Warner/DC comics shuts down children's cancer charity auction over trademark

Alex sez,
Thomas Denton of comic blog Say It Backwards has a nephew who was diagnosed with cancer. A charity called Candlelighters helped his family out. Thomas decided to use his connections in the comics world to organize some charitable auctions featuring original artwork by various artists to give something back to the organization. Apparently Time Warner (who own DC comics, who in turn own Superman, Batman and most of the cool superheroes who wear capes) objected to the selling of the pieces featuring their copyrighted and trademarked characters on eBay, specifically Superman from what I understand.

Using characters owned by the major comic book corporations is pretty common in charity auctions at comic book conventions. This is not to mention that if you go on eBay right now there are a lot of auctions for artwork featuring those same characters, none of which Time Warner seems to be going after.

Thomas has posted a statement apologising to everyone involved in the affair (artists, bidders), but it doesn't seem right that he's been left holding the bag for trying to something for sick kids. Some letters to Time Warner's PR department might make them think twice about sending out cease and desist orders so wantonly, and who knows, might even prompt them to kick some cash Candlelighters' way.

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  1. It’s because Candlelighters was actually making a significant amount of measurable money.

    Bastards. Let’s bomb ’em. (For future reference, I mean this metaphorically, kthx.)

  2. …Reminds me of an incident years ago where Disney forced a community day care center to paint over its walls because the owners had painted Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and other Mouse House characters on them without asking their permission. When the story hit the press, Warner Brothers paid for a couple of artists to go over to the center and paint Loony Toons characters to replaced the ones Disney had ordered removed.

    Too bad such charitable spirits no longer occupy the house that Warner built…

  3. It strikes me that what’s happened here is probably Time Warner legal action, not necessarily representative of anything like DC’s policy on such things. From my understanding, DC is pretty fair on permissions.

    I wonder if the exception might have been taken to using copyrighted elements in a way that appeared too much like endorsement? That’s hardly making it okay, but it’s at least a rationalization.

  4. “Time Warner objected to the selling of the pieces featuring their copyrighted and trademarked characters”

    Here’s an idea, why not oblige these legal beagles by not buying any of the caped cavalcade AT ALL.

    Not the comics, not the movies, not the luch box nor the PJ’s.

    Screw them.

  5. I saw, of all things, a repo man with the updated WB Superman as his logo. Wished I’d had a camera.

  6. When I was setting up my charity project, this was one of the biggest concerns. Since most of the original people signing up were aspiring or pro comic artists, they thought not being able to do a copyrighted property might limit the project. No one would buy original art if it wasn’t Spiderman or Batman. I had to hold firm on that and I’m glad I did, considering.

  7. I see an opportunity for Marvel to pick up the slack here. It would be great PR, and more importantly, help sick kids.

  8. The company has an obligation to go after people who aren’t paying the license fee. The share holders would demand as much.

  9. @#5 I was just thinking about heading down to my local shop today and picking up Titans #2.

    I think it might just be the last DC comic I pick up. And I’m only buying it because I had the shop put it on hold for me.

  10. Currently DC is heavily involved in trademark and copyright litigation over Superman with the Siegel family (I believe). Is it possible that they need to file an injunction in order to show that they’re defending their trademark?

  11. blah blah blah big bad company. If someone were stealing your things and giving them to charity, I’m sure you’d be ok with that, right? Well, neither are those who hold stock in comic corporations. Would you expect Time Warner to allow charities to sell pirated copies of their movies? This is really no different.

  12. If someone were stealing your things and giving them to charity, I’m sure you’d be ok with that, right?

    Things? Are you equating drawing a picture of Batman for charity with snatching your purse or stealing your car? There are no things involved. Does Time Warner suffer any actual damages from this?

  13. What if someone were BUYING your things and giving them to charity? Because that’s closer to what’s going on here.

  14. @ rtcarroll2

    “blah blah blah big bad company. If someone were stealing your things and giving them to charity, I’m sure you’d be ok with that, right? Well, neither are those who hold stock in comic corporations. Would you expect Time Warner to allow charities to sell pirated copies of their movies? This is really no different.”

    Pardon me, but WHAT SORT OF A TARD ARE YOU?

    How is it stealing?

    Theft reqires an item to be taken , so that the owner no longer has the item.

    This , at the absolute limit of judicial stupididty could be considered copyright infringement. But it’sd have to be by a tard of a lawyer in cahoots with an equally backwards judge.

    Your moral comparison from drawing Batman for a charity auction and commercially running a counterfieting operation beggars credence.

    And finally, I weep salty tears of grief for the poor benighted DC stock holders.

    Oh woe is them.

    NO one has ever boot legged a comic, they cost a dollar or 2, so your point is absurd.

  15. I agree with ERROR404, there is a difference but…
    I also feel that the Patents and Trademarks Laws have been mutated into some sort of big brother for the cry babies of society. I don’t claim to be an expert on law by any means but have experienced rediculous cease and decist notices first hand for infringing on “Intellectual Property” rights.
    Unless I’m misunderstanding this, I’m having trouble seeing the violation with selling the original artwork regardless of whether or not it was for charity in this case. Was the auction in question selling the original artist pieces of the characters or were they reproducing the characters with intent to sell them? That would make the difference for me, the characters are identifiable with DC. If not endorsed by DC, they would be counterfeit and should be considered a legitimate complaint, not necessarily against the person selling them, but rather by DC against their artists who are producing them.
    Just my two cents… but the bottom line is that it’s all about the money, corporatations, United States Patent and Trademark Office and individuals are all in it for money. It really makes no difference if the cause is for a charity because DC is not getting their royalty, maybe if 50% of the proceeds from the auctions were paid to DC this wouldn’t have happened… I don’t agree with it 100% but it’s the way things work.
    I recently bought a pack of gum and was surprsed to see the number 5 had been trademarked so be careful to never to use it. See more examples of Copyright and Trademark violations here.

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