Tom Clancy created his characters, yes. But…

Source: Tom Clancy’s Widow Aims to Win Jack Ryan Character Rights in Lawsuit | Hollywood Reporter

I never liked Tom Clancy’s writing, although I have enjoyed a couple of the films made from his novels, probably because they cut out what I don’t like about his writing: endless tech specs.

Still, and although I read this article, I can’t quite figure out how he–his estate, actually–managed to lose the rights to the characters he created.

Or maybe he didn’t but his estate did? Or maybe not that, either?

As Amazon readies the debut of its newest TV series, Jack Ryan, a quirky dispute has erupted over ownership to the CIA character who has appeared in many books and movies and played by actors Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Chris Pine and John Krasinski.

More than 30 years ago, Tom Clancy made the character famous in his first novel, Hunt, which became the basis for the film The Hunt for Red October. Soon thereafter, the author battled the publisher for rights. A resolution was reached, but it was merely a prelude to what would happen after Clancy died in October 2013. On Friday, Alexandra Clancy, the author’s second wife and widow, filed a lawsuit in Baltimore, Maryland, circuit court with hopes of getting a declaration that the rights to the Jack Ryan character are owned by the Tom Clancy Estate. She’s suing the personal representative of the Estate, who believes otherwise.

So who does own Jack Ryan? (I don’t even know if I’m asking the right question.)

After Hunt came out in 1984, the United States Naval Institute, as publisher, asserted that it owned all rights to the book and that any use of the book’s characters by Clancy would constitute copyright infringement. The matter went to arbitration where the case was settled with Clancy being acknowledged as owning the rights to the characters in his book.

Um, yeah? The writer was “acknowledged was owning the rights to the characters” he created. Makes sense to me.


Tom Clancy would then establish a company, Jack Ryan Enterprises Ltd., designated to receive the reassignment of the Hunt copyright. But Alexandra Clancy is emphasizing what allegedly wasn’t transferred.

“The assignment made no mention of the character Jack Ryan,” states the complaint (read here in full). “Accordingly, unless Tom Clancy subsequently assigned his rights to the character Jack Ryan, he remained the exclusive owner of the character Jack Ryan until his death on October 1, 2013.”

Of course I went on to read the next paragraph. Which begins:

In support of this proposition, Alexandra Clancy points to intervening events like her late husband’s 1999 divorce from first wife Wanda King.

Oh no no no.

You see, I–or my brain, which isn’t the same thing–have a little problem with layers of non-fiction stories. When a story, such as this one, goes into more than two generations, my brain fuzzes over.

Plus, I must stop reading when the word “divorce” enters a legal matter that isn’t itself a divorce.

Feel free, though, to continue the story yourselves. Which, helpfully (or not, depending on your attitude), states this:

The motivation behind the lawsuit can best be explained by the way that royalties get divided.

Okay, then. I’m going with that.



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