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REH's Works: Public Domain? Legal Issues

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#161 psionandy

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 07:03 PM

The crazy thing is that Broken Sea actually went out of their way to comply with CPIs wishes,, even though they had no legal or moral compulsion to do so.

And CPI had agreed that it was ok, until this months U-turn.

http://www.sffaudio.com/?p=4128

I understand that you can't steal copyrighted stuff, but CPI is essentially trying to steal stuff that is under Public Domain.

#162 amster

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 11:43 PM

@psionlady

Thanks for the link. CPI's lawyers are barking dogs who cannot bite outside the US. In this case they can only send out angry letters and hope to scare poeple away, but they have zero influence on copyright laws in other countries. If they sue, they'll lose. That's why I was asking especially for the PD status of "Pigeons..." in the US - which seems to be complicated, because sometimes rightsholders try to delay works becoming PD as long as possible by abusing the confusing legal situation in the US to their advantage. Same case with H.P. Lovecraft.


I doubt that its quite as simple is that. CPI is a huge corporation with armies of lawyers and millions at their disposal. Unfortunately, in legal battles, winning doesn't always come down to who's right, but who has the resources to fight a long and complicated legal battle. I'm guessing that's why Brokensea took down all of their REH related material. If you want to go ahead with your Pigeons from Hell movie, go for it, but since Paradox has already liscensed the comic adaptation to Dark Horse, I'm guessing that they're going to claim that they're holding the trademark on it, and they will sue you.
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--Robert E. Howard to Harold Preece, ca. June 1928--

#163 Kortoso

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 12:10 AM

So that's it for fan films?

#164 amster

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 01:13 AM

So that's it for fan films?


I don't know. I doubt that a small not for profit fan film posted on youtube would garner much attention from them. But I assumed that kop11's proposed film was more along the lines of a commercial venture. On the other hand, the Brokensea situation would seem to indicate that they're taking a hard line. Maybe they're planning on releasing an "official line" of fully dramatized audio books (which I would welcome, btw) and they're preemptively eliminating the competition. In these hard economic times, why pay for something you can get for free?

Edited by amsterdamaged, 26 February 2009 - 01:19 AM.

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Money and muscle, that's what I want; to be able to do any damned thing I want and get away with it. Money won't do that altogether, because if a man is a weakling, all the money in the world won't enable him to soak an enemy himself; on the other hand, unless he has money he may not be able to get away with it.
--Robert E. Howard to Harold Preece, ca. June 1928--

#165 godzilladude

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 03:56 PM

Reviving this old and rotten thread...

I am Peter Koller, an Austrian filmmaker and I have been a fan of REH for ages. So here's the question: Does anyone know about the copyright status of "Pigeons from Hell"? According to the 70+ years rule it should be public domain now. It certainly is here in Austria, where I live - but even wasting a thought about making a movie here that cannot be sold to the US wouldn't make any sense.

I haven't found anything about it's status in the US whether it is PD or for how much longer it will be owned by WHOEVER owns it. Any ideas?

And is there a reliable list of which of REH's works are PD? The ones I found on google and wiki have left me doubting a little.

Thank you and cheers, Peter


The list of US PD works can be seen at:

http://www.robert-e-...4rerevised.html.

I personally did the research, and am a lawyer in the trade, this is a viable list.

#166 Kortoso

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 06:18 PM

GD, you forgot about trademarks.

I am just concerned that CPI's image as a fan-centered entity will be tarnished. I'll keep my money in my wallet for the time being. <_<

#167 Gulbrand

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Posted 28 February 2009 - 10:25 PM

So that's it for fan films?


I don't know. I doubt that a small not for profit fan film posted on youtube would garner much attention from them. But I assumed that kop11's proposed film was more along the lines of a commercial venture. On the other hand, the Brokensea situation would seem to indicate that they're taking a hard line. Maybe they're planning on releasing an "official line" of fully dramatized audio books (which I would welcome, btw) and they're preemptively eliminating the competition. In these hard economic times, why pay for something you can get for free?


Seems like you were spot on, Amster. From the year-end report of Paradox, that came out today:

?Random House/Del Rey has made a deal with the audio book company Tantor Media for releasing Del Rey?s series of Robert E. Howard books as audio books?

