10 August 2017Copyright

Netflix comic books buy allows freedom from IP licensing deals: lawyers

Lawyers have described Netflix’s purchase of comic books company Millarworld as a strong step towards being less reliant on IP licensing deals.

Millarworld, based in Scotland, owns a variety of comics including “Reborn”, “Empress” and “Huck”. It also created the “Kick-Ass” comic series, which was then adapted into a film.

WIPR understands that Mark Millar, who founded the company, will remain as an employee and has a right to remain author of the works.

In a statement on its website, Netflix announced plans to “bring Millarworld’s portfolio of critically and fan-acclaimed character franchises to life through films, series and kids’ shows”.

The acquisition was the first ever by Netflix, which described it as a “natural progression” in its effort to work with “prolific and skilled creators and to acquire intellectual property and ownership of stories featuring compelling characters”.

Georgina Powling, who worked on the deal and is a partner at Addleshaw Goddard, said: “This is an IP deal and it was interesting as the IP being acquired was only a selection that Mark has written—certain works were reserved for him and excluded from negotiations.

“Dividing them up and ensuring all the relevant IP rights were sold with the company took a lot of investigation and analysis on both sides.”

She added: “It is a really interesting time for creative authors. There used to be only a few big film studios and it was a buyer’s market, but now there are a lot more investors, so for the creative industries there is a greater range of people willing to invest.”

Ryan Pixton, partner at Kilburn & Strode, said it is a further sign that Netflix does not want to be dependent on third-party deals.

“The purchase highlights the role IP plays in the creative and content industries,” he told WIPR.

“By acquiring Millarworld and its IP, Netflix not only has Millarworld’s creatives, but is also able to make use of the IP in its stable of titles.”

He added that “licensing, distribution, merchandise, and development across markets and platforms all just got a lot easier for Netflix”.

The acquisition is only the third time in history a major comic book company has been purchased, according to a statement by Netflix.

In the statement, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos described Millarworld founder Millar as the “creator and re-inventor of some of the most memorable characters in recent history”.

Millar himself said he “can’t wait to work with the most exciting entertainment company”.

Ruth Carter, owner of Carter Law Firm, told WIPR: “As the new owner of the Millarworld IP, including the rights in future works, Netflix will have a significant impact on the future of this brand and these stories.”

She added: “Netflix will control what stories are created, the medium in which they will be told (comic books, graphic novels, movies, etc), what corresponding merchandise will be created, and all the branding efforts surrounding these works.”

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