Marvel Heats up Fight with Kirby Family, Seeks to Retain Copyrights

Iconic artist Jack Kirby certainly contributed to some of the most famous battles, scenes and story arcs in comic book history through his storytelling and distinct artwork, but perhaps even he couldn't imagine the epic battle that's about to be waged between members of his estate and Marvel Comics! Several months ago, the members of Jack Kirby's estate served Marvel with notices of copyright termination, stating their intent to reclaim the rights to characters such as The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Spider-Man and The Avengers. Current law permits creators to seek to reclaim rights to their work after a period of waiting over several years. Marvel has now fired back with a federal lawsuit, asking a judge to invalidate the 45 notices of termination filed by the Kirby family, on copyrights to characters that would expire between the years 2014 and 2019. The basis of Marvel's lawsuit claims that the work Kirby did was "for hire" and that the claims are therefore invalid. After the lawsuit was filed on Friday, January 8th, the Kirby family's attorney, Marc Toberoff, issued a statement saying, "It is a standard claim predictably made by comic book companies to deprive artists, writers and other talent of all rights in their work. The Kirby children intend to vigorously defend against Marvel's claims in the hope of finally vindicating their father's work." John Turitzin, a lawyer for Marvel, said in a counter statement that the Kirby family was attempting to, "rewrite the history of Kirby's relationship with Marvel." In discussing more in depth the copyright claims "Everything about Kirby's relationship with Marvel shows that his contributions were works made for hire, and that all the copyright interests in them belong to Marvel," he added. The list of titles involved in the lawsuit spans some of Marvel's most legendary, such as Amazing Fantasy, The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, The Incredible Hulk and Journey Into Mystery among others.