things like this happen. Sometimes you're doing something that's so right and good that it seems unreal that anybody would have that kind of audacity. Don't let it knock the wind out of your sails though, those people who you're trying to help are all that matters, not a bunch of predators trying to push their legal weight around. Those people can go to hell.

J. Hazelip said...

You weren't wrong, the lawyers are. Also, cease and desist letters do not carry legal wait. They are the lawyer's equivalent of a stern letter of request. Nothing more.

Original artwork is given back to the artists for one very simple reason. The publisher has not purchased it. The publisher has purchased the right of reproduction under a work-for-hire contract. The original artwork is usually sold at cons and sometimes on eBay by the original artists. DC does not own the original artwork, and never has, the artist does and they have been selling their original art for decades now.

DC is wrong, not you.

Kevin Huxford said...

Ugh. To those commenting: he's admitted he was wrong, so please stop telling him he wasn't. He literally was wrong and the lawyers are technically in the right. With trademarks, you have to protect them at every turn or worry about losing them.

Original artwork is different and the artists are legally cleared to sell it. The commissions that go on aren't always legally cleared, but they're not posted on eBay with a clear claim of what property they will be of.

I really hope that this can get cleared up so that the auctions can resume. I sent a contact e-mail to the blog author of someone who might be able to point them in the right direction.

paperghost said...

"Ugh. To those commenting: he's admitted he was wrong, so please stop telling him he wasn't."

Considering he's probably crapping his pants because someone from a legal department sent him a C&D, he's hardly going to be running round claiming he's in the right, is he? That doesn't mean the action taken by the over zealous ip lawyer is the right thing to do in terms of common sense and / or the generation of extremely damaging press such as articles with titles like "DC Comics doesn't like kids with cancer". In my experience, IP lawyers are generally useless because they have no clue about the possible impact of negative PR. In this case, someone has walked into a thunderstorm of idiocy that could have been easily avoided. But you know....common sense and IP lawyers. Never a happy relationship.

"With trademarks, you have to protect them at every turn or worry about losing them."

Shutting down a charity auction for kids with cancer is not ever going to be seriously looked at by a judge as opening the floodgates for endless waves of Warner related infringement.

Shouldn't the same legal hotshot who did this also be shutting down the piles and piles of auctions on EBay *right now* that are doing nothing *other* than making a profit for the individuals running those auctions?

Without them doing so, their case for "protecting their IP" is hardly watertight. Warner have screwed up badly here.

Kevin Huxford said...

Negative PR has nothing to do with the decision making process.

How about you show me some of those other auctions? Most of what I see? An offer for a commission of whatever character you want. With it left that vague, there's nothing actionable for an IP lawyer.

I didn't see where the blog author said he got a C&D...I saw a print screen of an eBay message saying the auctions were closed down by the IP holder. If our blog author got a C&D, there'd not have been so much guess work in whether he was reversing payments and closing down remaining auctions.

I'm sensing, from your inability to even keep to what the blog author has detailed, that you're one of those pile on people who just wants to gripe about the corporations and lawyers, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan. ;)

thomas said...

Can we please not snipe at each other? I would call it a favor if we could be nice discussing this.

Kevin Huxford said...

Fair enough. I'm sorry for the "snipe".

Staying on the topic of commissions on eBay, they normally are like this one:


The artist mentions properties they have worked on, but leaves the choice up to the winning bidder after completion of the auction. It's the only way to be safe on eBay with such things, if you're skirting IP laws.

paperghost said...

"I didn't see where the blog author said he got a C&D"

I missed out typing the word "possibly". It happens. Even if he *had* received one, he purposely might not actually go into the details of it - or even mention he had one - because depending on who sends it, what they feel like saying at the time, they might demand not mentioning the fact. Its usually for bluster purposes, but in cases where something like this could cause negative publicity, the idea is to get in hard and try and intimidate the recipient into not going public with too much of the hard and fast content of the C&D. I've seen plenty of those bandied around in the industry I work in. This situation could potentially be no different.

