Folks who’ve read the court documents linked in my previous post may have noticed that in addition to replacing Weissmann Wolff, Time Warner also dismissed another firm, Fross Zelnick, as outside co-counsel.
This too was a rather interesting decision, especially given Fross Zelnick’s prior dealing with the law of copyright termination, the very legal principle at the heart of the Siegel lawsuit. As the firm’s website notes, Fross Zelnick was counsel in a case that marked “the first judicial treatment of Section 304(d) of the U.S. Copyright Act, which was enacted as part of the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. Section 304(d) gives authors and their heirs the opportunity to recapture the authors’ copyrights by permitting them to terminate pre-1978 copyright transfers in the authors’ works.”
Why might Time Warner no longer want to be associated with a firm with experience in fighting a copyright termination claim?
Perhaps this summary of the case provides a clue:
After over three years of court challenges at every level, including before the U.S. Supreme Court, Fross Zelnick successfully represented Stephen Slesinger, Inc. in preserving royalty rights, estimated in the press as exceeding $50 million, related to the exploitation of Winnie-the-Pooh and related characters. These court victories thwarted an attempt by Disney and author A.A. Milne’s granddaughter to terminate Slesinger’s right to receive royalties from merchandising rights that were granted by the author in 1930.
In short, Fross Zelnick opposed Disney in the Winnie the Pooh litigation, and as I noted yesterday, Disney’s legal team in that case included none other than DC’s new outside counsel, Daniel Petrocelli.
This makes for a rather interesting game of legal connect-the-dots. Petrocelli has a direct line to Disney, which recently acquired Marvel, a company fighting a termination claim by the family of Jack Kirby. Now the same lawyer is representing Time Warner/Warner Bros./DC in its own fight against a termination claim by the family of Jerry Siegel, and the firm that crossed Disney is out.
It’s a small world after all.