Marvel Files Lawsuit To Retain Ownership of Spider-Man and Other Popular Character Rights
Marvel has filed a lawsuit in order to retain the full ownership rights of its most popular characters including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Thor and Doctor Strange. Marvel fears that their most popular characters may be eligible for copyright termination, which would result in the ownership rights going back to the families and heirs of the original creators of the characters, such as Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Gene Colan.
Steve Ditko’s estate had recently filed a notice of termination warning for the character of Spider-Man, which he co created with Stan Lee back in 1964. According to copyright law, the creators of characters can reclaim a character’s rights that were sold and used by publishers after a certain amount of time has expired. If Ditko’s estate is victorious, Marvel would have to give up its copyright rights in June of 2023. Marvel would still retain the international rights of Spider-Man since the copyright law only applies to the United States.
This is not the first time that Marvel has has dealt with legal action regarding termination rights. Back in 2014, Marvel was successful against the estate of Jack Kirby who filed a suit to obtain the rights of many of Kirby’s characters. The court ruled in Marvel’s favor, saying that Kirby essentially entered into a work for hire agreement. DC had also been served with a a lawsuit for the rights of Superman by the heirs of his creator and DC was also successful.
If Marvel and Disney do have to give up the ownership rights to its most popular characters, it could be just the beginning of many legal battles that Disney may have to face regarding ownership rights and could cost the company billions. Stay tuned to see how this plays out.