Disney Sues Co-Creators to Keep Complete Rights of Marvel Characters


It certainly has been a hot topic the past couple of days both in Social Media and the Comic Book Industry, The Walt Disney Company has filed countersuits that the characters in question were created under work-for-hire contracts, meaning that it’s under a technicality of copyright law, meaning that the creators of the work would have no ownership over their creations, regardless of the statute of limitations that spells out when the copyrights for most media creations should return to their original creators.

Who are the Creators involved in the Lawsuit? According to the New York Times, it was filed by an attorney named Marc Toberoff, best known for representing the estates of the Creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel, and Joseph Shuster is representing Writer/Artist Larry Lieber, brother of the late Stan Lee (formerly known as Stanley Lieber) and co-creator of Iron Man, Thor, and Ant-Man. He has also scripted some of their earliest appearances, as an artist, he is also known for illustrating Marvel’s Spider-Man Newspaper Comic-Strips for 30 years. Joining Lieber is the estate of the late Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, the estate of Don Heck, co-creator of Black Widow; and the heirs of artist Gene Colan, co-creator of Blade, Falcon, and Carol Danvers, of which are also being represented by Toberoff.


Also, Newsarama mentioned that the provisions of the collective lawsuits assert that ownership of copyright over the characters in question should revert to the named creators 60 years after their creation (a term which, for many of the characters in question, would be up starting in 2022) under the Copyright Revision Act of 1976. In response to this, Disney has filed countersuits and asked the judge to dismiss all of the creators’ claims, alleging that the provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act do not apply in any of the creators’ suits. Marvel’s countersuits assert that in all cases that the work done by each creator was done at Marvel’s request under work-for-hire contracts.

The 1976 Copyright Act requires the media works in question to have been created independently and sold to another entity to qualify for the revision of copyright to the initial creators, which Marvel asserts does not apply in cases of any of the creators filing suit against the Corporation.

Marvel assigned Lieber stories to write, had the right to exercise control over Lieber’s contributions, and paid Lieber a pay-per-page rate for his contributions. Those conditions render his contributions ‘work made for hire,’ to which the Copyright Act’s provisions do not apply.

The Walt Disney Company’s Complaint against Lieber

Comic Book has a statement from the Estate of Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and other estates on the Marvel Lawsuits.

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