1

Person 1 creates a fictional character and said character fits guidelines to pass both the Well-Delineated test and the Sam Spade test. The character has a well-detailed description, personality and unique defining characteristics as well as a graphic representation. The character also has a complete backstory. Does the character qualify for Copyright protection?

Later the character is used by Person 1 in collaboration with Person 2, who supplied their own character, the setting, and the basic plot, in a work. Is this considered a derivative work? Is copyright and ownership of the character still Person 1's or does Person 2 now have joint copyright and ownership?

Copyright and ownership were not discussed between Persons 1 and 2 beforehand. The character details, graphic, and the original work to feature the character (the backstory) was created and completed before the character was used in collaboration with Person 2.

If Person 2 were to use the character would they be in violation?

0

Yes. Crossovers do happen. DC and Marvel have put out joint books where their main characters fight with each other. Walt Disney and Warner Bros worked together for "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", and Disney and who knows how many video game companies teamed up for "Wreck It Ralph".

This does not mean Disney can just use Bugs Bunny or vice versa. In fact, the fact that Mickey was used very limited in Roger Rabbit was becasue WB would not let Disney use Bugs unless he had as much time as Mickey. Bugs and Mickey have an equitable amount of lines and Mickey never makes an appearance without Bugs during the movie.

Additionally, the person who publishes the works (in this case, Disney) would own the distribution rights but must give credit to proper owners in the credits (The movie Cloverfield credits Toho studios for the ownership of Godzilla, who's actual appearance in the film is a series of frames that can barely be seen during normal play of the movie. Because if there is anything scarier to the people of Japan than Godzilla, it's Godzilla's Lawyers.).

Typically, the work is not normally jointly owned. Either Person 1 or Person 2 own the work. The other party has licensed the characters to appear in that work and reprints only. These terms would be between P1 and P2 and are not legal. For argument's sake, if P1 owns the cross-over work, P1 does not own P2's characters and can not use them in works unauthorized by P2. He is only allowed to use them in relation to his deal with P2 for the use in a single work. P2 does not lose his rights nor share them in perpetuity with P1 and vice versa.

  • I'm a little confused as to which parts of the question each of these paragraphs answers. I can't see where you answer if the character qualifies for copyright protection, if the work in question is a derivative work, if it is now joint ownership or not, or if Person 2 would be in violation for using the character. Please clarify by answering the question along with your examples. – Achlys Aug 7 '18 at 20:51
  • So to Clarify: The work is not normally jointly owned. Either Person 1 or Person 2 own the work. The other party has licensed the characters to appear in that work and reprints only. These terms would be between P1 and P2 and are not legal. For argument's sake, if P1 owns the cross-over work, P1 does not own P2's characters and can use them in works unauthorized by P2. He is only allowed to use them in relation to his deal with P2 for the use in a single work. P2 does not lose his rights nor share them in perpetuity with P1 and vice versa. – hszmv Aug 8 '18 at 18:00
  • Ok. If you add that in to the answer I can accept it. – Achlys Aug 21 '18 at 1:36
  • @Achlys: Edited – hszmv Aug 21 '18 at 14:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.