SDCC 2017: San Diego Comic-Con School of Law – The Must-See Legal Panels

You may not know this but the legal profession is full of nerds. I mean, it’s not that big of a jump from picking apart caselaw to debating all the classic pop culture staples. And believe it or not San Diego Comic-Con is full of lawyers proudly letting their nerd flag fly. There are a bunch of legal panels scheduled for SDCC featuring civl lawyers, prosectors, and even Ninth Circuit judges!

We’ve gathered all of the legal panels at SDCC 2017 together here so you can see everything SDCC 2017 has to offer.

If you’re a California licensed attorney you definitely want to pay attention because a handful of these panels are actually approved for MCLE credit!

But even if you’re not an attorney, you’re bound to have a lot of fun with these panels. While some focus on real world applications of copyright laws, others are meant to be less serious. There’s a mock trial with Luke Cage in the hot seat on Thursday and a Star Wars-centric panel on Friday that will debate the civil rights of droids, among other things.

Whether you’re a creator looking to protect your intellectual property, an attorney looking to have some fun mixing law with pop culture, or just something who finds law interesting, you’re bound to have a blast with these panels. Check them out below!

THURSDAY

Comic Book Law School 101: ‘Help Me Understand’
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM @ Room 11

Getting off on the right foot is key to traveling on the road to success. This year’s Comic Book Law School is designed to help you navigate the best possible route (and provide help in deciphering the map legend). Noted IP attorney Michael Lovitz, author of The Trademark and Copyright Book comic book, is joined by attorneys David Branfman and Jeremy S. Goldman for the first of three fun, interactive, and informative programs, which this year will track the progression of (fictional) client as he traverses the many steps involved in creating, developing, protecting, and monetizing a new comic book character. This first installment focuses on the basics and provides attendees with the foundation needed for understanding the various intellectual property rights available to creators and business owners, along with insights on these protections, including how best to safeguard ideas, creative works, characters, brands, and names/titles from genesis through publication, distribution, and beyond. Attendees are invited to participate in an interactive discussion about the rights provided under US copyright and trademark laws, including a discussion on the protections these laws provide, the benefits of federal registrations for each, tips on working with collaborators, and issues of joint authorship and work made for hire. Along the way, there will be plenty to learn about the protections available as well as about the numerous pitfalls that you may find under the U.S. trademark and copyright systems. Note: The Comic Book Law School seminars are designed to provide relevant information and insights to practicing attorneys as well as practical tips to creators and other professionals who may wish to attend. (This program is approved for 1.5 credits of California MCLE.)

CBLDF: The State of Censorship 
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM @ Room 11

Get a global look at comics censorship from CBLDF! See how the new political climate is affecting free speech in the U.S., with increased scrutiny at the border and an abundance of local challenges to comics addressing diversity and equality. Explore how cartoonists are being prosecuted, threatened, and intimidated by authorities around the globe for making art. Learn how you can participate with CBLDF in making a difference and standing up for free expression! CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein and editorial director Betsy Gomez lead the conversation.

The Pitching Hour
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM @ Room 7A

Patrick Schumacker (producer, Powerless), Derek Hoffman (VP, Donner Co.), Jaime Burke (executive producer, Sequestered), Grace Ellis (writer, Lumberjanes, Moonstruck), a surprise guest or four, and your moderator Dan Evans III (VP television, DC Entertainment) will take an idea from conception through production for various media. This process will include creating a pitch document, obtaining agents, and getting a pitch meeting. The panelists will explain, through hypothetical example and humorous stories, the process that new creators should adopt to make their way through the creative battleground of the entertainment industry. Knowing that each project is unique, panelists will offer a Q&A to allow the audience to really hone in on the solutions to obstacles they may encounter. Also on hand will be Brendan McFeely (IP lawyer, Kane Kessler) to give creators insight on protecting their ideas as they navigate Hollywood.

Sweet Christmas! A Mock Trial to Prove Luke Cage is Innocent
8:00 PM – 9:00 PM @ Room 23ABC

Marvel’s Luke Cage ended with Luke in FBI custody for breaking out of prison. This will be a mock evidentiary hearing where attorneys will argue to US Magistrate Judge Mitch Dembin a writ of habeas corpus petition to prove Cage’s actual innocence. Attorneys arguing the case include Christine Peek, Esq. (McManis Faulkner) and Megan Smith, Esq. for Luke Cage (played by David Gibson) and Steve Chu, Esq. and Jane Boardman (deputy city attorney for the City of San Diego Office of the City Attorney) for the government.

FRIDAY

Comic Book Law School 202: ‘Help is On the Way’
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM @ Room 11

While almost every creator will tell you that their greatest joy is in their acts of creation, none will argue that equally (or perhaps more) important is earning a living from their efforts. But commercializing creative works is fraught with peril unless you’re prepared. In the second session of this case study focusing on a (fictional) author, panelists will concentrate on his efforts to commercialize his work. Noted attorney Michael Lovitz, author of the acclaimed The Trademark and Copyright Book comic book, is joined by IP and entertainment attorneys David Lizerbram and Terri Lubaroff for an interactive seminar tackling a group of more advanced issues facing creators (and the businesses that they work with) as they seek to monetize their creative capital, including licenses and transfers of rights; key things to know when Hollywood comes knocking; publishing, manufacturing, merchandising, and distribution agreements; understanding key terms in contracts, assignments, and licenses; and how incorporation and marital bliss (or turmoil) may affect contracts and licenses. Note: The Comic Book Law School seminars are designed to provide relevant information and insights to practicing attorneys as well as practical tips to creators and other professionals who may wish to attend. (This program is approved for 1.5 credits of California MCLE.)

