One Marvel Studios attorney confirmed that they once used a spreadsheet to track the character rights for the company. Paul Sarker was a lawyer for the massive media empire for a long time. On his podcast, Better Call Paul, he explained how they used to organize information in the old days of Marvel Studios. Complicating matters for Sarker and his coworkers was the fact that the licensing deals Marvel was involved with were not just singular characters. As popularly associated with the Sony Spider-Man deal, other entities can lay claim to entire "families of characters." This gets tricky because how does one determine where one corner of the Marvel universe ends and another begins. It was the legal team's job to keep track of all that.
"It's a little bit of both, depending on the franchise you're talking about, but with respect to Spider-Man, I think it's very sophisticated," Sarker explained. "There is a long list of the characters that are licensed to Sony for film. And there's a license agreement that's probably, I don't know, 150 pages."
"Which deals with merchandise and promotions and film and the Frozen Rights, and a list of characters would be attached to that. But back in the day, when Marvel was licensing their character of families, like late nineties and the early aughts, or even mid-nineties, it wasn't that sophisticated. So there would be lists, but it would be families," he admitted. "But now I would be shocked, like I said I can't speak to what they do today, but while I was there, yes, there was a spreadsheet of who all the characters were, what families they were in, who created them, things like that."
On Reddit last week, the lawyer also explained what role NDAs play in keeping the plots of these movies under wraps.
"The NDAs are helpful and they frame the discussion, if there is ever a dispute. But the relationship is also important. Leaking something would burn a bridge and be a deal breaker. Plus everything is watermarked so they would be able to trace it to someone," he began. "And more importantly, why would you want to eliminate your chance of being in the MCU or television canon? Once someone is cast and under contract, they may be able to disclose their role but that would have to be coordinated with marketing and creative. There is an overall master plan behind all of that stuff. If you breach a contract, in addition to being sued they could terminate it or withhold some pay. Not worth the risk IMHO."
"Marvel is very protective of confidentiality. It has been that way probably for 25 years (since the current leadership took over). They vet everyone and everything," Sarker continued. "Anyone coming to an office or getting a link to confidential information will have to sign an NDA. It's not just limited to talent. I remember when we would do premieres and screenings, everyone would have their phones collected before they could enter, although that might be more common now."
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