Settlement Terms Reached in Archie v. Penders Copyright Case

Settlement Terms Reached in Archie v. Penders Copyright Case

by December 4, 2012

It’s Not Over Just Yet

TSSZ has learned through public record counsel for both Archie Comics and former Sonic comic writer Ken Penders have “reached agreement on the terms of settlement” in the current copyright dispute over the ownership of many characters and storylines created for the series.

A letter filed by Collen IP partner Joshua Paul dated Friday, November 30th, claims in part that, on the previous day, the two parties came to terms after a mediation session:

[….] at a mediation session held yesterday, the parties reached agreement on the terms of settlement. The principals and counsel have signed a Term Sheet re’flecting the core terms of settlement.  As a next step, the parties must prepare and sign a settlement agreement that will implement the outline of settlement contained in the Term Sheet. We anticipate that the process may take several weeks.

If this agreement holds, it would put an end to the long and ugly dispute between Penders and Archie, the roots of which can be traced back to July 2010, when Penders announced the US Copyright Office certified multiple claims related to his contributions to the Archie Sonic series.  Those claims included storylines and some characters.  At the time, Penders claimed “Every story since issue #160 that features my characters and concepts is essentially unauthorized.”

What eventually followed after a series of open remarks was a federal lawsuit filed by Archie against Penders, seeking a declaratory judgment on the validity of Penders’s copyrights.  A motion by Penders to dismiss the case was denied early on, but so too was a motion for summary judgment sought by Archie earlier this year.  In between, what unraveled was nothing short of extraordinary; Penders revealed plans to revive Lara-Su, Lien-Da, Dimitri and other characters in a series of his own, while court documents told an alleged tale of dysfunctional leadership and lackluster record-keeping at Archie–all while veteran Sonic comic talent lined up to stake their claim in the series, and vouch for their former colleague.

Several weeks may pass before the agreement is finalized, and we may never know the terms of them; it is common practice for settlements, especially on this scale, to never reach public record.  While Penders appears steadfast on introducing The Lara-Su Chronicles to the world, Archie has de-emphasized several of Penders’s original creations of late.

Even with the Penders case settled, the legal troubles may not be over for Archie.  Original Sonic artist Scott Shaw is among several comic alum who have also filed claims with the US Copyright Office, and had their original contributions to the Sonic comics accepted.  It remains to be seen what will happen there; the distinct possibility remains that it could depend on this case’s final outcome.

TSSZ will continue to offer developments as we find them.