CBLDF: Intellectual Property, Comics, and the Law 
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM @ Room 11

Some of comics’ greatest clashes never appeared within the panels—they were decided by a gavel! CBLDF board member Dale Cendali, an intellectual property icon known for litigating high-profile cases (including in the Supreme Court), walks through the history of comics IP in the courts, examining some of the most important cases creators need to know about to protect themselves and their work in 2017.

CBLDF: The Trials of Underground Comix!
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM @ Room 11

Underground comix revolutionized the format by shedding the restrictions of the Comics Code and exploring new ground in what comics could say and do. Authorities were less than impressed, and a generation of prosecutions arose from Berkeley to New York City and everywhere in between. Join Ron Turner, publisher of Last Gasp; Joyce Farmer, iconic underground cartoonist and editor; and Mary Fleener, alternative cartoonist and minicomics pioneer, for a freewheeling discussion with CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein on the trials of underground comix.

Judges on Star Wars
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM @ Room 7AB

Is the dark side an addiction or a choice for Kylo Ren? What are the civil rights of droids? Did interrogating Bodhi Rook with the Bor Gullet violate Rook’s civil rights? Join California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Judge John B. Owens of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Federal Magistrate Judge Mitch Dembin, Federal Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman, CA Judge Carol Najera, and former Federal Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal (now deputy general counsel of litigation at Facebook) to hear their legal analysis, and love, of Star Wars. Moderated by Joshua Gilliland, Esq. and Jessica Mederson, Esq. of The Legal Geeks.

SATURDAY

Comic Book Law School 303: ‘A Helping Hand’
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM @ Room 11

For the third (and final) destination in this year’s Law School series, a panel of legal experts will shed light on some of the more complex issues facing creators and businesses and touch on compelling issues popping up in the law and how they apply to comics and the pop culture scene. Noted attorney Michael Lovitz (author of the classic The Trademark and Copyright Book comic book) is joined by professors Marc Greenberg and Betsy Rosenblatt and attorneys Jeff Trexler and Larry Zerner for another rousing, interactive discussion focused on real-world issues of importance to fans and creators. The panel will share their insights and knowledge and provide practical advice concerning fans and fair use; legal issues for fan creations (fan fiction, fan art, fan films, etc.), and concerns for creators using “loan-out” companies as seen in the currently pending Friday the 13th lawsuit. Note: The Comic Book Law School seminars are designed to provide relevant information and insights to practicing attorneys as well as practical tips to creators and other professionals who may wish to attend. (This program is approved for 1.5 credits of California MCLE.)

Who Cleans up the Mess?
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM @ Room 29AB

Political activist and blogger Rena Marrocco (The Liberal Diva) hosts a viewing of a few epic battle scenes and talks to elected officials, including San Diego City Councilmember David Alvarez, Oceanside City Councilmember Esther Sanchez, California State Treasurer John Chiang, California State Assembly Member Nathan Fletcher, and Mayor Racquel Vasquez (Lemon Grove), about what it would take to repair the damage done if such battles happened in real life. Topics will include procedures, cost, time and legislative fallout.

Westworld: Beyond Frontier Law 
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM @ Room 5A

The fantastic yet twisted world created in the HBO hit Westworld presents numerous legal questions and conundrums. Join the all-star posse of Ninth Circuit Justice John B. Owens, attorney Paul Burns, Professor Betsy Rosenblatt, and other legal minds as they discuss the top legal questions posed in the groundbreaking show, from what corporate duties have been breached by Dr. Ford and the rest of the staff, to managing the park’s liability obligations, to the “human” rights of robots (or absence thereof), to just who owns the intellectual property created by the robot Hosts. (This program is approved for one credit of California MCLE.)

CBLDF: Retailers Rights Presentation
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM @ Room 11

Comic book stores are at the frontlines when it comes to censorship, and CBLDF is here to help! This presentation is designed for comic store staff and owners alike. Learn what you need to know to protect yourself, your co-workers, and your community when dealing with common censorship scenarios, from police visits to community complaints. Join CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein to learn more about how you can protect your rights!

Tales from the Comic Book Crackdown
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM @ Room 26AB

Always on the cutting edge in their titles like Tales from the Crypt and Weird Science, EC Comics produced the most provocative stories of horror, crime, politics, and social justice in the restrictive early 1950s-tales once again topical today. Tucked inside the horror were yarns that took on issues like prejudice and nationalism. Of course, EC got in trouble, and in 1954 publisher William Gaines was called to testify before the U.S. Senate in a hearing that ultimately caused the wide censorship of comics. An interactive discussion led by Ben Dickow, lecturer in comics history, and EC comics expert Grant Geissman will examine that fateful day in comics history. Augmenting the discussion, members of Los Angeles’s Captured Aural Phantasy Theater will dramatically read from the Senate testimony and some of the controversial comics. These short excerpts preview a major theatrical production about EC Comics that Captured Aural Phantasy Theater will be bringing to audiences in the fall; they are the only performance group in the world authorized to bring EC Comics to life on stage.