“I would welcome getting back the rights to G.I. Joe for the future; and then, plotting logical things to do with it. That’s all I’m looking to do.” —Stan Weston, 2015
The Right Thing to Do—Or a Blatant Money Grab?
Readers of The Joe Report will undoubtedly recall our 2013 story on Stan Weston (read that HERE) and how his regrettable 1963 decision to accept a one-time payment of $100,000 in exchange for his “G.I. Joe” product concept ending up costing him untold MILLIONS of dollars in future royalty payments and profits. Despite Weston’s financial losses, the “bottom line” of our story concluded with a consoling quote from Stan’s own brother, Jay Weston, who philosophically opined:
“Stan once told me a story, about how he was introduced at a convention as ‘The Father of G.I. Joe,’ and a young boy came up to him and said, ‘Thank you. Joe made me a better student and a better boy.’ That’s probably worth more in the realm of heaven than any royalty.” —Jay Weston, 2013
While we agree that the effects GIjOE had on that young boy are indeed worth more than any financial reward, it appears that ol’ Stan has had some second thoughts about all of his (lost) GIjOE-related royalties. According to an article published last Wednesday in the Hollywood Reporter (see HERE), Weston’s attorney has just filed a “notice of termination” to Hasbro that, in effect, is:
“…seeking to exploit a mid-1970s change in copyright law that allows authors or their heirs to grab back rights after 35 years from assignees. These termination rights have come up often in the music industry; here, it would terminate copyrights associated with a toy and derivative works.”
Fan reaction to Weston’s surprising legal challenge to Hasbro has been mixed. We consulted with our usual panel of 1:6 experts and their responses have been both encouraging and disparaging:
“You want to know what I think? Hasbro made so much money off the G.I. Joe line… They should throw Stan a bonus just out of kindness. Just like a company gives a retiree a gold watch at retirement. The heck with whether there’s a contract that can be enforced, without need to enrich lawyers on both sides with a lawsuit. Make a big deal about it. Give him a lifetime achievement award, hold a press conference, give him the check and a specially made G.I. Joe Statue. Just to be kind, and for the good P.R.”
Others were less amenable to Weston’s lawsuit. For example:
“I think it stinks that he (Weston) wants to drag this through the mud. Whatever he came up with working for Hasbro belongs to Hasbro.” —Brian (last name withheld)
As always, we sought out the opinion of our favorite toy industry analyst, Rudy Panucci, who provided some helpful insight and commonsensical commentary on this matter, predicting:
“He will get a huge settlement. He doesn’t actually want GI Joe back. He wants back royalties that he feels Hasbro stiffed him on. From a pure legal standpoint, he has no chance of recapturing the copyrights, since all of the profitable elements were devised by Hasbro. He has a long shot at claiming the original idea under the novel premise that it was his idea to create a posable, male action figure, and that Hasbro did all the development as work-made-for-hire under his direction. But I would imagine that it would take years in court, with each side winning a few victories before it could get to the point of Hasbro possibly turning over the property. Way more likely would be Hasbro settling and paying him off–probably an eight figure sum and guaranteed royalties in the future. They’ll want this matter over and settled before it affects the publicity for the next movie. Perfect timing on Weston’s part. The only witness to dispute what he says was Don Levine, and he just died. Reportedly neither side has a contract.” —Rudy Panucci
Bottom Line: However Stan’s legal ploy pans out, it seems to us here at The Joe Report that if his lawyer can prove there is legal precedence, the likelihood of Hasbro offering Weston a financial settlement is quite high. However, the actions of Hasbro’s leadership regarding G.I. Joe have long (and regularly) baffled the brand’s loyal fans and industry experts alike. Hasbro may decide to fight Stan tooth and nail. This lawsuit bears close attention by all of GIjOE fandom. So…Stay tuned!