Comics without copyright?

I had been thinking the past few days about copyright in regard to comics, what with the successes of Dynamite with Project Superpowers and the Black Terror, even as the original Daredevil also appears in the pages of the Savage Dragon and had been a background staple in the pages of FemForce. There have also been hints of characters mentioned in JSA history that I think have fallen into the public domain, such as the The Spider int he lead up to the first appearance in that tile of the King Of Tears.

I’ve been reading over at TechDirt (totally comics unrelated) how copyright itself seems to be an inhibition to innovation rather than a incitement to innovation, as study after study flies in the face of convential wisdom. Considering the excellent stories that I have seen in the past ten years using characters that no longer have owners (America’s Best Comics spring to mind as well as the aforementioned titles).

And I wondered just what comics would look like without copyright. Or at least copyright with severely limited powers from what stands today.

So I go to see what news has come out of the San Diego Comicon, and I find this article, coming from a Variety report about how the potential of termination notices, issued by creators to regain the rights of their creations from their previous holders. They give the example of Tarzan, and how there could be two competing versions of him today (not that we see that unfortunately).

One thing I believe in the comics industry is that quality wins out. Well written compelling stories with fleshed out characters stand the test of time. Poor attempts will not survive, and publishing comics is an expensive business, unless it is constrained to the digital realms (which as time goes by seems more and more likely).  Could we have a form of publish or perish rule? If a character is not published in some form within say ten or twenty years, then it’s open season?

There have been times when I have been reading a story that contains a Superman rip-off, and I have thought, I don’t want the rip -off, I want the real thing. Then again, look at all the rip-off Supermen over the years that have slowly been crafted into valid constructs of their own. Supreme, Hyperion of the Squadron Supreme, the Plutonian.

So, what do we want? To wait forty or fifty years before we see older characters being used? Or to lower that time and let writers strut their stuff with our beloved childhood icons?

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