Monday, March 11, 2013
Wants to Create Superman Coffee Table Book
What about the Superman trademark? Besides copyright, Warner Brothers can hassle you if you're using trademarks to confuse fans into thinking that your book comes from or is endorsed by WB. One way to limit that claim is with appropriate disclaimers. In 1998, a publisher offered a Godzilla filmography book that included a brief disclaimer on the back cover. Toho, the company that owned rights to Godzilla, sued and won. According to the court, an appropriate disclaimer would have been: “The publication has not been prepared, approved, or licensed by any entity that created or produced the original Toho Godzilla films,” and the disclaimer would be printed on the front cover and spine of the book in a distinguishing color or typestyle. (Toho Inc. v. William Morrow (C.D. Cal. 1998).) In other words, to avoid trademark hassles, make your disclaimers clear and prominent.
The year copyright law changed. By the way, copyright law changed on January 1, 1978. Photos after that date are subject to the new law, the Copyright Act of 1976, and photos before that date are subject to the old one, the 1909 Act. That shouldn't make much difference unless the set photographers were independent contractors and not employees (this article explains the differences).
For Your FYI Dept. If you go ahead without permission, we'd suggest offering it as a print-on-demand title. That way, if challenged, you can halt production without destroying inventory (often a request in copyright infringement lawsuits).