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Green Lama character not public domain

I want to identify myself as the owner of the Green Lama character, as executor of the estate of Kendell Foster Crossen (and his daughter)--by way of explaining why I made the changes I did to Green Lama. People should not be misinformed about the status of the Green Lama. As I wrote, only the original comics are public domain. I hope you all found my changes acceptable. I don't mind having the character featured as long as this distinction is made clear. I wanted to write to the admin crimsoncrusader but could not find any contact info. {C contributions/50.36.24.62|50.36.24.62]] 14:29, April 16, 2012 (UTC)Kendra Crossen Burroughs, mehery at gmail

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.I have double checked the copyright records and confirmed the renewal status for Double Detective Magazines where Green Lama's literary appearances occurred. Our goal is to keep people informed about the copyright status of these characters and clear up misconceptions, so the changes to the page seemed appropriate. However, I did adjust the formatting to match the rest of the website by moving the content into the Notes section of the page instead of the character biography. Crimsoncrusader 00:19, April 17, 2012 (UTC)

Crimson - Regarding Green Lama, it may be helpful to research Green Lama more carefully before making changes one way or the other. With all due respect to Ms. Burroughs, there is no way that "the comics are public domain but the pulp stories are not"...it doesn't work like that. If the pulp stories came out first, were registered and renewed and refer to the same character, the comic books ARE owned by the copyright holder, whether it is the Crossen family or someone else. If the pulp stories are PD or the "Green Lama" is a different character than in comics, then the comics may in fact be PD, which means any modern use of the stories is good to go. This wiki has been down the road of "copyright holder claims" before, like with Carbanaro, or DC or Eisner, All-Negro, etc, etc, etc. - KJR 64.222.94.115 12:04, July 18, 2012 (UTC)
KJR - You are totally incorrect. There is no dispute that the comics are public domain, even if the pulps are. Nobody can claim ownership of those comics, period. They are a totally seperate entity than the pulp stories, regardless of what similarities there are in the characters used. Remember that characters can not be copyrighted, only pictures and stories involving them. The fact that the comics are derviative of the pulp does NOT entitle the owner of the pulp to the NEW ideas and expressions in the comic. This is why, for example, the Fleicher Superman cartoons are public domain, while Superman is not. It is also why George Lucas can not claim ownership of Star Wars fan films, even though they use his characters. George sponsors contests, with the stipulation that he can show the entries, but he could not just download a fan film from the Internet and make it a special feature on the next BluRay edition of Phantom Menace. While a fan is technically violating copyright by putting a Darth Vader in his film, George would be violating copyright by trying to assume control of a film that he did not make. Maybe if George sued, he could ask to be rewarded custody of the fan film's copyright in a settlement, but I don't think a judge could make that award without the case ending up in the Supreme Court. Bottom line is, you only own what you make, unless it's a work for hire, and each individual work is subject to the copyright laws of its day. Another example: If you carve a statue and someone else takes a picture of it...then they own the picture, not you. Every individual artwork is its own entity. Owning the rights to a piece of art does NOT entitle you to the rights of all derivative work, or the guys who made Superman should own just about every superhero ever made. And by the way, there are substantial differences between the pulp Green Lama and the comics version. For example, the version used in Project Super Powers has almost nothing to do with the pulp version, except the name, the color of his clothes and the connection to Tibet. Take away the name, he's a totally different character. The Green Jet version is definitely its own character. But again, just because someone owns the pulp stories, doesn't mean that they get to ignore the copyright registration laws of the time, with any work that is arguably derivative. Freeuniverse (talk) 20:32, July 18, 2012 (UTC)Freeuniverse
Freeuniverse - I am a huge advocate of the public domain and tend to take a very wide view of it. However, I also detest "arguements on the internet" to which tend to turn into he said/she said with little resolution, so please, please be 100% sure before telling me I am "totally incorrect". I urged caution, simply caution, before assuming that Ms. Burroughs claims of ownership are either correct or incorrect and posting them as fact. I come here to be helpful, and then only reluctantly, because once upon a time I was told there was "NO WAY" Captian Marvel was public domain, nor the Quality characters, etc, etc, et all. If you find my comments helpful then fine, if not, ingore them.
That having been said, if the comics are derivative of the pulp, and the pulps do in fact belong to the Crossen Estate, either by contractual release or by reclaimation, then the comics themselves, being deriviative of those pulps, are the property of the Crossen family. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anderson_v._Stallone) Derivative works are not entitled to copyright protection in and of themselves. In your example, a Star Wars fan film would be derivative, and while Lucas would not own it, the maker of the fan film couldn't do anything with it, and Lucas could indeed use the "new ideas" within that film to create new Star Wars works.
Even if Ms. Burroughs has specifically placed the Green Lama comics into public domain by affirmation, the pulp stories on which they are based cannot be used as the basis for new works as they remain derivative of the pulp stories. Saying Project Superpowers merely took the basic color scheme, name and connection to Tibet to create a new and different character would be like saying if I made a character in a blue suit with a red cape, called him Muscleman, made him the last son of a dead world and gave him powers far beyond mortal men, then I'd be in the clear if I changed his secret name to Howard Lipschitz. Nonsense, the character would still be, essentially, Superman.
