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Sunday, 12 June 2011

For The Record

The following was written on the 21st May, 20011 at 12.40 pm. I alerted IPC  to the fact that I intended publishing this on 1st June.  To date there has been no response from IPC Media and this is taken to mean that they have no arguement with the facts in this article.
IPC Media has the right to reply to this article stating its position.

On 1st August, 2010, having become fed-up with IPC Media and it laying claim to everything in British comics and particularly things I own and have published, I sent a letter to IPC.  I also sent a copy via email and got the confirmation that it had been received.  An out of office Auto Reply is timed and dated so cannot be denied.

I did not publish the letter online on the date specified but I sent another email/letter stating that I now understood that IPC Media had no problem or arguement with my projects.

Ten months later IPC Media still refuse to respond which can only be taken to mean it has no objections.  So, and I know who the snitches were that caused problems last time (my solicitor has their details), you can forget snitching.

Here, for the record, is the letter/email I sent IPC Media:

IPC Media
Manager Legal Department
1st August, 2010
I am contacting you regarding the actions you have been taking regarding my publishing of British Silver Age characters.  According to [correspondence filed with the US Better Business Bureau]:

“Lulu was previously contacted by IPC/Time Warner Media in reference to copyrighted characters this author used in their works. Proof of copyright was successfully provided and Lulu removed the work from sale from our website. Some time later, IPC/Time Warner Media contacted us again to report that the same works were being sold over our platform and that the copyrights of Time Warner Media and their subsidiaries were being infringed upon.”

This is very interesting for several reasons.  The first is that IPC Media never purchased the characters involved from Odhams, as confirmed in writing by previous IPC/Fleetway/Maxwell Pergamon Publishing management.  Secondly, Philip Hebden,the creator of the characters, retained ownership of the characters that were published as a one-off book by one of the then editors at Odhams for the 1971 Pow! Annual.  Hebden even offered the characters to other companies to develop.  In 1985 I, along with two colleagues, paid Hebden a sum for the characters after checking with Fleetway/IPC and being told that the characters did not belong to either company. Mr. Patrick Voigt, the senior man at Odhams told me in 1986, confirmed by his wife who was also employed at Odhams, that Hebden had retained his rights and that “this is unique in the British comics industry.”  Mr. Voigt further pointed out that IPC had no interest in the adventure characters owned by Odhams –this was also confirmed by former senior Fleetway/IPC managers.
It would be interesting to see IPCs “proof of copyright” since no contracts were signed and the characters were not purchased from Odhams –when characters were sold off only the humour characters were of interest, though some of the adventure strips were used as there was no one to complain.

IPC Media has also claimed that it is unaware of the “35 Year Rule” which previous incarnations of IPC/Maxwell Pergamon Publishing and Fleetway has employed.  This rule existing has been affirmed to by former editors and management in correspondence.

The writer and artist own the copyright in the strip jointly, under The Copyright Act 1956 (or the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 in the case of more recent comics), unless there has been a written transfer of their copyright ownership to a third person (such as the Publisher).

This is called Authors Copyright. It lasts for the lifetime of the writer and artist, and thereafter for a period of 70 years from the end of the year in which the last survivor of them dies.

Each strip within an issue of a comic is thus the copyright property of different people: i.e. the writer and artist who created that particular strip; and so a lot of individuals will have copyright interests in each weekly edition.

The Publisher has a separate copyright (called Publishers Copyright), which protects the entire published issue of a comic, including its overall typographical layout, not just individual strips within it. This lasts for 25 years from the end of the year in which that issue of the comic was originally published.

This second type of copyright has now expired for any comic with a cover date on or before 31st December, 1984.

No contracts were ever signed between creators and any previous incarnation of IPC.  I know this because I wrote scripts and created characters used by IPC –all of which I retain the copyright to.  A script was submitted in each case and this placed in the accounts book as proof that a script had been written (due to past “mispractice”.  A cheque was then paid within 30 days.

According to Publishers Copyright, had IPC purchased the characters then their one and only appearance in 1971 –almost 49 years ago- made them public domain in 1995 and had I waited I need not have paid anything for them.

If IPC Media can supply documented and signed contracts to the effect that they purchased these particular characters at the time then fine.  But they still have not seen a second appearance in 49 years and I have been in contact with three of the artists involved in the book and have their permission to use the strips.  Their work.

I ought to remind you that:

1.  when IPC were taken over by AOL Time Warner I was ordered to stop using characters the previous owners had given me written permission to use (four years earlier)–these included characters that no longer belonged to IPC but had been sold off in the 1980s (characters from The Eagle etc.)

2.  I was ordered a second time to stop using specific characters that I was told were © IPC Media yet had been created by myself and published in Small Press books since 1982 and whose histories were fully documented.

3.   At the same time as I was ordered to stop using these characters –I have this in writing from IPC Media- I was asked whether I “..could supply us with a full list of characters owned by this company”.  This was repeated again a few weeks later and via IPCs legal department –clearly indicating that the new IPC Media did not know which characters it owned.

4.    Prior to publishing the Silver Age Collection, I submitted the project as an idea to IPC Media and even sent a printed up copy with notes.  IPC Media stated it had no interest in “ characters or comic projects”.

IPC Media is stating that it is above UK/European copyright laws in declaring they own characters out of hand.  The ‘legal argument’ from IPC Legal in which they stated the case of “Marvel Comics versus Captain Marvel” is ludicrous.  Firstly, it was National Periodicals (DC) who took action against Fawcett Publications regarding C.C. Beck’s “Captain Marvel.”  At the time Marvel did not exist and was known as Timely Comics. This ‘fact’ I also have in writing from IPC Legal.

I have tried, from the very outset, to make sure there has been no mis-understanding and have tried to be straightforward.  IPC Media has been overly belligerent regarding some projects/characters it has no say over/rights to.

Over 35 years I have tried to maintain good relations with many UK companies and have talked/corresponded with senior management, editors and so on.  I find it curious that IPC Media did not issue a “cease and desist” order and back this up with documentation.  Instead, it decided to go and threaten, an intermediary between myself and the printers.

I would suggest that IPC Media take me to court regarding this matter and I can then provide documentation pertaining to the company and its past practices, letters and faxes as well as emails from former very senior IPC/Fleetway/Odhams and Maxwell Pergamon Publishing staff as well as other documentation.
I have sent a copy of this letter via the internet to IPC Legal (an out of office reply tells me it has been received this evening at 19.15 hrs) and if I do not hear from you by 30th August, 2010 I shall take it IPC Media is withdrawing its claims and will openly publish this letter via the internet.

I would like to stress one last time that I would prefer cordial relations with IPC Media but IPC Media has taken this option away from me.

I look forward to your written response.

Terry Hooper
Publishing Editor Black Tower Comics & Books [f.1985]
Putting that into perspective, if IPC Media states it is above the laws mentioned then it is in one very perilous position.

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