Legal Battle Brews Over Jack Ryan Character Ownership

It would seem that the Tom Clancy character of Jack Ryan is still operating. Unfortunately, it would appear that he is fighting in court over the legal ownership of the character. Back in 1984, Ryan was introduced to the world in the novel Hunt, which eventually became the basis for The Hunt for Red October.

It seems that Alexandra Clancy, the author’s second wife and widow, is looking to have a declaration that the rights to the Jack Ryan character are owned by the Tom Clancy Estate. So she is suing the personal representative of the Estate.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, when Hunt was released, the United States Naval Institute, who published the book, claimed that they owned all rights to the book and characters in the novel. In fact, they would claim that if Clancy used those characters again, he would be committing copyright infringement.

It went to arbitration and it was determined that Clancy would have rights to his characters.

Following Clancy’s death, J.W. Thompson Webb, the personal representative of the Estate, has signed agreements with publisher Putnam authorizing more “Tom Clancy” novels. One, Full Force and Effect, features the Jack Ryan character.

This sounds confusing but it all boils down to royalties. Not to mention on how they are divided up.

According to the complaint, a third goes to Jack Ryan Enterprises, a third goes to the Estate, while the other third is divided among several parties including an entity called Jack Ryan Limited Partnership. If Alexandra Clancy succeeds in her suit, the full 100 percent would be going to the Estate, and according to court documents, her share of the residue of the Estate is 80 percent, with the rest enjoyed by Tom Clancy’s children.

“Mrs. Clancy now asks this Court for a declaration that will ultimately require Mr. Webb to marshal, secure, and account for a signature asset of the Estate — and Tom Clancy’s most prized possession — the literary character Jack Ryan, and the characters he created in The Campus book series.”

So, obviously, it comes down to what matters most – money. With ownership going to the Estate would allow Clancy’s widow to make all financial deals and residuals from the use of his name go to her. Currently, she is only receiving a third of the residuals. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in court, even though it is confusing as all hell.


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