Bill Willingham, creator of the comic series Fables, says he’s made the Fables intellectual property (IP) part of the public domain, he said in a press release posted to his website. In the release, Willingham takes shots at publisher DC Comics for being “in violation of their agreements” for years and reveals his vision of a reformed IP system that would force all IP to be submitted to the public domain after thirty years.
Among his chief complaints with DC is his claim the comics giant has been trying to take the Fables IP from him through willful misinterpretation of their publishing contract.
“When Mark Doyle and Dan Didio first approached me with the idea of bringing Fables back for its 20th anniversary (both gentlemen since fired from DC), during the contract negotiations for the new issues, their legal negotiators tried to make it a condition of the deal that the work be done as work for hire, effectively throwing the property irrevocably into the hands of DC,” wrote Willingham. “When that didn’t work their excuse was, “Sorry, we didn’t read your contract going into these negotiations. We thought we owned [the IP].””
Aside from his issues with DC, Willingham elaborates on his philosophy regarding IP rights, saying he doesn’t believe an IP should be held exclusively by large corporations ad infinitum. Instead, he suggests an alternative system that would cap the number of years one could hold onto their IP rights at thirty.
“In my template for radical reform of those laws I would like it if any IP is owned by its original creator for up to twenty years from the point of first publication, and then goes into the public domain for any and all to use,” he wrote. “However, at any time before that twenty year span bleeds out, you the IP owner can sell it to another person or corporate entity, who can have exclusive use of it for up to a maximum of ten years.”
Willingham said the act of putting Fables into the public domain is this philosophy in practice.
“This is my first test of this process. If it works, and I see no legal reason why it won’t, look for other properties to follow in the future. Since DC, or any other corporate entity, doesn’t actually own the property, they don’t get a say in this decision.”
As of writing, it is unclear if or how DC Comics will respond to this press release.
Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us was based on the Fables IP, which was licensed to the studio by DC. It is set to receive a second season sometime after this year, but it’s also unclear if this announcement will impact the development of this second season in any meaningful way.