Marvel Sues Disney Back On The Rights of Avengers Characters To Avoid Copyright Infringement

Disney is taking Marvel’s most renowned characters to court in an attempt to keep complete control of them. The studio launched a spate of lawsuits on Friday against the heirs of various artists and writers trying to reclaim the copyrights to Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Black Widow, and Captain Marvel, among other figures.

The lawsuits were filed on behalf of Marvel Entertainment (which Disney owns) in retaliation to copyright expiration notices issued earlier this year, requesting that Marvel’s characters’ rights be returned to the authors who created them. (After a set number of years, writers or their successors may reclaim rights from publishers under US copyright law.) These warnings, if effective, would allow Marvel to retain the use of the characters while also requiring the company to split ownership and revenues with the creators’ heirs.

The estates of Marvel Comics stalwarts Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange), Don Heck (co-creator of Iron Man, Black Widow, and Hawkeye), Don Rico (co-creator of Black Widow), Gene Colan (co-creator of Falcon, Captain Marvel, and Blade), and Larry Lieber (co-creator of Iron Man, Thor, and Ant-Man and the younger brother of Stan Lee) are among those seeking termination. Marc Toberoff, an intellectual property lawyer who previously defended the heirs of Marvel comic book artist Jack Kirby and Superman founders Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in similar challenges, is representing them all.

As per Disney’s cases, which were submitted by L.A. attorney Daniel M. Petrocelli and acquired by EW, the figures in controversy were developed as “work made for hire, to which the Copyright Act’s termination provisions do not apply.”Marvel assigned Steve Ditko stories to illustrate, had the right to exercise creative control over his contributions, and paid him a per-page rate for his contributions,” reads the complaint against Ditko’s estate, in language echoed in the other lawsuits. “As a result, any contributions Steve Ditko made were at Marvel’s instance and expense.”

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