Friday, November 8, 2013
Showtime is producing a documentary series called 'Time of Death' that chronicles the last days of a group of Americans with terminal diseases. Death is all over television shows, but the shows do not cover the process of dying or how it impacts loved ones. The series is produced by Magical Elves and claims the show "unflinching, intimate look at remarkable people facing their own mortality.". Magical Elves also produced "Top Chef" and "Project Runway". The co- executive producer explains the show will not only impact viewers but also individuals suffering from terminal illness. "It turns out when you put a camera on someone who is dying, they keep going. It keeps them looking forward, it gives them a distraction from the inevitable," Miggi Hood, a co-executive producer, explains.
See 'Time of Death, ' Showtime Documentary Series, Peers Into The Last Days of the Dying, Huffington Post, Nov. 1, 2013.
Special thanks to Rania Combs (Attorney at Law) for bringing this article to my attention.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
recent episode of NBC's Parks & Recreation featured a storyline
about several characters writing wills. Check it out and spot the many legal issues. Click here to watch the full
See Parks and Recreation, NBC, 2013.
Special thanks to Elizabeth R. Carter (Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center) for bringing this to my attention.
Friday, October 25, 2013
As I have previously discussed, the children of Jack Kirby recently sued Marvel, claiming their father died without receiving proper payment for his work. A federal judge upheld Marvel’s copyright claims and the 2nd Circuit affirmed, finding Kirby was an “employee for hire” who worked within the scope of Marvel’s assignments.
The New York City federal Court of Appeals has denied the estate of Jack Kirby a panel rehearing or, in the alternative, a rehearing en banc.
See Hugh Armitage, Jack Kirby Estate Denied Marvel Copyright Appeal, Digital Spy, Oct. 23, 2013.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
For those who have yet to see the Breaking Bad finale stop reading here. During the show, Walter White is trying to protect his assets. He tries to accomplish this goal by breaking into his former partner's home to give him money to create a trust for Walter's son. David Gair authored an article entitled "Breaking Bad and Tax Planning" that delves into the creation of the trust. He points out that the cash's source is illegal, had it not been illegal then White and his wife could have provided their child more than $10 million in tax free and even more with other estate planning tools.
See Kelly Humke, Estate Planning Featured in the Series Finale of Breaking Bad, Wealth Strategies, Oct. 4, 2013.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
A group of family and friends held a protest outside of Casey Kasem’s Holmby Hills estate in an effort to see the ailing radio legend.
Kasem is 81 and deteriorating due to Parkinson’s disease. His kids, brother, and friends say his wife, Jean, has been preventing them from seeing Kasem for many months. They say she won’t answer phone calls and tells them to go away when they show up at her door. They hope this protest gets the word out so they might say goodbye to a loved one.
See George Pennacchio, Casey Kasem’s Family Feud: Wife Won’t Let Kids, Friends See Him?, KABC, Oct. 1, 2013.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
For those interested in how missing or unknown heirs are discovered, check out Heir Hunters on BBC One.
This program, already in its seventh series, follows the work of heir hunters, who are “probate detectives looking for distant relatives of people who have died without making a will.”
Special thanks to Dee Wallander (J.D./M.B.A. Candidate, Texas Tech University School of Law, Class of 2015) for bringing this program to my attention.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
In Marvel Characters, Inc. v. Kirby, the four adult children of Jack Kirby sued Marvel, claiming their father died without receiving proper payment for his work.
Jack Kirby was known as Marvel president Stan Lee’s “best artist,” co-writing such iconic titles as “Spider-man,” “X-Men,” “The Fantastic Four,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” A federal judge upheld Marvel’s copyright claims, finding Kirby had signed an agreement designating him as Marvel’s “employee for hire.”
The 2nd Circuit affirmed, acknowledging Kirby had more creative leeway than most Marvel freelancers but still worked within the scope of Marvel’s assignments. While Kirby may have created his own characters and plot lines, the court found his partnership with Marvel is what induced his creations.
See Lorraine Bailey, Marvel’s Win Against Kirby Heirs Affirmed, Courthouse News Service, Aug. 9, 2013.