-Gulbrand

#168 Kytun

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Posted 02 March 2009 - 07:42 PM

This has been posted in the Ask CPI thread, but I'll place it here, too, seeing that it's appropriate.

Theo Bergquist made the following statement in the Oct. 13 Ask CPI Q&A session:

Theo/ Copyright law is a very complex subject and CPI uses the service of several law firms to uphold and extend its copyrights and trademarks worldwide. The 70 years you mention is subject to extensions, such as a 25 years extension, (and in the case of work-for-hire terms are up to 120 years from the writing). It is also important to point out that in the case of trademarks, there is no time limitation. CPI has 90 registered trademarks and close to 500 registered copyrights worldwide.

Bottom line is that those people out there who think REH/Conan is PD should realize what they may be getting into.


If you have deep pockets, you can challenge the ownership of Conan & almost all the works of REH. Ample proof exists that most are now in the public domain. The trouble is, CPI will bury you in legal action as they have done to BROKEN SEA AUDIO PRODUCTIONS in NZ -- http://www.sffaudio.com/?p=4128 -- and once your hired gun lawyer clears you of that hurdle, CPI will come after you all over again for trademark infringement -- "Conan: the Barbarian" silly as it sounds.

CPI has been doing all sorts of interesting things - obviously they have a team of lawyers with too much time on their hands - including limited press runs in some countries, threatening letters in others, an endless stream of conflicting cease & desist letters across the globe, etc. One has to wonder what REH might have made of all this. Were it not for the obvious threat of being sued, I'd be writing a tongue-in-cheek Conan vs the malicious scribes of Aquilonia shortly after he takes the throne story.

#169 Guest_Sermon Bath_*

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 06:13 AM

they're pockets must not be that deep if they were forced to give Red Sonja to marvel.

#170 deuce

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 09:05 AM

they're pockets must not be that deep if they were forced to give Red Sonja to marvel.


If by "they're" (who is "they are", BTW?), you mean CPI, AFAIK, "they" were not "forced" to "give Red Sonja to marvel". If you have some inside news, please share. :)

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#171 PainBrush

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 10:13 AM

Yeah SB , they went to court to clarify the difference between Red Sonya , and Red Sonja ( a creation of Roy Thomas at Marvel waaay back when ) & it wasn't Marvel they went to court with it was Sonja Properties L.L.C. or whatever the heck the name is . And after working it all out , they then even gave Red Sonja properties the use of ( license) the 'real' Howard character Red Sonya of Rogatine for a nominal contract amount of a dollar or something . But they retained the right to keep the only story by Howard with Sonya , the "Shadow of the Vulture" to do with as they please . I think that's pretty accurate to how it went down , you were here on the forums when all that was getting talked about weren't you ? I thought so anyhow .

I just did a quick search , here's the old topic , & yep -you even posted in it . But that was back when you were your alter-ego XS , maybe you lost part of your memory in the metamorphosis process ?! :lol:

-------> SONJA/SONYA COURT CASE ENDS IN BLOODY CARNAGE <--------

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#172 Kortoso

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 06:14 PM

If they weren't planning to to the Rogatino story, then giving this concession would be valuable strategically. You don't make millions without strategic thinking.

#173 Roquefort Raider

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 07:14 PM

I wonder how there can even be a Red Sonja properties. The character is an obvious derivative of a licensed character; I would have expected that the Howard estate would retain all rights to Sonya/Sonja. (But then, not being a lawyer, there are many things I can never grasp). Does Red Sonja properties own a licence to the character, or does it claim full ownership of it?

In any case, I'm reading the shadow of the vulture at the moment and it would make a great movie if handled right (great action, colorful characters, rough humor, a simple but engaging plot). I would seriously downplay the name of Red Sonya before the opening, however, because of the stigma left by the 1985 cinematic farce. The great chemistry between Sonya and von Kalmbach can then make both of them stars, once moviegoers can judge the story for itself.

#174 amster

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 07:42 PM

I wonder how there can even be a Red Sonja properties. The character is an obvious derivative of a licensed character; I would have expected that the Howard estate would retain all rights to Sonya/Sonja. (But then, not being a lawyer, there are many things I can never grasp). Does Red Sonja properties own a licence to the character, or does it claim full ownership of it?


