Alright I'll take a stab at this.
1. Who usually owns the intellectual property?
2. What’s the rationale for this position?
Would this be something along the lines of Heavy Metal, or a more newspaper like strip inside a magazine? With HM from what I’m familiar with these are generally creator owned, but I’m not sure on the specifics of the deals involved so there could well be partial rights attached depending on the strip. With newspaper like strips I’d say they’re probably more often a company or publisher owned property that they then hire someone to come in and work on. Toons like the ones found in Playboy, or even in Maxim seem to fall into that category.
For rationale on that I’m basing my view on what I’ve heard about Heavy Metal, and what I’ve seen in other mags, but there’s no real concrete fact there, more supposition than anything else.
Book of collected magazine cartoons for trade book publisher.
In almost every collection I’ve seen the collected work belongs to the creator, unless those works were created work for hire, in which case they’d belong to the company or publisher they were created for.
Again, I’m applying what I know of copyright law and making some assumptions that may or may not hold water depending on deals in place.
Comic strips for syndication.
I have no idea how people that run syndicated cartoons work their deals, but I can’t see Garfield belonging to anyone else but Jim Davis, or The Far Side owned by anyone other than Gary Larsen. So I’d say in this category the creators own the rights unless they’re working on someone else’s strip, in which case again it’s considered work for hire and ownership belongs to the company or publisher that actually owns the property in question. The Spider-man strip would fall under this type.
Book of collected comic strips for trade book publisher.
Same as above, either the creator, or the company in the event of work for hire.
Comic books for Marvel and/or DC titles.
This one’s a bit different. With the exception of the creator owned line Icon by Marvel, (I think DC is out of the CO business) everything they have I can think of is all work for hire, meaning anything created by anyone belongs to the company it was created for under the work for hire section of copyright law. Having said that, creators can and have been reclaiming copyrights after a certain length of time under the provisions of the Copyright law of 1978. Getting copyrights restored is a long and lengthy legal process, and thus far both DC and Marvel have fought tooth and nail to prevent it from happening, but all indications are that the estates brining action in question will indeed eventually triumph under the law.
This is all based on having read the Copyright law at length, as well as the cases going through the courts in the past and present.
Independent comic book companies with existing titles.
Copyright law would work the same way for Independents as it would for Marvel and DC, unless a contract specifically grants rights to the creators. Meaning, if an artist and writer came onto Invincible for some reason, they wouldn’t own the IP, they’re work for hire. Kirkman would still own it completely. These days, post the Spawn/Angela debacle, contracts would specify that any characters Writer X or Artist Z create would belong to Kirkman as he is the boss and owns the IP they’re working on, so as to prevent Writer X from creating an integral character and then taking his toys and going home at a later date. That’s a messy thing that’s avoidable with proper contracts.
I base these statements on not only my own experience with contracts but also the incredibly nasty events after Gaiman and McFarlane fell out.
Licensed comic for direct market publisher.
In this case the IP belongs to the owner it’s licensed from. GI Joe belongs to Hasbro, Transformers are the same I believe. If it’s a video game license the IP belongs to the owner of the game. The same thing works in reverse. If you as a creator choose to, you can license your IP out to any number of other media, from games to animation, to live action movies. This doesn’t assign away rights unless you sign them away, and even then this might be very difficult. I’ve read a little about assigning rights in something like this and it seems to be pretty complicated legally.
To be honest, this is something I’d have to do more research on before I felt comfortable with the ins and outs.
Your original comic for the direct market.
Fairly straightforward here. My original work belongs to me, and any co-creator I might have involved. It doesn’t matter where I sell it, or don’t sell it, I/we own the IP.
This is straight out of the US Copyright law.
Licensed graphic novel for trade book publisher.
The IP in this case belongs to the person the license was obtained from, or the original owner. The publisher is buying in for publishing at a stake in the profits off the printing, but the IP remains unattached as they’re paying for printing and distribution rights, not the actual IP.
Again this comes from having read the US Copyright law.
Graphic Novels packaged by third parties for trade book publishing.
Dicey, but only in terms of who has the right to print and publish, not really who has ownership of the property itself. When you start adding 3rd party publishers and such into the mix things can get a bit muddied as to who owns the right to do what and where, but at the end of the day the IP goes back to whoever created it. One area I can see this getting really messed up was with Grendel via the Comico bankruptcy. It would also be relevant to a couple of other instances here being a creator owned property that was being published by a company that went under. I’m not sure if it was that creator owned works weren’t covered under the contracts at the time, or that provisions weren’t made for a bankruptcy situation in the contracts, but either way Matt Wagner spent a ton of time and money fighting to get Grendel back out of the Comico receivership. Nowdays, at least from what I’ve heard, contracts cover what happens to the property in the event of things like lawsuits and bankruptcies so as to protect the owners of the IP from being dragged down with the company going belly up.
This comes from my own contract negotiations, and from a long look at the Comico mess as a fan anxiously awaiting Grendel’s return.
Original graphic novel for trade book publisher.
The OGN follows the same rules IP wise as the single comic book does. It belongs to the original creator/creators regardless of who publishes or prints the work. As I mentioned above, a creator can sign away their rights, or part of them even to a publisher, but I’m not sure of the process, nor how hard that would hold up in court if the creator brought the case of inequitable negotiation. One of the hearts of the revision of 1978 is that the Congress recognizes what’s called inequitable negotiation between parties, namely the creator and the publisher. Basically they’re saying creators were forced into giving their IP away because otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to eat or feed their families. It is because of this inequity that the Congress included provisions to reclaim copyrights.
I got all this from the current stuff going on with the Marvel/Kirby case, as well as the previous case over Superman.
Original graphic nonfiction for educational book market.
And here…I have no idea. I’d have to assume however that the same rules apply, meaning the creator owns the copyrights unless assigned away under a work for hire situation.
But I know next to nothing about how non-fiction works beyond a very broad copyright application for the guy doing the work.