Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Legal briefing: In this week's "Permanent Damage," Steven Grant looks at Carmine Infantino's $4 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. and DC Comics:

"Remember, 'work-for-hire' as a legal concept didn't come into existence until 1977. But if you invoke 'work-for-hire' as applicable, you open up all the aspects of the work-for-hire law, which includes: an 'author' (which can mean either a writer or an artist) must specifically sign away his property rights in order for a company to claim them. In other words, a contract must exist specifying a work is being done work-for-hire, and this must be agreed on prior to commencement of work.

"The '50s was an era when companies didn't do contracts. Freelancers were hired with a handshake. Jobs were assigned, turned in, vouchered, paid. Companies actively discouraged freelancers from consulting lawyers and frequently refused to deal with any who did. Courts tend to view that kind of thing as harassment and intimidation, though no one has ever brought it up in court in conjunction with the comics business though I'm aware of."