In regards to what has come to light and the Green Lama character, if I were to want to use a similar character for a story, I would note that the character was originally "White Lama", based on Theo Bernard, what you have left is a character who got magic powers in Tibet, with a cape, who calls himself Jethro and who recites "Om Mani Padme Hum"...take away the Jethro name, that character is probably usable, not as a PD character, but as a new expression of tradtional ideas, which Ms. Burroughs most certainly does not own. I wish you the best in creating new comics. -KJR 64.222.94.115 03:22, July 19, 2012 (UTC)
KJR - I appologize, that did come off a bit combative, and that was not my intention. I just got my hackles up, because I feel like there is a tremendous amount of misinformation circulated about Copyright law on the Internet. People speaking in a tone of authority about absolute nonsense. It makes me want to bang my head against a wall sometimes.
Let me say that I still must respectfully disagree with your assertions. Anderson vs. Stallone is interesting, and I don't agree with the judge's decision that the non-infringing parts of a work found to be derivative are not protectable, but thinking about it, I realize he is not the first judge to decide that. However, I still don't see any evidence that a copyright holder is entitled to the copyright of derivative works made by someone else (in the Stallone case, as I predicted, it was only as part of a settlement). Yes, the law says that derivative works are the exclusive privelidge of the copyright holder...meaning that if anyone else creates unauthorized derivative works, those works are infringements, and therefore, not entitled to a seperate copyright. But I don't see where it says that copyright holders assume the copyright of infringing works. Take for example the case of the film Nosferatu or the comic character, Wonder Man (Fox). Nosferatu was found to be an infringement of Dracula, and therefore, its copyright was rejected and it became public domain. The exclusive copyright of the film was not transfered to the Stoker family. Nor was the exclusive copyright to Wonder Man transfered to DC.
Of course, this is all a slightly different argument than what we are talking about with Green Lama. In this case, the comics were not renewed. Even if the Crossen family had licensed Green Lama stories to the comic company, and the comic stories were nearly identical to the pulp stories (which they weren't), they are still two different works (two different forms of expression), that needed to be registered seperately. If the Crossen family owned the rights to the comics, then it was their responsibility to renew the comics. But nobody renewed the comics, and now they are public domain, period. Granted, if the comics were almost identical to the original pulp stories, it would be pretty hard to create derivative works, without infrining on the pulp stories that are still under copyright. But, take the character Falstaff for example. He was a villain who appeared in the Green Lama comic, but not in the pulp stories. Because he was not in the pulp stories, and the comics are public domain, the Crossen family can not claim exclusive copyright on the Falstaff story. If one of the comic stories was based directly on one of the copyrighted pulp stories, except that Green Lama doesn't look quite the same way he was described in the pulp story, then it would be impossible to make a derivative story, but you could use the art from the comic, since it bares no substantial similarities to the pulp story. This is why with a television series, like Bonanza, the first episodes may be under copyright, but later espidoes are in the public domain. Even though they are derivative of those first episodes, the copyright holder was still obligated to renew copyright on each individual work (each individual episode).
As far as Muscleman, there are a lot of companies getting away with almost that very thing. It's subjective and is based on how substantial the similarities are between characters. You're right, using the name, color scheme, tibet and magic, is probably enough to constitute a substantial similarity. I'm not arguing that Dynamite is in the clear. I'm just saying that they're overall interpretation was pretty different than any pulp story, and changing the name or any of those other elements, makes him almost a totally different character, like you said. Freeuniverse (talk) 20:26, July 19, 2012 (UTC)Freeuniverse
Just a brief note. I don't think I did say that changing an element makes a different character. I do beleive the pulp and comic versions of Green Lama are substantially the same character, the same as the Golden and Silver age Supermen would be. That said, it wouldn't take a lot with Green Lama to create a perfectly servicable stand-in. - KJR 66.87.2.142 21:24, July 19, 2012 (UTC)
Fair enough. I think there is a substantial difference though. The guy that Dyanmite used had a different costume, and was based on a character that could fly and shoot beams out of his hands, thanks to a special vitamin. I don't think that was in the pulp. I think he had a different supporting cast as well. If you changed the name, the only similarity would be that they are both guys who studied mysticism in tibet (hardly unique), and wore a green hood. That hardly meets the law's requirement of a "well defined character." Maybe change it to a red hood, and that character resembles the pulp Green Lama about as much as Amazing Man or the Flame. But that's my opinion. You're right, wouldn't be hard to make up a stand in, if it were necessary. But, if what Ms. Burroughs says is true, it might defeat the purpose of using the character at all. Guys like me, who are interested in Public Domain characters, I think we're mostly interested in paying homage to the past by bringing once-beloved characters back to life, or revitalizing good characters who never really got a chance to shine. For me, using a substitute would not be nearly as interesting as using a classic character. I have about a billion character ideas that I will never have time to introduce into stories, but I still take the time to reintroduce characters from the past, because I like the idea of being part of their legacy...hopefully someone in the future will continue the legacy of my characters 100 years down the line...

