Sartorial Spider Sense
These days Spiderman comic fans are (more or less) relieved to see their favorite superhero looking his red-and-blue best. Over the past weeks, however, a Marvel comics crossover series entitled Civil War has seen Spidey, a.k.a. Peter Parker, unmasked and imitation Scarlet Spiders wearing copies of a new suit designed especially for the original webspinner. Needless to say, our khaki-clad hero was not happy:
Not only did Spiderman refuse to take this sartorial offense sitting down, he even invoked the power of intellectual property law in his defense:
The choice of copyright law is an interesting one here. Apparel in general is not eligible for copyright protection, although some costume elements -- surface designs, for example, or fanciful masks -- may qualify. In the case of the new spider suit, however, the garment includes so many functional elements that patent protection might be more appropriate. Alternatively, Spiderman may have a right of publicity claim against the imposters, since they've attempted to replicate his personna.
Of course, Spiderman is correct in one sense: Unless we suspend disbelief and enter his virtual world, he's just a 2-dimensional drawing -- and thus subject to copyright protection (and, on other grounds, to trademark protection as well). Not that this would hamper Marvel artists in their decision to copy his suit for other Marvel characters. But don't expect D.C. Comics' Superman to be borrowing the web design any time soon.
Back in Peter Parker's world, even thugs aren't impressed by the Scarlet Spiders' attempt to copy the costume and to steal Spiderman's image:
Which only goes to show that while there may be honor among thieves, (intellectual property) thieves are accorded very little honor.
P.S. Should anyone else out there be thinking about knocking off Spiderman, think again. I've met Spidey's lawyer, and while I've never seen him climb walls or spin webs, he definitely rocks.