NARRATIVE ARK ENTERTAINMENT VS ARCHIE & SEGA
SEGA of America and Archie Comics are in legal trouble again, thanks to a lawsuit by Narrative Ark Entertainment, a New York Domestic limited-liability company.
Narrative Ark Entertainment organizer Scott Fulop, is citing 6 counts of illegal activities by Archie Comics and SEGA, including copyright infringement, violations of the Lanham Act, deceptive practices, unjust enrichment, and more. Fulop is apparently citing infringement on Sonic comics spanning from 1996-2012, and claiming republished and original work going up to 2009. There are 953 cited examples of alleged copyright infringement in comics, printed and digital. This includes 441 alleged infringements over 348 (re)releases of the main Sonic comic series. Fulop’s attorney is Neil Burstein, who is high-profile and has several top-tier IP and entertainment clients. Fulop is demanding a trial by jury as well.
This is a civil action seeking damages and injunctive relief for copyright infringement under the Copyright Act of the United States, 17 U.S.C. §§ 101, et seq., for violations of the Lanham Act, 15 Case 7:16-cv-06109-VB Document 1 Filed 08/01/16 Page 2 of 18 U.S. C. § 1125 (a), for unfair competition, unjust enrichment and related claims under Federal and New York statutory and common law, and for Declaratory Judgment that the alleged copyright registrations of the Defendants were fraudulently obtained, are invalid and should be canceled.
The Lanham Act is the primary federal trademark statute of law in the United States that prohibits a number of activities, including trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and false advertising.
The complaint mentions the following characters as being part of his original work:
The Fearsome Foursome (group name for Sergeant Simian, Lightning Lynx, Predator Hawk
and Flying Frog)
Sir Connery, the Mighty Crusader
Damocles the Elder
The Swords of Acorns
The Sword of Light
The Land of Dark
Fly, Fly Freddy
A letter sent to Archie Comics by the attorney representing Scott Fulop’s company Narrative Ark Entertainment warned Archie they were in violation of copyrights held by Fulop as the back Sonic comic catalogue was being sold digitally.
That letter is one exhibit submitted as part of the civil complaint filed to U.S. District Court Monday in New York against Archie Comics. The details of the case are eerily familiar to those who followed Ken Penders’s lawsuit against Archie: Fulop secured the copyrights to many characters, storylines, and artwork he allegedly created while working for the Sonic comics, and is now seeking back payments for the use of those characters in re-published issues. Fulop alleges no enforceable work-for-hire agreement precluded him from filing for those copyrights.
The letter, dated October 6, 2015, says, according to the civil complaint:
…that the use of Plaintiff’s copyrighted works by Defendant ACP in various digital reprints as well as publishing numerous editions – in both paper and digital version -was without consent and infringing on Plaintiff’s registered copyrights as well as in violation of other statutes.
The primary source corroborates that information. An excerpt from the letter penned by Fulop attorney Neil Burstein warned Archie they were in violation of twelve registrations approved by the U.S. Copyright Office:
It has come to our client’s attention that ACP has been or is in the process of making digital reprints of original comics featuring the Fulop works as well as publishing numerous editions – in both paper and digital version – which contain reprints of his stories and include such volumes as the Sonic Archives, Sonic Select, Sonic Comics, Sonic Universe, Sonic Legacy, Super Sonic Digest, Sonic Super Special Magazine and Best of Sonic, to name a few. In additional, most of the characters originally created by Mr. Fulop, and now owned by Narrative, have continued to be used by writers and artists in ACP publications, including advertisements for new titles from the Sonic Graphic Novel library. Further, the aforementioned unauthorized use of the characters and concepts have, in turn, been reprinted in various media and formats including those listed above and others, such as the Sonic Legacy series.[….]
To date, Fulop has received no royalties or payment for reprint page rates or received any other forms of compensation for ACP’s continued and unlicensed use of the Fulop works.
The letter, according to the complaint, prompted “extended settlement negotiations” that did not yield a resolution.