There’s no villain in sight, but that doesn’t mean Michael “Saph” Sapherstein ’97 is letting his guard down. As assistant chief counsel of Marvel Entertainment, Sapherstein is defending and advancing the explosive universe of digital super heroes. “Marvel video games and digital comic books, in particular, are growing exponentially. It’s incredibly exciting to wrestle with the legal issues involved,” he says.
Marrying his interests in law and technology was Sapherstein’s goal even before he enrolled at BC Law, where he co-founded the Intellectual Property and Technology Forum, a still-thriving interactive web-based law journal.
After law school, he worked at an IP/tech-focused boutique law firm and then quickly moved in-house to a dot-com start-up. In 2001, he joined Major League Baseball Advanced Media as its second in-house counsel. “The Commissioner of Baseball convinced the MLB Club owners to consolidate their interactive and internet rights into one company,” he explains. “It proved to be a multi-billion-dollar success story.”
Looking for his own seventh-inning stretch, Sapherstein went to work for Marvel Entertainment in 2008. “I saw that Marvel had just hired its first head of digital, and I convinced him to hire me as Marvel’s first lawyer dedicated to digital,” recalls Sapherstein, who notes that just a year after he was hired, Marvel was acquired by the Walt Disney Company.
Sapherstein is a natural in a world of adventurers. “The law will never catch up to the pace of development in the digital space. There’s no uniform set of ‘digital’ laws; rather, a patchwork of laws that apply to issues such as data privacy, IP rights, and kid-targeted content,” he explains. “It’s always exciting.”