Sunday, August 22, 2010

A (somewhat) shocking revelation!

Forgive the tardiness of this observation, but I didn't read any 8/11-published DC Comics until just this week, and I therefore missed out on the 8/11 DC Nation column by Eddie Berganza until just recently.

The gist of it seems to be talking up the 75th issue of Batman/Superman, which does sound legitimately cool (consisting, as it does, of two-page strips by the likes of Teddy Kristensen, Duncan Rouleau, Rafael Albuquerque and Jill Thompson...the latter of whom is hopefully doing a Krypto/Ace team-up), and announcing that he's no longer going to be editing the book. I think. (Which is probably good news? Superman/Batman started out not very good and got worse and worse, didn't it?)

What shocked me was the origin of the book: "Enter Mike Carlin and his observation of an interesting tattoo he had seen on his commute—in a melding of the S-shield and the Bat-symbol, the book's logo was born!"

I can see how the folks at DC might think the title World's Finest was too dated—it does sound stale to me. I've never liked the title Superman/Batman either though, as it sounds so bland. Why not just throw an ampersand or something in there, and call it Batman &'s still bland and descriptive, but at least it's, like, a phrase with an "and" of some kind in it, you know?

Anyway, I was surprised to learn that the title of the book came from a fan's tattoo, rather than someone inside DC's offices, and that DC publicly admitted this, as it seems to be giving credit for a DC idea to someone who's not an employee or in any way affiliated with DC.

Is taking logo design tips from the flesh of a random commuter a bit like accepting unsolicited manuscripts? Does the random commuter now have a legal case to make that he or she deserves a fraction of the profits from Superman/Batman, or that they now own Joe Chill and Ma Kent? Isn't this a potential legal nightmare for DC?!

Unless, of course, the person with the melded S-shield/Bat-symbol tattoo was Jeph Loeb.


tomorrowboy 2.9 said...

I liked teh Ed McGuinnes arc, but that's probably just because I liked the way he drew the characters.

Matt Duarte said...

I don't know about the person that has the tattoo, but there is probably some tattoo artist out there who designed that (even if he was just following the orders form the customer).

Kid Kyoto said...

I think it would come down to the question of whether or not they copied the tatoo or took the idea.

Ideas cannot be copyrighted, only specific images or words.

And of course whoever designed the tatoo was stepping all over DC's trademarks and copyrights which won't help the case either.

David said...

To expand on what Kid Kyoto said---

Trademark wouldn't really be a problem for DC because, presumably, no one else was using the mixed logo to indicate the source of goods. Generally speaking, trademark isn't about who designs a logo, but about who the logo refers to.

So we have to be talking about copyright; let's assume that logos like these are sufficiently original to be copyrighted. Originality is a pretty low bar, so that's certainly possible.

If you make a derivative of someone else's copyrighted work, the law prevents you from having copyright in the unlawful derivative. No one actually has copyright in your original additions, actually; but the copyright in the original works still limit how others can use the derivative.

In other words---the tattoo artist and commuter fan wouldn't have any copyright in the logo due to not having permission to make it. But most people still can't use the logo because they don't have rights in the independent logos that were being merged. So DC'd be the only (or nearly only) party who have rights to use the mixed logo, despite apparently not having come up with it themselves.

Really, the only consequence of this is that DC could have trouble copyrighting the logo themselves, but that's not an immediate problem given the protections they already have.