"How about you show me some of those other auctions? Most of what I see?"

Here's some gay batman sold for profit, for starters.


There's lots and lots of potentially infringing / brand damaging material on EBay, you just have to know where to look for it. Doesn't take long.

"Negative PR has nothing to do with the decision making process."

The reaction to the events that have taken place suggest otherwise. Someone working in IP should take into account the blowback from every decision they make, because it only takes one screwup to inadvertently damage your own brand with actions such as this. Someone working in IP that doesn't consider negative PR when shutting down a charity auction for kids with cancer just proves that point. A longtime purchaser of DC material (and beyond that, a consumer of things Warner related), I find myself sufficiently appalled to not want to buy or partake of anything DC / Warner related again unless (by some miracle) they try to fix this mess somehow.

I might have had another 20 or 30 years of purchasing power left in me for their products, and I spent a *lot* of money on those products. Suddenly remove that purchasing power, and you've impacted your earning power through not taking into account the negative impact of bad PR during the decision making process.

What happens if lots of people who feel the same way about this incident do the same thing? Comic readership is creaky enough as it is without lots of long term readers and buyers suddenly saying "wow, cya!"

I'm pretty confident that removing the money that *would* have gone to DC from myself over the next 20 or 30 years - perhaps more - is more damaging (along with all the negative word of mouth that now ensues) than an auction for some kids somewhere.

Yes, they "protected their brand". Hooray. At the cost of people continuing to pour money INTO that brand?

Doesn't sound so smart to me.

"I'm sensing, from your inability to even keep to what the blog author has detailed, that you're one of those pile on people who just wants to gripe about the corporations and lawyers, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan. ;)"

Corporations and lawyers are great, when they use their heads. On this occasion, I don't think they did and they're reaping the whirlwind. Not sure how painting me as a corporation hating hippy or something helps though..

paperghost said...

"Fair enough. I'm sorry for the "snipe"."

I was typing war & peace while you wrote that - no offence taken. I just think its practical - and beneficial - for people who work in IP to take note of the possibility of bad PR through decisions that might be legally correct, but commonsense-wrong. I know some IP lawyers who do - but I also know a lot of them on a personal level who just don't understand that point of view.

Tom Hakim said...

In a world that cherishes a legend, and a legend that cherishes the world, DC Comics has created and hosted this legend that billions of people around the world beleive in for over 5 decades. The belief may not be completely material in essence, but morally and ethically true and substantial. With the type of ethics and values that Superman carries in his comics, movies, cartoons, etc., DC Comics should be helping people in many ways to carry on the portrayal of Superman. Now I know that DC Comics cannot help everyone, but exceptions need to be made, even if it is a "once in a while" condition of circumstance. DC Comics would not be at the top of the list now-a-days if it weren't for the heart and soul that Superman instills into the people who believe in him. Such events as what Thomas Denton is doing for his nephew may not be legally correct, but I think that there is more at stake here than legalities, it is the morality and ethics that Superman as a legend and hero had allowed people to understand continue what is right and just. People that purchased from Thomas's auctions purchased because they believe that Superman, even though he is not a real person, love the hero and more importantly believe that Superman has a soul through those who really and truly believe.

Once question that has possibly been failed to ask is:

If Superman was a real person, would he allow for his memorabilia to be sold to help one child or million?

Myself, for someone who believes and honors and cherishes Superman.......I don't even think he would think twice about it!

Anonymous said...

Warner Bros has been on a rampage with yanking auctions. They had an auction of mine for a Batman Beyond sketch card taken down, though left 3 others alone for some reason. They have been yanking big name artists auctions down too. A Pro sketch card artist told me that they even yanked charity auctions for the ailing Gene Colan. Now Marvel has taken the inititive to raise funds for him. There is a real buzz of discontent rising among the artists and may soon be coming to a head. They better hold onto their hats.