LOS ANGELES (CN) – A songwriter who has penned some of the most successful songs of the last decade cannot tune out counterclaims from the person he hired to write a comic book series about his life.
Andreas Carlsson hired comic book artist Jason Barnes in 2006 to create a series of graphic novels based his life, which has been spent in recent years writing and producing hit songs for Katy Perry, the Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion.
Barnes, who uses the professional name Jazan Wild, registered a treatment for “Dandyworld” and signed an agreement with Carlsson in early 2007.
The duo then expanded the project into a three-part series completed and registered by May 2007. The first graphic novel was “Dandy: Welcome to a Dandyworld.”
Four months later, Carlsson and Barnes signed an agreement granting Barnes a fixed compensation plus residuals for 50 percent of net book sales, 20 percent of net commercial and merchandising receipts, and 20 percent of any future movie receipts.
Carlsson, who retained copyrights to the “Dandy” works under the new agreement, says he spent the next three years trying to develop the project commercially.
He filed a federal complaint against Barnes in November 2010 after the comic book writer published the three “Dandy” novels on his website.
Barnes filed counterclaims for breach of contract, bad faith, copyright infringement, negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent inducement, asking a federal judge to determine copyright ownership.
Barnes says Carlsson failed to follow through on promises to publish any of the “Dandy” novels. He claims that Carlsson instead went to the Nordstedts publishing house in February 2010 to bring a version of “Dandy” to life in Sweden.
Carlsson allegedly agreed to credit Barnes as writer and co-creater of the Swedish novel, but that never happened either, according to the first amended counterclaims,
Barnes says he told Nordstedts that he was the writer and creator of “Dandy,” and that he would sue if his name was not on the cover of the book.
Nordstedts allegedly published the 400-page “Andreas Carlsson Dandy” in October 2010, stating on the title page that it was “inspired by a graphic novel created by Andreas Carlsson and Jazan Wild.”
The novel became a No. 1 bestseller in Sweden, but Barnes says he never received any of the contingency residuals from the sales under his and Carlsson’s amended agreement.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder refused to enter summary judgment about Barnes’ ownership to the graphic novels.
Though Barnes signed away his rights for the treatment of the first “Dandy” novel, Snyder says copyright ownership depends on whether Barnes worked for Carlsson as an independent contractor or an employee.
“The distinction is important, because a literary work – such as a graphic novel – is not among the enumerated subject matter that qualifies as an independent contractor’s ‘work made for hire’ pursuant to [copyright law],” the decision states.
“In other words, if Barnes is considered an independent contractor, he will own the copyrights in the graphic novels,” she added. “By contrast, if he is considered an employee working within the scope of his employment, plaintiffs will own the copyrights.”
“Because both parties dispute material facts with regard to whether Barnes was an employee or independent contractor at the time he wrote the Dandy graphic novels, summary judgment is inappropriate.”
Carlsson won summary judgment as to Barnes’ claims of negligent representation and fraudulent inducement, but he must still face the breach of contract and bad faith claims.
“The court finds that there are triable issues as to Barnes’s claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” Snyder wrote. “It is undisputed that the parties contracted to work together on various Dandy works in an attempt to create a commercially viable project. … Barnes has presented a triable issue of fact as to whether Carlsson’s efforts to write and publish the Swedish novel, instead of the three ‘Dandy’ graphic novels, ‘injure[d] the right of [Barnes] to receive the benefits of the agreement.'”
“Moreover, because Barnes’s breach of contract claim is inextricably intertwined with his claim for breach of the implied covenant, plaintiffs’ motion is denied as to that claim as well,” she added
Barnes is representing himself in the proceedings. He has sued entertainment big wigs in the past, claiming in 2010 that the NBC show “Heroes” had been based on a comic series he wrote about a “traveling circus of damned souls.”