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Superheroes, legally speaking

Superheroes, legally speaking

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I haven’t seen it yet, but “The Avengers” had the biggest opening weekend ever. Comic book fans have been looking forward to seeing some of their favorite superheroes come to life on the big screen. A couple of lawyer bloggers have found a way to meld their comic book love with their day jobs. The Law and the Multiverse and Superhero Law are blogs written by attorneys that explore the legal issues surrounding characters within the superhero comic book universe.

Take S.H.I.E.L.D. for example, the shadowy government agency that appears to have its nose in a variety of superheroes’ business and in saving the world in general. The organization’s status within international law is explored by the Multiverse, which finds SHIELD is inconsistently depicted as either a U.S. or a United Nations entity. If it’s a U.N. organization then, “every single deployment would require the authorization of the member states, so the potential scope of authority in each engagement is likely to be very limited.”

On the other hand, if SHIELD is an American entity that “clears up a lot of problems, like the question of why it can exist in the first place, and it doesn’t necessarily introduce any new problems that aren’t already in play in the real world.” We’ve got SEAL Team 6 doing what SHIELD does anyway. So, maybe the comic book world isn’t so far-fetched.

In the case of The Incredible Hulk, the Multiverse finds that although Bruce Banner probably wouldn’t have an action against the government for his health problems, “depending on the nature of Banner’s employment, either the Federal Employee Compensation Act, the federal equivalent of workers’ compensation, or the Veterans Affairs Administration would provide compensation for his injuries, as he sustained them while executing his duties as a government employee.” I suppose a similar analysis would apply to Captain America.

Superhero Law focuses more on the intellectual property issues of the Hulk and other superheroes endowed with powers as a result of scientific experiments. It finds that “the process by which a human could be endowed with near limitless strength or power over time and space, respectively, could be patented.”

Within the workplace, the blog’s analysis finds that in “most situations where an employee makes a discovery at work, the fruits of that discovery belong to the employer” and that in other states “many employers draft employment agreements that transfer rights in discoveries to the employer.” The blog concludes the Army could get a patent for “Hulks.” (Superhero Law seems more corporate focused than the Multiverse.)

Regarding the “gadget” superheroes, those mere mortals with superhuman bank accounts, the Multiverse also explores their legal issues. The blog finds that “just about everything in one of Iron Man’s suits is going to find its way” on the restrictions list of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations “from the armor itself down to the micro-controllers in the servo motors.”

The blog concludes that the real-world legal system doesn’t quite “sync up” with the comic book world as it is “unlikely that the federal government would either 1) decide to scale back arms control laws when faced with gadget-based superheroes or 2) decide to give those superheroes a pass, especially if they wouldn’t share.”

Anyways, these are issues for legal and comic book nerds alike to explore on their own time, but let us know what you think of the movie. I’m going to wait until the crowds die down.

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