Full ownership. The court ruled that Red Sonja is a different character than Red Sonya.
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--Robert E. Howard to Harold Preece, ca. June 1928--

#175 Roquefort Raider

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 09:46 PM

I wonder how there can even be a Red Sonja properties. The character is an obvious derivative of a licensed character; I would have expected that the Howard estate would retain all rights to Sonya/Sonja. (But then, not being a lawyer, there are many things I can never grasp). Does Red Sonja properties own a licence to the character, or does it claim full ownership of it?


Full ownership. The court ruled that Red Sonja is a different character than Red Sonya.


Argh. Another court decision I don't get. It seems to me that either Sonja's a derivative of a Howard character (in which case it should be owned by the Howard estate) or it's an original creation, in which case it should be owned by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith (or by Marvel comics, since Red Sonja was created under a work-for-hire type of contract). What has Red Sonja LLC ever done in the actual creation process?

(Since I can't find anything on Red Sonja LLC after a cursory search on the web, I don't know if it is in any way associated with Roy Thomas).

Thanks for the info, amster.

#176 deuce

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 09:52 PM

I wonder how there can even be a Red Sonja properties. The character is an obvious derivative of a licensed character; I would have expected that the Howard estate would retain all rights to Sonya/Sonja. (But then, not being a lawyer, there are many things I can never grasp). Does Red Sonja properties own a licence to the character, or does it claim full ownership of it?


Full ownership. The court ruled that Red Sonja is a different character than Red Sonya.


Argh. Another court decision I don't get. It seems to me that either Sonja's a derivative of a Howard character (in which case it should be owned by the Howard estate) or it's an original creation, in which case it should be owned by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith (or by Marvel comics, since Red Sonja was created under a work-for-hire type of contract). What has Red Sonja LLC ever done in the actual creation process?

(Since I can't find anything on Red Sonja LLC after a cursory search on the web, I don't know if it is in any way associated with Roy Thomas).

Thanks for the info, amster.


Hey Raider! AFAIK, RT is not connected with Red Sonja LLC. Down at Howard Days, Roy said he (nor BWS) hadn't received any sort of "share" in the character.

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#177 amster

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 10:33 PM

Thanks for the info, amster.


No problem. :)

Hey Raider! AFAIK, RT is not connected with Red Sonja LLC. Down at Howard Days, Roy said he (nor BWS) hadn't received any sort of "share" in the character.


Yeah, that's typically how it works. Since they were working for Marvel at the time, their intellectual property would be owned by their employer, just like Spiderman, Fantastic Four, etc, unless a specila deal had been carved out ahead of time. I was reading the other day how Alan Moore has no claim on The Watchmen, so presumably he won't be getting a cent of the movie money. Its definately a cut throat business. Back to RS, I suppose Marvel sold the ownership somewhere down the line. Her solo Marvel comics were never that successful, and had very short runs. And her movie was a flop as well.
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Money and muscle, that's what I want; to be able to do any damned thing I want and get away with it. Money won't do that altogether, because if a man is a weakling, all the money in the world won't enable him to soak an enemy himself; on the other hand, unless he has money he may not be able to get away with it.
--Robert E. Howard to Harold Preece, ca. June 1928--

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 06:21 AM

sorry deuce, I cant let you in on my inside info....I have my family's safety to think about

#179 Rusty Burke

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 03:27 PM

What has Red Sonja LLC ever done in the actual creation process?


They created a corporation to own the character. This was back when a Certain Lawyer I Won't Name was creating several corporations to handle the licensing of REH characters, basing them on the model of CPI -- so there was a Kull Corp, a Solomon Kane Corp, and a Red Sonja Corp, as well as a REH Properties to cover the other stuff. One of the things the Baums did when they inherited the Howard rights was to start buying out and consolidating the corp.s into one entity, REHP. The only ones they couldn't round up were CPI and RS. CPI ended up with Paradox, as we know, and later they bought out REHP as well, so they have everything under one umbrella -- except for RS.

As others have noted, since Roy was doing "work for hire" with Marvel, they owned any characters he came up with. But since they were doing the Conan book under license, it was actually CPI that owned the character. She was split off from CPI when that above-mentioned Lawyer was creating the separate corp.s.

These sorts of discussions seem to me largely carried on by idealists (of whom I have been and sometimes remain one). But "creativity" actually left the whole process in 1936 when REH died. Ever since then, it's all been about business.

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 04:38 PM

monumental post Rusty