Superhero Law Debated on New Blog

There’s a fun new blog, Law and the Multiverse, that applies real world law to comic book scenarios. In their words:

If there’s one thing comic book nerds like doing it’s over-thinking the smallest details.  Here we turn our attention to the hypothetical legal ramifications of comic book tropes, characters, and powers.  Just a few examples: Are mutants a protected class?  Who foots the bill when a hero damages property while fighting a villain?  What happens legally when a character comes back from the dead?

The blog touches on many different areas of law, including intellectual property. Here is an excerpt:

In the real world comic book characters and their likenesses have been made into toys, video games, movies, television shows, lunchboxes, bed sheets, and innumerable other things. All of these secondary uses are mediated through intellectual property rights, particularly copyright and trademark rights. But if Superman were a real person, how might the situation be different? Could just anyone slap his image or iconic S shield on a lunchbox? What about uses that suggest that Superman endorses a product or service? (“Try Metropolis Brewery Beer, the choice of the Man of Steel!”) Or worse, what about revealing a superhero’s secret identity?

Their latest post explores a favorite topic of the Indiana Intellectual Property Blog, privacy rights:

From a superhero’s point of view, the main issues here are intrusion into his or her secret identity and secret headquarters, if applicable.  The latter case is squarely within the scope of the tort (physical intrusion into a home or office is a classic example of the tort), so let’s focus on the issue of secret identity.  In particular, does a superhero’s secret identity fall under the scope of the second element?  And when we say “reasonable person” do we mean a reasonable regular person or a reasonable superhero, or does it matter?

The answer to the first question is probably yes.  Courts have held that the right to privacy includes psychological & emotional solitude and the intrusion can occur in a public place.  See, e.g., Phillips v. Smalley Maintenance Svcs, Inc., 435 So.2d 705, 711 (Ala. 1983) (holding “one’s emotional sanctum is certainly due the same expectations of privacy as one’s physical environment.” and “the ‘wrongful intrusion’ privacy violation can occur in a public place, when the matter intruded upon is of a sufficiently personal nature”).  As the definition states, the intrusion need not be directly physical and can include demands and threats.  Phillips, 435 So.2d at 711.

For the full post and to explore other areas of law, visit Law and the Multiverse.  One of the blog authors is a recent grad of Notre Dame Law School.  I’m looking forward to reading the future posts on copyright and trademark.

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