Andrea Farkas (2014 J.D. Candidate, Texas Tech University School of Law) recently published an article entitled, I'll Be Back? The Complications Heirs Face when Terminating a Deceased Author's Online Copyright Licenses, 5 Est. Plan. & Cmty. Prop. L.J. 411 (Summer 2013). Provided below is the introduction to her article:
In the 1930s, two high school students created a character with superhuman strength and abilities. In their youth and naivety, these two students exchanged Superman and all of their rights to the character to a corporation in return for $130.
In 2004, the Superman franchise was worth over one billion dollars. When Siegel and Shuster died, they were broke and alienated from the fortune generated by their character.
Thanks to copyright law reforms, however, the two authors’ heirs possess the legal ability to terminate a portion of those grants. The heirs have “another bite of the apple,” so to speak. “In the spirit of Siegel and Shuster’s character Superman,” the heirs exercised this right of termination in 1999 and “have persevered to regain the copyright granted in 1938.”
Fast forward to today. In a new digital world, naive authors and artists transfer their rights by millions through email, blogs, and social media networks like Facebook and Instagram. Not unlike the naive Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who granted the rights to Superman to Time Warner (then Warner Communications) in 1933, millions of everyday citizens who lack bargaining power and legal finesse lose their valuable copyrights to online giants. However, the Siegels and Shusters of the digital world are not the only victims. The authors of online copyrighted material and their estate planners face complexities when planning digital estates, often leaving a superhuman challenge for an heir seeking to recapture the author’s work.
Many heirs are unaware that they possess such a right at all, not only because of complex user agreements or user naivety, but also because the very nature of certain online technologies, such as email, is still under debate. The Internet presents wide opportunities for exposure, allowing a previously unknown artist to create incredible contributions to the literary, visual arts, or musical industries and become discovered, much like Siegel and Shuster. Like Siegel and Shuster, many authors unknowingly agree to the terms of service prior to publishing such works online—terms of service that usually include provisions that grant or license to the website a user’s intellectual property rights, prohibit transfer or inheritance of accounts, or destroy the right to terminate the grant or license. Most people do not actually read the terms of service when they agree to use an online service.
This comment is divided into six parts. Part II explains the relevant federal copyright laws. This section explains what is subject to copyright protection, defines the right of termination, and explains how copyright law distinguishes between works created before and after January 1, 1978, and those works granted before and after the same date. Part II further explains which copyright-appropriate works are ineligible for reversion to the author or the author’s heirs. Part III examines the property law-copyright law dichotomy on the Internet. Part IV discusses the relevant terms of service that popular social media websites and email providers require in a user agreement. Part V explains why preserving the property rights of digital assets in turn preserves the intellectual property interests in the content. Part VI discusses state, international, and federal attempts (or lack thereof) to adjust law to technology’s rapid evolution. Part VII discusses how cybercrime statutes complicate legal and layman understanding of copyright law on the Internet. Finally, Part VIII explains why addressing these issues is important.
Monday, August 5, 2013
Sherlock Holmes has enjoyed quite the revival in recent years. Recent feature films, a BBC series, and a CBS series are all licensed by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
However, a recent book by Leslie Klinger comprising new stories about Holmes from modern day authors elicited a letter from the estate demanding licensing fees. Klinger “took the estate to court claiming the copyright on certain story elements had expired and he should be allowed to publish.” A default judgment was entered after no one representing the estate showed. There is still no response as Klinger has requested a judgment rendering the estate unable to collect any more licensing revenue.
See Nick Clark, Sherlock Holmes Mystery: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Estate and the Case of Character Licensing Rights, The Independent, Aug. 1, 2013.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Every since leaving The Simpsons in 1993, Sam Simon has been known throughout Hollywood for his dedication to philanthropy. And now that Simon has been living with terminal colon cancer for the past five months, he has revealed a plan to donate the tens of millions of dollars in Simpsons royalties he receives each month to charity.
Simon confesses he doesn’t know how much he has already given to charity, but his contributions to date are staggering. The Malibu-based Sam Simon foundation feeds the hungry with vegan-based foods, rescues stray dogs, and is worth over $23 million. Other charities Simon is affiliated with include PETA, Save the Children, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Simon also “turned a Malibu spread into a canine haven that rescues dogs from kill shelters and trains them as companions for the deaf.”
See Gary Baum, Terminally Ill ‘Simpsons’ Co-Creator Vows to Give Away Fortune, The Hollywood Reporter, July 25, 2013.