Legal issues in the world of superheroes: who’s the real Magneto?
As one of the most welcomed fictional characters appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics, Magneto is always worshiped as the greatest comic book villain by lots of fans. But recently, it seemed that this comic hero might have a twin brother in China. A rapper named PG One uses Magneto as his nickname both during his attendance in THE RAP OF CHINA (an online variety show with the theme of hip-hop music) and for advertising.
THE RAP OF CHINA, which ended on September 9, has gained a huge amount of attraction. Thanks to the popularity of this variety show, some participants also made a name for themselves among the public.
Facts of infringement
PG One (the one who used Magneto as his nickname) shared the championship title with another participant in the final. Catching the nationwide attention with his unconventional dress style and proficient rap skills, he soon became a superstar for advertisers. Including McDonalds and Estee Lauder, several mainstream companies have invited PG One to endorse their products. These advertisements were shown widespread on different social media.
While PG One enjoyed his success as the focus of spotlight, he then faced some conflicts about his famous nickname, ‘Magneto’. He uses Magneto on many occasions, including his account name on Sina Weibo (one of the most popular social media in China).
Marvel fans could not curb their anger
Fury from Marvel fans
Many loyal fans of Marvel comics disputed the legality for PG One to use Magneto as his official nickname, since it represented a world-famous character both in comics and Marvel films. Their fury surged to the peak after the official microblog account of Spider-Man: Homecoming (a Marvel film, co-produced by Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios, and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing) released the advertisement for the upcoming film in early September on Sina Weibo. The advertisement, which was made up of a poster showing PG One sitting in front of a motorcycle with the headline “万磁王诠释英雄的成长” (Translation: Magneto is witnessing the growth of a superhero).
The Marvel fans could not curb their anger because Marvel Characters inc. has registered Magneto as its exclusive trademark from June 14, 2010 to June 13, 2020. So, if anyone uses Magneto as a public name for business use, he is actually infringing the copyright, which can be seen as violating the law.
To protect the rights of their idol, some Marvel fans reported what PG One had done in emails to The Walt Disney Company (who acquired Marvel Entertainment inc. in 2009) and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. Both responded quickly and replied that they would “take reports of suspected infringements very seriously”. In addition, Sony Corporation has also made an immediate respond to this event, as they would negotiate with its cooperative branding vender in order to find out a reliable solution.
In fact, this is not the first time that Disney dealt with issues of infringement. In 1989, Disney took judicial proceedings against The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for infringing the copyright of Snow White. In contrast to sense of self-protection by Disney and the other two film companies, artists and producers of TV shows in China are still deficient in respect and knowledge of intellectual copyright. It was pointed out by many netizens that the variety show, THE RAP OF CHINA, copied another Korean show with a similar topic called Show Me the Money. Also, it’s very clear now that the lack of legal consciousness has brought great trouble to PG One, and definitely will affect his further advertising policy.
Cover: Elijah O’Donell