Long-simmering lawsuit finally spawns a settlement

Anyone in Los Angeles, California, or anywhere else who has ever read a comic book may not realize all the people who have contributed to it. Even characters now thought of as classics, such as Batman, Superman and the Joker, have been the subject of battles over royalties and copyright infringement.

A more modern example of this is the “Spawn” series, which was created by Todd McFarlane in 1992. Spawn is a CIA agent-turned demon who has been featured in comics and even a live-action motion picture. McFarlane was sued in 2002 by Neil Gaiman, who is responsible for several of his own creations such as Coraline and American Gods.

McFarlane and Gaiman worked together on the “Spawn” series briefly, and Gaiman felt entitled to ownership of several of the characters developed during their collaboration. A judge ruled that two of the characters in “Spawn” No. 9 did at least partly come from Gaiman, and a jury ultimately awarded him half ownership of “Spawn” No. 9, No. 26 and three issues of a spinoff series. Attorneys for each side filed notice in federal court last month that the case had been settled. The two comic titans have not seen each other since the settlement.

Gaiman says that the case is valuable in that it provides more distinct guidance for copyright law when it comes to comic books. One issue was that the statute of limitations for copyrights now begins with when a violation was discovered, rather than when something was created.

Source: The Washington Post, “Long ‘Spawn’ dispute settled: Neil Gaiman says case is good for creators, ‘incredibly good’ for copyright,” Michael Cavna, Jan. 30, 2012