Judge Denies Two of Colorist's Claims But Allows Others to Go Forward
Posted by Brigid Alverson on November 30, 2023 @ 7:33 pm CT
Crabtree was the colorist on the first 50 issues of Invincible, and he claims that he is a co-creator of the series, while Kirkman says that Crabtree’s contribution was work for hire, and that Kirkman is the sole author.
Initially, Kirkman and Crabtree both agreed that Crabtree was entitled to a royalty of 20% of single-issue sales, with a minimum of $40 per page. Crabtree also claims that Kirkman agreed to pay him 10% royalties on any media deals. Kirkman disputes that, although he did in fact pay Crabtree in connection with a possible deal with MTV, a payment that he later described as a "bonus." Later, when Amazon picked up the series, Kirkman did not pay Crabtree any royalties.
In 2005, Crabtree signed a Certificate of Authorship stating that Kirkman was the “sole author” of Invincible and assigning all rights to Kirkman. Crabtree claims that Kirkman told him the certificate was needed to negotiate a deal with movie studios and that their initial agreement would remain unchanged. Later, in 2012, the two had a conversation in which Kirkman stated clearly that the work was entirely his.
In January 2022, Crabtree sued Kirkman, arguing that Kirkman had tricked him into to signing the Certificate of Authorship, that he is a co-author of the work, and that Kirkman had breached their contract by not paying him royalties on the Amazon adaptation.
In an order granting partial summary judgment, U.S. District Court Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong ruled that the statute of limitations on copyright disputes and fraud had expired, so Crabtree could not request a court order stating that was a co-author of Invincible, nor could he pursue the fraud claim. However, she did permit his claims that the certificate itself was invalid and that Kirkman had breached an oral contract to go forward.
In 2012, Kirkman and longtime collaborator Tony Moore settled several lawsuits regarding the rights to The Walking Dead (see “Kirkman Settles Lawsuit with Collaborator”).
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