Marvel Files Lawsuits Seeking to Block Spider-Man and Doctor Strange Creators Heirs From Reclaiming Copyrights – Marvel filed 5 lawsuits total including rights to Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain Marvel and Ant-Man
Marvel has filed five lawsuits on Friday seeking to block the heirs of comic book creators from reclaiming copyrights to many of its most popular characters, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange.
Variety reports that “The move comes after heirs of five Marvel authors filed dozens of termination notices with the U.S. Copyright Office. If the notices were to succeed, they would not prevent Marvel from using the disputed characters, which were created by multiple collaborators. But they would require the studio to make payments to the heirs.
“The termination notices were filed by Marc Toberoff, a veteran copyright attorney who fought similar battles on behalf of the heirs of Jack Kirby, a co-creator of several Marvel heroes, and of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the co-creators of Superman. Toberoff argues that the Marvel authors’ work led to multi-billion dollar franchises, and that their heirs should be allowed to share in the wealth.”
Toberoff told Variety in an interview:
“This is the deep dark secret of the comic book industry, if not now the entire entertainment industry, due to the explosion of these superhero franchises. It’s about artists’ rights. It’s literally about injustice.”
In the lawsuits, Marvel argues that the characters were created under “work for hire” arrangements, and that the heirs have no valid claim to the copyrights. The report says that Marvel is pointing to the Kirby case, in which the federal courts sided with Marvel, finding that the characters were made under work-for-hire arrangements. Marvel’s lawyers, led by Daniel Petrocelli, say the five new cases present “virtually identical circumstances.”
“Since these were works made for hire and thus owned by Marvel, we filed these lawsuits to confirm that the termination notices are invalid and of no legal effect,” Petrocelli said in a statement.
On the other hand, Ed Brubaker, who created many of the storylines used in Captain America: Civil War, including the character of “The Winter Soldier,” played by Sebastian Stan on screen, spoke earlier this year about how he was treated by Marvel, “both in terms of additional compensation (which he suggested was so paltry as to be insulting) and at the film’s premiere, where he was forced to watch in an ‘overflow’ theater as opposed to the one with the film’s cast and Marvel executives.”
Brubaker told Kevin Smith on his Fatman Beyond podcast, “I have made more on SAG residuals than I have made on creating the character, for my one line that got cut.”
This seems to be an ugly truth behind the business side of the comic book industry and it seems like the creators are getting the short end of the stick. What this will mean for the MCU or comics line of the characters remains to be seen.