Marvel Files Lawsuits To Try To Prevent Copyright To Key Characters Being Terminated

Marvel has filed some lawsuits to try and prevent copyrights to some key characters from being terminated. Comic legends Steve Ditko has previously filed two notices of copyright termination with Disney concerning Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. Now, Marvel is suing in the hopes of retaining Iron Man, Spidey, and more. Basically, the artist's heirs are seeking ownership of the characters they helped develop. (Similar suits have been brought forward by Stan Lee's relatives as well.) It's no secret that these characters are the lifeblood of the biggest media operation on the planet right now. Disney is trying to make sure that they can win this case and not lose access to a lot of the Avengers' current roster. Their argument in court would be that these characters are ineligible for copyright termination due to their creation under work for hire agreements back when Ditko was working with Marvel.

Ditko's estate filed the notice of termination on Spider-Man last month. Copyright law contains provisions where "authors" or their heirs can reclaim the rights to materials previously given to publishers, provided they can wait a set period of time. In this case, if Ditko emerged successfully, Marvel's rights to these characters would expire in June of 2023. Both the family and Stan Lee's brother Larry Leiber are being represented by Marc Toberoff. (He represented Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster when they tried to attempt the same thing with DC.) Coincidentally, the same lawyer that worked with DC Comics in that case, Dan Petrocelli, is working with Marvel here. (You can read the entire document here from The Hollywood Reporter.)

Previously, Disney CEO Bob Chapek made some comments that would raise eyebrows when it comes to how the company would address talent deals in the future. This all came in response to the lawsuit filed by Scarlett Johansson after Black Widow's release.

"We've got a deal that's conceived under a certain set of conditions that actually results in a movie that's being released in a completely different set, so there's a bit of a reset that's going on right now, and ultimately we'll think about that as we do our future talent deals and plan for that and make sure that that's incorporated," Chapek said during the recent Communacopia Conference. "But right now, we've got sort of this middle position where we're trying to do right by the talent. I think the talent's trying to do right by us, and we're just sort of figuring out our way to bridge the gap."

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