Catwoman or the Kingpin: Potential Reasons Comic Book Publishers Do Not Enforce Their Copyrights Against Comic Book Infringers

44 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2009 Last revised: 31 Jan 2010

Joshua L. Simmons

Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Date Written: August 18, 2009

Abstract

The vast majority of comic book publishers are not enforcing their copyrights against those that infringe by copying and distributing their comic books illegitimately. There are only three significant motivations for a copyright holder to enforce their copyrights against infringers: economic gain, distortion control and metacopyright influence. Comic book publishers have none of those motivations when it comes to their comic books. This conclusion is reached based on a finding that comic book publishers are not primarily in the business of selling comic books. While they do sell comic books, a study of their finances shows that the majority of funds are made through licensing their works for consumer products and derivative entertainment programs. Therefore, it is the illegitimate copying and distribution of these additional products that comic book publishers are incentivized to prevent. In addition, the wholesale copying of comic books runs no risk of distortion.

In discussing the motivations of the comic book publishing industry, this paper also compares their motivations to the motivations of the book and music industries, thereby contrasting the comic book industry to other industries with similar levels of infringement. It clarifies who holds the rights in the comic book industry: the comic book publishers, not the creative talent that generates comic books, hold the copyrights to comic books and comic book characters. Finally, this paper suggests that despite lacking enforcement motivations, comic book publishers should create alternatives to infringement in order to guide infringers back to legitimate uses, and also to profit thereby.

Keywords: comic book, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, copyright, enforcement, media, entertainment

JEL Classification: L82, O34, K00

Suggested Citation

Simmons, Joshua L., Catwoman or the Kingpin: Potential Reasons Comic Book Publishers Do Not Enforce Their Copyrights Against Comic Book Infringers (August 18, 2009). Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts, Vol. 33, p. 267, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1457388

Joshua L. Simmons (Contact Author)

Kirkland & Ellis LLP ( email )

601 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10022
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.joshualsimmons.com

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