Trademark of Green Lama and other characters

Hey I noticed Kendall's message regarding Green Lama and took the liberty of looking into the registered trademark at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The only registered trademark on file for Green Lama belongs to Super Power Heroes, LLC which is Dynamite Entertainment. They also have trademarks on Black Terror, The Scarab, The Arrow, Pyroman, and The Owl, and have had them since 2007/08. So I assume this may put these other characters into dispute as well.TimStrange 00:44, April 17, 2012 (UTC)TimStrange

Thanks Tim we should probably add a disclaimer about the trademarks to those characters pages. Crimsoncrusader 00:49, April 17, 2012 (UTC)

Dynamite had no right to register that trademark and I will challenge it. 50.36.24.62 22:05, April 19, 2012 (UTC)Kendra

Actually, unless you published a Green Lama comic within the last 5 years, they do have a right to assume the trademark, for that purpose. There are a number of cases in which copyright and trademark are owned by different people. Take Captain Marvel for example. Oldest stories about a character with that name are owned by DC, but Marvel owns the trademark. There is also a new comic about a character called Joe Palooka, but it is not based on the copyrighted Joe Palooka character. You might have a case against them for copyright infringment, but if they beat you to the punch on the comic book trademark, they were smart. However, it looks like Dynamite has given up on Project Super Powers, so the trademark may soon expire anyway. Freeuniverse (talk) 20:39, July 18, 2012 (UTC)Freeuniverse


The Crossen Estate HAS issued Green Lama books in the past five years, but this is where IP gets tricky. Trademarks exists not to enrich the author of works, but to ensure the public is not confused regarding origin of a product. So, yes, Dynamite is entitled to register trademarks regarding Green Lama and other BRANDS of comic books, but to enforce them, the range would be quite narrow as to what was protected. The case could be made that only their specific logo is "trademarked", for instance. Or, if a property were to be in public domain, the trademark covering that product would have to be more closely delinated, such as "Wazoo Comics' Green Lama" versus "Ken Crossen's Green Lama". See (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dastar_Corp._v._Twentieth_Century_Fox_Film_Corp.) This sort of thing just happened with "Avengers", which in Europe had to be titled "Marvel's the Avengers" to avoid confusion with the "BBC's Avengers". (John Steed and Emma Peel) The "Hawkeye" action figure, for instance, is labled "Marvel's Hawkeye", due to Last of the Mohicians, which is untrademarkable.

Were this not the case, I could simply trademark "Santa Claus" or "The Easter Bunny", which of course, I cannot do. If the product is under copyright, then I would be the sole source which could legally issue a product under a brand name, and so therefore, DC can release "Batman Brand" magazines and trademark them. The reverse applies with say, "Plastic Man". Since Plastic Man is PD, while DC has trademarked the name for the purpose of producing "Plastic Man" brand magazines, they cannot be considered the sole source of such products. I could make and sell "Wahzoo Comics' Plastic Man Comics" and be legally safe. DC would STILL own the exclusive right to produce "DC Comics' Plastic Man Comics". 64.222.94.115 03:44, July 19, 2012 (UTC)

I agree with most of that, but I disagree with the notion that a copyright holder has exclusive rights to a trademark. Again, characters can not be copyrighted, only the works in which they appear. You also can't copyright a phrase with less than 3 words. You can't copyright the name Batman. If I create a character by that name, and he is a baseball player, I don't think that is an infrigement of DC's rights. Also, I have heard of several instances in which a company holding the copyrights to an IP has lost the trademark to another entity, which then licenses the name back. As I said, someone is currently producing Joe Palooka comics, and has registered the name, even though Joe Palooka still appears to be under copyright. Freeuniverse (talk) 21:30, July 19, 2012 (UTC)Freeuniverse

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